United States Bill of Rights

On June 5, 1788, Patrick Henry spoke before Virginia's ratification convention in opposition to the Constitution.
George Washington's 1788 letter to the Marquis de Lafayette observed, "the Convention of Massachusetts adopted the Constitution in toto; but recommended a number of specific alterations and quieting explanations." Source: Library of Congress
James Madison, primary author and chief advocate for the Bill of Rights in the First Congress

The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

- United States Bill of Rights

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Declaration of Independence, an 1819 painting by John Trumbull, depicts the Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress on June 28, 1776

Founding Fathers of the United States

The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary leaders who united the Thirteen Colonies, led the war for independence from Great Britain, and built a frame of government for the new United States of America during the later decades of the 18th century.

The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary leaders who united the Thirteen Colonies, led the war for independence from Great Britain, and built a frame of government for the new United States of America during the later decades of the 18th century.

Declaration of Independence, an 1819 painting by John Trumbull, depicts the Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) presenting their draft to the Second Continental Congress on June 28, 1776
Signature page of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 that was negotiated on behalf of the United States by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay
The Albany Congress of 1754 was a conference attended by seven colonies, which presaged later efforts at cooperation. The Stamp Act Congress of 1765 included representatives from nine colonies.
Portraits and autograph signatures of the framers and signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy (1940)
Benjamin Franklin, an early advocate of colonial unity, was a foundational figure in defining the US ethos and exemplified the emerging nation's ideals.
Robert R. Livingston, member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Alexander Hamilton served as Washington's senior aide-de-camp during most of the Revolutionary War; wrote 51 of the 85 articles comprising the Federalist Papers; and created much of the administrative framework of the government.
John Jay was president of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779 and negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Adams and Franklin.
James Madison, called the "Father of the Constitution" by his contemporaries
Peyton Randolph, as president of the Continental Congress, presided over creation of the Continental Association.
Richard Henry Lee, who introduced the Lee Resolution in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain
John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, renowned for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence
John Dickinson authored the first draft of the Articles of Confederation in 1776 while serving in the Continental Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania, and signed them late the following year, after being elected to Congress as a delegate from Delaware.
Henry Laurens was president of the Continental Congress when the Articles were passed on November 15, 1777.
Roger Sherman, a member of the Committee of Five, the only person who signed all four U.S. founding documents.
Robert Morris, president of Pennsylvania's Committee of Safety and one of the founders of the financial system of the United States.
George Washington and his valet slave William Lee, by John Trumbull, 1780
Death age of the Founding Fathers
Abigail Adams, close advisor to her husband John Adams
George Mason, author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights and co-father of the United States Bill of Rights

The National Archives has identified three founding documents as the "Charters of Freedom": Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Justice William O. Douglas, the author of the majority opinion in Griswold

Griswold v. Connecticut

Landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction.

Landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects the liberty of married couples to buy and use contraceptives without government restriction.

Justice William O. Douglas, the author of the majority opinion in Griswold

Although the U.S. Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy", Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship."

States that ratified the amendment

Congressional Apportionment Amendment

Proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that addresses the number of seats in the House of Representatives.

Proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that addresses the number of seats in the House of Representatives.

States that ratified the amendment

The Congressional Apportionment Amendment is the only one of the twelve amendments passed by Congress which was never ratified; ten amendments were ratified as the Bill of Rights, while the other amendment (Article the Second) was ratified as the Twenty-seventh Amendment in 1992.

In this c. 1772 portrait by John Singleton Copley, Adams points at the Massachusetts Charter, which he viewed as a constitution that protected the peoples' rights.

