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

Where did America's Bill of Rights come from?

Making Connections

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

Introduction

Even though America's revolution created a country that was entirely new, the new country's legal code was based on very old traditions. The laws established in the United States Constitution, and its Bill of Rights specifically, are rooted in England's very old, and very important, legal documents. Two of the documents that were critical in developing the U.S. Bill of Rights were the Magna Carta of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1688. In this activity you will read selections from those two documents and from the U.S. Bill of Rights to discover how each new was influenced by the ones that came before.


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Worksheet

Where did America's Bill of Rights come from?

Making Connections

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Fill in any blanks in the sequence with your thoughts and write your conclusion response in the space provided.

English nobles passed the Magna Carta in 1215 to limit King John's power. It represented one of England's first steps toward becoming a constitutional monarchy. The next document is a copy of the Magna Carta from 1297 in its original Latin. Following that document are excerpts of the Magna Carta translated into English with questions for you to respond to.

Magna Carta


Excerpts from the Magna Carta (adapted from the National Archives translation):

[14] A freeman is not to be fined for a small offence except in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its greatness, ...and none of these fines is to be imposed except by the oath of honesty and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood. Earls and barons are not to be fined except by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence.

[19] No constable or bailiff is to take corn or other property from anyone who is not themselves from a village where a castle is built, unless the constable or his bailiff immediately offers money in payment of... If the person whose corn or property are taken is of such a village, then the constable or his bailiff is to pay for the purchase within forty days.

[28] No bailiff is henceforth to put any man on his law or on oath simply by virtue of his spoken word, without reliable witnesses being produced...

[29] No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or deprived of his free property or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him except by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny right or justice.
In the response box that follows, answer the following questions:

1. In your own words, what are some of the rights that are established by the four clauses in the excerpt?

2. What kinds of people are protected by these clauses of the Magna Carta? What kinds of people may not be protected?

3. Who do you think this document is written for? What makes you think that?

4. In clause 14 it says, "Earls and barons are not to be fined except by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence." What might be the purpose of that clause?
Enter your response
The English Bill of Rights was signed in 1689 and limited the power of the monarchy by placing the law above the ruler. King William and Queen Mary agreed to sign this document, which was written by Parliament, before becoming England's new monarchs.

English Bill of Rights, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1688/1W&Ms2n2, https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/parliamentaryauthority/revolution/collections1/collections-glorious-revolution/billofrights/


Below are excerpts from the English Bill of Rights of 1689 (courtesy of The Avalon Project at Yale University, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/england.asp).

“That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;...

That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;

That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;...

And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.”
The following questions refer to the excerpts from the English Bill of Rights. Enter your answers in the response box that follows.

1. The English Bill of Rights was intended to limit the power of King William of Orange and Queen Mary, and it made England a Constitutional monarchy. Using your own words, what are some of the rights that are protected in these excerpts from the document?

2. Are there any similarities between this excerpt and the excerpt from the Magna Carta?

3. Does it appear that individual rights increased or decreased based on this excerpt? Support your claim with evidence from the document.

4. Whose rights does this document seem to focus on most? Why might that be?
Enter your response
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.

Bill of Rights


Excerpt from the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution (transcript provided courtesy of the National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript).

“Amendment I
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 VI
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.

Amendment VII
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
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
The following questions refer to the excerpt from the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. Enter your answers in the response box that follows.

1. The Bill of Rights is the name of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Based on this excerpt, what do you think was the purpose for adding these amendments to the Constitution?

2. Do the rights mentioned in the U.S. Constitution have any similarities with those mentioned in the Magna Carta or the English Bill of Rights? If so, what examples do you see?

3. Whose rights is this document intended to protect? Give examples from the text that support your claim.

4. Whose rights might not be protected by the Bill of Rights? Why?
Enter your response



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Magna Carta

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Activity Element

English Bill of Rights, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1688/1W&Ms2n2, https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/parliamentaryauthority/revolution/collections1/collections-glorious-revolution/billofrights/



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Bill of Rights

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Conclusion

Where did America's Bill of Rights come from?

