What are some important facts about the Bill of Rights?  

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One important thing to understand about the Bill of Rights is that many of the men responsible for writing the Constitution opposed its inclusion. Yet today, when we think about our "constitutional rights," we nearly always mean the Bill of Rights. So many of Americans' most cherished rights--free speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, protection against warrantless search and seizure, and so on, were not actually part of the original Constitution. The Bill of Rights was ratified as a block of amendments in 1791, and its inclusion was largely a result of the agitation of "Anti-Federalists," who opposed ratification of the Constitution. Many of them did so specifically because it did not contain a Bill of Rights, and they hoped to use their opposition to the document to leverage the amendments. Alexander Hamilton, an opponent of the Bill of Rights, claimed that there was no need to establish protections against powers not granted to Congress:

[W]hy declare that things shall not be done [by Congress] which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given [to Congress] by which restrictions may be imposed?

Others claimed that the people's rights were best protected by the numerous bills of rights that were part of almost every state constitution, and others (including Hamilton) correctly recognized that Anti-Federalists intended to use the Bill of Rights, especially the Tenth Amendment, to weaken the power of the new federal government in favor of the states. So this, I think, is an interesting fact about the Bill of Rights: many, if not most, of the Framers of the Constitution thought the amendments unnecessary at best.

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