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Background on the Bill of Rights and the New York Ratification of the Bill of Rights
Press Release · Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Press Information
December 13, 2006

Background on the Bill of Rights and the New York Ratification of the Bill of Rights

Federal Hall’s Special Role in the History of the Bill of Rights

Federal Hall, a National Park Service National Memorial, and the National Archives and Records Administration are hosting a special four-day display beginning December 14 of the original Ratification of the U.S. Bill of Rights by the State of New York. The exhibit marks the first time this National Archives document has been on view in New York City since it was signed in 1790, according to the records of the agency. The National Archives holds in trust all permanently valuable records of the Federal Government including the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

The display headlines a series of events, December 14 -17, that celebrate the arrival of the National Archives to the historic site. The National Archives and the National Park Service (NPS) are engaged in a multi-year effort to develop a permanent National Archives interactive exhibition for Federal Hall. Funding for the new exhibit and the permanent exhibit is being provided by the Foundation for the National Archives and the National Park Service.

A Draft for Democratic Freedoms

The United States constitutional government and the democratic rights cherished by its citizens are deeply rooted in the place where Federal Hall National Memorial now stands, at 26 Wall Street, New York City. The original building on this site stood witness to events that brought about the birth of a new nation: George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States at the site, and the first U.S. Congress convened there. It was also on that Wall Street corner where Congress drafted and passed a resolution proposing 12 articles as first amendments to the new Constitution, now known as the Bill of Rights.

The proposed articles guaranteed individual rights and freedoms and were critical to the formation of a democratic government. Throughout the summer of 1789, the first United States Congress engaged in passionate debate about the proposed amendments. Such was the intensity of views about the rights to be included in the Constitution that some states resisted ratifying a Constitution that had no guarantee of individual freedoms.

On September 25, by joint resolution, Congress passed 12 articles of amendment. President George Washington signed this resolution on October 2, 1789 and forwarded copies to the 11 states that had ratified the U.S. Constitution. Washington also forwarded courtesy copies to Rhode Island and North Carolina, states that had not ratified the Constitution and could not