Us Constitution Party Structure

The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The First Federal Congress established the Bill of Rights in response to growing concern that the original Constitution did not clearly define the rights of individual citizens of the country.

The Fight for Individual Rights

In the fall of 1788, following the ratification of the Constitution, great debate raged between the Federalists, who supported the Constitution, and the anti-Federalists, who opposed it.

The anti-Federalists lamented the lack of guarantee of individual rights, such as freedom of speech. They were also unhappy that the new federal government could enact laws that could supercede state law.

Federalists, on the other hand, believed that the Constitution deferred the guarantee of individual rights to the state constitutions.

The Compromise

The Bill of Rights came into being as a compromise between the two factions within the First Federal Congress.

James Madison, recognizing the need to protect individuals from all sorts of tyranny, brokered a list of 17 amendments. Congress pared the list down to 12 amendments, which were then sent to the states for ratification. On Dec. 15, 1791, 10 of the amendments received ratification by the required three-quarter majority of states. Thus, The Bill of Rights became law.

The Rights of U.S. Citizens

In simple terms, the Bill of Rights outlines the following freedoms:

  • equal protection of the law, regardless of race, gender, etc.
  • freedom from cruel or unusual punishment
  • freedom of religion
  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of the press
  • right to bear arms
  • right to privacy
  • right to property
  • right to trial by jury
  • right to vote.

The 10 Amendments

The 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights specifically outline the rights of American citizens under federal law. The amendments are as follows:

  • 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 probable 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 reexamined 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.
  • 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.

The Bill of Rights is an integral part of the American legal system. Along with the other 17 amendments, the Bill of Rights is a symbol of freedom and represents what the Founding Fathers believed were the inalienable rights of individuals within a nation. The original Bill of Rights is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.