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
This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.
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
The Printed Ephemera collection comprises 28,000 primary-source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present and encompasses key events and eras in American history.
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention,
This collection contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.
Search on the phrase "1st 10th Amendments" in this collection to locate additional
documents related to the Bill of Rights.
Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents.
James Madison Papers
The Madison Papers consist of approximately 12,000 items, spanning the period 1723-1859, captured in some 72,000 digital images.
Madison's Papers to find additional material related
to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents.
and Deeds in American History
In honor of the Manuscript Division's centennial, its staff has selected for online display approximately ninety representative documents spanning from the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.
- 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
Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation
The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic.
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
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