The first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified on this day in history, December 15, 1791, after intense national debate.
Their passage occurred on June 21, 1788, three and a half years after the adoption of the Constitution, which became the basis of the national government.
“There was a conflict over the issue of ratification [of the Constitution]Anti-Federalists opposed the creation of a strong national government and rejected ratification, while Federalists advocated a strong union and adoption of the Constitution,” writes the Center for Free Speech at Middle Tennessee State University.
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The Bill of Rights was largely a compromise between competing factions and a victory for the Anti-Federalists.
Patrick Henry, who famously declared “Give me liberty or death” at the Virginia Convention of 1775, was the leader of the movement.
“An outspoken Anti-Federalist, Henry opposed the ratification of the US Constitution because he felt it placed too much power in the hands of the national government,” writes History.com.
“His influence helped create the Bill of Rights, which guaranteed individual liberties and limited the constitutional powers of government.”
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Amendments were also supported by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among other founding fathers.
“The Bill of Rights is that which the people have a right against every government on earth, general or particular, and which no just government ought to deny or infer,” wrote Jefferson.
“The Bill of Rights is what the people have a right to against every government on earth.” – Thomas Jefferson
The 10 Amendments form the foundation of America’s cherished freedoms, many of which are the first of their kind in world history – some still unique in global governance.
They have been widely copied and adopted by governments around the world over the course of 231 years.
The Bill of Rights “describes the rights of Americans vis-à-vis the government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual, such as freedom of speech, press, and religion,” notes the National Archives.
“It lays down the rules of due process and reserves to the federal government all powers not granted to the people or the states. It also states that “The enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or discriminate against others.” preserved by.”
Madison originally proposed the Bill of Rights in 1789 with 12 amendments.
But only Amendments 3 through 12 were ratified by the required three-fourths of state legislatures.
Thus, the third proposed amendment went down in history as the first amendment.
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“Congress shall make no law prohibiting an establishment or the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for grievances,” the dramatic codification of human rights said for the first time. Idealized during the American Revolution.
The Second Amendment, the fourth among the proposed amendments, famously defines the right to “keep and bear arms.”
“A well-regulated police force is essential to the security of a free state, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms must not be infringed,” it said.
It is perhaps the most controversial of all the amendments in modern America, and the subject of many attacks by constitutional opponents—many of whom blame the amendment for broader social ills.
The “right to keep and bear arms” was first codified in the Massachusetts constitution in 1780, which was ratified by the commonwealth while the American Revolution was in progress in the other colonies.
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In 1788, Madison defended a well-armed citizenry against government overreach in Federalist No. 46.
A national army of 25,000 to 30,000 men “is opposed by a militia of about half a million armed citizens,” he wrote.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be violated.” – Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights
The Founders and the individual states that ratified the Bill of Rights saw the Second Amendment and others as important bulwarks against a long human history of governments seeking ever-increasing power and then abusing the power they acquired. .
Without the protections of the Bill of Rights that the Founders gave to subsequent generations of Americans and to all mankind, they lived in that world of abusive power.
“During the debates over the adoption of the US Constitution, its opponents charged that the draft Constitution would open the way to tyranny by the central government,” writes the Library of Congress.
“The memory of Britain’s violation of civil rights before and during the Revolutionary War was fresh in their minds, so they demanded a ‘bill of rights’ representing the immunities of individual citizens.”
The first two proposed amendments met different fates – one was consigned to the dustbin of history, the other survived for more than 200 years before being enacted.
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“The First Amendment, which dealt with the number of electors per representative, was never ratified,” notes the National Archives.
Article 2, amending the compensation for the services of senators and representatives, was ratified on May 7, 1992 as the 27th amendment to the Constitution.
No other amendments have been made to the Constitution for the past 30 years.