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Constitution Day

US Constitution Amendments

Constitutional Amendments

The Bill of Rights

Passed by Congress 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.

27 total amendments, most recent one having been adopted in 1992.

Amending America

Through the Bill of Rights and rest of our 27 amendments, we have changed our Constitution to protect rights, expand participation and refine government powers. The materials on this page highlight the amendment process and struggles for rights throughout U.S. history.

National Archives Teaching the Amendments

Congress creates the Bill of Rights - Part 1 Background

The ratification of the Constitution in 1788 was a difficult nine-month contest fought in the thirteen individual states. The Constitution was ratified, but some reservations surfaced about its content. A critical minority, referred to as Anti-Federalists, insisted upon the addition of a bill of rights that would protect the rights of individual citizens, and demanded a new look at some of the Constitution’s specific provisions. Many of these Anti-Federalist critics believed the First Congress was obliged to correct the Constitution through amendments when it met in the spring of 1789. The Federalist majority in Congress, who supported the Constitution without changes, disagreed and needed prodding by Representative James Madison (VA) before they would take up the question of amendments.

Ebook with beautiful maps and a chronology

Congress creates the Bill of Rights Part 2b

The amendments included in the Bill of Rights went through the challenging process for Congress to propose amendments as specified in Section V of the Constitution. The idea of amendments originated in five state ratification conventions that approved the Constitution but recommended dozens of amendments. James Madison studied these and formulated a select set of amendments that he introduced to the whole House. A House select committee, the Committee of Eleven, transformed Madison’s proposals into nineteen specific changes to the Constitution. These were then debated, refined, and approved by two thirds of the House as seventeen articles of amendment. The House articles were submitted to the Senate, where they were again deliberated, revised, reduced to twelve proposed amendments, and passed by a two-thirds majority. The House and the Senate then reconciled differences in a conference committee and by additional agreements between the bodies. Those changes were approved by two thirds of the House and the Senate. The amendments that finally passed Congress were sent to the state legislatures to be ratified. If and when three-quarters of the states voted to ratify an amendment, it was added to the Constitution. Articles Three through Twelve passed this last test and became the Bill of Rights. Follow this process for each of the proposed amendments by reviewing the text below:

Amendments in Process