7 Little Known Facts About the Constitution

1. The word “God” never appears in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

The way the constitution and Bill of Rights are written, the source of all government power and legitimacy is “the People”, there is not any notion of divine right.

2. The Bill of Rights was never an actual “bill” in Congress.

Americans were debating the need for a “Bill of Rights” even before there was a Congress. We call it the Bill of Rights because 100 years earlier in 1689, the English Parliament passed an actual “Bill of Rights.” James Madison never intended the first 10 amendments to be a Bill of Rights. He would have inserted them throughout the Constitution. Roger Sherman argued for them to be added at the end as “amendments.”

3. Most of the Framers believed a Bill of Rights unnecessary.

This was because in their view, the federal government had only the power the Constitution specifically gave it. Alexander Hamilton argued a Bill of Rights was redundant because the states had their own bills of rights and “the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, a bill of rights.”

4. The Bill of Rights was not, originally, 10 amendments.

Madison took over 200 proposals from the states and political leaders and submitted 17 to Congress, which he largely based on George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776. The House approved all 17 amendments, but the Senate rejected some (including Madison’s favorite on protecting conscience and the press) and combined others.

5. The First Amendment was not originally first.

It started out as the third amendment. (So much for the hortatory speeches that “the First Amendment is so important because the Framers put it first!”). In fact, the Framers originally put it after an amendment regarding the size of the Congress and another related to Congress’s pay. The original “first amendment” never passed, but the states did ratify the original “second amendment” concerning congressional salaries on May 7, 1992, making it the 27th Amendment.

6. Several states did not immediately approve the Bill of Rights.

Connecticut, Georgia, and Massachusetts never got around to ratifying it until the sesquicentennial of the Constitution in 1939.

7. The Constitution begins and ends with the People.

Its first words are “We the People”. If we count the Bill of Rights as part of the original Constitution, which we generally do and should, the last words of the Constitution are the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of rights “to the people.” The People are first and last the source of government power and legitimacy.