Bill of Rights Becomes Law

U.S. #1312 – Commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights Becomes Law

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the Bill of Rights, earning the three-fourths majority needed to add the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Following the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which led to the creation of the new nation’s Constitution, each state had to ratify it individually. The first nine states approved the Constitution by June 1788. Although all that was needed to approve the Constitution was nine states, four others argued it provided too much power to the central government, which could easily abuse individual rights. They believed there should be a bill of rights to prevent such abuses.

U.S. #2421 – Issued on the 200th anniversary of the House and Senate’s ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson was among the critics who advocated a “Bill of Rights” enumerating individual rights. In December 1787, Jefferson, then the ambassador to France, wrote a letter to James Madison. “A bill of rights,” Jefferson wrote, “is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

Jefferson’s position gained strength, and a compromise was reached. Individual state legislatures ratified the document with the understanding that the first national legislative meeting under the new Constitution would pass amendments guaranteeing specific individual liberties.

U.S. #1099 – Religious freedom is included in the first amendment.

James Madison was then tasked with drafting this Bill of Rights, though he initially opposed it. Madison crafted these amendments in part based on proposals he received from each state that wished to contribute. He rejected proposals calling for structural changes in the government, and kept others which created a series of amendments protecting civil rights such as free speech. Madison also drew inspiration from the Magna Carta and Virginia Declaration of Rights.

In June 1789, Madison presented nine articles with a total of 20 amendments. To his disappointment, The Senate removed several amendments and added one. On September 25, 1789, the U.S. House and Senate met in Congress Hall to ratify twelve proposals. Once passed there, they were submitted to the states on September 28.

U.S. #1119 – Freedom of the press is also included in the first amendment.

Then for over two years, the states voted on the articles. New Jersey was the first, ratifying 11 of the articles on November 20, 1789. They were followed by Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and finally Virginia. As the 11th state to ratify some or all of the amendments, Virginia cemented the creation of the Bill of Rights. By the state’s votes, articles three through twelve were passed, and these became the first ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson officially declared the amendments as adopted on March 1, 1792.

The rights guaranteed by the amendments are freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of religious worship, to petition, the right to keep and bear arms, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, self-incrimination, and a guarantee of due process of law and a speedy public trial with an impartial jury. In addition, all powers that are not specifically given to the Federal Government in the Constitution are reserved for the citizenry or states.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 18 Average: 4.9]

Share this article

13 responses to "Bill of Rights Becomes Law"

13 thoughts on “Bill of Rights Becomes Law”

  1. And yet always a tug of war it seems between interpretation of these rights. The ultimate interpretation goes to the Supreme Court. This court has also become a political party thing for the most part. Nevertheless, I’ll take the United States of America over any other country in the world to be a citizen of. Thank you James Madison, and thank you Mystic for the history.

    Reply
  2. Madison., John Jay and Alexander Hamilton were AGAINST a “Bill of Rights” trying
    to state that the Constitution was enough. Jefferson argued that ANY future Government
    could impose on the citizens any Government controls that they wanted to. The”Bill of
    Rights” spelled out exactly what protection the citizens had from the Government. They
    were NOT rights given by the Government to the people but what were inherently their
    rights.

    Reply
  3. It might seem strange that Madison opposed adding a bill of rights, but he feared that by listing specific rights, other essential rights might be left out. For example, nowhere is the right to privacy specifically mentioned, although it is inferred in the “unreasonable search and seizures” wording of the 6th Amendment. Another point often overlooked is that the original “Bill of Rights” applied only to the Federal government. That changed with the passage of the 14th Amendment of 1868. That amendment states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deny any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Reply
  4. I agree with Steve Byrd. The Supreme Court is becoming too political. I feel the appointment of Justices for life is unhealthy for the country, just as allowing Senators and Representatives to be elected and reelected over and over is unhealthy for our country and it’s political system. I think the Congress the USSC should have a ten year maximum and out. On the other hand, as Steve mentioned — I wouldn’t want to live in any other country in the world. Thank you to the founders and those who fought so ardently and bravely for our constitution and the formation of our rights as citizens of the world and the United States and thanks to Mystic for the daily history reminders and this open forum for comments on each days look at what was and what is on this amazing planet we call Earth.

    Reply
  5. I have enjoyed this series and have been saving the pages by cutting and pasting into Word documents. Beginning with Dec 15, the graphic images are no longer coming over when I paste. There is a blank box with a hyperlink that does link to the philatelic item, but no photo. Have you intentionally made it impossible to download the images? If so, there’s no point in trying to save the pages- they will be simply a one-time read and forget.
    I am running Windows 7 with Firefox 42.

    Reply
  6. After the US Constitution was signed in 1776, it took almost another 75 years to get our country growing and expanded and the British defeated and out of our Nation, and another 15 years to get past the Civil War and end slavery in our Country, SO … from that point in time … over the next 150 years … our Nation grew to become BEST, the strongest and the most accomplished country on the planet Earth because of our Founding Fathers and their under-standing. and creation developing a Nation NOT under the control of a king and queen monarchy, an authoritarian, a dictator, or a ruthless killer in control like in some small African countries (like today’s North Korea, Communist China, Venezuela, Russia and more) AND … going back about 60 years from TODAY … The US became the first Country on Earth to land on the Moon !!!
    We are indeed blessed, fortunate and LUCKY to live in the greatest Nation on Earth in history. I have read the U.S. Constitution twice in my lifetime and served on active duty in a U.S. Army combat engineer battalion … and would NOT leave our great Nation for any reason. People need to read more about U.S. history, spend at least one year in the Army (EVERY single man and woman in the USA) to experience the difference between living under authoritarian control and … as a free and open citizen living in the USA !!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!