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Bill of Rights (1791)
1791

DOCUMENT DESCRIPTION

Ratified in 1791, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. The amendments, which contain guarantees of essential rights and liberties not specified in the original document, have been the subject of many of the Supreme Court's most important cases. In the 1833 case Barron v. Baltimore, the Court ruled that the protections contained in the Bill of Rights applied only against actions by the federal government, and not the states. However, in the 1920s, the Court began interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment (ratified in 1868 and prohibiting states from denying its citizens "equal protection" and "due process" of law), to incorporate most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights against the states.

TRANSCRIPT

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution."[31]

  • First Amendment -- Freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, and to petition the government.
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  • Second Amendment -- Right for the people to keep and bear arms, as well as to maintain a militia.
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

  • Third Amendment -- Protection from quartering of troops.
    No Soldier shall, in time of a piece quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

  • Fourth Amendment -- Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • Fifth Amendment -- Due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, private property.
    No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

  • Sixth Amendment -- Trial by jury and other rights of the accused.
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

  • Seventh Amendment -- Civil trial by jury.
    In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars.

  • Eighth Amendment -- Prohibition of excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment.
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  • Ninth Amendment -- Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

  • Tenth Amendment -- Powers of states and people
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Bill of Rights (1791)