U.S. Constitution 1787, Bill of Rights 1791
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. They were written by Congress in 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791. George Washington had fourteen handwritten copies of the Bill of Rights made, one for Congress and one for each of the original thirteen states. These amendments guarantee a number of personal freedoms and limit the power of government.
Independence Day, the 4th of July, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, under the rule of King George III. December 15th was declared Bill of Rights Day in 1941, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental power. The Bill of Rights was written by James Madison, in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties.
Amendment I: Freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; 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 a redress of grievances.
Amendment II: Right to bear arms
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III: Housing of soldiers
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV: Search and arrest warrants
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V: Rights in criminal cases
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI: Rights to a fair trial
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII: Rights in civil cases
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII: Bails, fines, and punishments
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX: Rights retained by the people
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X: Powers retained by the states and the people
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Bill of Rights is on display at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.