(In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights)
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed to assuage the fears of Anti-Federalists who had opposed Constitutional ratification, these amendments guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public. Originally the amendments applied only to the federal government, however, most were subsequently applied to the government of each state by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, through a process known as incorporation. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)
Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get through
Congress today? It wouldn't even get out of committee.
-F. Lee Bailey
Democracy means that people can say what they want to. All the people.
It means that they can vote as they wish. All the people. It means that
they can worship God in any way they feel right, and that includes
Christians and Jews and voodoo doctors as well. It means that everybody
should have a job, if he's willing to work, and an education, and the
right to bring up his children without fear of the future. And it means
that the old shall be provided for, without shame to themselves or to
their families. It means do unto others as you would have others do unto
you. It also means the prayers of the pilgrim fathers in the wilderness,
and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United
States, and the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation, and
the dreams of an immigrant mother for her children. And that's what I
I also wish that the Pledge of Allegiance were directed at the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is when the President takes
his oath of office, rather than to the flag and the nation.
I have often thought that the Bill of Rights should have stopped after
the first five words: 'Congress shall make no laws...'
I revere the Bill of Rights, but at the same time I believe that anyone
who's using three or more of them at a time is hogging them too much.
It is my belief that there are 'absolutes' in our Bill of Rights, and
that they were put there on purpose by men who knew what the words meant
and meant their prohibitions to be 'absolutes.'
Once you put ifs and buts in the Bill of Rights, nobody's civil
liberties will be secure.
Painful as it may be to hear it, there's nothing special about the
people of this country that sets them apart from the other people of the
world. It is the Bill of Rights, and only the Bill of Rights, that keeps
us from becoming the world's biggest banana republic. The moment we
forget that, the American Dream is over.
Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice
that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original
document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and
promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the
Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the
other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.
The Bill of Rights does not come from the people and is not subject to
change by majorities. It comes from the nature of things. It declares
the inalienable rights of man not only against all government but also
against the people collectively.
The First Amendment is truly the heart of the Bill of Rights. The
Framers balanced its freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and
petition against the needs of a powerful central government, and decided
that in those freedoms lies this nation's only true security. They were
not afraid for men to be free. We should not be.
The Framers of the Bill of Rights did not purport to create rights.
Rather, they designed the Bill of Rights to prohibit our Government from
infringing rights and liberties presumed to be preexisting.
-William J. Brennan, Jr.
The only guarantee of the Bill of Rights which continues to have any
force and effect is the one prohibiting quartering troops on citizens in
time of peace. (In 1951)
The right to be let alone is the underlying principle of the
Constitution's Bill of Rights.
-Erwin N. Griswold
The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear
breeds repression. Too often sinister threats to the bill of rights, to
freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak, of
-Adlai E. Stevenson II
We have ceased to be a nation under law but instead a homeland where the
withered Bill of Rights, like a dead trumpet vine, clings to our
We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is the Bill of Responsibilities.
(December 15 is also the birthday of J. Paul Getty.)