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Senate Revisions to the House-passed Amendments to the Constitution, September 9, 1789

Representative James Madison of Virginia winnowed more than 200 proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution to nineteen. The House of Representatives debated them and sent seventeen to the Senate, which further consolidated the articles into twelve. Approved by both houses, they were sent to the states—Articles three through twelve were ratified and became the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Senate Revisions to the House-passed Amendments to the Constitution, September 9, 1789

Ensuring Essential Freedoms

During the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787-1788, many people felt the document lacked sufficient protection for citizens’ individual rights and liberties. George Mason, author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, warned of the government’s usurpation of liberties without specific protections in the Constitution. Some states, when ratifying the Constitution, included amendments specifying individual rights. To broaden support for the new Constitution, the First Congress proposed a series of amendments that became today’s Bill of Rights.