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Bill of Rights

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The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution ... with the image below showing the first four amendments.

Bill of Rights - First 10 Amendments with image showing the first 4 amendments.

When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they did not focus on individual rights. They focused on creating the system and structure of government. Many Americans believed that the Constitution should guarantee the rights of the people, and they wanted a list of all the things a government could not do. They were afraid that a strong government would take away the rights people won in the Revolutionary War.

James Madison, one of the Framers of the Constitution, wrote a list of individual rights and limits on the government. These rights appear in the first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights.

Some of these rights include freedom of expression, the right to bear arms, freedom from search without warrant, freedom not to be tried twice for the same crime, the right to not testify against yourself, the right to a trial by a jury of your peers, the right to an attorney, and protection against excessive fines and unusual punishments.

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791 ... and is recognized on December 15 as Bill of Rights Day.

Understanding the Bill of Rights is also an important part of the naturalization test. During the naturalization interview, prospective citizens may be asked, “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” as part of the civics test. Applicants may also be asked to read the words, “Bill of Rights,” during the English test.

Information provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)