Making Connections

Based on the documents that you've analyzed, write a paragraph highlighting the ways that the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights influenced the development of the U.S. Bill of Rights, as well as the ways that the U.S. Bill of Rights was unique. Make sure to use evidence from the documents to support your claims.

Your Response




Document

Magna Carta

1297

Magna Carta is widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. With this document, King John of England placed himself and England's future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law.

Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. Confronted by 40 rebellious barons, King John consented to their demands in 1215 to avert a civil war (which commenced just 10 weeks later). He authorized handwritten copies to be prepared on parchment, affixed with his seal, and publicly read throughout the realm. Thus he bound not only himself, but his "heirs, for ever" to grant "to all freemen of our kingdom" the rights and liberties the great charter described.

The document is concerned with many practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system in the 1200s. The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:

  • "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."
  • "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice."

During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta.

They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land."

Although Magna Carta failed to resolve the conflict between King John and his barons, it was reissued several times after his death. This copy, created by Edward I, King of England, is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta. It is on loan to the National Archives as a gift to the American people from David M. Rubenstein.

Transcript

[This is a translation of the 1297 version of Magna Carta.]

[Preamble] Edward by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine sends greetings to all to whom the present letters come. We have inspected the great charter of the lord Henry, late King of England, our father, concerning the liberties of England in these words:

Henry by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou sends greetings to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, reeves, ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful men inspecting the present charter. Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons and all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity.

[1] In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely. We furthermore grant and give to all the freemen of our realm for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity the liberties written below to have and to hold to them and their heirs from us and our heirs in perpetuity.

[2] If any of our earls or barons, or anyone else holding from us in chief by military service should die, and should his heir be of full age and owe relief, the heir is to have his inheritance for the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl for a whole county £100, the heir or heirs of a baron for a whole barony 100 marks, the heir or heirs of a knight for a whole knight’s fee 100 shillings at most, and he who owes less will give less, according to the ancient custom of (knights’) fees.

[3] If, however, the heir of such a person is under age, his lord is not to have custody of him and his land until he has taken homage from the heir, and after such an heir has been in custody, when he comes of age, namely at twenty-one years old, he is to have his inheritance without relief and without fine, saving that if, whilst under age, he is made a knight, his land will nonetheless remain in the custody of his lords until the aforesaid term.

[4] The keeper of the land of such an heir who is under age is only to take reasonable receipts from the heir’s land and reasonable customs and reasonable services, and this without destruction or waste of men or things. And if we assign custody of any such land to a sheriff or to anyone else who should answer to us for the issues, and such a person should commit destruction or waste, we will take recompense from him and the land will be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who will answer to us or to the person to whom we assign such land for the land’s issues. And if we give or sell to anyone custody of any such land and that person commits destruction or waste, he is to lose custody and the land is to be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who similarly will answer to us as is aforesaid.

[5] The keeper, for as long as he has the custody of the land of such (an heir), is to maintain the houses, parks, fishponds, ponds, mills and other things pertaining to that land from the issues of the same land, and he will restore to the heir, when the heir comes to full age, all his land stocked with ploughs and all other things in at least the same condition as when he received it. All these things are to be observed in the custodies of archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, priories, churches and vacant offices which pertain to us, save that such custodies ought not to be sold.

[6] Heirs are to be married without disparagement.

[7] A widow, after the death of her husband, is immediately and without any difficulty to have her marriage portion and her inheritance, nor is she to pay anything for her dower or her marriage portion or for her inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of her husband’s death, and she shall remain in the chief dwelling place of her husband for forty days after her husband’s death, within which time dower will be assigned her if it has not already been assigned, unless that house is a castle, and if it is a castle which she leaves, then a suitable house will immediately be provided for her in which she may properly dwell until her dower is assigned to her in accordance with what is aforesaid, and in the meantime she is to have her reasonable necessities (estoverium) from the common property. As dower she will be assigned the third part of all the lands of her husband which were his during his lifetime, save when she was dowered with less at the church door. No widow shall be distrained to marry for so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives surety that she will not marry without our assent if she holds of us, or without the assent of her lord, if she holds of another.

[8] Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the existing chattels of the debtor suffice for the payment of the debt and as long as the debtor is ready to pay the debt, nor will the debtor’s guarantors be distrained for so long as the principal debtor is able to pay the debt; and should the principal debtor default in his payment of the debt, not having the means to repay it, or should he refuse to pay it despite being able to do so, the guarantors will answer for the debt and, if they wish, they are to have the lands and rents of the debtor until they are repaid the debt that previously they paid on behalf of the debtor, unless the principal debtor can show that he is quit in respect to these guarantors.

[9] The city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and customs. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities and boroughs and vills and the barons of the Cinque Ports and all ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.

[10] No-one is to be distrained to do more service for a knight’s fee or for any other free tenement than is due from it.

[11] Common pleas are not to follow our court but are to be held in a certain fixed place.

[12] Recognisances of novel disseisin and of mort d’ancestor are not to be taken save in their particular counties and in the following way. We or, should we be outside the realm, our chief justiciar, will send our justices once a year to each county, so that, together with the knights of the counties, that may take the aforesaid assizes in the counties; and those assizes which cannot be completed in that visitation of the county by our aforesaid justices assigned to take the said assizes are to be completed elsewhere by the justices in their visitation; and those which cannot be completed by them on account of the difficulty of various articles (of law) are to be referred to our justices of the Bench and completed there.

[13] Assizes of darrein presentment are always to be taken before our justices of the Bench and are to be completed there.

[14] A freeman is not to be amerced for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude, saving his sufficiency (salvo contenemento suo), and a merchant likewise, saving his merchandise, and any villain other than one of our own is to be amerced in the same way, saving his necessity (salvo waynagio) should he fall into our mercy, and none of the aforesaid amercements is to be imposed save by the oath of honest and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood. Earls and barons are not to be amerced save by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence.

[15] No town or free man is to be distrained to make bridges or bank works save for those that ought to do so of old and by right.

[16] No bank works of any sort are to be kept up save for those that were in defense in the time of King H(enry II) our grandfather and in the same places and on the same terms as was customary in his time.

[17] No sheriff, constable, coroner or any other of our bailiffs is to hold pleas of our crown.

[18] If anyone holding a lay fee from us should die, and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent containing our summons for a debt that the dead man owed us, our sheriff or bailiff is permitted to attach and enroll all the goods and chattels of the dead man found in lay fee, to the value of the said debt, by view of law-worthy men, so that nothing is to be removed thence until the debt that remains is paid to us, and the remainder is to be released to the executors to discharge the will of the dead man, and if nothing is owed to us from such a person, all the chattels are to pass to the (use of) the dead man, saving to the dead man’s wife and children their reasonable portion.

[19] No constable or his bailiff is to take corn or other chattels from anyone who not themselves of a vill where a castle is built, unless the constable or his bailiff immediately offers money in payment of obtains a respite by the wish of the seller. If the person whose corn or chattels are taken is of such a vill, then the constable or his bailiff is to pay the purchase price within forty days.

[20] No constable is to distrain any knight to give money for castle guard if the knight is willing to do such guard in person or by proxy of any other honest man, should the knight be prevented from doing so by just cause. And if we take or send such a knight into the army, he is to be quit of (castle) guard in accordance with the length of time the we have him in the army for the fee for which he has done service in the army.

[21] No sheriff or bailiff of ours or of anyone else is to take anyone’s horses or carts to make carriage, unless he renders the payment customarily due, namely for a two-horse cart ten pence per day, and for a three-horse cart fourteen pence per day. No demesne cart belonging to any churchman or knight or any other lady (sic) is to be taken by our bailiffs, nor will we or our bailiffs or anyone else take someone else’s timber for a castle or any other of our business save by the will of he to whom the timber belongs.

[22] We shall not hold the lands of those convicted of felony save for a year and a day, whereafter such land is to be restored to the lords of the fees.

[23] All fish weirs (kidelli) on the Thames and the Medway and throughout England are to be entirely dismantled, save on the sea coast.

[24] The writ called ‘praecipe’ is not to be issued to anyone in respect to any free tenement in such a way that a free man might lose his court.

[25] There is to be a single measure for wine throughout our realm, and a single measure for ale, and a single measure for Corn, that is to say the London quarter, and a single breadth for dyed cloth, russets, and haberjects, that is to say two yards within the lists. And it shall be the same for weights as for measures.

[26] Henceforth there is to be nothing given for a writ of inquest from the person seeking an inquest of life or member, but such a writ is to be given freely and is not to be denied.

[27] If any persons hold from us at fee farm or in socage or burgage, and hold land from another by knight service, we are not, by virtue of such a fee farm or socage or burgage, to have custody of the heir or their land which pertains to another’s fee, nor are we to have custody of such a fee farm or socage or burgage unless this fee farm owes knight service. We are not to have the custody of an heir or of any land which is held from another by knight service on the pretext of some small serjeanty held from us by service of rendering us knives or arrows or suchlike things.

[28] No bailiff is henceforth to put any man on his open law or on oath simply by virtue of his spoken word, without reliable witnesses being produced for the same.

[29] No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his free tenement or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him save by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny of delay right or justice.

[30] All merchants, unless they have been previously and publicly forbidden, are to have safe and secure conduct in leaving and coming to England and in staying and going through England both by land and by water to buy and to sell, without any evil exactions, according to the ancient and right customs, save in time of war, and if they should be from a land at war against us and be found in our land at the beginning of the war, they are to be attached without damage to their bodies or goods until it is established by us or our chief justiciar in what way the merchants of our land are treated who at such a time are found in the land that is at war with us, and if our merchants are safe there, the other merchants are to be safe in our land.

[31] If anyone dies holding of any escheat such as the honour of Wallingford, Boulogne, Nottingham, Lancaster or of other escheats which are in our hands and which are baronies, his heir is not to give any other relief or render any other service to us that would not have been rendered to the baron if the barony were still held by a baron, and we shall hold such things in the same way as the baron held them, nor, on account of such a barony or escheat, are we to have the escheat or custody of any of our men unless the man who held the barony or the escheat held elsewhere from us in chief.

[32] No free man is henceforth to give or sell any more of his land to anyone, unless the residue of his land is sufficient to render due service to the lord of the fee as pertains to that fee.

[33] All patrons of abbeys which have charters of the kings of England over advowson or ancient tenure or possession are to have the custody of such abbeys when they fall vacant just as they ought to have and as is declared above.

[34] No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband.

[35] No county court is to be held save from month to month, and where the greater term used to be held, so will it be in future, nor will any sheriff or his bailiff make his tourn through the hundred save for twice a year and only in the place that is due and customary, namely once after Easter and again after Michaelmas, and the view of frankpledge is to be taken at the Michaelmas term without exception, in such a way that every man is to have his liberties which he had or used to have in the time of King H(enry II) my grandfather or which he has acquired since. The view of frankpledge is to be taken so that our peace be held and so that the tithing is to be held entire as it used to be, and so that the sheriff does not seek exceptions but remains content with that which the sheriff used to have in taking the view in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather.

[36] Nor is it permitted to anyone to give his land to a religious house in such a way that he receives it back from such a house to hold, nor is it permitted to any religious house to accept the land of anyone in such way that the land is restored to the person from whom it was received to hold. If anyone henceforth gives his land in such a way to any religious house and is convicted of the same, the gift is to be entirely quashed and such land is to revert to the lord of that fee.

