KU Constitution Day Celebration

Snapshot of the consitution

Constitutional Amendments, An Overview

After ratification of the Constitution, the anti-Federalists continued to voice their concerns over the powers of the federal government. In the course of the states' ratification debates over the Constitution, states had recommended over two hundred amendments, which fell into two categories: 1) amendments aimed at limiting the powers of the federal government, and 2) amendments that protected individual rights. After ratification of the Constitution, it was feared that the anti-Federalists might garner enough support to call for a second constitutional convention, so James Madison, then Virginia's representative in Congress, undertook the drafting of a bill of rights.

In August 1789, the House of Representatives took up consideration of Madison's proposed amendments. Madison had proposed forty-two amendments, but the House approved only twenty-seven. The amendments then went to the Senate for consideration. In September 1789, Congress approved the bill of rights and sent it to the states for ratification. The bill of rights as passed by Congress contained twelve amendments. Two of the amendments, however, were not ratified by the states. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights became a part of the Constitution when it was ratified by Virginia.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. These ten amendments include: Amendment 1, Freedom of Religion, Speech and Press; Amendment 2, Right to Bear Arms; Amendment 3, Quartering Soldiers in Houses; Amendment 4, Searches and Seizures; Amendment 5, Criminal Prosecutions, Due Process of Law, Eminent Domain; Amendment 6, Further Guarantees in Criminal Cases; Amendment 7, Trial by Jury; Amendment 8, Bail and Punishments; Amendment 9, Effect of Enumeration of Rights; and Amendment 10, Reservation of Powers to the States. To learn more about what the amendments in the Bill of Rights say and mean, go to: The Interactive Constitution or go to: Justice Learning and click on the Constitution Guide link.

Since ratification of the Bill of Rights, sixteen additional amendments have been adopted. These include: Amendment 11, Suits against States; Amendment 12, Election of President and Vice-President; Amendment 13, Abolition of Slavery; Amendment 14, Rights and Immunities of Citizens; Amendment 15, Right to Vote; Amendment 16, Income Tax; Amendment 17, Election of Senators; Amendment 18, Intoxicating Liquor, Amendment 19, Suffrage; Amendment 20, Terms of President and Vice-President and Members of Congress, Sessions of Congress; Amendment 21, Repeal of Intoxicating Liquor Amendment; Amendment 22, Limitation of Presidential Terms; Amendment 23, Presidential Electors of District of Columbia; Amendment 24, Qualifications of Electors; Amendment 25, Succession to Presidency and Vice-Presidency, Disability of President; Amendment 26, Right to Vote, Citizens 18 years of age or older. To learn more about what amendments 11-26 say and mean, go to The Interactive Constitution or go to Justice Learning and click on the Constitution Guide link.


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