The federal government began on March 4, 1789, when the first session of the U.S. Congress was held. Of the 22 senators and 59 representatives called to represent the 11 states who ratified the U.S. Constitution, only nine senators and 13 representatives attended the first session of Congress.
The Articles of Confederation had many defects, including the inability of Congress to levy taxes. As a result, a convention was held in Philadelphia, and a new U.S. Constitution was drafted. This new document created a stronger federal government with a more detailed system of checks and balances. It was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.