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)
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866, ratified July 9, 1868, and certified on July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment intended to extend liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves.
Following the Civil War, Congress submitted to the states three amendments as part of its Reconstruction program to guarantee equal civil and legal rights to black citizens. The major provision of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to due process of law and equal protection of the law now applied to both the Federal and state governments. On June 16, 1866, the House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th amendment to the Constitution was submitted to the states. On July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment was declared, in a certificate of the Secretary of State, ratified by the necessary 28 of the 37 States, and became part of the supreme law of the land.
Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, the primary author of the first section of the 14th amendment, intended that the amendment also nationalize the Federal Bill of Rights by making it binding upon the states. Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, introducing the amendment, specifically stated that the privileges and immunities clause would extend to the states “the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments.” Historians disagree on how widely Bingham’s and Howard’s views were shared at the time in the Congress, or across the country in general. No one in Congress explicitly contradicted their view of the Amendment, but only a few members said anything at all about its meaning on this issue. For many years, the Supreme Court ruled that the Amendment did not extend the Bill of Rights to the states.
Not only did the 14th amendment fail to extend the Bill of Rights to the states; it also failed to protect the rights of black citizens. One legacy of Reconstruction was the determined struggle of black and white citizens to make the promise of the 14th amendment a reality. Citizens petitioned and initiated court cases, Congress enacted legislation, and the executive branch attempted to enforce measures that would guard all citizens’ rights. While these citizens did not succeed in empowering the 14th amendment during the Reconstruction, they effectively articulated arguments and offered dissenting opinions that would be the basis for change in the 20th century.
via Our Documents
Happy 100th birthday to the 17th Amendment!
In the 1850s, U.S. senators were selected by the state legislatures as directed by Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution, which says: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
But political problems in states resulted in many seats going empty for long periods. Support grew slowly for popular, or direct, election of senators by voters.
Strong resistance in the Senate to a proposed Constitutional amendment calling for direct elections meant the idea got nowhere for many years.
Finally, in 1911, the Senate approved a proposed Amendment allowing direct election, and the House followed suit the next year. It won approval by the required three-fourths of the state legislatures by April 8, 1913, and was declared part of the Constitution, the 17th Amendment, on May 31 by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.
Read the full post on the Prologue blog.
Joint Resolution Proposing the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 05/13/1912
Passed by Congress May 13, 1912, and ratified April 8, 1913, the 17th amendment modified Article I, section 3, of the Constitution by allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. Senators. Prior to its passage, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.
via Our Documents
The 16th Amendment, ratified 100 years ago, February 25, 1913:
“Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever sources derived, without apportionment among the several states and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
The 16th Amendment and the first Internal Revenue Bureau Form 1040, will be on display from April 1 to April 30 at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
The Civil War prompted the first American income tax, a flat 3 percent on all annual incomes over $800, in 1861. Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on annual income over $4,000 in 1894, but it was quickly struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
By the early 20th century, members of both the Democratic and Republican parties advocated a constitutional amendment allowing a Federal income tax. On July 12, 1909, Congress passed a joint congressional resolution proposing such an amendment.
The resolution was then sent to the states for consideration. By February 3, 1913, three-quarters of the states—the number required by the Constitution for ratification—had approved it. Certified by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox on February 25, 1913, it then became the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.
In 1913, due to exemptions and deductions, less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes. Tax rates began at 1 percent and rose to 6 percent on income over $500,000.
The first Internal Revenue Bureau Form 1040, as provided by Public Law 63-16, was approved October 3, 1913.
Don’t forget — only 12 days until Tax Day!
The 19th Amendment for Women’s Suffrage on Display March 1 - 8:
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Woman’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC, the 19th Amendment will be on display from March 1 to March 8 at the National Archives Building.
The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation. Beginning in the mid-19th century, woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered radical change…
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)
No, it’s not in the Constitution
As those dishes are cleared and the chairs pushed back from the Thanksgiving table, the conversations can touch on a lot of topics — food, football, politics, constitutional law… Need to quiet that know-it-all uncle? Here are eight common misconceptions where the Constitution doesn’t say what he thinks it does:
- The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution.
No. He has nothing to do with the amendments. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote of both houses, or a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. However, once the amendment is proposed either by Congress or a convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.
- The “Founding Fathers” who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are the same men who wrote the Constitution in 1787.
Only five individuals signed both of these two founding documents. They were George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, and Roger Sherman. Some of the famous signers of the Declaration were elsewhere when the Constitution was being written. Thomas Jefferson was in France as our American minister, and John Adams was American minister to Great Britain.
