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The Oldest Written National Framework of Government Previous Next
Digital History ID 3231


The U.S. Constitution has the oldest written national framework of government in the world. At the end of the 20th century, there were about 159 other national constitutions in the world, and 101 had been adopted since 1970. While the United States has been governed by a single framework of government for over two centuries, France, in contrast, has had 10 separate and distinct constitutional orders (including five republics, two empires, a monarchy, and two dictatorships). The country of El Salvador has had 36 constitutions since 1824.

Nearly all of the national constitutions now in use bear the marks of the 55 men who met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to create the framework of the United States government. Like the U.S. Constitution, they are written constitutions. They also spell out human and civil rights similar to those contained in the U.S. document. A bill of rights is particularly common. The principles of American constitutionalism--the separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, a bicameral legislature, and a presidential form of government--were followed by many nations. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 created a governmental framework that has not only lasted two centuries but has served as a model for freedom-loving people all over the world.

In almost every way imaginable, the United States has been radically transformed over the past two centuries. Its population has soared from just 4 million to nearly 300 million. The federal budget has risen from $4 million in 1790 to over $1 trillion today. Yet the basic framework of government has remained unchanged.

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