The Bill of Rights Lesson for Kids: Definition & Summary

Instructor: Crystal Ladwig
Do you like rules? Do you think your class or family rules are fair? What if you had the chance to improve them? That's what the members of the First Congress of the United States did when they created the Bill of Rights.

Introducing the Constitution

The United States Constitution was created in 1787, and this document describes how the government of the United States will run. It outlines that the government will be divided into three branches: Legislative (makes laws), Executive (carries out those laws), and Judicial (evaluates the laws).

What's the point of dividing the government up into these three branches? It creates a system of checks and balances that makes sure no one branch (or part of the government) can have too much power, because one branch can always be overruled by the other two.

Signing of the Constitution
Signing of the Constitution

What Is the Bill of Rights?

The Constitution was written by the Founding Fathers over four months during a hot summer in 1787, and they were quick to finish the long hours of debating and writing in a stuffy, crowded room. For that reason, the Constitution was lacking some important stuff. It makes clear what roles the federal (or national) government will have, but it doesn't say much about the rights of individuals.

To fix this oversight, the First Congress (made up of the Legislative Branch) created the Bill of Rights in 1789 to make sure that individual rights were guaranteed in the Constitution. They did this by creating 10 amendments (additions) to the Constitution. Although the Constitution now has 27 amendments, these first 10 are collectively known as the Bill of Rights.

The U.S. Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights

What's In the Bill of Rights

When the First Congress gathered to write the Bill of Rights, they actually came up with 19 amendments. However, that number was pared down to 12, only 10 of which were approved by the states and went on to become the Bill of Rights. Let's look over the basics of those 10 amendments:

First Amendment: Protects individual rights of American citizens (such as freedom of religion and speech as well as peaceful assembly or gathering).

Second Amendment: Says that people have the right to keep and carry guns and that states have the right to a militia (or group of soldiers).

Third Amendment: States that soldiers may not be housed in a private home without permission of the owner.

Fourth Amendment: Prevents the government from unreasonable searches and seizure (or taking) of private property.

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