Bill of Rights in Four Voices

Directions: Choose one of the four fonts (regular font, bold font, underlined font, or italics; read this font aloud each time it appears within the text.

On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States proposed 12 amendments to the Constitution. The 1789 Joint Resolution of Congress proposing the amendments is on display in the Rotunda in the National Archives Museum. Ten of the proposed 12 amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures on December 15, 1791. The ratified Articles (Articles 3–12) constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, or the U.S. Bill of Rights. In 1992, 203 years after it was proposed, Article 2 was ratified as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 1 was never ratified.

Transcription of the 1789 Joint Resolution of Congress Proposing 12 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

  1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging1 the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress2 of grievances3.
  2. A well regulated Militia4, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms5, shall not be infringed6.
  3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered7 in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants8 shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath9 or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital10, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury11, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
  6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial12 jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel13 for his defence.
  7. In Suits14 at common law15, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  8. Excessive bail16 shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  9. The enumeration17 in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed18 to deny or disparage19 others retained by the people.
  10. The powers not delegated20 to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
  1. abridging: Reduce
  2. redress: A correction or to set right.
  3. grievances: Official complaint over something wrong or unfair.
  4. Militia: A civilian military force raised to help a regular army.
  5. Arms: Weapons and ammunition
  6. infringed: An act to limit or undermine.
  7. quartered: Be stationed or lodged in a specified place.
  8. Warrants: A legal document authorizing a government official to make an arrest or search premises.
  9. Oath: A sworn declaration that one will tell the truth.
  10. capital: A charge liable to the death penalty.
  11. Grand Jury: A prosecutor presents evidence before 16 to 23 members of this non-public jury to decide if there is enough evidence for a trial.
  12. Impartial: Fair and just treatment.
  13. Counsel: A lawyer who pleads cases in court.
  14. Suits: A court proceeding to recover a right or claim.
  15. common law: A system based on customs and traditions rather than on written laws.
  16. bail: Money paid as security to guarantee an accused person appears in court.
  17. enumeration: A catalog or list.
  18. construed: To give the meaning or intention of.
  19. disparage: To reduce in high regard or rank.
  20. delegated: To entrust or authorize.
Bill of Rights in Four Voices