On this day in 1789 a draft of the Bill of Rights was presented to the First Federal Congress. The United States Constitution had been ratified on September 17, 1787. It established the organization of the central government and the elaborate system of checks and balances on the power of the three branches. What was not included in the Constitution at this time, however, was how the powers of the central government should be balanced against the rights and liberty of the people.
Beginning with the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, there is a long history of attempts to balance the power of the state or the Crown against the power of the individual. The Bill of Rights is a high water mark in this history.
Credit for championing the draft of the Bill of Rights goes to James Madison, would later become the fourth President of the United States. Madison had been the major architect of the document that was written at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and in 1789 he demonstrated the same breath of knowledge and the same skill in forming compromises as he argued for the Bill of Rights.
Madison’s first draft of 17 amendments was approved by the House of Representatives, but 5 of the amendments were later shot down by the Senate. The state legislatures would later remove two more amendments. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as the Bill of Rights were finally adopted on December 15, 1791.
Today’s Challenge: Know Your Rights
Today there are a total of 27 amendments to the United States Constitution, but it’s the first ten that are known as the Bill of Rights. Below are 10 descriptions of these fundamental amendments. See if you can label each correctly with its appropriate amendment number.
A. Civil suits
B. Bail and punishment
C. Powers reserved to the people
D. Powers reserved to the states
E. Search and seizures
F. Quartering troops
G. Rights of accused persons
H. Freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly
I. The right to bear arms
J. Right to a speedy and fair trial
Quote of the Day: The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s good-by to the Bill of Rights. –H. L. Mencken
Answers: A. 7th B. 8th C. 9th D. 10th E. 4th F. 3rd G. 5th H. 1st I. 2nd J. 6th
1- The National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights.html