The online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights

Seeing the Big Picture

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights extends some of the most important rights to American citizens.  These rights are at the core of American democracy.

In this activity you will have the opportunity to explore these rights.  Examine each document carefully.  Then match each document with the First Amendment right that it best illustrates.


Name:
Class:

Worksheet

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights

Seeing the Big Picture

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Consider how each document or piece of text relates to each other and create matched pairs. Write the text or document number next to its match below. Write your conclusion response in the space provided.

1
2
3
4
5
6



1

Activity Element



Freedom of Religion


2

Activity Element




3

Activity Element




4

Activity Element



Freedom of the Press


5

Activity Element




6

Activity Element



The Bill of Rights


7

Activity Element



Freedom to Petition the Government


8

Activity Element




9

Activity Element




10

Activity Element




11

Activity Element



Freedom to Assemble


12

Activity Element



Freedom of Speech


Culminating Document

The Bill of Rights and Beyond

1991

This poster was created by the Bicentennial Commission to help Americans understand how the Constitution had changed through amendments since it was written in 1787. One more amendment was added to the Constitution in 1992, bringing the total to 27.
This primary source comes from the Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards.
National Archives Identifier: 24520428
Full Citation: Poster 220-BCP-18; The Bill of Rights and Beyond; 1991; Posters Collected by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1986 - 1991; Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/bill-of-rights-and-beyond, October 15, 2021]


The Bill of Rights and Beyond

Page 1



Conclusion

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights

Seeing the Big Picture

Consider the documents you examined and the rights we are granted by the First Amendment.  Which right do you think in the most important?  Write a paragraph explaining which right you think is the most important and why.

Your Response




Document

Chinese Buddhists at the Temple of Enlightenment, Bronx, New York

1964 - 1979

This primary source comes from the Records of the U.S. Information Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 24520414
Full Citation: Chinese Buddhists at the Temple of Enlightenment, Bronx, New York; 1964 - 1979; Records of the U.S. Information Agency, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/chinese-buddhists-at-the-temple-of-enlightenment-bronx-new-york, October 15, 2021]


Chinese Buddhists at the Temple of Enlightenment, Bronx, New York

Page 1



Document

Douglas Fairbanks, movie star, speaking in front of the Sub-Treasury building, New York City, to aid the third Liberty Loan.

4/1918

This primary source comes from the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985.
National Archives Identifier: 530736
Full Citation: Photograph 111-SC-16569; Douglas Fairbanks, movie star, speaking in front of the Sub-Treasury building, New York City, to aid the third Liberty Loan.; 4/1918; Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 - ca. 1981; Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/douglas-fairbanks-movie-star-speaking-front-subtreasury-building-new-york-city, October 15, 2021]


Douglas Fairbanks, movie star, speaking in front of the Sub-Treasury building, New York City, to aid the third Liberty Loan.

Page 1



Document

Gas Rationing System (Odd-Even Plan) is Announced

1/1974

The original caption for this photograph reads: Gas Rationing System (Odd-Even Plan) is Announced in an Afternoon Newspaper Being Read at a Service Station With a Sign in the Background Stating No Gas is Available.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 555474
Full Citation: Gas Rationing System (Odd-Even Plan) is Announced; 1/1974; DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977; Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/gas-rationing-system-announced, October 15, 2021]


Gas Rationing System (Odd-Even Plan) is Announced

Page 1



Document

Photograph of Leaders at the Head of the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

8/28/1963

Civil rights leaders Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (front row, second from left), A. Philip Randolph (front row, far right), and Roy Wilkins (front row, second from right) lead the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.
This primary source comes from the Records of the U.S. Information Agency.
National Archives Identifier: 542002
Full Citation: Photograph of Leaders at the Head of the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.; 8/28/1963; Records of the U.S. Information Agency, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/photograph-of-leaders-at-the-head-of-the-civil-rights-march-on-washington-dc, October 15, 2021]


Photograph of Leaders at the Head of the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

Page 1



Document

Peace Petition to Congress from the Inhabitants of Trumbull County, Ohio

1847

Citizens of Trumbull County, Ohio, sent this petition to Congress. They asked Congress to end the Mexican War, which had begun a year before.
This primary source comes from the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.
National Archives Identifier: 595303
Full Citation: Peace Petition to Congress from the Inhabitants of Trumbull County, Ohio; 1847; Petitions and Memorials, 1822 - 1968; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/peace-petition, October 15, 2021]


Peace Petition to Congress from the Inhabitants of Trumbull County, Ohio

Page 1



Peace Petition to Congress from the Inhabitants of Trumbull County, Ohio

Page 2



Document

Bill of Rights

9/25/1789

This document is the Federal Government's official copy of the joint resolution of Congress proposing the original Bill of Rights, engrossed on parchment. (Engrossing is the process of copying an official document in a large hand.) It is signed by Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and John Adams, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate.

The amendments proposed in the Bill of Rights defined citizens' rights in relation to the newly established government under the new United States Constitution. During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government.

Fresh in their minds was the memory of the British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolution. They demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of individual citizens. Several state conventions, in their formal ratification of the Constitution, asked for such amendments; others ratified the Constitution with the understanding that the amendments would be offered.

The First Federal Congress took up the matter and proposed 12 articles to the states for ratification on September 25, 1789. (This document shows those 12.) Ten of the 12 proposed amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the states to become part the Constitution.

Articles 3 to 12, ratified December 15, 1791, constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution (what are commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights). Article 2 concerning "varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives" was finally ratified on May 7, 1992 as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 1, that concerns the number of constituents for each Representative, was never ratified.
 

Transcript

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Article the first... After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Article the second... No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Article the third... 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.

Article the fourth... 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.

Article the fifth... 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.

Article the sixth... 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.

Article the seventh... 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 offence 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.

Article the eighth... 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 defence.

Article the ninth... 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.

Article the tenth... Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article the eleventh... The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article the twelfth... 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.

ATTEST,

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, Speaker of the House of Representatives

John Adams, Vice-President of the United States, and President of the Senate

John Beckley, Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Sam. A Otis Secretary of the Senate
This primary source comes from the General Records of the United States Government.
National Archives Identifier: 1408042
Full Citation: Bill of Rights; 9/25/1789; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2011; General Records of the United States Government, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/bill-of-rights, October 15, 2021]


Bill of Rights

Page 1