Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1789

Bill of Rights passes Congress

The first Congress of the United States approves 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sends them to the states for ratification. The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states and the people.

Influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Bill of Rights was also drawn from Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason in 1776. Mason, a native Virginian, was a lifelong champion of individual liberties, and in 1787 he attended the Constitutional Convention and criticized the final document for lacking constitutional protection of basic political rights. In the ratification process that followed, Mason and other critics agreed to approve the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would immediately be adopted.

In December 1791, Virginia became the 10th of 14 states to approve 10 of the 12 amendments, thus giving the Bill of Rights the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it legal. Of the two amendments not ratified, the first concerned the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first of these two amendments was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

IRA officially disarms

Two months after announcing its intention to disarm, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) gives up its weapons in front of independent weapons inspectors. The decommissioning of the group s substantial arsenal took place in secret locations in the Republic of Ireland. One Protestant ...read more

Central High School integrated

Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal ...read more

Mid-air collision kills 153

A Pacific Southwest Airlines jet collides in mid-air with a small Cessna over San Diego, killing 153 people on this day in 1978. The wreckage of the planes fell into a populous neighborhood and did extensive damage on the ground. David Lee Boswell and his instructor, Martin Kazy, ...read more

Little Augie Pisano is murdered

Mob assassins shoot Anthony Carfano, known as Little AugiePisano,to death in New York City on Meyer Lansky’s orders. Lansky, one of the few organized crime figures who managed to survive at the top for several decades, was estimated to have accumulated as much as $300,000,000 in ...read more

Ethan Allen is captured

After aborting a poorly planned and ill-timed attack on the British-controlled city of Montreal, Continental Army Colonel Ethan Allen is captured by the British on this day in 1775. After being identified as an officer of the Continental Amy, Allen was taken prisoner and sent to ...read more