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Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe regarding a Bill of Rights, August 9, 1789

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.

I hope the states will annex to it a bill of rights securing those which are essential against the federal government; particularly trial by jury, habeas corpus, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom against monopolies, and no standing armies.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe regarding a Bill of Rights, August 9, 1789 I hope the states will annex to it a bill of rights securing those which are essential against the federal government; particularly trial by jury, habeas corpus, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom against monopolies, and no standing armies.

The Bill of Rights

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention disagreed over the need to list specific rights within the U.S. Constitution, but anti-Federalists insisted individual liberties—including the freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly—required protection from the new national government. Federalists promised these protections to entice opposing states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Fulfilling that promise, members of the First Congress (1789–1791) proposed 12 amendments to the original U.S. Constitution. The states quickly ratified ten, known collectively as the Bill of Rights.

A number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.

Preamble, Bill of Rights, 1789