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A discussion of the bill of rights in the united states constitution

Primary Documents in American History

What did evolve, far more dramatically and creatively, were their ideas of where the dangers to rights lay and of how rights were to be protected.

Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, 19961 For many Americans after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the decision to support or oppose the new plan of government came down to one issue—whether their liberties were jeopardized by its lack of a bill of rights. After all, they had rebelled against Britain because it had in their view ceased to respect their age-old liberties as Englishmen—liberties enshrined in the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1689 English Declaration of Rights.

Having fought a long war to protect these rights, were they then to sacrifice them to their own government? Others countered that a bill of rights actually endangered their liberties—that listing the rights a government could not violate implied that unlisted rights could be restricted or abolished. And just what posed the gravest threat to individual liberties—the federal government or, paradoxically, the people themselves?

A lot to consider in the intense debate over ratifying the proposed Constitution. On adding a bill of rights to the Constitution: Did the Constitution need a bill of rights?

  1. There has to be a good reason for the search.
  2. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
  3. By sharing common interests, Americans can learn to work together. It is intended to prevent people from being falsely accused of a serious crime.
  4. What do they share?

In general, Federalists said no and Anti-Federalists said yes. If so, should it be added before or after the Constitution was ratified? Adding it before ratification meant a second constitutional convention, a calamitous prospect to most Federalists. Thus when five states proposed amendments at their ratifying conventions, they did so with the clear message that their vote to ratify committed the first Congress to submit a bill of rights.

Which it did, with James Madison's leadership, on September 25, 1789. With Virginia's ratification over two years later, the first ten amendments were added to the U.

Constitution—the first eight deemed the "Bill of Rights. Follow the discussion on the need for a bill of rights in these selections from newspapers, addresses, and correspondence, from late December 1787 to the summer of 1789, when Madison was leading Congress in its creation of the Bill of Rights.

Explaining the Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights1789. As implicitly promised by the Federalists during the long ratification process, the first Congress under the new Constitution took up the challenge of constructing a bill of rights, and in September 1789 it proposed twelve amendments to the states for their approval. By late 1791, all the states had ratified the eight amendments that protected individual liberties, and the two amendments that reserved to the people and the states all powers not relegated to the federal government.

The two that dealt with congressional apportionment and salaries were not ratified. Constitution, the Bill of Rights is a document to be read occasionally, with attention to content and meaning unnoticed before, or to particular relevance to issues of the day.

  • To help win support for the new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote a series of essays for the newspaper;
  • What did evolve, far more dramatically and creatively, were their ideas of where the dangers to rights lay and of how rights were to be protected;
  • Which were added later as amendments?
  • Reporters and editors can criticize the government without the risk of punishment, provided they do not deliberately tell lies.

We think we know it, but a re-read is always enlightening, even intriguing. Why is the Fourth Amendment so specific? Why is the Eighth Amendment so vague? Does "no law" in the First Amendment mean "no law"? Why is it "life, liberty, and property" in the Bill of Rights while it's "life, liberty, and happiness" in the Declaration of Independence? Where's the habeas corpus protection?

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen France1789. Drafted by the Marquis de Lafayette, who had ably trained and led American soldiers during the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted by the French National Assembly in August 1789, one month before the U.

Congress submitted the Bill of Rights to the states. While the documents are coupled forever in history for their timing and ideals, they diverge widely in context and outcome.

  • It is intended to prevent people from being falsely accused of a serious crime;
  • Freedom of speech enables people to state their opinions openly to try to convince others to change their minds;
  • Altered by Amendment 21 The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any States on account of sex;
  • They were all approved by 1791 and became known as the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights concluded a three-decade struggle for independence and self-government, and it was deeply rooted in the English heritage of formalizing individual rights within government. In contrast, France adopted the Declaration of Rights at the very beginning of its ill-fated revolution—just six weeks after the storming of the Bastille in Paris in July 1789—with no historic scaffolding, no tradition of monarchs gradually relinquishing power. While France did not establish a permanent representative democracy until 1870, both nations revere their 1789 rights declarations as founding documents of their republics.

Discussion Questions Overall, what impression did you get from the commentary in 1787-89 on the need for a bill of rights in the Constitution? What were the major arguments for and against adding a bill of rights? Why did support for adding a bill of rights reflect the Anti-Federalist position in the ratification debates?

Why did the conviction that a bill of rights was not necessary reflect the Federalist position? Why did James Madison, a Federalist who opposed adding a bill of rights, lead the congressional process to submit a bill of rights to the states? Historian Jack Rakove writes that Americans' ideas of what their rights were did not change substantially after the Revolution, but what did change were "their ideas of where the dangers to rights lay and of how rights were to be protected.

For American colonists, where did the dangers to individual rights lay before 1776? How were rights to be protected? By 1789, what events and issues had modified Americans' views of the threats to, and protections of, their rights?

  1. They were called the "Antifederalists.
  2. Such rights exist whether or not they are defined.
  3. That way you didn't have an accident and hurt pedestrians or yourself.
  4. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Passed by Congress July 6, 1965.

What amendments proposed by the states in their ratifying conventions were incorporated into the Bill of Rights? Which were added later as amendments? Identify a state-proposed amendment that has not been added to the U. Argue that it should, or should not, be added to the Constitution. Conduct research to learn whether it has been introduced in Congress as a proposed amendment.


Identify the rights that are protected in the original Constitution Articles 1-7 and those defined in the Bill of Rights. In your judgment, which are the five most significant protections? Compare the 1789 Bill of Rights with the following see Supplemental Sites: What do they share? How do the 1789 English and French documents differ from the 1948 United Nations document?

What values are apparent in all three documents stated and unstated? Study the French Declaration of Rights to identify the influence of the American freedom documents—the Declaration of Independence, the U. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Although the Bill of Rights followed the French Declaration by one month, the American discussion of rights in the 1780s gained wide attention in France. More specifically, analyze the seventeen articles of the French Declaration for their counterparts or lack of in the American founding documents.

What do the similarities reveal about the progress of liberty and Enlightenment ideals in the late eighteenth century?

  • During the 1950's, the government became concerned about Communists;
  • With the invention of radio, movies, television, automobiles, jet planes, computers, and satellites, what rights might the states and the people now claim?
  • Wouldn't you want a chance to prove your innocence?
  • How else can the Constitution be kept up to date?
  • The antifederalists believed that without a list of personal freedoms, the new national government might abuse its powers;
  • Passed by Congress March 23, 1971.

Consider Article 16 of the French Declaration: Any society in which no provision is made for guaranteeing rights or for the separation of powers has no Constitution.

How was this concept part of the American ratification debate? Why did it merit its own article in the French Declaration? Framing Questions How did Americans' concept of self-governance change from 1776 to 1789? How did their emerging national identity affect this process? What divisions of political ideology coalesced in this process? How did the process lead to the final Constitution and Bill of Rights?