|United States Bill of Rights
In the United States, the Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States
Constitution are known. They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in
1789 as a series of articles, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by
three-fourths of the States. Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof, forbids infringement of "...the right of the people to keep and bear
Arms...", and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without
due process of law. In federal criminal cases, it requires indictment by grand jury for any capital or "infamous
crime", guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury composed of members of the state or judicial
district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy. In addition, the Bill of Rights states that "the
enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained
by the people," and reserves all powers not granted to the federal government to the citizenry or States.
Most of these restrictions were later applied to the states by a series of decisions applying the due process
clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, after the American Civil War.
Madison proposed the Bill of Rights while ideological conflict between Federalists and anti-Federalists, dating
from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, threatened the overall ratification of the new national Constitution. It
largely responded to the Constitution's influential opponents, including prominent Founding Fathers, who
argued that the Constitution should not be ratified because it failed to protect the basic principles of human
liberty. The Bill was influenced by George Mason's 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of
Rights, works of the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights, and earlier English political documents
such as Magna Carta (1215).
Two additional articles were proposed to the States; only the final ten articles were ratified quickly and
correspond to the First through Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. The first Article, dealing with the
number and apportionment of U.S. Representatives, never became part of the Constitution. The second
Article, limiting the ability of Congress to increase the salaries of its members, was ratified two centuries later
as the 27th Amendment. Though they are incorporated into the document known as the "Bill of Rights", neither
article establishes a right as that term is used today. For that reason, and also because the term had been
applied to the first ten amendments long before the 27th Amendment was ratified, the term "Bill of Rights" in
modern U.S. usage means only the ten amendments ratified in 1791.
The Bill of Rights plays a central role in American law and government, and remains a fundamental symbol of
display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of
Rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms from infringement by the federal government, including
federal enclaves and Washington, D.C. The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791,
along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The American Bar Association has noted that there is more
disagreement and less understanding about this right than of any other current issue regarding the
For almost a century following the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the intended meaning and application of the
Second Amendment drew less interest than it does in modern times. Notable U.S. Supreme Court
interpretations of the Second Amendment include those in United States v. Cruikshank (1875), Presser v.
Illinois (1886), Miller v. Texas (1894), Robertson v. Baldwin (1897), United States v. Miller
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