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Political Broad

Inspecting the Bill of Rights

On Dec. 30, 2016, I traveled to the Grangeville Centennial Library for a little research. I found a large, three-dimensional display marking the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. I was intrigued and thought maybe there was an opportunity for me to write publicly.

Following the holidays I returned to work and began researching the history of the Bill of Rights. (I’ll admit my memory gets shaky at times and I did not recall the date the document was ratified. I was disappointed to learn Bill of Rights Day had passed on Dec. 15.)

What is Bill of Rights Day you ask?

It is a date designated to commemorate the ratification of the Bill of Rights, which occurred Dec. 15, 1791.

However, after much deliberation, I decided to approach this as an opportunity to learn, discuss, debate and inform. I have opted to open a new blog focused on delving into politics and history and what can be learned about this great country of ours. I introduce to you Political Broad.

I begin with a discussion of the Bill of Rights. What is it and how does it impact us? Are our perceptions of the document correct, or have they been skewed through time?

Let’s start at the beginning.

The United States is founded on three documents instrumental in shaping the philosophies of our country. Collectively, they are referred to as the Charters of Freedom and include The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

According to the National Archives, Thomas Jefferson began writing the Declaration of Independence June 11, 1776. Three weeks later he presented a draft to Congress. Congress voted on an edited version of Jefferson’s document on July 2, 1776 and on July 4, 1776, the text was ratified and the United States became an independent nation.

A few years after the Revolutionary War, George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton raised concerns the country was on the brink of collapse. Hamilton was instrumental in convincing Congress to organize a convention of states delegates to work on a revision of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was our country’s first constitution, but was ineffective.

In May of 1787, the Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia and by mid-June the decision was made to completely redesign the government. Throughout the summer the delegates debated content. A Committee of Detail was appointed and the Committee of Style and Arrangement edited the articles. On Sept. 17, 1788, the Constitution was signed by the 38 delegates.

Special ratifying conventions were held in each state, rather than sending to state legislatures for approval. Ratification was required, and eventually received, by nine of the 13 states to enact the new federal government.

Many Americans at the time, opposed the Constitution. George Mason refused to sign the document because it lacked a Bill of Rights. James Madison opted to introduce a list of amendments on June 8, 1789. By September of that same year, a joint House and Senate Conference Committee settled on 12 amendments which were sent out by President George Washington to the states on Oct. 2, 1789. By Dec. 15, 1791, 10 of the amendments now known as the Bill of Rights were ratified by three-fourths of the states.

That's a brief history of the document and its companions. In two weeks, I will present to you the original amendments as they were written by the authors of the document. I will dissect them to decipher the intent and discuss how the meaning is being skewed today.

I will focus on one amendment per blog to thoroughly present the information. When Political Broad returns I will take a look at the First Amendment of the United States.

References: United States National Archives at www.archives.gov.

Laurie Chapman publishes Political Broad bi-monthly and takes an information, opinionated peek at the functions of our government. If you have a suggestion for the author, email her at lchapman@idahocountyfreepress.comor call her at 208-983-1200.

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