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

The Making of the Bill of Rights

Madison Fights for a Bill of Rights Immediately

A “Tacit Compact” with the States

When the First United States Congress convened at Federal Hall in New York City, many members of that body did not want to take up the issue of a Bill of Rights immediately. But Madison had several reasons for believing that Congress should make the business a top priority. In the first place, many states had ratified the Constitution with the expectation that this would be the first order of business for Congress. When Virginia sent a list of proposed amendments along with its ratification, it specified that it was addressed to “the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitution.” If the First Congress failed to acknowledge their request, it would appear like a snub.

Madison believed that the circumstances under which some of the states agreed to the ratification of the Constitution formed a “tacit compact” that amendments would subsequently be added. He later confided to a friend that he believed that, in Virginia at least, the Constitution “would have been certainly rejected, had no assurances been given by its advocates that such provisions would be pursued. As an honest man I feel my self bound by this consideration.” As an honest man, furthermore, he felt it his duty to see the business through personally.