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Documents that Influenced the Bill of Rights
English Bill of Rights - 1689
A response to the brutal reign of King James II and a condition of the ascension Prince William of Orange and his wife Mary to the throne, the English Bill of Rights is a direct antecedent of the American Bill of Rights. The Bill includes provisions such as:
Freedom of speech (including freedom of religion)
Right to Bear Arms
Prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment
Magna Carta - 1215
Many of the Bill of Rights amendments have their roots in the 1215 document that delineated nobles' rights in England. Some of the provisions in the Magna Carta (the Great Charter) are directly related - such as a clause prohibiting property seizure. Others have been subsequently interpreted and contain seeds of the ideas for trial by jury,
The Virginia Declaration of Rights - 1776
This document was written by George Mason and adopted in 1776 just prior to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson borrowed from it in the Declaration's preamble).
The amendments in the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) are directly taken from the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
Want more information on the history of the Bill of Rights? Check our Databases
Search the databases listed below. Use your own search terms and then check the database's subject terms in the results. Incorporate those subject terms into a new search for comprehensive and precise results.
Academic Search Complete
Access to articles from magazines and peer-reviewed journals, as well as books, conference papers and proceedings, and educational reports from almost all academic areas of study.
America: History and Life
Index and some fulltext to journal articles and reviews on the history and culture of the United States and Canada. Inlcudes CLIO notes (see top of interface) providing chronologies and brief summaries of significant events and themes in history.
Guide to Law Online
An annotated guide to national and international sources of government and legal information prepared by the Law Library of Congress; includes links to treaties, constitutions, and codes.
Provides access to academic historical journals that cover the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present. Coverage is from 1955 to the present.
A searchable collection of the complete runs (minus the most recent 2 to 5 years) of hundreds of the most significant scholarly journals.
Constitute: The World's Constitutions to Read, Search and Compare
From the Website:
The Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP) is directed by Zachary Elkins (University of Texas, Department of Government), Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago, Law School), and James Melton (University College London). The project was seeded by grants from the National Science Foundation (SES 0648288) and the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois.
The intent of the project is to investigate the sources and consequences of constitutional choices. Towards this end, the investigators collect, analyze, and data on the formal characteristics of written constitutions, both current and historical, for most independent states since 1789.
In September 2013, the CCP launched Constitute with Google Ideas. The site provides an indexed repository of Constitutional text for every Constitution currently in force.
World Constitutions Illustrated
Provides access to the current constitution of every country in its native language (English translations for most), and links to related scholarly articles, books, bibliographies, and web sites.
A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution
"The Charters of Freedom"
Constitution of the United States
Transcripts, facsimiles as well as historical background information on the Constitution and Bill of Rights and other US documents.
American Founding: The Bill of Rights
From: Teaching American History.org
Original text plus articles, and original speeches, papers and documents related to the Bill of Rights. Very useful are spreadsheets and charts comparing rights listed in the Bill of Rights with those in individual state constitutions, British and colonial charters and documents.
Yale Law School's Avalon project provides the transcript of major legal and diplomatic documents internationally throughout history. In many cases, definitions and explanations are also provided. Search by specific term, time period or broad subject.
It is on this website that you can find the transcripts for all the documents that influenced the content and creation of the Bill of Rights!
Primary Source Documents Online
In addition to finding primary source material in the books and sources listed on this page, the following websites contain primary source documents and materials: