The Bill of Rights
On September 25, 1789, the First Federal Congress of the
United States proposed to the state legislatures twelve amendments
to the Constitution. The first two, concerning the number
of constituents for each Representative and the compensation
of Congressmen, were not ratified.*
Articles three through twelve, known as the Bill
of Rights, became the first ten amendments to the U.S.
Constitution and contained guarantees of essential rights
and liberties omitted in the crafting of the original
*Note: The original second
amendment proposed by the First Federal Congress dealt
with the compensation of members of Congress. Although rejected
at the time, it was eventually ratified on May 7, 1992,
as the 27th amendment.
Library of Congress Web Site | External
Web Sites | Selected Bibliography
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation
June 8, 1789, James Madison introduced his proposed
amendments to the Constitution, which would eventually
become known as the Bill of Rights.
in the House of Representatives related to the proposed amendments to the Constitution can be located in the Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 1st Congress, 1st Session, on the following dates in 1789:
*Note: There is no Senate debate because the Senate met in secret at the time. The Senate did not open its doors to the public until 1795.
A copy of the proposed
amendments to the Constitution submitted to the state
legislatures can be found in the appendix to the Senate
Journal, First Congress, First Session.
Information on ratification of the first ten amendments
to the Constitution by the various state
legislatures is available in the appendix to the Annals
of Congress, First Congress.
of Delegates to Congress contains a letter from James
Madison to Thomas Jefferson dated October 17, 1788,
that reveals Madison's views on the need for and role
of a Bill of Rights.
American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and
Other Printed Ephemera
Contains a copy of seventeen
proposed amendments to the Constitution passed by
the House of Representatives on August 24, 1789. These
amendments were subsequently reduced to the twelve
amendments passed by Congress and sent to the states
on September 25, 1789.
Includes a printed version of the
Bill of Rights from 1950.
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention,
Presents a copy of the twelve
amendments to the Constitution as passed by Congress
on September 25, 1789.
by subject in this collection to locate additional
documents related to the Bill of Rights.
Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
Contains a letter
from Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, April
28, 1788 in which he discusses the prospects for ratification
of the Constitution and the need for a Bill of Rights.
James Madison Papers
Madison's notes for his speech on the proposed amendments
to the Constitution. Also contains a letter written to
Washington on December 5, 1789, in which Madison discussed
the political situation in the state of Virginia as it
related to the ratification of the Bill of Rights.
Madison's Papers to find additional material related
to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson received a copy of the Constitution
in November, 1787, while living in France. Beginning on
the second page of a letter to James Madison dated December
20, 1787, Jefferson expressed his opinions on the
new Constitution, including his belief that a Bill of
Rights was needed. He
replied to Madison's letter of October 17, 1788 (above),
on March 15, 1789.
and Deeds in American History
George Washington's first
inaugural address called for constitutional amendments
to satisfy citizen demands for a Bill of Rights.
Back in Time: The New United States of America Adopted the
Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791
Treasures of the Library of Congress - Mason's Virginia
Declaration of Rights
George Mason, of Fairfax County, Virginia, wrote the
Virginia Declaration of Rights, on which the Declaration
of Independence and the Bill of Rights are partially modeled.
Mason refused to support the original Constitution because
it failed to protect essential liberties. This document
was also used by the Marquis de Lafayette in drafting
the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the
Treasures of the Library of Congress - Madison's Copy of
Bill of Rights
In response to the demands of the Antifederalists for
amendments guaranteeing individual rights, James Madison
drafted twelve amendments to the Constitution. Seen here
in one of only two known copies of the preliminary printing,
these amendments were closely modeled on Mason's Virginia
Declaration of Rights. Articles three through twelve were
ratified by the required number of states in December
1791 and became known as the Bill of Rights.
the United States: Bill of Rights
This online exhibition offers insights into how the
nation’s founding documents were forged and the
role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented
creative act of forming a self–governing country.
The exhibition includes a copy of the proposed
amendments to the Constitution (Bill
of Rights) prepared under the direction of John Beckley,
clerk of the House, which were sent to President George
Washington on September 25, 1789, for dispersal to the
states for ratification.
The documents presented in this exhibition are among
the most significant items in the Library of Congress'
James Madison collection, the largest single collection
of original Madison documents in existence. The majority
of these documents relate to two seminal events in which
Madison played a major role: the drafting and ratification
of the Constitution of the United States (1787-8) and
the introduction (1789) in the First Federal Congress
of the amendments that became the Bill
Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor
This exhibition commemorates the 800th anniversary of the creation of Magna Carta, the charter of liberties that England’s King John granted to his barons in 1215 in order to halt their rebellion and restore their allegiance to his throne. The exhibition contains a section on the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution, which includes Madison's copy of the proposed Bill of Rights.
and the Founding of the American Republic
Explores the role religion played in the founding of
the American colonies, in the shaping of early American
life and politics, and in forming the American Republic.
Includes a section entitled Religion
and the Federal Government, which discusses references
to religion and the Bill of Rights.
Members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final
draft of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.
Known as the Federalist Papers, the first in a series
of eighty-five essays by "Publius," the pen
name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay,
appeared in the New York Independent
Journal on October 27, 1787.
The new United States of America adopted the Bill of
Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution,
confirming the fundamental rights of its citizens on December
of Freedom, Bill of Rights, National Archives and Records
Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, Government Printing Office
Founders' Constitution, University of Chicago Press
and the Liberty Fund
Constitution, National Constitution Center
Documents, Bill of Rights, National Archives and Records
Cogan, Neil H., ed. The Complete Bill
of Rights: The Drafts, Debates, Sources, and Origins.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.[Catalog
Conley, Patrick, and John P. Kaminski, eds. The
Bill of Rights and the States: The Colonial and Revolutionary
Origins of American Liberties. Madison, Wis.: Madison
House, 1992. [Catalog
Hickock, Eugene W., Jr. The Bill of
Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding.
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.[Catalog
Labunski, Richard E. James Madison
and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2006. [Catalog
Lewis, Thomas T., ed. The Bill of
Rights. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002. [Catalog
Veit, Helen E., Kenneth R. Bowling, and Charlene Bangs
Bickford, eds. Creating the Bill of
Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. [Catalog
Banks, Joan. The U.S. Constitution.
Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001. [Catalog
Baxter, Roberta. The Bill of Rights. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2013. [Catalog
Graham, Amy. A Look at the Bill of Rights: Protecting the Rights of Americans. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2008. [Catalog
Heymsfeld, Carla R. and Joan W. Lewis. George
Mason, Father of the Bill of Rights. Alexandria,
Va.: Patriotic Education Incorporated, 1991. [Catalog
Leavitt, Amie Jane. The Bill of Rights. Hockessin, Del.: Mitchell Lane, 2012. [Catalog
Meltzer, Milton. The Bill of Rights:
How We Got It and What It Means. New York: Thomas
Crowell, 1990. [Catalog
Sobel, Syl. The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barrons Educational Series, 2008. [Catalog