Notes on the Amendments
Each Amendment to the
came about for a reason — to overrule a
Supreme Court decision, to force a societal change, or to revise the details of the
Constitution. This page will give an overview of how each Amendment came to be.
The process for adopting an amendment is
, as is the
of each Amendment. A list of
is also available.
Bill of Rights (1-
The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 through 10)
As noted on the
Constitutional Convention Topic Page
several delegates to the
convention refused to sign the newly drafted constitution because it did not include a
bill of rights. Bills of rights were typically parts of the constitutions of the several
states of the day (and today), placed there to ensure that certain rights were recognized
by the government. Most of the delegates did not feel such a bill was necessary, and
other may have been on the fence but were weary from the months of negotiations.
The lack of a bill of rights was one of the main arguments that
to try to convince the public to reject the Constitution.
But the need for change
was all too evident, and it was not rejected. However, some of the states sent
suggestions for amendments to the Constitution to add an enumeration of certain
rights. The ratification messages of the states included many varying suggestions,
which the very first Congress took under consideration in its very first session.
Representative James Madison, who was so instrumental in the creation of the
Constitution in the first place, drafted a bill of rights. Though he originally opposed
the idea, by the time he ran for a seat in the House, he used the creation of a bill as
part of his campaign. He
introduced the bill into the House
, which debated it at length
and approved 17 articles of amendment. The Senate took up the bill and reduced the
number to 12, by combining some and rejecting others. The House accepted the
Senate's changes, voting on September 24th and 25th, 1789; twelve articles of
amendment were sent to the states for ratification.
The first two articles were not accepted by enough states, but the last ten were. We
know them today as Amendments 1 through 10. The second article was eventually
ratified as the 27th Amendment. The first ten amendments, collectively known as
Bill of Rights
, were ratified on December 15, 1791 (811 days). A photographic
image of the badly-faded original Bill is
available on this site
came about as a direct result of the Supreme Court decision
Chisholm v Georgia
(2 U.S. 419) in 1793 (see the