First 10 Amendments
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. They are guarantees of some of the most basic freedoms in American society, such as freedom of speech, religion, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and the right to bear arms. Largely authored by James Madison, the Bill of Rights went into effect in 1791.
During the ratification of the Constitution, debate swirled around the issue of a Bill of Rights. It was noted that the Constitution failed to protect certain freedoms. Several states only agreed to ratify the Constitution in return for the adoption of a Bill of Rights. During the first Congress, Madison introduced as many twenty amendments, ten of which were chosen for inclusion as additions to the Constitution.
The First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion, guarantees a free press, free speech, the right of the people to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The controversial Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The Third Amendment prohibits the housing of soldiers in people's homes. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unlawful search and seizure. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees jury trials and establishes the rights of a defendant. The Seventh Amendments guarantees jury trials in federal civil cases. The Eighth Amendment forbids excessive bail. The Ninth Amendment protects rights not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, while the Tenth Amendment reserves rights to the states.