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Bill of Rights Day–Pic of the Week

Today is Bill of Rights Day.  On this day in 1791 the Virginia General Assembly completed the ratification process for the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution.  The process concluded a 2-year push to include language guaranteeing fundamental political rights in the constitution.

Many of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights are referenced in earlier documents such as the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of 1780.  Provisions of the Bill of Rights influenced the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the same time that the proposed Bill of Rights was being drafted and considered in the Congress, the National Constituent Assembly in France debated and approved the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen.  Although there was no direct official influence between the drafters of the two documents, there was sufficient interest in France for contemporaneous translations of the American document.  A portion of one such is pictured below.  This translation, published in Paris in 1790, was included in a collection of the laws of the First Federal Congress.  Included are the entire text of the First through Third Amendments and a portion of the Fourth Amendment.  The numbering system is taken from the submission of twelve proposed amendments to the states; the first two of which concerning the Congress were not immediately ratified.

French translation of part of the Bill of Rights. Actes passés à un congrès des États-Unis de l’Amérique, commencé & tenu dans la ville de New-Yorck…Paris, 1790. //lccn.loc.gov/03004080 Photo by: Donna Sokol.

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