This site transcribes four early versions of the United States Constitution, three of which have not previously been available in digital form:

  • P, the parchment Constitution signed by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention
  • F, the printed version authorized by the Convention, which formed the basis for the earliest newspaper printings of the Constitution
  • C, the printed version of the text forwarded by the Confederation Congress to the states
  • CS, the “correct Copy” included by Francis Childs and John Swaine, official “Printers to the United States,” in their 1789 session-laws volume

This variorum is a companion to my paper “How Different Are the Early Versions of the United States Constitution? An Examination,” which appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of the Green Bag (20 Green Bag 2d 163). See the paper for a discussion of the variants, and the textual notes below for more information on these transcriptions. For historical information on the four texts, see the classic essays of Denys P. Myers (11 Green Bag 2d 217) and Akhil Reed Amar (97 Yale Law Journal 281).

PS. Although my purpose in creating this site was to resurrect the early printed forms of the text, I know that most people will continue to be interested chiefly in the parchment and the amendments. You can cite them and help call attention to the existence of the other texts by linking to this site’s transcriptions of P and A.

Philip Huff

Text P: The September 17 Parchment

The version signed by the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention (generally treated as canonical). This transcription differs from the National Archives transcription in a small number of places. Each of these differences has been checked against the parchment, and is deliberate:

  • 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>
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.