The United States (U.S.) Constitution was signed in 1787 by the people who participated in the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, each representing one of the original states. Discover who signed the Constitution, setting the stage for it to be ratified by the states the following year.
Who Signed the Constitution? Brief Bios of Key Delegates
Crafting the United States Constitution
The U.S. Constitution was a joint effort crafted via the Federal Constitutional Convention. While not everyone who participated in the Constitutional Convention signed the final document, they are all considered to be among the framers of this critical document, playing a role in determining what would and would not be included.
- James Madison is credited with authoring the document upon which the Constitution was based, but no one individual is considered to be the author of the Constitution.
- Writing the Constitution was a collaborative effort completed with input from all of the framers. Once it was finalized, the Constitution was signed, then sent to the states to be ratified. Shortly following ratification, the new United States government began.
Biographies: Key Signers of the U.S. Constitution
The people who signed the United States Constitution will forever hold an important place in the history of the United States. But how many people signed the Constitution? There were 39 signers in total. Reviewing biographical information of a few key signers provides insights into how these people contributed to the country's early days and how their influence continues into the future.
George Washington: First to Sign
George Washington (1732-1799), president of the Federal Constitutional Convention, was the first person to sign the Constitution. George Washington presided over various deliberations regarding independence, and of course led the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. After the Constitution was signed, ratified and the government implemented, the Virginian became the first president of the U.S. He presided over the new nation as president for eight years, from 1789 until 1797.
Virginia delegate and co-author of the “Federalist Papers,” James Madison (1751-1836) of Virginia was a member of the Continental Congress and the First General Assembly of Virginia. He played a major role in the early government of the U.S. government. He served as a member of the House of Representatives, worked as Secretary of State during Thomas Jefferson's administration, and ultimately become the fourth President of the United States.
Pennsylvania delegate Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a renowned inventor, statesman, publisher, philosopher, and diplomat. He is the founder of the Pennsylvania Gazette and publisher of Poor Richard's Almanac. He was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The year the Constitution was signed, he was employed as Philadelphia's postmaster. He is also considered one of the earliest abolitionists in the nation.
New York delegate Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) immigrated to the U.S. from the West Indies. He served in the Continental Army under George Washington. He served in the Continental Congress, the Annapolis Convention and the New York General Assembly. He worked closely with John Jay and James Madison to promote the Constitution to the states through a series of documents known as The Federalist Papers. He served as the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. He was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.
John Rutledge (1739-1800) was a leading political figure in South Carolina throughout the Revolutionary War and beyond. His many roles included lawyer, provincial assembly member, governor, attorney general, and state chancellor. He was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and a member of the Continental Congress. He later served in the United States Supreme Court and the South Carolina Supreme Court.
Richard Bassett (1745-1815) represented Delaware at the Constitutional Convention. He was a soldier during the American Revolution, during which he played a major role in mobilizing and organizing Delaware's armed forces and militia. He went on to become a statesman, later serving as a U.S. Senator. He played a critical role in the formation of the U.S. Judiciary. He also worked tirelessly to move the capital of the nation from New York City to Washington, DC, where it remains today.
Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824) was a delegate from New Jersey. He worked as a lawyer and fought in the Revolutionary War. He went on to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House. He also served as a Senator. He was later implicated in a plot to combine Mexico and the western U.S., but his case was never brought to court.
People Who Signed the Constitution
The people above are the most well-known signers, but they're not the only ones. After George Washington placed his signature on the top right of the document's signature block, the others signed in state-by-state clusters, beginning with the northernmost states and proceeding southward. The following is a complete list of all who signed the Constitution, and the states they represented (in order). Rhode Island is not included because the state did not send a delegation.
New Hampshire's representatives signed directly below George Washington's signature.
- Nicholas Gilman
- John Langdon
The Connecticut delegation signed directly below New Hampshire.
- William S. Johnson
- Roger Sherman
The representatives from Massachusetts signed beneath the Connecticut delegation.
- Nathaniel Gorham
- Rufus King
The lone delegate from New York, Alexander Hamilton, signed next.
- Alexander Hamilton
The signatures of New Jersey's representatives signed below New York.
- David Brearly
- Jonathan Dayton
- William Livingston
- William Paterson
The Deleware delegation signed at the top left of the Constitution's signature block.
- Richard Bassett
- Gunning Bedford, Jr.
- Jacob Broom
- John Dickinson
- George Read
Maryland's delegation signed next, just after the Delaware block.
- Daniel Carroll
- Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer (his signature is the largest on the Constitution)
- James McHenry
With the exception of George Washington, the Virginia delegation signed next.
- John Blair
- James Madison (his signature appears to be the smallest on the constitution)
- George Washington
Because he served as president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington's signature was the very first one. He added a notation to his signature indicating that he was a deputy from Virginia.
Members of North Carolina's delegation signed the space below Virginia.
- William Blount
- Richard D. Spaight
- Hugh Williamson
As the southernmost state at the time the Constitution was adopted, signatures of Georgia's representatives made up the final block.
- Abraham Baldwin
- William Few
State Ratification of the Constitution
Once the Constitution was signed, the next step was for the states to ratify (accept) it. The Constitution was ratified once nine of the states accepted it, which was completed on June 21, 1788. The other states later signed; all 13 states had ratified the document by May 29, 1790. The order in which the states ratified the constitution (from first to last) is as follows:
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire - last sign-off needed for official ratification/adoption
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
American History Matters
Learning about who signed the Constitution is an important part of early American history. The people who signed the United States Constitution had life histories of tremendous sacrifices, and they used their extraordinary gifts in creating this complex document. They faced many challenges in their effort to help create a new nation. Gain even more perspective about American history by learning about some notable American symbols and their unique histories.