Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, August 9, 1788
Thomas Jefferson expressed to James Monroe his conviction that Congress should strengthen the new Constitution by adding amendments to guarantee important civil liberties. Of the liberties he cited, trial by jury, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press were codified in the ten amendments ratified by the states in 1791.
This constitution forms a basis which is good, but not perfect. I hope the states will annex to it a bill of rights assuring those which are essential against the federal government; particularly trial by a jury, habeas corpus, freedom of religion, freedom of the press…
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
Ensuring Essential Freedoms
During the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787-1788, many people felt the document lacked sufficient protection for citizens’ individual rights and liberties. George Mason, author of the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, warned of the government’s usurpation of liberties without specific protections in the Constitution. Some states, when ratifying the Constitution, included amendments specifying individual rights. To broaden support for the new Constitution, the First Congress proposed a series of amendments that became today’s Bill of Rights.