- The Constitution established the system of Federal courts.
No. The Constitution established “one supreme Court” and left it to Congress to establish lower courts.
- The Constitution gave the Supreme Court the power to declare laws unconstitutional.
No. The Constitution makes no mention of judicial review, which is common in our legal system now. Judicial review goes back to English common law and was affirmed during the 34-year tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall in the landmark case Marbury v. Madison in 1803. Today, Federal courts at all levels can declare laws unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court has the final word.
- The Constitution sets the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435.
No. The Constitution gives this power to the Congress, which has increased the number of House members as the nation’s population has increased. The limit of 435 members was set in 1911. It temporarily exceeded that number for a few years when new states were admitted to the Union, but reverted back to 435 after the next reapportionment. The original proposed Bill of Rights included an amendment that would have set a maximum of one representative for every 50,000 persons. Had it been approved, we would have a very large number of House members today. The Constitution did say that each state would have two senators in the Senate, regardless of the state’s population.
- The House must choose one of its own members as Speaker, and the Senate must choose one of its own as President pro-tempore.
No. The Constitution says only that the “House shall chuse their speaker.” The Speaker, third in line to the Presidency, has always been a member of the House. The Constitution also says, “The Senate shall chuse… .a President pro tempore… .” The President pro tempore has always been a senior senator.
- The Constitution says “all men are created equal.”
No. The Declaration of Independence says that. The Constitution skirts the issue of slavery, counting each slave as three-fifths of a person in determining representation in Congress. While this definition offends us today, it was an attempt to limit the power of states with large numbers of enslaved people. Otherwise, the enslaved people, who of course could not vote, would have been used to justify larger numbers of representatives for slave states and give them more power in Congress.
- The Constitution created the United States as a democracy.
No. Someone asked Benjamin Franklin whether the delegates to the Constitutional Convention inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia had created a monarchy or a republic. “A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied. The difference: In a democracy, the majority rules, but a republic has a government by the people with checks and balances and a constitution for all to adhere to. Article 4, section 4, states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
What’s your favorite Constitutional “Myth”?
On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison of Virginia introduced a series of proposed amendments to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution. That summer the House of Representatives debated the issue and on August 24 passed seventeen proposed constitutional amendments. The Senate then took up the matter — they altered and consolidated the House amendments into 12. This printed document reflects the Senate’s changes as passed on September 14, 1789. The line-outs on the first, third and eighth articles indicate wording that had been amended in conference committee on September 24, 1789. Twelve articles of amendment were then sent to the states — articles three through twelve were ratified and became the Bill of Rights in 1791.
Proposed Amendments to the Constitution as passed by the Senate, 9/14/1789, Records of the U.S. Senate (ARC 2173242)
On May 19, 1919 House Joint Resolution 1 was introduced. The resolution proposed a Constitutional amendment extending the right to vote to women. The resolution was passed in the House on May 21, and in the Senate on June 4. Once the proposed amendment passed Congress, it was sent to states for ratification. On August 18, 1920 the amendment was ratified and became part of the U.S. Constitution.
House Joint Resolution 1, 5/19/1919, HR 66A-B6, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 1633885)
Proclamation of the Secretary of State announcing the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, December 18, 1865
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and 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.” Secretary of State William H. Seward issued this Proclamation announcing the ratification on December 18, 1865.
As you can imagine, we make a big deal about celebrating the Bill of Rights here at the National Archives. Most people are awed by what the Bill of Rights says and what it means to our country, but they often forget that the Bill of Rights was created by Congress through the same legislative process used to create thousands of other pieces of legislation.
Here is the story behind today’s document:
Just after the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, Congress began considering a series of amendments introduced by Representative James Madison of Virginia. The House debated his proposal during the summer of 1789, and on August 24 the House passed seventeen amendments to be added to the Constitution. The Senate then deliberated over the amendments, suggesting revisions to, or marking-up, the House-passed amendments. The documents above reflect the Senate’s changes to the amendments. Notes written in pen as the Senate deliberated show a series of revisions that included consolidating some amendments and rejecting others, changes that reduced the overall list to twelve amendments. Once both houses of Congress reached an agreement about the final text of the amendments through a conference committee, the Bill of Rights was sent to the states for ratification. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by Virginia. Virginia’s ratification was the eleventh and final state needed for articles three through twelve to be officially added to the Constitution. Happy Bill of Rights day, everyone!
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)
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
The Volstead Act
Approved by the Senate on October 28, 1919, the National Prohibition Act, aka the Volstead Act, aka the 18th Amendment, prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic liquors. It would remain in effect until repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933.