As Washington was inaugurated as America's
first president and the infant nation set about to establish a strong
government, memories of civil rights violations during the colonial period
were still vivid. However, in the draft constitution submitted to the
states for ratification relatively few basic rights were included.
A number of prominent Americans were
alarmed at the omission of individual liberties in the proposed
constitution. George Mason, author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, refused
to sign the document, as did Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.
Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Minister to
France at the time, wrote James Madison that he was concerned about "the
omission of a bill of rights....providing clearly....for freedom of
religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, and
restriction against monopolies."
Aware of the lack of these provisions,
George Washington urged Congress in his first inaugural address to propose
amendments that offered "a reverence for the characteristic rights of
freemen and a regard for public harmony."
Motivated by these leading Americans,
Congress responded by submitting Amendments to the Constitution providing
for essential civil liberties. They were officially proposed on September
25, 1789. Of the original twelve, Articles 3-12 were ratified.
Accordingly, in 1791 these articles became the first ten amendments to the
Constitution.....known collectively as The Bill of Rights.
Here are the original twelve amendments
as they appear in The Laws of The United States of America, printed by
Richard Folwell, Philadelphia, in 1796.
The Bill of Rights
Here is the complete text of the original twelve
amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Article I (Never Ratified)
After the first enumeration required by
the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one representative
for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred,
after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there
shall be not less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one
representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of
representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion
shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than two
hundred representatives, nor more than one representative for every fifty
No law varying the compensation for
the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect,
until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Article III (Became the 1st
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
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.
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.
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
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 offence 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.
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 defence.
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
re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules
of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required,
nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of
certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
retained by the 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.
Source: The Laws of the
United States, printed by Richard Folwell, Philadelphia, 1796.