Oil on canvas, Howard Chandler Christy, 1940, Architect of the CapitolOn September 17, 1787, George Washington signed the Constitution at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
On this date, Rhode Island became the 13th state to enter the Union after ratifying the Constitution. Ironically, the new state’s late arrival came after the new federal government commenced on April 1, 1789, and the First Congress (1789–1791) had already passed 12 proposed amendments to the Constitution. Rhode Island was the only state not to send a representative to the Constitutional Convention, which approved the document on September 17, 1787. Nine states were needed to ratify the Constitution, and on June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the official governing document of the United States when New Hampshire ratified it. The “Hope State” made 11 attempts to hold a constitutional ratifying convention and held unsuccessful state referendums. The first referendum rejected the Constitution by ten to one. At great length, Rhode Island finally approved the Constitution with provisional amendments. On August 31, 1790, the state’s lone Representative, Benjamin Bourne, arrived in Philadelphia fashionably late to the First Congress.