Tag

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Adopted by the states in 1791, these amendments bind the branches of government, protecting individual rights against government overreach.

Benjamin Franklin and Gouverneur Morris were trying to win over the non-signers like Edmund Randolph and Elbridge Gerry by giving them some "political cover."  The delegates could sign as representatives of states, rather than individual delegates.

In the end, however, Randolph, Gerry, and George Mason did not sign.
Annotated by bacraig on November 18, 2014
Delegate George Mason of Virginia was uniquely qualified to ask for a bill of rights.  He was an early supporter for American Independence and wrote Virginia's Declaration of Rights (1776).
Annotated by bacraig on October 28, 2014
By rejecting this motion to create a Bill of Rights, Richard Beeman argues, "That decision, arrived at hastily and casually, would prove to be one of the most serious mistakes made by the Founding Fathers."  Richard Labunski continues, "The absence of a bill of rights in the original Constitution wuld soon become its most conspicouis flaw, and one that supporters would be unable to successfully defend."

One reason for turning it down was fatigue.  Many delegates like James Madison and James Wilson knew it would take more than just hours to develop a list of rights, and they did not want to prolong the difficult convention any further.  The other reason was that many felt the federal government would have limited powers, and the constitution did not repeal already existing state bills of rights.

See: Richard Labunski, James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 9.
Annotated by bacraig on October 28, 2014
The clause, "...that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired..." can serve as one influence on the U.S. Bill of Rights' protection of freedom of conscience. It is a statement that religion is a liberty that should not be regulated or hindered by the state. While Magna Carta specifies the rights of the English Church, the U.S. Constitution takes this a step further, declaring that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
Annotated by jhowell on October 23, 2014