Bill of Rights, Part Two

Alexander Hamilton -- Bill of Rights
Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull. Hamilton opposed the Bill of Rights. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday’s episode ended with 12 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution being sent to the states for ratification.

What we now know as the First Amendment was actually the third proposed article of the Bill of Rights.

The first article dealt with how to determine the size of Congress. Because it was never ratified, the total number of seats in the House of Representatives has been determined by specific acts of Congress. The most recent, in 1929, capped the size of the House at 435 seats.

We’ll come back to the second proposed amendment in a moment.

The third proposal was the first to be ratified. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The second was: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The third: “No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

The fourth: “The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The fifth: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The sixth: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

The seventh: “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by Jury shall be preserved, and no fact, tried by a Jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

The eighth: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The ninth: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The tenth and final amendment of the Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Three states didn’t act on the Bill of Rights when it was initially proposed. Georgia refused to ratify any amendments. Massachusetts never sent official notice of ratification. Connecticut failed to reconcile their bills after disagreeing over whether to ratify the first and second articles. As part of the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights in 1939, the three states ratified the 10 amendments.

Now back to the story of the second article passed by Congress in 1789. It prevented Congress from raising its pay until the next election. It also didn’t contain any ratification time limit.

The proposed amendment was largely forgotten until 1982, when Gregory Watson, a student at the University of Texas, began campaigning for its ratification. Besides Wyoming’s ratification in 1978, it had been more than 100 years since the most recent ratification. Over the course of the next 10 years, 29 states ratified it and it became the 27th amendment on May 25, 1992, after pending more than 202 years.

It’s the most recent amendment to the Constitution.

Our question: Of the 27 total amendments, which is the only one to be repealed?

Today is National Day in Bahrain, and Republic Day in Kazakhstan.

It’s unofficially National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, and Underdog Day.

It’s the birthday of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in 1770; writer Jane Austen, who was born in 1775; and playwright Noel Coward, who was born in 1899.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1969, the top song in the U.S. was “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary.

The No. 1 movie was “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” while the novel “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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