230 years ago today, the Constitution of the United States was signed by its creators and sent off to the states to be ratified. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution – what would become known as the Bill of Rights – wouldn’t be ratified until a few years later in 1791.
The Bill of Rights came to us at the behest of a movement by the Anti-Federalists, a group of lawmakers who were concerned about the consequences of a federal government with too much power. James Madison – who was the chief author of the Constitution and originally opposed to enumerated rights in the Constitution – penned the list of amendments that was sent off to the states for approval. 17 amendments were written, 12 adopted by Congress and 10 ratified by the states. Among those 10 were what is now considered our first set of codified rights: religion, speech, assembly, protest and the press – our rights to think and say what we want.
Our Founders – Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike – could not have imagined the types of adversity the freedom of speech would face in the years that followed. The further removed we are from the writing of the Constitution, the more democracy needs to be reinforced and freedoms must be protected. The men and women who answer to call to protect the Constitution know that better than any. On this Constitution Day, let’s remember how incredible our rights our and the sacrifice that has brought them all the way to us.