On this day December 15, 1791

The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, collectively known as the United States Bill of Rights, were ratified.

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They were introduced by James Madison to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of constitutional amendments, and came into effect on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the States.

The Bill of Rights limits the powers of the federal government of the United States, protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory. Thomas Jefferson was the main proponent of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition, and freedom of the press. It also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and compelled self-incrimination.

The Bill of Rights also prohibits Congress from making any law respecting establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

In federal criminal cases, it requires indictment by grand jury for any capital or “infamous crime”, guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury composed of members of the state or judicial district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy.

In addition, the Bill of Rights states that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and reserves all powers not granted to the federal government to the citizenry or States.

Most of these restrictions were later applied to the states by a series of decisions applying the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, after the American Civil War.

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