George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the term used to describe the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It serves to protect the rights of the American people by specifying items such as religious freedom. These amendments put clear restrictions on the federal government and clarify that all powers not given to the government belong to the states. The Bill of Rights, written by James Madison, eased the concerns of the Anti-Federalists who feared the Constitution put too much power in the hands of the federal government.
“Once bills of rights are established in all the States as well as the Federal Constitution, we shall find…they will have a salutary [beneficial] tendency.”—James Madison, 1789
“We will not, under any threat, or in the face of any danger, surrender the guarantees of liberty our forefathers framed for us in our Bill of Rights.”—Franklin Roosevelt, 1941

The first amendment in the Bill of Rights is one of the most popular. It protects the freedom of religion, speech, and press among other things.

The Bill of Rights was strongly influenced by the Magna Carta, an English document that is about 800 years old.

The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments, but more have been made since then. Twenty-seven amendments have been made to the Constitution to date.