September 17 is Constitution Day, a day we celebrate the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 in Philadelphia. As a researcher, I’m drawn to thinking about the history and the sources surrounding important documents like the Constitution. If you’re ever interested in examining these sources, you’re in luck. The Law Library houses a number of these early sources, like Max Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, in its Benson Collection in the Reserve Library. Many great constitutional history sources are also available online from ConSource.
One of my favorite historical sources surrounding the Constitution deals with its ratification. As you’ll remember, the signing of the Constitution on September 17 did not yet mean we had a constitution. The Constitution had to go through a ratification process that ultimately ended in Ratification and, later, to the addition of the Bill of Rights. The debates from these state ratifying conventions are a great source of history and can be found in a wonderful source called the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. The Library has both print and electronic copies of this great source.