Do you know your Rights?

Bill of RightsThe Bill of Rights, that is. Although the Bill of Rights was technically a part of the US Constitution, it was written and ratified separately in 1791.

The idea of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution was originally controversial. Alexander Hamilton argued against it, asserting that ratification of the Constitution did not mean the American people were surrendering their rights, and, therefore, that protections were unnecessary. Critics pointed out that earlier political documents had protected specific rights, but Hamilton argued that the Constitution was inherently different. Hamilton was afraid that protecting specific rights might imply that any unmentioned rights would not be protected.

Patrick Henry publicly argued against the Constitution without a bill of rights. Many were concerned that the strong national government was a threat to individual rights and that the President would become a king. Other historical figures of the time in favor of a bill of rights were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Mason.

The solution? The Ninth Amendment.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

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

James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, based much of the document on George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights. He looked for recommendations shared by many states to avoid controversy and reduce opposition to the ratification of the future amendments. Madison’s work on the Bill of Rights reflected centuries of English law and philosophy, further modified by the principles of the American Revolution.

George Washington had 14 handwritten copies of the Bill of Rights made, one for Congress and one for each of the original thirteen states. Although many of these copies have since been lost, there are a few remaining; one is in the National Archives and the another is in the New York Public Library.

North Carolina’s copy was stolen by a Union soldier in April 1865 and returned to North Carolina in 2005, 140 years later by the FBI’s Special Agent Robert King Wittman.

Virginia’s copy was used for the Bill of Rights Tour, to mark the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, in 1991.

See if you can remember all your original Rights. List them and then check here to see how close you were!

First Amendment – Freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition

Second Amendment – Militia (United States), Sovereign state, Right to keep and bear arms.

Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.

Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

Fifth Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain.

Sixth Amendment – Criminal trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.

Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

Tenth Amendment – Powers of States and people.

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.

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