This site transcribes four early versions of the Constitution of the United States: the parchment “original,” which has become canonical, and three early printed versions, two of which are nearly as old as the parchment. Outside of a small number of typographical errors the texts are identical in wording, but they differ substantially in punctuation and other minutiae.

For a discussion of the subtle but occasionally interesting differences between the versions, see my paper on the subject (20 Green Bag 2d 163). For historical information on the four texts, see the classic essays of Denys P. Myers (reprinted in 11 Green Bag 2d 217) and Akhil Amar (97 Yale Law Journal 281).

The Versions

Philip Huff

Text P: The September 17 Parchment

The version signed by the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention (generally treated as canonical). The transcription here differs — deliberately — from that of the National Archives in a small number of places:

  • In art. I, § 6, cl. 2, <Authority of the United States>, not <Authority of the United States,>
  • In art. I, § 9, cl. 4, <Enumeration>, not <enumeration>
  • In art. III, § 2, cl. 1, <between two or more States–;>, not <between two or more States—;>
  • In ibid., <Citizens of another State;>, not <Citizens of another State,>
  • In art. IV, § 4, <(when the Legislature cannot be convened)> is not followed by a comma
  • In art. V, <it’s equal Suffrage>, not <its equal Suffrage>
  • In the Attestation Clause, <Witness>, not <witness>

Each of these discrepancies has been checked against the high-resolution scans of the parchment hosted on the National Archives' website and has been verified to be true to the original.

Text F: The September 18 Print

The version printed by John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole at the Philadelphia Convention's behest. This is the first printed version of the text, and it formed the basis for the earliest newspaper printings of the Constitution.

Text C: The September 28 Print

The printed version of the Constitution forwarded to the states by the Confederation Congress.

Text CS: The Childs-Swaine Session Laws Text

The form of the text Francis Childs and John Swaine, official "Printers to the United States," included in their 1789 session laws volume, Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, in the Year 1789.