Friday marks the 226th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Since the Bill of Rights is a favorite of many people -- most notably of late failed Senate candidate Roy Moore -- it seemed like a good time to go back and see why the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are so great.
A refresher from high school history class: The Bill of Rights came about because anti-Federalists thought that the way the Constitution was originally written paved the way for the exact same kind of governmental tyranny they'd fought against in the Revolution. It didn't provide for individual rights, a fact that became a major sticking point as many states faced a decision on its ratification.
The Bill of Rights turns 226 on Friday
There were originally 12 amendments sent for ratification
A college sophomore helped get the newest amendment ratified
After New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution on June 21, 1788 and it became the official law of the land, the First Congress started working to improve it with 12 proposed amendments, spearheaded by future President James Madison.
Yes, there were originally 12 proposed amendments. According to the Constitution Center, that list had been whittled down from 19. Only the last 10 became the Bill of Rights. The first rejected amendment dealt with representation in the House and was never ratified.
The second originally rejected amendment had to do with pay for Congress. It actually never died. Congress never attached a time limit for ratification, and in 1982, Gregory Watson, a college sophomore, wrote a paper about it. He got a C. Turns out that "C" should have stood for "Constitution."
The Constitution Center details how Watson appealed his grade, got denied, and then set out to get the amendment ratified. He started a campaign that resulted in 38 states ratifying what became the 27th Amendment in 1992, more than 200 years after it was originally proposed. The most recent amendment was really one of the oldest. Better late than never.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution were ratified on December 15, 1791.
They protect, among other things, rights to:
- Freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly
- Keeping and bearing arms
- Freedom from unreasonable search or seizure
- Due process
- Speedy trial
- Trial by a jury
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
The Constitution has 27 amendments now, but the Bill of Rights will always hold a special place in American history. Or at the very least, in American history classes.