Samuel Adams

American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

In this c. 1772 portrait by John Singleton Copley, Adams points at the Massachusetts Charter, which he viewed as a constitution that protected the peoples' rights.
While at Harvard, Adams boarded at Massachusetts Hall.
The Old South Meeting House (1968 photo shown) was Adams's church. During the crisis with Great Britain, mass meetings were held here that were too large for Faneuil Hall.
Anne Whitney, Samuel Adams, bronze and granite statue, 1880, located in front of Faneuil Hall, which was the home of the Boston Town Meeting
Paul Revere's 1768 engraving of British troops arriving in Boston was reprinted throughout the colonies.
Samuel Adams as he looked in 1795 when he was Governor of Massachusetts. The original portrait was destroyed by fire; this is a mezzotint copy.
This iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard.
Adams as portrayed by Paul Revere, 1774. Yale University Art Gallery.
In John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence, Adams is seated to the viewer's right of Richard Henry Lee, whose legs are crossed in the front row.
Samuel Adams grave marker in the Granary Burying Ground

Despite his defeat, Adams continued to work for amendments to the Constitution, a movement that ultimately resulted in the addition of a Bill of Rights in 1791.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

McDonald v. City of Chicago

Landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that found that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms", as protected under the Second Amendment, is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is thereby enforceable against the states.

Landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that found that the right of an individual to "keep and bear arms", as protected under the Second Amendment, is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is thereby enforceable against the states.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

Slaughter-House determined that the 14th Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause did not apply the Bill of Rights to the actions of states (and by extension, local governments).

Magna Carta

Royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.

Royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.

King John on a stag hunt
A contemporaneous mural of Pope Innocent III
The Articles of the Barons, 1215, held by the British Library
The Charter of the Forest re-issued in 1225, held by the British Library
The 1225 version of Magna Carta issued by Henry III, held in the National Archives
1297 version of the Great Charter, on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.
Magna carta cum statutis angliae ("Great Charter with English Statutes"), early 14th century
A version of the Charter of 1217, produced between 1437 and c. 1450
The jurist Edward Coke made extensive political use of Magna Carta.
The Leveller John Lilburne criticised Magna Carta as an inadequate definition of English liberties.
Magna Carta replica and display in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.
A romanticised 19th-century recreation of King John signing Magna Carta. Rather than signing in writing, the document would have been authenticated with the Great Seal and applied by officials rather than John himself.
The Magna Carta Memorial at Runnymede, designed by Sir Edward Maufe and erected by the American Bar Association in 1957. The memorial stands in the meadow known historically as Long Mede: it is likely that the actual site of the sealing of Magna Carta lay further east, towards Egham and Staines.
1733 engraving by John Pine of the 1215 charter (Cotton Charter XIII.31A)
1225 charter, held in the British Library, with the royal great seal attached
A 1297 copy of Magna Carta, owned by the Australian Government and on display in the Members' Hall of Parliament House, Canberra
A silver King John penny; much of Magna Carta concerned how royal revenues were raised.
King John holding a church, painted c. 1250–1259 by Matthew Paris

The document also continues to be honoured in the United States as an antecedent of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights in the National Archives

Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Bill of Rights in the National Archives

The Tenth Amendment (Amendment X) to the United States Constitution, a part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791.

The National Archives building Constitution Avenue façade

National Archives Building

Headquarters of the United States National Archives and Records Administration.

Headquarters of the United States National Archives and Records Administration.

The National Archives building Constitution Avenue façade
Entrance to the National Archives in Washington, DC
The Rotunda of the National Archives Building, where the Charters of Freedom documents are publicly exhibited
National Archives Building at night
Construction of the Foundation for the National Archives Building
Advanced Construction of the Foundation for the National Archives Building
Guardianship, a 1935 sculpture by James Earle Fraser, is exhibited outside the NARA along with Fraser's companion piece, Heritage.

The National Archives building holds original copies of the three main formative documents of the United States and its government: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Gitlow v. New York

Landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court holding that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had extended the First Amendment's provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press to apply to the governments of U.S. states.

Landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court holding that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had extended the First Amendment's provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press to apply to the governments of U.S. states.

The Supreme Court previously held, in Barron v. Baltimore, that the Constitution's Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government, that states were free to enforce statutes that restricted the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, and that the federal courts could not interfere with the enforcement of such statutes.

Archivist of the United States

Head and chief administrator of the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States.

Head and chief administrator of the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States.

The Archivist is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and is responsible for safeguarding and making available for study all the permanently valuable records of the federal government, including the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, which are displayed in the Archives' main building in Washington, D.C.