[37] Scutage furthermore is to be taken as it used to be in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather, and all liberties and free customs shall be preserved to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, Templars, Hospitallers, earls, barons and all others, both ecclesiastical and secular persons, just as they formerly had.

All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be held in our realm in so far as pertains to us are to be observed by all of our realm, both clergy and laity, in so far as pertains to them in respect to their own men. For this gift and grant of these liberties and of others contained in our charter over the liberties of the forest, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, fee holders and all of our realm have given us a fifteenth part of all their movable goods. Moreover we grant to them for us and our heirs that neither we nor our heirs will seek anything by which the liberties contained in this charter might be infringed or damaged, and should anything be obtained from anyone against this it is to count for nothing and to be held as nothing. With these witnesses: the lord S(tephen) archbishop of Canterbury, E(ustace) bishop of London, J(ocelin) bishop of Bath, P(eter) bishop of Winchester, H(ugh) bishop of Lincoln, R(ichard) bishop of Salisbury, W. bishop of Rochester, W(illiam) bishop of Worcester, J(ohn) bishop of Ely, H(ugh) bishop of Hereford, R(anulf) bishop of Chichester, W(illiam) bishop of Exeter, the abbot of (Bury) St Edmunds, the abbot of St Albans, the abbot of Battle, the abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury, the abbot of Evesham, the abbot of Westminster, the abbot of Peterborough, the abbot of Reading, the abbot of Abingdon, the abbot of Malmesbury, the abbot of Winchcombe, the abbot of Hyde (Winchester), the abbot of Chertsey, the abbot of Sherborne, the abbot of Cerne, the abbot of Abbotsbury, the abbot of Milton (Abbas), the abbot of Selby, the abbot of Cirencester, H(ubert) de Burgh the justiciar, H. earl of Chester and Lincoln, W(illiam) earl of Salisbury, W(illiam) earl Warenne, G. de Clare earl of Gloucester and Hertford, W(illiam) de Ferrers earl of Derby, W(illiam) de Mandeville earl of Essex, H(ugh) Bigod earl of Norfolk, W(illiam) earl Aumale, H(umphrey) earl of Hereford, J(ohn) constable of Chester, R(obert) de Ros, R(obert) fitz Walter, R(obert) de Vieuxpont, W(illiam) Brewer, R(ichard) de Montfiquet, P(eter) fitz Herbert, W(illiam) de Aubigné, G. Gresley, F. de Braose, J(ohn) of Monmouth, J(ohn) fitz Alan, H(ugh) de Mortemer, W(illiam) de Beauchamp, W(illiam) de St John, P(eter) de Maulay, Brian de Lisle, Th(omas) of Moulton, R(ichard) de Argentan, G(eoffrey) de Neville, W(illiam) Mauduit, J(ohn) de Baalon and others. Given at Westminster on the eleventh day of February in the ninth year of our reign.

We, holding these aforesaid gifts and grants to be right and welcome, conceed and confirm them for ourselves and our heirs and by the terms of the present (letters) renew them, wishing and granting for ourselves and our heirs that the aforesaid charter is to be firmly and inviably observed in all and each of its articles in perpetuity, including any articles contained in the same charter which by chance have not to date been observed. In testimony of which we have had made these our letters patent. Witnessed by Edward our son, at Westminster on the twelfth day of October in the twenty-fifth year of our reign. (Chancery warranty by John of) Stowe.

[Translation by Professor Nicholas Vincent, Copyright Sotheby's Inc. 2007]

This primary source comes from the Collection DMRMC: David M. Rubenstein Magna Carta Collection.
National Archives Identifier: 6116690
Full Citation: Magna Carta; 1297; Collection DMRMC: David M. Rubenstein Magna Carta Collection, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/magna-carta, February 26, 2020]


Magna Carta

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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, February 26, 2020]


Bill of Rights

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