December 15: The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights was proposed in Congress in 1789 and ratified in 1791. It contains the first ten Amendments to the Constitution (though twelve Amendments were originally proposed). It contains several of the most important freedoms that Americans enjoy today. James Madison, though initially opposed to adding a bill of rights, shepherded the Amendments through Congress. Many states had recommended or demanded such protections when they ratified the Constitution, and Madison wanted to appease those who still feared the new government’s power. Madison focused on providing Americans with rights rather than altering the structure of the government. Drawing extensively from previous documents such as the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Bill of Rights guarantees rights such as freedom of speech, right to bear arms, due process of law, right to trials, freedom from cruel and unusual punishments, and more.