We the People
of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
As you can imagine, we make a big deal about celebrating the Bill of Rights here at the National Archives. Most people are awed by what the Bill of Rights says and what it means to our country, but they often forget that the Bill of Rights was created by Congress through the same legislative process used to create thousands of other pieces of legislation.
Here is the story behind today’s document:
Just after the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, Congress began considering a series of amendments introduced by Representative James Madison of Virginia. The House debated his proposal during the summer of 1789, and on August 24 the House passed seventeen amendments to be added to the Constitution. The Senate then deliberated over the amendments, suggesting revisions to, or marking-up, the House-passed amendments. The documents above reflect the Senate’s changes to the amendments. Notes written in pen as the Senate deliberated show a series of revisions that included consolidating some amendments and rejecting others, changes that reduced the overall list to twelve amendments. Once both houses of Congress reached an agreement about the final text of the amendments through a conference committee, the Bill of Rights was sent to the states for ratification. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by Virginia. Virginia’s ratification was the eleventh and final state needed for articles three through twelve to be officially added to the Constitution. Happy Bill of Rights day, everyone!
Senate revisions of the House proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 9/9/1789, SEN 1A-C2, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 3535588)