Legislative Branch

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights

Within the half-billion pages of records in the care of the Center for Legislative Archives, there are some special treasures from the First Congress that show how the ratification of the Constitution necessitated the creation of the Bill of Rights, and how the creation of the Bill of Rights, in turn, completed the Constitution. The remarkable story of the relationship between two of our Charters of Freedom is told in Congress Creates the Bill of Rights.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights consists of three elements: an eBook, a mobile app for tablets, and online resources for teachers and students. Each provides a distinct way of exploring how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789.


The eBook focuses on James Madison's leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights, effectively completing the U.S. Constitution. Starting with the crises facing the nation in the 1780s, the narrative traces the call for constitutional amendments from the state ratification conventions. Through close examination of the featured document, Senate Revisions to the House Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the reader goes inside the First Congress, as Madison and the leaders of rival political factions worked in the House and Senate to formulate amendments to change the recently ratified Constitution.

The eBook is available for download on your computer and available in iTunes and the iBookstore for your iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

Mobile App

The mobile app is an interactive learning tool for tablets that situates the user in the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a detailed study of the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, and opportunities for participation and reflection designed for individual or collaborative exploration.

The app is available for download on iPads in the App Store.


The PDF version of Congress Creates the Bill of Rights contains all the content of the app. The PDF is divided into four sections: Get the Background; Go Inside the First Congress; Amendments in Process; and Join the Debate. Each section contains a hyper-linked table of contents and each page contains a menu box back to the table of contents.

Online Resources

The online resources available for teachers and students present questions, lesson ideas, and supporting resources selected to facilitate learning with the app and eBook. Studying how Congress created the Bill of Rights teaches vital lessons about history and the timeless principles of our civic life. They also provide lessons about the history of representative government and will strengthen students' understanding of their roles and responsibilities in civic life today.