Bill of Rights | Study Guide

Various Authors

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Various Authors

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At a Glance

  • The Bill of Rights was appended to the U.S. Constitution after the original document was ratified by the majority of states and after the United States officially became a nation.
  • Most states ratified the Constitution by 1788, with the understanding it would include a Bill of Rights.
  • James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights and shepherded it through the first Congress, where it was subsequently ratified by the majority of states and added to the Constitution in 1791.
  • Based on English common law and influenced by English philosopher John Locke's theories and the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the U.S. Bill of Rights enumerates the civil rights and civil liberties granted to American citizens.
  • The addition of the 10 amendments to the original Constitution finally convinced enough people to agree to a federal government presiding over the states. Without these written guarantees, the Constitution may not have been ratified.
  • The Bill of Rights articulates core American values and exemplifies democratic thinking and respect for individual rights.
  • The Bill of Rights, a necessary addition to the Constitution to protect American citizens from the overweening influence of government, continues to protect American citizens today.

About the Title

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Bill of Rights. They are so named because they enumerate the civil liberties and rights to which American citizens are entitled under the law. Neither federal, state, nor local governments may abridge these rights and liberties.


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