Bill of Rights Day - December 15
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History of the Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights does not exist because government officials wanted to protect the rights of the people of the United States. It exists because the people, who knew firsthand what it was like to live as colonists under a king, demanded it and refused to ratify the U.S. Constitution without a promise that it would contain a Declaration of Rights. George Mason, a planter, drafted Virginia's Declaration of Rights, which had become part of that state's constitution, and he mounted a campaign to add a similar statement of fundamental rights to the U.S. Constitution.
Though James Madison is often called the father of the Bill of Rights, his role in birthing the document was chiefly as a willing advocate who submitted the amendments to the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789.
It is interesting to look at the English Bill of Rights, from 1689, and to compare it to the U.S. Bill of Rights, created 100 years later. The English Bill of Rights was an act of Parliament that guaranteed the right of British subjects to petition the king and to bear arms. It also prohibited excessive bails, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. The English Bill of Rights became part of the British Constitution and set a precedent upon which Enlightenment philosophers relied. Some of those philosophers lived in the American colonies, and they imported parts of the English Bill of Rights into the U.S. Constitution.
Articles on the History of the Bill of Rights
- A Short History of the Bill of Rights
- Significance of the Bill of Rights
- Primary Documents of Bill of Rights History
- Synopsis of Bill of Rights History
- American Memory Collection: The Bill of Rights
- The Strange History of the Bill of Rights