How Many People Actually Signed the Constitution?
The U.S. Constitution put in writing how the government of the United States should operate. Read on to find out who signed it.
It’s possible that the U.S. Constitution has never been referenced more in news articles, TV programs, everyday discourse, and water cooler conversation than it is today. Yet many likely don’t even know how many people signed the Constitution, a living document that is constantly being interpreted and established the federal government, its branches, and governs the people of the United States.
How many people signed the Constitution?
You probably think this number would be much higher, considering the magnitude of the Constitution then and now, but the answer to the question “how many people signed the Constitution” is 39. That’s right, only 39 men (and they were all white men and property owners at that) actually signed the most famous legal document in the world. Most people believe there were more signers and most Americans probably also believe these 10 myths about the Constitution.
Who signed the Constitution—and why was it only 39 people?
Seventy men, many of whom had fought in the American Revolution and about three-fourths of whom had served in Congress, chosen by their states attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. “The initial purpose of the convention was to amend the Articles of Confederation,” according to ConstitutionFacts.com. Rhode Island opted to not send any delegates. Strangely, despite a total of 70 attendees, only 55 delegates attended the majority of Constitutional Convention meetings and there was never more than 46 present at any one time.
When was the Constitution signed?
The convention culminated with the signing of the document on September 17, 1787.
Only two presidents signed the Constitution
The Constitution established the office of The President of the United States but of the 39 signers, only two were or would eventually serve as president. George Washington, the first, was president at the time of the signing, while James Madison would go on to serve as the fourth president of the United State. President Madison, considered the Father of the U.S. Constitution, was the only delegate to attend every meeting. ConstitutionFacts.com goes on to note that, “The journal that he [Madison] kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after he died. It (along with other papers) was purchased by the government in 1837 at a price of $30,000 (that would be $695,000 today).” Madison’s convention journal was finally published in 1840. By the way, the Constitution can technically be changed—here’s how to amend the Constitution.
This state had the most signers of the Constitution
You might think that Virginia or New York had the most delegates sign the Constitution but 20 percent of the signers (eight of the 39) were from the state of Pennsylvania! Interestingly, while the small state of Delaware might seem rather insignificant to some today, Delaware had the second most delegates (five) sign the U.S. Constitution and it became the very first state when all 30 delegates of the Delaware Constitutional Convention unanimously ratified the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787. Delaware is rightly called The First State, but do you know the nicknames for all 50 States?
Pennsylvania has always been difficult to spell
The struggle was real in the age before spellcheck as even the eight delegates from Pennsylvania didn’t add their state’s name to their signatures. Per ConstituionFacts.com, “Of the spelling errors in the Constitution, ‘Pensylvania’ above the signers’ names is probably the most glaring.” If you look at the Constitution you might also think the Founding Fathers had trouble sorting out their F’s from their S’s.
Did Alexander Hamilton sign the Constitution?
He sure did! In fact, he was the only delegate from New York to put his name on the U.S. Constitution. Hamilton also lobbied hard for the Constitution through his Federalist Papers, seen as propaganda advocating for a stronger federal government. The reasons why the U.S. Capital is in Washington D.C. and why the District isn’t a state were also a part of the Constitutional Convention.
Who didn’t sign the Constitution?
Curiously, one of the most famous founding fathers’ signature is missing from the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. That’s because the future third president was in France serving as U.S. minister. Jefferson, however, wasn’t the only famous name absent from the 1787 Constitutional Convention as, John Adams, our future second president was in Great Britain serving as the U.S. minister.
Who signed both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?
Only six men signed both the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution 11 years later: George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson.
Diversity of age, if not gender or color
While there was no diversity of color or gender, as only white men were delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, there was a wide disparity in the age of the attendees. Benjamin Franklin was 81 at the time he signed the Constitution, and needed assistance in doing so, while the youngest delegate to put his John Hancock on the U.S. Constitution was New Jersey’s Jonathan Dayton, age 26. The average age was 42. Read on to test your knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.
- ConstitutionFacts.com: About the Signers
- ConstitutionFacts.com: Fascinating Facts About the U.S. Constitution
- National Constitution Center: Fast Facts