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Time Line of Democracy in the U.S.
By Karen Fanning

George Washington holds a copy of the United States Constitution in an undated illustration.
(Photo: Bettmann/CORBIS)
April 19, 1775
The American Revolution begins with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.

After years of combat, Britain and the American Colonies sign the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. The agreement brings an end to the war and officially recognizes the United States as an independent country.

July 4, 1776
Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thomas Jefferson completes the draft of the Declaration of Independence in just 17 days. The historic document spells out the reasons why the American Colonies want to split from Britain, their mother country.

May to September, 1787
A group of men, known as the Founders, meet to discuss and write the U.S. Constitution.

The 4,543-word document explains how the country's new government will work. It is drafted in less than 100 days. Ben Franklin, George Washington, and James Madison are among the 55 delegates responsible for the document. More than 200 years later, the Constitution remains the highest law of the United States.

September 17, 1787
The U.S. Constitution is signed.

December 15, 1791
The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, is ratified.

Some fear the original Constitution gives the government too much power. They demand that changes to the Constitution be made to protect the basic liberties of the people. The first 10 changes to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. Among the many liberties guaranteed under the Bill of Rights are the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of religion. Over time, 17 more amendments will be added to the Constitution.

February 7, 1795
Amendment XI is ratified. It expands the judicial powers of the federal courts.

June 15, 1804
Amendment XII is ratified, outlining the process by which the U.S. President and Vice President are elected.

December 6, 1865
Amendment XIII is ratified, outlawing slavery.

July 9, 1868
Amendment XIV is ratified. It guarantees the rights of citizenship to former slaves and guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens.

February 3, 1870
Amendment XV is ratified, ending the discriminatory practice of denying U.S. citizens the right to vote based on race or color. The 15th Amendment grants African-Americans the right to vote.

February 3, 1913
Amendment XVI is ratified, granting Congress the power to collect taxes on the incomes of the American people.

April 8, 1913
Amendment XVII changes the process by which U.S. Senators are elected. Senators are no longer elected by state legislatures, but instead, by popular vote.

January 16, 1919
Amendment XVIII is ratified, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor.

August 18, 1920
Amendment XIX is ratified, ending the discriminatory practice of denying U.S. citizens the right to vote based on sex. The 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote.

January 23, 1933
Amendment XX is ratified, establishing January 20 as Presidential Inauguration Day.

December 5, 1933
Amendment XXI is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment. It is again legal in the U.S. to make, sell, or distribute alcoholic beverages.

February 27, 1951
Amendment XXII is ratified, outlining term limits for the U.S. presidency. No President may be elected for more than two terms.

March 29, 1961
Amendment XXIII is ratified, granting the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections.

January 23, 1964
Amendment XXIV is ratified. It eliminates the tax on voting.

February 10, 1967
Amendment XXV is ratified, outlining the line of succession for the presidency in case of the incapacity, death, or resignation of the President.

July 1, 1971
Amendment XXVI lowers the voting age to 18 in federal elections. Previously, the voting age for federal elections was determined by each state, so it varied from state to state.

May 7, 1992
Amendment XXVII outlines the process by which members of Congress receive pay increases.

For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site at