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History of the Bill of Rights

Everyone knows that there are ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, but if you get one of our Bill of Rights Plaques and look at it you will notice something you didn't expect.

There are twelve amendments on our Bill of Rights Plaque.

Our copy of the Bill of Rights, which is the generally accepted and recognized "Bill of Rights" commonly seen in school textbooks, was taken from the proposed amendments sent out to the States to be ratified after it was passed in Congress on September 25, 1789.

After 811 days enough states ratified amendments three through twelve making the ten amendments listed below what we now call the Bill of Rights. By this time there were 14 States so 11 of them needed to ratify the Amendments. Virginia ratified the Amendments on December 15, 1791 making it the 11th and final state needed to pass the three-quarters vote. Strangely enough, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Connecticut didn't ratify these amendments until 1939.

When you read our Bill of Rights and look for your favorite Amendment, remember to subtract two from the number you see.

Close Up of Our Bill of Rights Plaque

Second through Sixth Amendments Eleventh and Twelfth Amendments

Some people have asked me, "Why should I care about the Bill or Rights?" "What are the Bill of Rights?" or " Why do we have the Bill of Rights?" The biggest reason that people should care about the Bill of Rights is because these ten Amendments lay down and specifically spell out immunities, civil rights, for all citizens. Individuals like James Madison, and even whole states demanded that the only way they were going to ratify the Constitution was to have a "bill of rights." Many of the founding fathers did not think this was necessary but many remembered the interference from the British into personal freedoms and wanted to guarantee these rights through amendments in the Constitution.

Over 220 years later we thankfully have these rights specifically spelled out for us in the Bill of Rights. Because of the Bill of Rights we have freedom of speech, religion, right to gather, and free press. We can own guns, we don't have to house soldiers, no one can search our persons or personal property without a warrant. We don't have to testify against ourselves, we get a speedy trial and the ability to defend ourselves in front of a jury of our peers. If we do get convicted the crime fits the punishment. Whatever powers the federal government is not given in the Constitution are given to the States. So what's the big deal?

Without the Bill of Rights we could be put into jail for insulting our government, like Thailand and its royalty. Without the Bill of Rights we would have to follow whatever religion the government forced us to follow. We could not gather in groups without the Bill of Rights, nor would we have a free press. Imagine living in a country where the government could search you at will. Where they could take away all your personal property if it suited them. Would you like to live in a country where you are guilty before being proved innocent, if you even got a trial at all? Aren't you glad that if you do steal something you don't get your hand chopped off? Read the Bill of Rights and then read them again but instead negate everything. Pretend for a moment that the Bill of Rights spelled out the rights you don't have and will never have. Then ask yourself, "Why should I care about the Bill of Rights?"

I've said for years that many of our founding fathers were prophets. I'm glad men like James Madison fought to have a document like the Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights our modern government would undoubtedly strip us of the vast majority of our civil liberties. Unfortunately, many of our laws and acts have already done so in name of security and safety. Please read the Bill of Rights, understand what each amendment means and then share what you have learned with your family and friends. Remember, the freedoms we enjoy through the Bill of Rights are only possible if we hold our government accountable to those rights.


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 offense 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 defense.


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 reexamined 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.

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