How the Bill of Rights Was Born

How the Bill of Rights Was Born

( – Our Founding Fathers signed the US Constitution on September 17, 1787. It replaced the ineffective Articles of Confederation and created the central government we know today. Even now, it remains the supreme law of the land.

As our country grew, many citizens called for additional changes, known as amendments, to the Constitution to protect individual liberties. The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.

James Madison Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison proposed multiple amendments to the US Constitution. Over the following two months, the House of Representatives considered and discussed the proposal. On August 24 of that year, the House voted on and passed 17 amendments which they forwarded to the Senate.

That September, the Senate consolidated the proposed changes down to 12 amendments. Next, it was time for the states to vote on the changes.

States Only Agree on 10 Amendments

Of the 12 amendments proposed to the states, only ten were ratified. The states chose not to ratify the amendments concerning the number of Representatives in the House and another limiting salary raises for Congress.

It took two years for the needed three-quarters of the country’s states to ratify the ten amendments. On December 15, 1791, Virginia was the eleventh state to ratify the changes, making the Bill of Rights officially a part of the Constitution.

The final three states, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut, symbolically ratified the Bill of Rights in 1939, 150 years later.

What Did the Bill of Rights Secure?

The Bill of Rights secured many freedoms for US citizens, such as:

  • Freedom of Religion
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Right to Peaceably Assemble
  • Right to Petition the Government
  • Right to Bear Arms
  • Right to a Jury and Fair Trial

In addition to these incredible rights, these first 10 amendments ensured that the States and individuals retained all power that was not expressly given to the federal government. The Bill of Rights also ensured people would not be subject to unreasonable searches, seizures, or fines imposed on their property or person. Lastly, it protected American citizens against cruel and unusual punishment.

By securing these freedoms for all Americans, our Founding Fathers guaranteed that future leaders and lawmakers could not take away rights that our first citizens fought and died for.

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