History Moments: Why Did We Need a Bill of Rights?
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History Moments: Why Did We Need a Bill of Rights?


Many people ask me, “Mr. Jefferson, is a bill
of rights worthy?” Well I reply, “Is it worthy? It is necessary!” Many years ago, my good friend James Madison
was working out a new system of government in what was called the Constitutional Convention,
held in Philadelphia. Mr. Madison was working to create a more efficient
method of government. He was working to create a constitution. It’s the shortest document of its kind in
human history, creating a government to check its own power, but it lacks something. It lacks something that will allow the Constitution
and the government to remain in the hands of the people, because without it, it can
be read by any government in power for its own particular purpose. What I wrote him: “It needs a Bill of Rights,
which all people are entitled to against any government upon the globe.” A bill of rights is necessary. And when people ask me “Mr. Jefferson, what
do you think is the most important of all of the amendments in our Bill of Rights?” Well, I answer them, “Of all of the 12 amendments,”
— well there were initially 12, and then they were whittled down to 10 — I’d reply
that “well, nine of them could not exist without one of them, which is the first, the first
amendment. That is the most important. That guarantees freedom for the press, freedom
for religion, and freedom for a people to assemble, and to discourse and argue and debate
amongst themselves. It is the one that guarantees the freedom
of the mind, and the expression of one’s own opinion.

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