The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, all adopted in 1791. It spells out Americans' rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets the rules for due process of law, and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people of the States. And it specifies that "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Click the image below to read NARA's transcript of the Bill of Rights!
As the nation continued to evolve, it was indisputable that the original Bill of Rights did not address all of the challenges and societal changes the United States would face. The Constitution was designed to be adaptive, therefore, subsequent amendments were necessary to refine, expand, and clarify the protections and structures initially outlined, ensuring the Constitution remained a living document responsive to the changing needs and values of the American people. In addition to expanding upon voting procedures, elections, and government administration, the amendments following the Bill of Rights would ratify many Civil Rights liberties.
Did you know that the First Congress of the United States originally proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution? The 10 amendments that were ratified, of course, make up the Bill of Rights; however, one of the earliest proposed amendments, the Congressional Compensation Act of 1789, would go on to complete a record-setting ratification period of 202 years, 7 months, and 10 days before finally becoming the 27th amendment to the Constitution in 1992.