The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 to 10)


The amendments that became the Bill of Rights were actually the last ten of the twelve amendments proposed in 1789. Here are 5 of the first 10 Bill of Rights that are well-known and cornerstones of our democracy:

  • First Amendment: addresses the rights of freedom of religion (prohibiting Congressional establishment of a religion over another religion through Law and protecting the right to free exercise of religion), freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition.
  •  Second Amendment: guarantees the right of individuals to possess firearms.
  •  Fourth Amendment: guards against searches, arrests, and seizures of property without a specific warrant or a “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed. Some rights to privacy have been inferred from this amendment and others by the Supreme Court.
  •  Sixth Amendment: guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal offenses. It requires trial by a jury, guarantees the right to legal counsel for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require witnesses to attend the trial and testify in the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right to know the charges against him.
  •  Seventh Amendment: assures trial by jury in civil cases.

Subsequent Amendments (11 to 27)


Amendments to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights cover many subjects. The majority of the seventeen later amendments stem from continued efforts to expand individual civil or political liberties, while a few are concerned with modifying the basic governmental structure drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. Here are 5 significant amendments beginning with the abolition of slavery in our country:

  •  Thirteenth Amendment (1865): Abolishes slavery and authorizes Congress to enforce abolition.
  •  Fifteenth Amendment (1870): Forbids the federal government and the states from using a citizen’s race, color, or previous status as a slave as a qualification for voting.
  •  Nineteenth Amendment (1920): Prohibits the federal government and the states from forbidding any citizen to vote due to their sex.
  •  Twenty-second Amendment (1951): Limits president to two terms.
  •  Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971): Prohibits the federal government and the states from forbidding any citizen of age 18 or greater to vote on account of their age.