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Bill of Rights

Selected and introduced by Gordon Lloyd


This collection of documents on the Bill of Rights provides historical background on the rights that the colonists claimed to hold, and explains why and how those rights became the rights enshrined in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It focuses on the argument over whether a Bill of Rights was necessary, as this argument revealed much about the founding generation’s view of government and, in particular, the federal arrangement in the Constitution.

This is the third of four volumes that will cover the Founding of the United States. The American Founding, already published, is the capstone of the four. The others — the volume on the Constitutional Convention, also already published; this collection; and a volume on the ratification of the Constitution — tell aspects of the founding story in more detail. Together, the four volumes on the Founding provide the essentials for understanding the Founding as the Founders understood it.


Table of Contents

Documents Include:

  • The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641
  • The Virginia Declaration of Rights and Constitution, 1776
  • The New Jersey Constitution, 1776
  • James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785
  • Objections at the Constitutional Convention, 1787
  • James Wilson’s State House Speech, 1787
  • The Federal Farmer IV, 1787
  • An Old Whig IV, 1787
  • Brutus II, 1787
  • The Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
  • The New York Ratifying Convention, 1788
  • Federalist 84, 1788
  • Representative Madison Argues for a Bill of Rights, 1789
  • The Congress sends Twelve Amendments to the States, 1789
  • Amendments I-X: The Bill of Rights, 1791