(WHTM) — On Dec. 15, 1791, the Virginia General Assembly ratified the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It was the 11th state to do so, fulfilling the requirement that three-fourths of the states approve of a constitutional amendment (Vermont had by then become the 14th state.) What we now call the Bill of Rights was officially the law of the land — and resolved a disagreement that almost sank the new Constitution before it was ratified.
The Constitution crafted in the summer of 1787 was by no means received with universal praise. Two factions quickly arose: the Federalists, who supported the new document, and the Anti-Federalists, who felt the Constitution gave too much power to the national government.
Much of the disagreement centered on individual rights and liberties. The Constitution contained no language concerning them. Anti-Federalists felt (for the most part) this was a sin of omission which needed to be corrected before the Constitution could be adopted; Federalists felt (for the most part) that the government structure of the new Constitution, supplemented by bills of rights at the state level, provided more than adequate protection.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here
The Constitution was ratified by nine states — the number needed to be implemented — by June of 1788. But some of the states ratified it on the condition that a bill of rights be added ASAP.
When the new government went into session in 1789, James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution now serving as a congressman from Virginia, proposed a series of amendments addressing the concerns of the Anti-Federalists. After being revised by both House and Senate, and reconciled in a conference committee, a joint resolution of Congress approved twelve articles to be sent to the states on Sept. 25, 1789.
Now if you look at the original document, it lists twelve articles, but only ten of them made it into the final Bill of Rights. What happened to the other two? Well, the state legislatures didn’t vote on the articles in a block. Each article got voted up or down individually. Articles 1 and 2 were not passed, so the First Amendment is actually the third article.
But the story doesn’t end there. The original twelve articles were sent to the states for ratification without a time limit to act. In the 1980s, a movement to curb political corruption resulted in a new push to ratify Article 2, which prohibited Congressional pay raises from taking effect until after the next election. By May 5, 1992, 38 states had ratified the amendment, and on May 18, 1992, Article 2 was certified by the Archivist of the United States as the 27th Amendment.
Article 1 is still out there, but there doesn’t seem to be a burning interest in ratifying it.
Here are the original 12 articles, of which ten became the Bill of Rights:
After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Second Article/27th Amendment:
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Third Article/First Amendment:
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.
Fourth Article/Second Amendment:
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.
Fifth Article/Third Amendment:
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Sixth Article/Fourth Amendment:
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.
Seventh Article/Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a 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.
Eighth Article/Sixth Amendment:
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 wherein 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 defence.
Ninth Article/Seventh Amendment:
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
10th Article/Eighth Amendment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
11th Article/Ninth Amendment:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
12th Article/10th Amendment:
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.