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Bill of Rights: Primary Documents in American History

Ratified on December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This guide provides access to digital materials at the Library of Congress, links to related external websites, and a print bibliography.


On September 25, 1789, the First Federal Congress of the United States proposed to the state legislatures twelve amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first two, concerning the number of constituents for each Representative and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified.* Articles three through twelve—known as the Bill of Rights—were ratified by the states on December 15, 1791, and became the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights contains guarantees of essential rights and liberties omitted in the crafting of the original Constitution.

Use the navigation menu on the left to access sections of this guide on digital collections, related online resources, external websites, and a bibliography of books providing more information on the Bill of Rights.

*Note: The original second amendment proposed by the First Federal Congress dealt with the compensation of members of Congress. Although rejected at the time, it was eventually ratified on May 7, 1992, as the 27th Amendment.