January 14th: The Confederation Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris. This marks the official end of the Revolutionary War.
March 1st: In the Confederation Congress, Thomas Jefferson submits a plan for governing the western territories that includes a prohibition on slavery from 1800. Jefferson’s plan is adopted but Congress removes the prohibition on slavery.
June 2nd: The Confederation Congress votes to dissolve the Continental Army.
June 3rd: Congress votes to form the first regiment of the United States Army, mainly to defend western settlements from Native American attacks and uprisings.
July 2nd: The British parliament votes to block American trade ships from British colonies in the West Indies.
January 11th: The Confederation Congress relocates to New York City.
February 24th: John Adams departs for England, where he will serve as United States ambassador to the royal court.
June 1st: American ambassador John Adams has his first audience with King George III.
June 3rd: Congress authorises the sale of the last remaining warship, Alliance, leaving the United States without a navy.
January 16th: Thomas Jefferson’s Ordinance of Religious Freedom is passed by the Virginia legislature. It allows for freedom of religion and outlaws discrimination on religious grounds.
January 21st: James Madison proposes a meeting of state delegates in Annapolis to discuss solutions to political and economic problems plaguing the United States.
August 7th: Congress hears several proposed amendments to the Articles of Confederation that strengthen national controls over foreign and domestic trade.
August 8th: Congress adopts a new national currency, metric in its organisation and based on the dollar. Many states, however, are already using other currencies.
August 22nd: Unrest begins to brew in rural Massachusetts, with town meetings hearing complaints about high state taxes, strict action by the debtors’ courts and shortages of reliable currency.
August 31st: Former Continental Army captain Daniel Shays leads a group of farmers and prevents a debtors’ court in Northampton from sitting.
September 11th: The Annapolis Convention, a forerunner to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, meets in Maryland.
September 20th: A mob in New Hampshire marches on the state assembly and demands that it issue more paper money.
September 26th: Rebels led by Daniel Shays force the closure of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in Springfield.
October 20th: Congress mobilises a militia of some 1,400 men, to protect the federal arsenal in Springfield, Massachusetts.
January 26th: Daniel Shays and 1,200 rebels approach Springfield but are forced to retreat by state militia with superior numbers.
February 21st: Congress authorises a constitutional convention to propose improvements and refinements to the Articles of Confederation. It is scheduled to held in Philadelphia in May.
May 25th: The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia begins, attended by 55 delegates.
June 19th: The Constitutional Convention decides against reworking the Articles of Confederation. Instead, it votes to draft a new national constitution based on three competing branches of government.
July 13th: Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, a plan for forming new states in the western territories, rather than expanding existing states. The Northwest Ordinance also features protections of individual rights and restrictions on slavery.
July 16th: The three-fifths clause is proposed in the Constitutional Convention, as a compromise between states with large and small populations.
September 12th: A group of delegates to the Constitutional Convention proposes a bill of rights.
September 17th: The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia concludes. Their final act is to adopt a draft constitution for the consideration of the 13 states. The constitution will come into effect if ratified by nine or more states (a two-thirds majority).
September 28th: The Confederation Congress votes to send the proposed constitution to state conventions, who will be empowered to vote on ratification.
October 27th: “Federalist No. 1”, the first of the Federalist Papers, is published in New York. Its author is Alexander Hamilton, writing under the pen name Publius.
December 7th: Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the new Constitution.
December 12th: The Pennsylvania state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
December 18th: The New Jersey state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
January 2nd: Georgia’s state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
January 9th: Connecticut’s state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
February 6th: The Massachusetts state convention votes to ratify the Constitution, while submitting nine suggested amendments.
March 24th: Rhode Island holds a plebiscite on the issue of ratification. The Federalists, who want a state convention similar to those in other states, boycott the plebiscite. Rhode Islanders vote not to ratify the Constitution.
April 28th: Maryland votes to ratify the Constitution.
May 23rd: South Carolina votes to ratify the Constitution.
June 21st: New Hampshire votes to ratify the Constitution, while submitting 12 proposed amendments. Nine states have now ratified, meaning the Constitution can come into effect.
June 25th: The Virginia state convention votes 89-75 to ratify the Convention, despite the opposition of Anti-Federalists like Patrick Henry. The Virginians submit a package of 20 proposed amendments.
July 2nd: The president of the Confederation Congress, Cyrus Griffin, declares that the Constitution is formally adopted, with nine states having ratified.
July 21st: North Carolina’s state convention votes to withhold ratification until a bill of rights is adopted.
July 26th: The New York state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
September 13th: Congress names New York City as the seat of the new national government.
November: The Confederation Congress dissolves; North Carolina ratifies the constitution.
December 15th: Voting begins in first United States presidential election.
January 7th: State legislatures nominate electoral voters to cast ballots for the president.
February: Voting in the first United States presidential election, with votes scheduled for counting in early April.
March 4th: The first United States Congress convenes in New York City.
April 6th: The Senate counts presidential votes and declares George Washington president and John Adams vice-president.
April 16th: Washington leaves his home at Mount Vernon for his inauguration in New York.
April 30th: The inauguration of Washington takes place in Federal Hall, New York City.
May: Georgia begins a revision of its state constitution (passed in February 1777).
May 29th: The Rhode Island state convention votes to ratify the Constitution.
July 4th: Exactly 13 years after the Declaration of Independence, Congress passes its first tax: a customs duty on 30 enumerated items.
July 14th: A crowd in Paris lays siege to the Bastille fortress, later overrunning it and beheading the governor. This marks the start of the French Revolution.
September 24th: Congress passes the Judiciary Act, thus establishing the federal court system.
September 25th: Congress submits 12 proposed constitutional amendments. The first ten of these, later dubbed the Bill of Rights, are eventually adopted.
November 21st: North Carolina votes to ratify the Constitution.
November 26th: Congress institutes a ‘day of Thanksgiving’ to be celebrated every November forthwith.
December 15th: The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are enacted, after being ratified by three-quarters of the states. Collectively they become known as the Bill of Rights.
March 1st: The adoption of the Bill of Rights is formally announced.
December 5th: George Washington wins the second presidential election.