History of The Bill of Rights





History of The Bill of Rights
Toward the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, George Mason, a delegate from Virginia, proposed adding a bill of rights, which would, he argued, “give great quiet to the people”. The state delegations unanimously rejected Mason’s proposal. After the convention, the absence of a bill of rights emerged as a central part of the ratification debates. Several states ratified the Constitution on the condition that a bill of rights would be promptly added, and many even offered suggestions for what to include.

After the Constitution was ratified, James Madison, who had already helped draft much of the original Constitution, took up the task of drafting a bill of rights. Madison largely drew from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was primarily written by George Mason in 1776 two months before the Declaration of Independence. He also drew from amendments suggested by state ratifying conventions.

Madison drafted 19 amendments, which he proposed to Congress on June 8, 1789. The House of Representatives narrowed those down to 17. Then the Senate, with the approval of the House, narrowed them down to 12. These 12 were approved on September 25, 1789 and were sent to the states for ratification.

The first two amendments in the 12 that Congress proposed to the states were rejected: The first dealt with apportioning representation in the House of Representatives; the second prevented members of Congress from voting to change their pay until the next session of Congress. The 10 amendments that are now known as the Bill of Rights were ratified on December 15, 1791, thus becoming a part of the Constitution. Since that time, the Constitution has been amended seventeen times, totaling twenty-seven amendments in all.