A central part of my work as executive director of The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) is educating American citizens about the United States Constitution.
When I speak to citizens around the country about the Constitution, and ask them what they view as the most important part of that document, they inevitably cite a provision of the Bill of Rights.
Why is this so? It’s likely because the Bill of Rights articulates our national values and ideals, including: the guarantee of freedom of speech, religion and the press; the right to assemble; the promise of a speedy trial by jury; the protection against double jeopardy and unreasonable search and seizure; and the recognition of the right to bear arms. The Bill of Rights strikes a personal chord, the way the Declaration of Independence does, and the structural provisions of the Constitution do not (at least, not for most).
And, yet, too few Americans know the history of our Bill of Rights. In honor of the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, I’m providing here a brief history of the document.
On Sept. 12, 1787, five days prior to the end of what came to be known as the Constitutional Convention, George Mason from Virginia proposed that the delegates preface the new Constitution with a Bill of Rights.