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

Massachusetts’ Solution as a Model

Attaching Proposed Amendments to a Ratified Constitution

The two sides in Virginia were equally adamant and about equally matched. But Massachusetts had already shown the middle way between the totally unqualified ratification offered by Pennsylvania and the conditional ratification demanded by Virginia’s Antifederalists. Massachusetts had attached proposed amendments to its ratification. They were merely suggested amendments, ones that the state delegates emphasized they would like to see addressed at the earliest possible date after ratification. The Virginia delegates who had argued most strenuously that a bill of rights was dangerous or unnecessary proposed a compromise. They urged that Virginia’s Convention should submit a proposal for a bill of rights along with its ratification, to be considered by the First Congress and the rest of the states after the Constitution was in force. But would the Antifederalists agree?

Before Virginia’s Convention could vote on the question of suggested amendments, the opposition moved that “previous to the ratification of the new Constitution,” a declaration of rights and other amendments “ought to be referred by this Convention to the other states in the American confederacy for their consideration.” That motion lost by a slim margin, 80 to 88. When it came time to vote on the primary question, whether amendments be merely “recommended to the consideration” of the First Congress, only one delegate switched sides, and the motion passed 89 to 79. Thus the Constitution was ratified in Virginia with very little room to spare, and the closeness of the vote was attributable, in large measure, to the lack of a bill of rights.