On December 15, 1791, Virginia ratified the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution: The Bill of Rights took effect.
In 1941, on the 150th anniversary of the ratification, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that December 15th would be Bill of Rights Day.
Now it may not be circled red on your calendar, but few events in American history are more important –or the source of more controversy — than the ratification of the Bill of Rights. These Ten Amendments (not Commandments!) are at the heart of the most precious rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including the First Amendment’s guarantees of speech, religion, the press, peaceable assembly and the right to petition. They are also at the heart of some of our most pressing controversies, including the right to bear arms, the rights of the accused under the American system of justice, and the power of the states versus the federal government.
Here is the Preamble to the Bill of Rights:
Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
The full text and history of the Bill of Rights can be found the site of the National Constitution Center, which also offers an interactive Constitution app.
In Philadelphia, they celebrate Bill of Rights Day at the Constitution Center and you can find some good resources there.
I hope you’ll take some time to read these precious Amendments today. It doesn’t take long and it is well worth the effort.
Happy Bill of Rights Day!