1.WE DIDN’T ALWAYS HAVE A BILL OF RIGHTS
On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. The Bill of Rights was not approved until it was ratified by Virginia’s legislature on December 15, 1791.
2.WE ALMOST HAD 17 AMENDMENTS TO THE BILL OF RIGHTS
The House approved 17 amendments. Of these 17, the Senate approved 12. Those 12 were sent to the states for approval in August of 1789. Of those 12, 10 were quickly approved (or, ratified).
3.SOME OF THE ORIGINAL COPIES WERE PROBABLY DESTROYED
During his first term, President Washington and Congress had 14 official handwritten replicas of the Bill of Rights made. At present, two are conspicuously unaccounted for. One copy was retained by the federal government while the rest were sent off to the 11 states as well as Rhode Island and North Carolina, which had yet to ratify. Subsequently, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Georgia all lost theirs somehow. It’s believed that the Empire State’s was burned in a 1911 fire while Georgia’s likely went up in smoke during the Civil War. In 1945, a long-lost original copy—experts aren’t sure which—was gifted to the Library of Congress. Forty-nine years earlier, the New York Public Library had obtained another. Because it’s widely believed that this one originally belonged to Pennsylvania, the document is currently being shared between the Keystone State and the NYPL until 2020, when New York will have it for 60 percent of the time and Pennsylvania for the rest.
4.NORTH CAROLINA’S COPY MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN BY A CIVIL WAR SOLDIER.
That’s my home state!!!! During the spring of 1865, Raleigh was firmly under the control of pro-Union troops. According to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office in that city, “Sometime during the occupation, a soldier in Gen. William Sherman’s army allegedly took North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of rights [from the state capitol] and carried it away.” Afterward, it changed hands several times and eventually came into antique dealer Wayne Pratt’s possession. When the FBI learned of his plan to sell the priceless parchment, operatives seized it. In 2007, the copy went on a well-publicized tour of North Carolina before returning to Raleigh—hopefully for good.
5.THREE STATES DIDN’T RATIFY IT UNTIL 1939.
To celebrate the Constitution’s 150th anniversary, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia formally gave the Bill of Rights the approval they’d withheld for well over a century.
6.THE BILL OF RIGHTS’S LEAST LITIGATED AMENDMENT IS THE THIRD.
Thanks to this one, soldiers cannot legally be quartered inside your home without your consent. Since colonial Americans had lived in fear of being suddenly forced to house and feed British troops, the amendment was warmly received during the late 1700s. Today, however, it’s rarely invoked. As of this writing, the Supreme Court has never based a decision upon it, so the American Bar Association once called this amendment the “runt piglet” of the constitution.
7.BILL OF RIGHTS DAY DATES BACK TO 1941.
On November 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged America’s citizenry to celebrate December 15 as “Bill of Rights Day” in honor of its anniversary:
“I call upon the officials of the Government, and upon the people of the United States, to observe the day by displaying the flag of the United States on public buildings and by meeting together for such prayers and such ceremonies as may seem to them appropriate.”
“It is especially fitting,” he added, “that this anniversary should be remembered and observed by those institutions of a democratic people which owe their very existence to the guarantees of the Bill of Rights: the free schools, the free churches, the labor unions, the religious and educational and civic organizations of all kinds which, without the guarantee of the Bill of Rights, could never have existed; which sicken and disappear whenever, in any country, these rights are curtailed or withdrawn.”