Thursday, October 2, 2008

Anniversary: The Bill of Rights

In our Anniversary series, we'll reflect on the happenings of the day in history and look for perspectives on our time.

On October 2, 1789, President George Washington sent proposed amendments to our recently ratified Constitution to the thirteen states. The first two proposed amendments (on Representative constituent numbers and congressional pay) were duly rejected. The last 10 became the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, that great triumph of humanity, the Bill of Rights. They were written by James Madison (who also wrote most of the Constitution and much of the Federalist Papers), with credit due to the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), the English Bill of Rights (1689) and, why not, the Magna Carta (1215).

Here is the full version at the Library of Congress site. The shorthand, excerpted from Wikipedia, is as follows (with the number of Ashley Judd movies inspired by the amendment in parentheses).

First Amendment: establishment clause, free exercise clause; freedom of speech, press, assembly, right to petition
Second Amendment: right to keep and bear arms
Third Amendment: protection from the quartering of troops
Fourth Amendment: protection from unreasonable search and seizure
Fifth Amendment: due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain (1)
Sixth Amendment: trial by jury and rights of the accused, confrontation clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel
Seventh Amendment: civil trial by jury
Eighth Amendment: prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment
Ninth Amendment: protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights
Tenth Amendment: powers of states and people

(image credit: law.umkc.edu)