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Amending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

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Amending the Constitution (Article 5)

  • Proposal of Amendments--two methods
    • Approved by 2-/3 vote of both houses of Congress
    • 2/3 of states call a national Constitutional Convention
  • Ratification
    • 3/4 of state legislatures approve
    • 3/4 of specially-called state conventions approved
  • 26 of the 27 amendments approved using the Congress and state legislature procedure
  • Repeal of prohibition (21st amendment) approved by Congress and ratified by state conventions
  • National convention never used--uncertainty about actions of a convention: what would it do?
    • This method provided in case Congress is unresponsive to desires of people
  • Two "unamendables"
    • No slave trade changes before 1808
    • No change in Senate representation
  • Amendments
    • 10,000 proposed
    • 33 approved by Congress
    • 27 ratified
    • Time limits on ratification-typically 7 years from when approved by Congress

Bill of Rights

A product of compromise

Many amendments proposed

Madison appointed to sort them out and submitted 17 to Congress

Congress approved 12

Two of the 12 not ratified by the state legislatures

One was to make the House of Representatives smaller

Other was the method of changing congressional pay

"No law varying the compensation for the services of Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

Finally ratified in 1992


  • 1st Amendment (natural rights)
    • Establish religion or prohibit free exercise of religion
    • Freedom of speech and press
    • Right to peaceably assemble
    • Right to petition
  • 2nd Amendment
    • Right to keep and bear arms
  • 3rd Amendment
    • No peacetime quartering
    • Quartering only as prescribed by law during wartime
  • 4th Amendment
    • No unreasonable search and seizure
  • 5th Amendment
    • Grand jury for capital or infamous crimes
    • Double jeopardy
    • Self-incrimination
    • Due Process
    • Compensation for taking property
      • Concept of eminent domain--government can take property for a public purpose
      • But must pay a fair price to the property owner
  • 6th Amendment--criminal trialsSpeedy and public trial
    • Impartial jury
    • Informed of charges
    • Compel and confront witnesses
    • Counsel for defense
  • 7th Amendment--civil trials
    • Jury trial if more than $20 is involved
  • 8th Amendment
    • No excessive bail or fines
    • No cruel or unusual punishment
  • 9th Amendment
    • This listing of rights doesn’t mean that people don't have other rights
  • 10th Amendment
    • All powers not delegated to national government belong to the states or to the people
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factpetersen. (2007, October 16). Amending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License