Constitutional Timeline


First Continental Congress

September 1774

The first gathering of delegates was a result of the Intolerable Acts.

Second Continental Congress (July 12, 1775)

July 12, 1776

This resulted in the Declaration of Independence.

Articles of Confederation

November 15, 1777

The Articles of Confederation were sent to the states for ratification, which was completed on March 1, 1781.

The Articles are Ratified (March 1, 1781)

March 1, 1781

Sent to states on November 15, 1777, it took almost 4 years to be ratified.

Mt. Vernon Conference

March 21, 1785 - March 28, 1785

Washington hosted this gathering of delegates from Virginia and Maryland, to discuss the freedom of navigation and fishing rights of the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers, and Chesapeake Bay. The success of this meeting led to the Annapolis Convention.

Shay's Rebellion

1786 - 1787

When the new states started heavily taxing farmers, rebels from several states fought back, in the same spirit they had fought the British and for the same reasons. Daniel Shay was a captain in the war and another issue was that teh soldiers were never paid, and now were threatened with the loss of their homes and farms. So skirmishes took place throughout the states, but especially in Massachusetts. The weakness of the federal government was painfully clear, when they had no authority to call on a force to quash the rebellion. This was a main impetus to changing the Articles of Confederatin and resulted in the Constitution, with stronger federal powers.

Annapolis Convention (Sept. 11-14, 1786)

September 11, 1786 - September 14, 1786

Expanding on the Mt. Vernon Conference, The Annapolis Convention attracted a few more people from five states. Their purpose was to discuss interstate commerce and establish rules and regulations on trade. A Convention was called for May 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation.

Constitutional Convention

May 1787 - October 1787

Originally intended to amend the Articles, an entirely new constitution was begun.

U.S Constitution Ratified

June 21, 1788

After several months of debate, the Constitution was sighned on September 17, 1787. Then it goes to the states for ratification. Only after a Bill of Rights is proposed, do the hold out states ratify.

Early Court

1789 - 1801

The early courts were lead by John Jay, John Rutledge and Oliver Ellsworth, and dealt primarily with procedure and establishing the constitution of the court system. One key case was Chilsom v. Georgia, which set up the 11th Amendment, passed in 1795.

Marshall Court (1801-1835)

1801 - 1835

During Marshall's leadership, the court was raised in stature and found powers commensurate with the other two branches, setting the precedent for judicial review and providing the "checks and balances" that the Constitution intended. "Marbury v. Madison" was the landmark case that changed the court forever.

Taney Court (1836-1864)

1836 - 1864

While the Taney court's accomplishments fell under the cloud of its decision in the Dred Scott case, Taney did contribute to the legacy of the court with his leaderhip in interstate commerce, police power in the states and the precedent of distancing the court from politics with the "political questions doctrine."

Reconstruction Era (1865-1877)

1865 - 1877

The Reconstruction era was dark and disturbing for America. The courts reinforced radical Republican policies which exploited the South, both landowners and slaves alike. being exploited, blacks living in conditions worse than when they were slaves. But there were glimmers of light, with key constitutional amendments that abolished slavery, established the 14th amendment and the clarification of citizen's rights (including former slaves).
Later, the right to vote for women, prohibition (and subsequent repeal) also took place during this time.

Pre-New Deal Era (1877-1933)

1877 - 1933

Such a body of work, impacting America forever, was accomplished in this era. The federal government established it's power over the states with Anti-trust and interstate commerce legislation,providing protection for women and children with labor laws. During these years, there were several constitutional amendments, (16th through 21st).

New Deal Era Court

1933 - 1941

One of the more interesting situations during the New Deal era was Roosevelt's audacious attempt to "pack the court" by adding up to 15 judges (who would support the New Deal programs) and removing difficult justices based on advanced age.

As it was, Roosevelt appointed more judges than anyone since Washington.

Warren Court

1953 - 1969

Warren's leadership covered significant landmark cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona and Abington School District v. Schempp (which prohibited Bible reading in school). He approached law as a way to solve problems and restore liberty.

Brown vs. Board of Education

May 17, 1954

The landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education reversed the court's earlier decision that the doctrine of "separate but equal"was legal. This case regarding separate schools for blacks and whites, stated that separate but equal schools are inherently unconstitutional, and ended state sponsored segregation.

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez


The Supreme Court demurred, saying this was not a good case to set down a decision, since education and taxation were the responsibility of local authorities. Also, no class of people were determined to be discriminated against by the state policies. Also, the court could not apply strict scrutiny since education is not a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.

National Defense Education Act (1958)

September 2, 1958

To better prepare Americans in the sciences and other areas that support national defense, the NDEA helped fund improvements in education, provided loans for students, and worked to attract quality teachers and promote math, science and technology, as well as foreign language, geography, and provide more lab space, better libraries and building media centers, to harness the power of television, to enhance teaching and sharing of knowledge.

Burger Court

1969 - 1986

The court under Warren Burger faced many highly controversial issues. Abortion, obsenity and free speech, affirmative action- all of these are still very HOT topics today. Burger also was very involved in the Nixon troubles, and despite being appointed by Nixon, he supported the injunction for turning over tapes and evidence during Watergate.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits sharing of private information on students, yet guaranteed that parents and legal guardians had access to student information, until the student was 18 and could decide for his or herself. FERPA helps define what is considered school-related versus personal information, and protects the privacy of students.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975)


IDEA or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was one step in several laws to provide "free and appropriate" education for all, regardless of any disabilities they may have. A key enhancement that IDEA provides, is to provide clear IEP's, involve the parents and guardians in putting together a complete plan for students with disabilities, including goals and transition plans as they grow beyond school.

Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)

1986 - 2005

William Rehnquist was a very popular and well-liked justice, and was known for his brand of Federalism, which returned many powers to the states, as intended by the Constitution, under the Equal Protection clause. He tried to keep cases at the state level away from federal interference.