The Framers’ Debates on Religion
The First Amendment and the Utah Constitution
Lesson II: Amending the U.S. Constitution with a Bill of Rights
Step 7. Changing the Text
Student Exercise: Identify the Significant Changes
In your opinion, what were the most significant changes in the text from the beginning of the debates to the words sent to the states for ratification? Explain why you believe it is the most significant. Write down your thoughts and your reasoning and bring it to our class discussion.
Scroll through the proposed amendments to get a sense of how the proposals changed throughout the course of the debates.
House of Representatives
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed…. No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.”
~ James Madison, Delegate of Virginia
House of Representatives
Text the House sent to the Senate
Text Senate sends to the House
September 24, 1789
The House of Representatives agrees to Senate amendments with a few minor changes and agrees to send amendments to the states for ratification:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Ratification by the States
December 15, 1791
Virginia becomes the 10th of the 14 original states to approve of ten amendments, making the U.S. Bill of Rights the first revision of a living constitution for and by the people.
The most recent revision took place in 1992 with the passage of the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that delayed the increase of salary for members of Congress until the following election.
Optional: Explore Further
- Visit the Quill Project to explore the congressional record of James Madison introducing his amendment proposals on June 8, 1789.
- James Madison proposed an amendment to apply the Bill of Rights to both the federal and state government: “No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.” Madison thought it was the most important of all his proposals. Explore the congressional record that includes his response to Thomas Tudor Tucker’s proposal to strike it out.
- Explore the congressional record of the final version of the amendments considered by the House of Representatives before it went to the states for ratification.