Origin of "Bill of Rights"

When was the term “Bill of Rights” first used in reference to the first ten (and possibly also the other two that did not pass at the time) US amendments? Who was the first to use the term?

The US “Bill of Rights” is based on the older British “Bill of Rights” for 1689 which was in turn based on the “Magna Carta” 1215.

The need for a US “Bill of Rights” was perceived by some before the Constitution was ratified. So the English term goes back to before USA history at least. As far as the US itself goes, I’ll leave to someone more knowledgeable than I to answer which American was credited for using the phrase.

James Madison authored and pushed to get them passed (even having opposed them in the first place. He only did it so the Anti-Federalists would ratify the Constitution).

I don’t think calling them the “Bill of Rights” can be traced to any one person - in fact it was kind of the other way around. The Anti-Federalists were demanding a Bill of Rights, and Madison took submissions from across the states, taking the best and combining them into twelve amendments - 10 of which passed by 1791 and the other passed in 1982 (yes, the 27th amendment was actually the 2nd amendment proposed!), so the amendments weren’t called the “Bill of Rights” after they were written - they were created in response to a demand for a Bill of Rights - a concept, as What Exit? noted, they were already familiar with the concept from British Bill of Rights.

It’s not as if they drafted the amendments, and then somebody said, “Hey, let’s call these the Bill of Rights”. Rather, everybody said, “We need a Bill of Rights. Let’s draft some amendments.”

Bills of rights had already been extensively debated at state constitutional conventions in the 1770’s and 1780’s, and in the federal constitutional convention. The phrase was very common, based on the British example. Everybody knew what it meant. There was no original coinage.

10 were passed in 1791, one was passed in 1982 - what was the twelfth one?

eta: never mind, it says here that it was about “the number of constituents for each Representative”.

I wrote this response before I saw the ETA, so I’m going to post it in case anyone else wants further clarification.

The amendment not ratified was a limit on how many citizens each member of Congress could represent. The limit proposed was one Congress person per 50,000 people, if the number of members in Congress went over 200.

Right now each member of Congress represents 600,000 people.

From Wiki:

There were actually seventeen amendments in the Bill of Rights that was passed by the House of Representatives in 1789.

  1. Congressional apportionment. This one wasn’t ratified.
  2. Congressional compensation. This was was finally enacted in 1992.
  3. Freedom of religion.
  4. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly. The third and fourth amendments here were combined by the Senate into one amendment, which became the First Amendment.
  5. Right to bear arms. This House version also included text which said people could refuse to bear arms for religious reasons. That part was dropped by the Senate and the rest became the Second Amendment.
  6. No quartering. This became the all-important Third Amendment.
  7. Searches and seizures. This became the Foruth Amendment.
  8. Due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain. This became the Fifth Amendment.
  9. General trial rights. This amendment guaranteed speedy and public trials, the right to confront and call witnesses, and the right to counsel.
  10. Criminal trials. This amendment set rules for criminal trials, including juries, unanimous decisions being required for conviction, trials to be held in the location where the crime occurred, and subject to Grand Juries.
  11. Civil trials. This amendment guaranteed common law rules in civil trials. It also said civil trials could only be appealed to the Supreme Court in cases where the value was over $1000.
  12. Civil trials. Required juries.
  13. Excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. This was enacted as the Eighth Amendment.
  14. Criminal trials. Guaranteed juries in criminal cases or cases involving freedom of religion, speech, or press. The Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Amendments listed here were modified by the Senate (with some things deleted) and were enacted as Sixth and Seventh Amendments.
  15. Unenumerated rights. This was enacted as the Ninth Amendment.
  16. Seperation of powers. This amendment would have prohibited any branch of the government from exercising the powers that the Constitution vested in a different branch. The Senate dropped this amendment.
  17. Powers of States and people. This was enacted as the Tenth Amendment.

Originally included text saying that you could refuse to bear arms for religious reason? This conclusively proves that the original intent was for the amendment to only apply to organized troops affiliated with the government, not individual citizens! (duck and run :wink: )

I’m not going there. But here’s the text of the version that was passed by the House:

Here’s something interesting: according to Akhil Amar in his The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction, before the adoption of the 14th amendment, the Supreme Court never used the term “Bill of Rights.”
See page 284 of *The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction *by Akhil Amar.