217 Years Ago Today

Following ratification by the state of Virginia, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, become the law of the land.

In September 1789, the first Congress of the United States approved 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution and sent them to the states for ratification. The amendments were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government would be reserved for the states and the people.

Influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Bill of Rights was also drawn from Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason in 1776. Mason, a native Virginian, was a lifelong champion of individual liberties, and in 1787 he attended the Constitutional Convention and criticized the final document for lacking constitutional protection of basic political rights. In the ratification struggle that followed, Mason and other critics agreed to support the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would be passed immediately.

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 10th of 14 states to approve 10 of the 12 amendments, thus giving the Bill of Rights the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it legal. Of the two amendments not ratified, the first concerned the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first of these two amendments was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.

ALSO–372 years and two days ago:


Although the National Guard was officially created in 1916; the heritage of the National Guard traces back to English common law and the citizen militias of the British North American colonies.
The National Guard is older than the nation itself, with over three and a half centuries of service. The modern-day 101st Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Engineer Battalion and 181st Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard are directly descended from Massachusetts Bay Colony regiments formed over 370 years ago.
13 December 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had ordered that the Colony’s scattered militia companies be organized into North, South and East Regiments–with a goal of increasing the militias’ accountability to the colonial government, efficacy, and responsiveness in conflicts with indigenous Pequot Indians.
Under this act, white males between the ages of 16 and 60 were obliged to possess arms and to play a part in the defense of their communities by serving in nightly guard details and participating in weekly drills. After the United States came into existence, state militias would develop out of this tradition.
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