220 years ago today Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. Almost half of the original 13 states had either conditioned their ratification or outright refused ratification of the 1787 Constitution upon a demand to add a Bill of Rights. Although originally opposed to these calls for a Bill of Rights, James Madison had become the leading proponent of adopting a Bill of Rights by the time the First Congress met in April of 1789. The various state ratification conventions had by this time sent along 210 proposed amendments, which were sorted through and consolidated down to 12 by September 1789. The original first and second amendments failed to gain enough support (although the original second amendment would become the 27th Amendment – limiting the ability of Congress to raise its own salary – in 1992), leaving amendments three to twelve to become the first 10 amendments to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights we celebrate today.
Georgetown Law Library has numerous books on the Bill of Rights in our collection, including: The Bill of Rights and American History (Paul Murphy ed., 1990); Bernard Schwartz, The Great Rights of Mankind: a history of the American Bill of Rights (1977); Eric T. Kasper, To secure the liberty of the people : James Madison's Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court's interpretation (2010); Richard Labunski, James Madison and the struggle for the Bill of Rights (2006); Leonard W. Levy, Origins of the Bill of Rights (1999); and, Birth of the Bill of Rights: encyclopedia of the Antifederalists (Jon L. Wakelyn ed., 2004).
There are also a number of excellent online resources available to explore the history and influence of the Bill of Rights, including: The Bill of Rights Institute; Today is Bill of Rights Day; The Bill of Rights at the National Archives; and, at The Library of Congress. ;; ;; ??