--- Source: National Archives
During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents
repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to
tyranny by the central government. Fresh in their minds was the memory of the
British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolution. They
demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of
individual citizens. Several state conventions in their formal ratification of
the Constitution asked for such amendments; others ratified the Constitution
with the understanding that the amendments would be offered.
On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States therefore
proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution that met
arguments most frequently advanced against it. The first two proposed
amendments, which concerned the number of constituents for each Representative
and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12,
however, ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, constitute the
first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.
--- Source: National Archives
THE FIRST 10 AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION AS RATIFIED BY THE STATES
Note: The following text is a transcription
of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These
amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the
"Bill of 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
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 offence 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 defence.
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
Source: National Archives