The Bill of Rights

Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 by Travis Cody in

I commemorated the ratification of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution last year, and I would like to do so again.

Originally posted on 15 December 2010:   In one of the earliest bipartisan compromises in the history of American government, Federalists agreed to create a Bill of Rights that would immediately amend the Constitution.  Anti-federalists demanded these amendments to prevent a federal government that would impinge upon matters that they felt were strictly rights of states and individuals.

The Bill of Rights was drafted by Congress on 25 December 1789, and ratified by 3/4 majority of states on 15 December 1791.  The document was written by James Madison, loosely adapted from the state of Virginia's Declaration of Rights.

These are the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution.  I write them in full, because certain words and phrases are often cherry-picked by those with agendas.  Or to put it more diplomatically, sometimes people find themselves saying things like "that's not what it says" or "I didn't realize it said that".  I quote directly from this National Archives website.

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 II:  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:  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:  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 probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V:  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:  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:  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 common law.

Amendment VIII:  Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

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

Amendment X:  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.

To date, there have been 17 other amendments added to the Constitution for a total of 27.  

The Constitution was written to form the binding federal structure that established governance of the people, by the people, and for the people...for "ourselves and our posterity".  That means that the founders clearly understood that times change, and what seemed perfectly sensible in the 18th century might be at best charmingly anachronistic in the future, and at worst, absurd.  

Politics and cynicism often subvert the meaning of the things written in our Constitution.  But if you're an American, it is incumbent upon you to know what is written in the entire document so you may...

...honestly understand your rights and responsibilities.

...hold accountable those elected to make decisions in your name.

...appreciate what you passionately defend.

Happy Bill of Rights Ratification Day!


  1. Jean says:

    We are lucky to live in a nation that allows us these rights.

    Back atcha, Travis. Enjoy today!

  1. Cherie says:

    They are simply amazing. The cherry-picking is most frustrating. Thank you for putting them on full display.

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    They just had a quiz on this on our local news show this morning :) Happy ratification day!

  1. Jamie says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  1. Jamie says:

    All of the amendments except one expanded the rights of the people. The only one that limited rights was the one that got repealed. I'm very glad it went bye bye so I can drink a toast to The Bill of Rights and warm up for the approaching New year.