Anti-Federalist leaders won a crucial promise: a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution.
• It lists the rights—the protections from government—that every citizen is owed.
• Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and
the long list of additional rights are an essential part of America's identity.
• Incorporation means applying the Bill of Rights to the state governments, one right at a time.
• In 2010, the Supreme Court incorporated the right to bear arms—meaning state governments had to honor the right as well as the national government.
The Bill of Rights
One of the principal points of contention between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists was the lack of an enumeration of basic civil rights in the Constitution. Many Federalists argued, as in Federalist No. 84, that the people surrendered no rights in adopting the Constitution. In several states, however, the ratification debate in some states hinged on the adoption of a bill of rights. The solution was known as the Massachusetts Compromise, in which four states ratified the Constitution but at the same time sent recommendations for amendments to the Congress.
James Madison introduced 12 amendments to the First Congress in 1789. Ten of these would go on to become what we now consider to be the Bill of Rights. One was never passed, while another dealing with Congressional salaries was not ratified until 1992, when it became the 27th Amendment. Based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights, the writings of the Enlightenment, and the rights defined in the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights contains rights that many today consider to be fundamental to America.
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.
The Third Amendment prohibits the government from quartering troops in private homes, a major grievance during the American Revolution.
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. The government may not conduct any searches without a warrant, and such warrants must be issued by a judge and based on probable cause.
The Fifth Amendment provides that citizens not be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment without due process. Citizens may not be tried on the same set of facts twice, and are protected from self-incrimination (the right to remain silent). The amendment also establishes the power of eminent domain, ensuring that private property is not seized for public use without just compensation.
The Sixth Amendment assures the right to a speedy trial by a jury of one's peers, to be informed of the crimes with which they are charged, and to confront the witnesses brought by the government. The amendment also provides the accused the right to compel testimony from witnesses, and to legal representation.
The Seventh Amendment provides that civil cases also be tried by jury.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments.
The Ninth Amendment states that the list of rights enumerated in the Constitution is not exhaustive, and that the people retain all rights not enumerated.
The Tenth Amendment assigns all powers not delegated to the United States, or prohibited to the states, to either the states or to the people.
is the supreme law of the United States of America. The Constitution originally consisted of seven Articles. The first three Articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislature, consisting of the bicameral Congress; the executive, consisting of the President; and the judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The fourth and sixth Articles frame the doctrine of federalism, describing the relationship between State and State, and between the several States and the federal government. The fifth Article provides the procedure for amending the Constitution. The seventh Article provides the procedure for ratifying the Constitution.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in eleven States. It went into effect on March 4, 1789.
Since the Constitution was adopted, it has been amended twenty-seven times. The first ten amendments (along with two others that were not ratified at the time) were proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789, and were ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the States on December 15, 1791. These first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution is interpreted, supplemented, and implemented by a large body of constitutional law. The Constitution of the United States was the first constitution of its kind, and has influenced the constitutions of many other nations.
On February 21, 1787, the Articles Congress called a convention of state delegates at Philadelphia to propose a plan of government. Unlike earlier attempts, the convention was not meant for new laws or piecemeal alterations, but for the "sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation". The convention was not limited to commerce; rather, it was intended to "render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union." The proposal might take effect when approved by Congress and the states.
On the appointed day, May 14, 1787, only the Virginia and Pennsylvania delegations were present. A quorum of seven states met on May 25. Eventually twelve states were represented; 74 delegates were named, 55 attended and 39 signed. The delegates arrived with backgrounds in local and state government and Congress. They were judges and merchants, war veterans and revolutionary patriots, native-born and immigrant, establishment easterners and westward-looking adventurers. The participating delegates are honored as the Constitution's "Framers".
The process set out in the Constitution for its ratification provided for much popular debate in the states. The Constitution would take effect once it had been ratified by nine of the thirteen state legislatures -- unanimity was not be required. During the debate over the Constitution, two factions emerged: the Federalists, who supported adoption, and the Anti-Federalists, who opposed it.
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay set out an eloquent defense of the new Constitution in what came to be called the Federalist Papers. Published anonymously in the newspapers The Independent Journal and The New York Packet under the name Publius between October 1787 and August 1788, the 85 articles that comprise the Federalist Papers remain to this day an invaluable resource for understanding some of the framers' intentions for the Constitution. The most famous of the articles are No. 10, which warns of the dangers of factions and advocates a large republic, and No. 51, which explains the structure of the Constitution, its checks and balances, and how it protects the rights of the people.
The states proceeded to begin ratification, with some debating more intensely than others. Delaware was the first state to ratify, on December 7, 1787. After New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, on June 22, 1788, the Confederation Congress established March 9, 1789, as the date to begin operating under the Constitution. By this time, all the states except North Carolina and Rhode Island had ratified — the Ocean State was the last to ratify on May 29, 1790.