Constitution: Bill of Rights - Research Article from Americans at War

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Origins in State Constitutions

When the Second Continental Congress declared independence in July 1776, it encouraged states to adopt constitutions and most of them did so. Almost all incorporated declarations, or bills, of rights, like Virginia's Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. The idea that governments should recognize such rights goes at least as far back in English history as the Magna Charta (1215), through which English noblemen had embodied written concessions from the English king at Runneymede, through the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Act of Settlement (1701).

The first government to succeed that of Britain in the colonies was formed under the Articles of Confederation (1781–1788). It was premised on the idea of continuing individual state sovereignty and therefore invested little power in the Congress. Since few powers had been delegated to the national government, few rights needed to be reserved. On the state...

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This section contains 1,782 words
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Constitution: Bill of Rights from Americans at War. Copyright © 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group. All rights reserved.