November 20, 1789 — New Jersey is 1st state to ratify Bill of Rights, which was drafted by James Madison and loosely based on George Mason’s Virginia’s Declaration of Rights.
Historians agree that today marked the first step toward making into law the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, and completing the revolutionary reforms that were begun with the Declaration of Independence.
In fact, New Jersey legislators only ratified 11 of the 12 amendments, rejecting Article II, which would have regulated congressional pay raises. (It was adopted, about two centuries later, as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.)
Official ratification required approval by three-fourths of the states. The first Congress, meeting in New York City’s Federal Hall, had approved the Bill of Rights as a joint resolution on Sept. 25, 1789. Its provisions came into effect on Dec. 25, 1791, when Virginia acted.
Thomas Jefferson, then U.S. secretary of state, announced the adoption of the 10 successfully ratified amendments on March 1, 1792.
Words of Wisdom
Drafted by James Madison, the first 10 amendments give the following rights to all United States citizens:
1. Freedom of religion, speech and assembly
2. Right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of a well-regulated militia
3. No forcible quartering of soldiers during peacetime
4. Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure
5. Right to a grand jury for capital crimes and due process. Protection from double jeopardy, self-incrimination and public confiscation of private property without just compensation
6. Right to speedy and public trial by jury and a competent defense
7. Right to trial by jury for monetary cases above $20
8. Protection against excessive bail or fines and cruel and unusual punishments
9. Rights not enumerated are retained by the people
10. Rights not given to the federal government or prohibited the state governments by the Constitution, are reserved to the States… or to the people