The origins of the United States government date back to 1781 when the Articles of Confederation went into effect. This agreement created a Congress with elected state delegates representing the interests of the people. In 1788, the United States Constitution was ratified by a majority of states in the union.
The Articles of Confederation was the first document to express the ideas of a free and independent sovereign government. However, Congress had no authority to tax or regulate business. Leaders, state representatives and the populace desired a stronger constitution that resolved issues not addressed in the Articles of Confederation. Thus, in 1787, a committee of delegates including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, convened in Philadelphia to draw up an official constitution. This meeting is known as the Constitutional Convention, and the country's founders deliberated over the language to be included in the Constitution. The ideas of James Madison are heavily represented in the final version of the Constitution, which was signed by 39 delegates.
A majority of states ratified the Constitution, making it the official law of the United States. Some states agreed to ratification after members agreed to the creation of a Bill of Rights. In 1789, 12 constitutional amendments were presented to Congress, and 10 passed, forming an official Bill of Rights.