The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

Demand for (and Resistance to) the United States Bill of Rights

The Debates at the Constitutional Convention

George Mason Argues for a Bill of Rights

The subject of a bill of rights did not even come up in the Convention until September 12, less than a week before the summer-long Convention adjourned. George Mason, who had been the primary author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, admitted that he “wished the plan had been prefaced with a bill of rights.” If he had succeeded in persuading the majority of the Convention, Mason’s suggestion that a bill of rights should precede the Constitution would have been the United States Constitution look very much like many of the existing state constitutions.

Mason’s idea did win over a few adherents, but the motion lost on a tied vote following a very short and tepid debate. After a grueling summer of divisive wrangling, the delegates were exhausted. They were loath to open up any new businesses that would detain them in Philadelphia any longer than necessary. That decision would prove fateful during the ratification period.

Even before the Convention adjourned, Mason had listed the omission of a bill of rights as one of the primary reasons why he could not support the new Constitution.