The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. They enshrine into law the rights of each American citizen.
The genesis of the Bill of Rights was the states’ desire to have the rights of their citizens protected against an over powerful government. It was authored by James Madison, who was heavily influence by the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
The U.S. Congress originally drafted 12 amendments and delivered them to the states but only 10 were accepted.
Here is the Bill of Rights as transcribed by the National Archives:
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.
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 seized.
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.
In 1791, the Bill of Rights became the law of the land. Since then only 17 additional amendments have been added to the Constitution.
James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights
James Madison, the man who later became the fourth president of the United States of America wrote the Bill of Rights. He is also known as the father of the Constitution.
George Mason, a delegate from Virginia helped to draft the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as inspiration for the Bill of Rights
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press is one of the four freedoms enshrined in the first amendment. The other four freedoms are freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, served as an inspiration for the author of the Bill of Rights. According to the ACLU, the third president of the United States of America, believed that the citizenry needed protection from the government. He said:
“A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”
George Washington ordered 14 copies of the Bill of Rights. One copy went to Congress and the other 13 copies went to the 13 original states.