Our Bill of Rights - 1940
Our Bill of Rights – 1940

“A sturdy tree of liberty with shade for all.” – Benjamin Franklin

Although artistic license is taken in dramatizing the events, much of the “dialogue originates in the correspondence of the principals.”

Experience a nation being planned and made for the first time in world history. We join the momentous occasion in New York City on April 30, 1789, in a parlor where George Washington bids farewell to Benjamin Franklin. Franklin in turn compliments other monumental figures present in the room – John Adams, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

83 years old, Franklin is preparing for retirement in Philadelphia and recalls fondly the sprouting and blossoming of the Constitution, from Samuel Adams’ Correspondence Committee to the Continental Congress of 1774. As he leaves, Franklin reminds the attendees of their monumental task and that he has confidence in their rising to the challenge.

Download The US Bill of Rights PDF here free via NOVA on PBS

Our Bill of Rights - 1940
Our Bill of Rights – 1940

John Jay would become first Chief Justice, James Madison became leader of the House of Representatives. Alexander Hamilton is appointed Secretary of the Treasury. Visibly absent is Thomas Jefferson who is in Paris on a diplomatic mission.

During their discussion it is remarked that those in the Old World who do not believe in the essential equality of all men lack imagination. A written Bill of Rights, they argue, is the only way to codify these principals and give the system a foundation from which to base and enforce its laws. It should be stripped down to its essence and take all citizens into account regardless of the state they reside before any amendments are made.

The men take into account the tyranny of the majority, and George Washington assets that anyone elected must keep their campaign pledges. All men agree to this binding of goodwill.

Later, James Madison addresses the Joint House Committee with 12 amendments to be added to the Constitution, which he then presents to President Washington. The first 10 defining the people’s fundamental rights. George Washington affirms the establishment of a new nation and a national day of thanksgiving.

Our Bill of Rights - 1940
Our Bill of Rights – 1940

“It is altogether fitting this be done” the Washington agrees.

The First affirms freedom of religion, speech and press, the right to freedom of assembly and petition.

The Second allows states to maintain a militia and keep and bear arms for their security.

The Third prohibits the government from arbitrarily conscripting citizens into becoming soldiers.

The Fourth forbids unlawful search and seizure.

The Fifth protects life, liberty and property from arbitrary acts or forfeiture.

The Sixth guarantees the rights of those accused of crimes, the right to present evidence and have council.

The Seventh requires a trial by jury if a person in suits of common law.

Our Bill of Rights - 1940
Our Bill of Rights – 1940

The Eighth forbids excessive bail and cruel punishment.

The Ninth affirms presumptive rights not mentioned in the Constitution are still retained by the people.

The Tenth refers to states’ rights where not prohibited by the US Constitution.

“Well, a free government has been made for you, if you can keep it so,” George Washington implores.