The Bill of Rights: 14 Originals
On September 28, 1789, Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg and Vice President John Adams signed the enrolled copy of the first proposed amendments to the new Constitution—the document later known as the Bill of Rights.
The final, signed copy contained the 12 constitutional amendments that Congress proposed to the states (10 of them, articles 3 through 12, were subsequently ratified and became the Bill of Rights). Shortly after it was signed, clerks created 13 additional copies, which President George Washington sent to the 11 existing states and to Rhode Island and North Carolina—which had not yet adopted the Constitution. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by Virginia, the eleventh and final state needed to officially add them to the Constitution.
So, there were 13 additional copies of the “Bill of Rights”— find out what happened to them in: Prologue: Pieces of History » The Bill of Rights: 14 Originals.
Senate revisions of the House proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 9/9/1789, SEN 1A-C2, Records of the U.S. Senate (NAID 3535588)
Old enough to vote?
Michigan Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg introduced Senate Joint Resolution 166 on October 19, 1942. This resolution would have amended the Constitution of the United States and extended the vote to
citizens 18 years or older. Although not ratified at the time, the proposal came up again, during the Vietnam War. The 26th Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971.
Senate Joint Resolution 166 Proposing the 26th Amendment, 10/19/1942
The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865:
The news of the Emancipation Proclamation was greeted with joy, but it did not free all the slaves. Because of the limitations of the proclamation, and because it depended on a Union military victory, President Lincoln knew the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment.
After the Senate passed a bill for an amendment in April 1864, but the House of Representatives did not, Lincoln suggested that the bill be taken up by the Republican Party in its 1864 platform for the upcoming Presidential elections.
His efforts met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865.
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution formally abolished slavery in the United States. It provides that ”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Image: Joint Resolution Proposing the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 01/31/1865–01/31/1865; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789–2008; General Records of the United States Government, 1778–2006, Record Group 11; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 1408764)
This is the resolution proposing the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which was ratified January 23, 1964, and grants that the right to vote shall not be denied by reason of failure by a U.S. Citizen to pay any poll tax. Poll taxes were used by some states during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting.
Joint Resolution Proposing the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 08/27/1962
In 1942, Michigan Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg introduced Senate Joint Resolution 166 which would have amended the U.S. Constitution to extend the vote to citizens 18 years of age or older. Although not ratified at the time, the proposal came up again during the Vietnam War. The 26th Amendment was ratified on July 1, 1971 after being passed by Congress just a few months earlier. Although not necessary for the amendment to become law, President Richard Nixon, accompanied by several 18-year old witnesses, signed the amendment on July 5, 1971.
Learn more about the Constitutional Amendment Process.
Senate Joint Resolution 166 Proposing the 26th Amendment, 10/19/1942 (ARC 1633716)
Did You File?
This year, April 17 is the deadline for most Americans to file their Federal individual income tax returns because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia.
Income Tax Form, 1913. Record Group 56, General Records of the Department of the Treasury
Passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913, the 16th amendment established Congress’s right to impose a Federal income tax. In 1913, due to generous exemptions and deductions, less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes at the rate of only 1 percent of net income.
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Extending the right to vote
Senate Joint Resolution 7 proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would extend the right to vote to citizens 18 years of age or older. Introduced on January 21, 1971, during the first session of the 92nd Congress, and passed by Congress March 23, 1971, it became the 26th Amendment to the Constitution
Passed by Congress December 9, 1803, and ratified June 15, 1804, the 12th Amendment provided for separate Electoral College votes for President and Vice President, correcting weaknesses in the earlier electoral system which were responsible for the controversial Presidential Election of 1800.
Read more at the Center for Legislative Archives
Repeal of Prohibition - Elephants and Donkeys Celebrate Over a Barrel of Beer
During his 1932 presidential campaign, FDR promised to end Prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1921, prohibited the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the United States.
When Roosevelt took office in 1933, a constitutional amendment to repeal Prohibition was already making its way through the state legislatures. Roosevelt acted immediately to ease Prohibition with the Beer-Wine Revenue Act. Passed on March 22, 1933, this act legalized the sale of alcoholic beverages containing no more than 3.2 percent alcohol (this level was declared non-intoxicating). Prohibition was officially repealed by the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933.
This large, glass bowl commemorates the end of Prohibition with a series of seven vignettes imprinted in white, including a “G.O.P.” elephant and a “D.E.M.” donkey celebrating over a barrel of beer. The etched caption reads, “At Last!”
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, as announced in this proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment of January 16, 1919, ending the increasingly unpopular nationwide prohibition of alcohol.
Read more about Prohibition and the 18th Amendment