December 15th is Bill of Rights Day. The Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution, was passed into law on December 15, 1791. An amendment is an addition or a change to a document. Many founders felt these amendments were necessary to the United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights guarantees certain freedoms and rights to the citizens of the United States.
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right for people to assemble, or gather together. The Second Amendment protects citizens’ rights to bear arms (own guns), while the Third Amendment prevents the government from placing military troops in peoples’ homes. Believe it or not, that was a real problem during the American Revolution! Other amendments guarantee the rights of people who are accused of crimes.
The Bill of Rights is just the first ten amendments. While it guaranteed some rights, people have continued to work for freedom and rights for more people. The United States Constitution today has 25 amendments. The 13th Amendment, passed in 1865, abolished slavery. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. When women first met to discuss their rights in 1848, the right to vote was not their only concern. Women also wanted the right to own and inherit property, the right to education, and more. The actual passage of the 19th Amendment came down to the final vote. For an Amendment to pass, three-fourths of the states need to pass it. The representative of Tennessee passed the deciding vote. At first, he was going to vote “no.” But a note from his mother changed his mind, and the Amendment passed!
The last Amendment was passed in 1992. It prevented members of Congress from giving themselves a pay raise during their sessions. An amendment can be proposed by Congress with a 2/3 vote of each house. Then it needs to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.
What Do You Think? If you could suggest an amendment to the United States Constitution, what would you suggest? Explain why that amendment is important.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Everett Historical