The Bill of Rights: House of Representatives first version

George Mason’s objections to the Constitution begin: “There is no Declaration of Rights, and the Laws of the general Government being paramount to the Laws & Constitutions of the several States, the Declarations of Rights in the separate States are no Security.” Thus it is appropriate that we display, beneath Mason’s words, two printed copies of the Bill of Rights, the first amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first of these, one of only a handful of copies known to still exist, is the version approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for consideration. In this version there are seventeen articles, parts of which are of particular interest in comparison to the final text: for example, the original third article provided not only that “Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” but also that “the rights of Conscience [shall not] be infringed”; while the original fifth article, establishing “the right of the People to keep and bear arms” in relation to “a well regulated militia,” also provided that “no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”
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