Bill of Rights depicted in cartoon format from 1971 Young Citizen teacher’s guide. Syracuse University.
Class poll: List amendments 2-10 on the board and tally who chose which amendments in response to last night's discussion question:
"Aside from the First Amendment, identify an Amendment in the Bill of Rights that you think is most significant for safeguarding civil liberties?"
Share your response to the discussion question. Be sure to support your choice by drawing on evidence (past or present).
The Constitution was ratified in several states with clear expectation that a Bill of Rights would be added as a series of amendments. This was especially the case in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York.
The first federal elections were held in 1789 and Congress took up the Bill of Rights shortly after taking office.
Rep. James Madison selected 39 amendments from the states that had Bills of Rights, like theVirginia Declaration of Rights (text from the National Archives). However, he carefully avoided amendments that would seriously compromise power of national government.
Ratification requires passing legislation through both houses of Congress and then ratification in three-fourths of the states.
12 amendments were passed by Congress; 10 ratified quickly; 1 was not ratified until 1992 (27th amendment); 1 remained unratified.
The first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights (link to Google Doc).
This means reading the text carefully to understand the meaning not just of the text as a whole, but each clause and even each word.
In this case, I propose we examine each amendment with two questions in mind (other questions welcome!):
What is the specific right articulated in this amendment in your own words? What are some of the different ways of interpreting this particular amendment? Focus especially on terms or phrases that are unclear or not a common part of English vernacular today.
Do you think this amendment should be included in the Bill of Rights? Why or why not?
If time allows:
What rights would you add to this list as essential protections that citizens should be entitled to? Note: This might include or be in addition to the 17 later amendments -- not all of which are guarantees of specific civil liberties.