The following article about the Bill of Rights is an excerpt from my book, American History in 90 Minutes: The Clear, Concise, and Common Sense Guide to American History.

One weakness of the U.S. Constitution was that it was largely silent on issues of individual rights and freedoms.

The drafters of the Constitution intended originally for such issues to be left to the individual states. However, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention went out to sell their document to the American public, it became clear the public wanted certain individual liberties guaranteed at the federal level.

In 1789 Virginian James Madison proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution. Of these, ten were ratified. These first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights.

The individual liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are summarized as follows:

First Amendment: Freedom of religion, speech, and the press. Individuals have the right to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment: The right to bear arms.

Third Amendment: Freedom from having troops quartered in one’s home.

Fourth Amendment: Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Fifth Amendment: The right not to be denied life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The right not to be tried twice for the same offense. Exempts individual from testifying against self.

Sixth Amendment: The right to a speedy, public trial. The right to be informed of charges pending. The right to defense counsel and to call witnesses on one’s behalf. The right to face accusers.

Seventh Amendment: The right to trial by jury.

Eighth Amendment: Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Ninth Amendment: Provides for individual rights not explicitly stated in the Constitution.

Tenth Amendment: Powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved for the states and the people.

In June 1788, the Constitution was adopted as the law of the land. The Bill of Rights was added in 1791. Elections were held in early 1789.

In April 1789, the newly elected representatives, senators, and the nation’s first President, George Washington, took their places in the capital of the United States, New York City.


About the author: Anders Odegard is a Corporate Finance Consultant and amateur Historian from Minnesota. He is a firm believer in the need for a better-informed Electorate, especially when it comes to U.S. History and Civics.

Get Anders entire book, American History in 90 Minutes: The Clear, Concise, and Common Sense Guide to American History, here on Amazon…


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