September 25, 1789: Bill of Rights sent to American people for approval


From the Atlanta Coin Show: A commemorative gold-clad silver half-dollar provides an image of Madison writing the Bill of Rights with his quill pen with a view of Montpelier in the background.

From the Atlanta Coin Show: A commemorative gold-clad silver half-dollar provides an image of Madison writing the Bill of Rights with his quill pen with a view of Montpelier in the background. “LIBERTY,” “JAMES MADISON,” “FATHER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” along with “1993” are shown on the half dollar’s obverse.

September 25, 1789, Congress had approved and enrolled the proposals, and sent twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification.  Ten of the twelve amendments were approved, rather quickly, and by 1791 the were attached to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

The two proposals that failed to earn the required approval of three-fourths of the 13 states fell into a special limbo for Constitutional amendments that became clear only in the late 1970s when Congress discussed how long to wait for states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (this is a much-simplified explanation, I know).  Congress put deadlines on the ratification process in the late 20th century, but the first twelve proposals had no deadlines.  In the 1980s, Congress passed a law that said any amendments floating around, unapproved, would be considered dead after a date certain.  Senate Judiciary Committee investigation found six such amendments, yet unratified.

Before that deadline passed, more states took a look at one of James Madison’s 1789 proposals, liked it, and passed it.

That amendment became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, on May 7, 1992, 203 years after it was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

This means James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, also proposed the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, ratified by 1791; and he also proposed the 27th Amendment, the last at the moment.

Patience is a virtue in legislative action, sometimes.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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