Who Were the Framers of the United States Constitution?

The framers of the United States Constitution were 55 delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. The framers represented a cross-section of American leadership in the 18th century and included George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

All the framers were men, including other key founders Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and Patrick Henry. Most were well-educated and most practiced good to high-income professions, although two of them were farmers. Most of the framers were protestant, but several were Catholic and some had no religious affiliation. More than a dozen owned slaves. Most of the delegates had extensive political experience as members of the Continental Congress, state or local government or they had fulfilled other public functions, such as judge or governor. The strength of the Constitution, as with other founding documents, was in the collective wisdom of its contributors, shaped by extensive debates, writings and arguments.

The budding nation’s prior constitution, the Articles of Confederation, didn’t provide for a strong federal, or central, government but allowed each state its own sovereignty and independence. It also didn’t give the federal government power to tax or regulate commerce. The Constitutional Convention was called to draft a more workable constitution, but many people at that time opposed the creation of a national government that would have power over the states.

Rhode Island was the last to ratify the Constitution in 1790.