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Bill of Rights

The First Ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

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After the American Revolution, the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation gradually became clear and the need for a new constitution became clear. Federalists supported a strong central government while antifederalists were concerned about the rights of the states and of individuals.

The federalist position prevailed in the new Constitution of the United States, but the points raised by the antifederalists led to the drafting of the Bill of Rights. This took the form of ten amendments to the Constitution. James Madison was instrumental in drafting them. Congress accepted the language of the amendments in Septmeber 1789. Within six months of the time the amendments were submitted to the states, nine had ratified them. Two more were needed and when Virginia ratified them on December 5, 1791, they became part of the Constitution of the United States.

The best known are the First (Freedom of Speech), Second (Right to Bear Arms), Fourth (No Unreasonable Search) and Fifth (No Self Incrimination).