On December 15, 1791, the first 10 amendments to our Constitution were ratified. The Bill of Rights was born. Now, 231 years later, we celebrate that uniquely American achievement with gratitude for our Founding Fathers who put together this framework for liberty.
Here are six things you should know about the Bill of Rights:
- The Bill of Rights doesn’t give Americans any rights – it protects the rights they were born with. Instead of seeing it as a permission slip for the people, think of it as a restraining order for the government.
- After overthrowing a tyrannical king, citizens of the newly formed United States wanted strong guarantees that certain rights would be protected. Thomas Jefferson said, “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”
- James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights. He proposed it to Congress on June 8, 1789, then it took three months to agree on a final list of amendments to present to the states. One of his proposed amendments that did not make it onto the Bill of Rights – dealing with Congressional salaries – was ratified as the 27th amendment in 1992.
- Congress commissioned 14 official copies of the Bill of Rights – one for the federal government and one for each of the original 13 states. North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights was missing for nearly 140 years after being stolen by a Union soldier during the Civil War and was recovered in 2003 after an FBI sting operation.
- Franklin Roosevelt declared December 15 to be Bill of Rights day in 1941. He wrote that this would be “a day of mobilization for freedom and for human rights, a day of remembrance of the democratic and peaceful action by which these rights were gained, a day of reassessment of their present meaning and their living worth.”
- America has always been forward-looking as it strives toward “a more perfect union.” By amending our Constitution to protect “we the people,” America proves it is still dedicated to liberty and justice for all.
The Bill of Rights serves as a point of unity for Americans of all backgrounds. It’s a reminder of the common values that bind us together as a nation and of our shared commitment to liberty and justice for all. As we celebrate the 231st anniversary of the Bill of Rights, we are reminded of the importance of upholding these principles and working together to ensure they are preserved for future generations.