Remembering one of the most important, yet forgotten, days in American history.
December 15 is a day of significant remembrance in our nation’s history. In 1933, the 21st amendment is added to the Constitution, officially repealing the prohibition of alcohol, which was introduced with the 18th amendment. In 1939, Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, becoming the highest inflation-adjusted grossing film.
Unfortunately, many people are more likely to remember the latter over any other event on this day in history. The event that should fondly be remembered on this day is the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Before taking a brief look at why the Bill of Rights were written, let’s re-examine and paraphrase that each of the 10 amendments state, as many people are unfamiliar with some of them.
- Congress shall make no law prohibiting freedom of speech, religion, protest, or press.
- Right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
- No forced civilian housing of soldiers.
- Freedom from unreasonable government searches or seizures.
- Protects against double-jeopardy and self-incrimination, while guaranteeing the right of due process.
- Right to a speedy and fair trial.
- Right to a trial by jury in federal cases with claims of more than 20 dollars.
- Prohibition of excessive bail or fines.
- Declaration of existing fundamental rights outside of the Constitution.
- All powers not directly mentioned or given to the federal government are reserved to the individual states.
In 1787, four years following the official end to the American Revolution, delegates from the states met at a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were sent to the convention for one sole purpose: to ratify the Articles of Confederation. As the convention progressed, talks of a new constitution began, particularly among future members of the Federalist Party, including John Adams, John Jay, Charles Pinckney. George Washington, also present, was not affiliated with a political party, though he agreed largely with the Federalist platform. Thomas Jefferson, an Anti-Federalist, spoke out against the convention. He viewed the construction of a new Constitution to be illegal, as the delegates were sent to revise the Articles of Confederation, and not to draft a new governmental document. In fact, one state – Rhode Island – did not send delegates to the convention, as they agreed with Jefferson’s view that the convention was moving away from its intended purpose.
Following bitter debate, the Anti-Federalists (with James Madison as the primary author) introduced the Bill of Rights as a compromise between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights were officially ratified. Today, it is crucial for every American to remember that these first 10 amendments to the Constitution do not give rights to people; rather, it is exactly the opposite. The Bill of Rights were specifically introduced to proclaim that all people have unalienable rights, in which the government cannot prohibit or take away. In other words, they tell the government itself what it cannot do. Today, let’s make it a goal – regardless of party affiliation – to educate all Americans on their unalienable rights.
Figure 1: James Madison, Primary Author of Bill of Rights