Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15

December 13, 2013

Bill-of-Rights-Founding-Father-President-James-Madison-statue-AP-PhotoImage: James Madison statue in front of Bill of Rights. AP Photo.

We celebrate Bill of Rights Day on December 15 every year in the midst of the bustling holiday season. Although it’s not a Federal holiday, it’s definitely a day for American citizens to commemorate the freedoms we enjoy by law. And no, the right to shop—while popular in America— is not listed in the Bill of Rights!

History of the Bill of Rights

The Founding Fathers drafted the United States Constitution during the First Constitutional Convention, held from May through September 1787 in Philadelphia. The completed draft constitution, sent to the States for ratification in September 1787, did not include any mention of individual rights. The framers’ focus was largely on structuring a strong government, and getting that structure put into place. Without such a structure, the Founding Fathers feared the country’s collapse into chaos or new attacks from outsiders. They left the issue of individual rights without adding it to the Constitution during that meeting.

As a result of this omission, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign the Constitution on principle. Maryland delegates Luther Martin and John Francis Mercer reportedly walked out of the Convention, at least in part because the draft did not include a Bill of Rights. In September, Randolph, Mason and Gerry joined in asking for a second constitutional convention to address the issue of personal rights. All three men advocated strongly for a bill of rights throughout most of the constitutional convention. The people ultimately adopted the Constitution, sans any bill of rights, on September 17, 1787. Eleven states ratified it and it went into effect in 1789.

Founding Father James Madison was a delegate from Virginia who had been a key actor and speaker at the First Constitutional Convention. He had held onto the idea of the individual freedoms as discussed at that Convention. Although Federalist Madison was originally a skeptic about needing a Bill of Rights, like Randolph, Mason and Gerry he came to believe that the inclusion of personal rights was imperative to be added to the United States Constitution.

quote-enlightened-statesmen-will-not-always-be-at-the-helm-President-James-MadisonImage courtesy IZQuotes.

In Madison’s view, the value of a listing of rights was:

  • in part educational for the populace under this new form of Government,
  • in part as a vehicle that might be used to rally people against a future oppressive Government when “less enlightened statesmen” may be in power,
  • and finally–in an argument borrowed from Thomas Jefferson–Madison argued that a declaration of rights would help install the judiciary as “guardians” of individual rights against the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government.

Thus, while serving in the first U.S. House of Representatives, Madison framed and introduced the Bill of Rights as legislative articles to amend the Constitution on June 8, 1789.

He used as a model George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in May 1776, and also based his legislative articles in part on the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Magna Carta and other documents.

Painting-Adoption-of-VA-Declaration-of-RightsImage: This painting, The Adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, depicting the adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights by the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention was made by Jack Clifton in 1974. It now hangs in the Virginia State Capitol. Courtesy: Virginia Memory online exhibit of the Library of Virginia.

What rights are in Bill of Rights?

Painting-of-James-Madison-reading-Bill-of-Rights-to-First-CongressMadison included in his articles a list of rights of the individual, such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and others, as well as some limits on government powers.

Image on the right: Madison reading his Bill of Rights to Congress. Courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

On August 21, 1789, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted Madison’s articles, proposed them in a joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789, and finally ratified them on December 15, 1791.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and is a key “fundamental document” of the United States Federal government.

Cartoon of the Bill of Rights depicting the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution. From a 1971 Teacher's Guide transparency for "Young Citizen"

Image: Bill of Rights depicted in cartoon format from 1971 Young Citizen teacher’s guide transparency. Courtesy: Syracuse University. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE and for teacher printable version.

  • First Amendment:  Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Press, the Right to Assemble Peaceably and to Petition the Government “for a redress of grievances.
  • Second Amendment: Right to Keep and Bear Arms- “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
  • Third Amendment: Quartering of Troops- “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  • Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure- “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Fifth Amendment: Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process
  • Sixth Amendment: Criminal Prosecutions – Right to  a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, to confront witnesses and to counsel for defense.
  • Seventh Amendment: Common Law Suits –Right to a Trial by Jury
  • Eighth Amendment: No Excessive Bail or Fines or Cruel and Unusual Punishment- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
  • Ninth Amendment: Non-Enumerated Rights or “Rule of Construction of the Constitution”-  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
  • Tenth Amendment: States’ Rights- Rights not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government in the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the People.

Where can you learn more about the Bill of Rights?

US-Constitution-and-Declaration-of-Independence-Pocket-Guide_I9780160891847 Buy at the US Government Online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gpvIf you want to learn more about the Bill of Rights, an excellent place to start would be reading the source document, the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence; the GPO U.S. Government Bookstore sells a handy Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence Pocket Edition. The full text of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights is there for you to read and study.

US Citizenship and Immigration Service Civics Flash Cards for the US Naturalization Test ISBN-9780160904608 Available from GPO's US Government Bookstore a http://bookstore.gpo.govImage courtesy Citizenship Guru.

Kids in school, or adults wanting to revisit the fundamentals they learned in civics classes, can learn a lot from the Civics Flash Cards for the U.S. Naturalization Test (English Version)—and obviously the target audience, U.S. residents who want to become American citizens, will benefit from studying these, too.

Spanish-Civics-Flash-Cards-for-US-naturalization-test Tarjetas de Educación Cívica ISBN 9780160902048 Available from the US Government Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.govIf you’re more comfortable reading en español, you can study using the same flash cards in Spanish: Tarjetas de Educación Cívica para el Exámen de Naturalización to cover the same material.

You can also listen to the same questions in English on the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) website. (I didn’t see them offered in Spanish on their site, though.) If you’re cramming for the naturalization or a civics exam, listening to the questions is excellent reinforcement for your study plan.

Mini-Quiz from the Citizenship Test

Civics-Flash-Cards-Question-38If you’ve already read this post, or studied the Constitution, you will probably ace questions #1 and #2 of the United States naturalization test for citizenship:

  1. “What is the supreme law of the land?”
  2. “What does the Constitution do?”
  3. “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” (Bonus points if you get the answer to this question #5 correct!)

(Answers: 1- The Constitution. 2- Sets up the government; Defines the government; Protects basic rights of Americans. 3- The Bill of Rights, of course! )

For even more challenging questions based on the U.S. Citizenship test, take our fun Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?

In-depth civics questions can be answered by the capsule summary answers to the questions in Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lesson for the Naturalization Test 2013 (Book Plus CD). Students need to know the principles and background behind the answers, not just the answers themselves, obviously.

Question six asks, “What is ONE right or freedom from the First Amendment?” The text lists the possible answers, and then relates the reasons for the guarantee of those freedoms. The authors explain freedom of expression as follows:

“The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights protects a person’s right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression allows open discussion and debate on public issues. Open discussion and debate are important to democracy.”

You’ll definitely have a thorough grounding in the basics of American Federal government by the time you’re done with the lesson.

The Right to Exercise… Your Rights, That Is

Exercise your right to open discussion by reading some of these documents, and talking to friends about them. If you are a school student, maybe you’ll have an opportunity to write about the Bill of Rights or the freedoms the Bill of Rights guarantee.

1963-2013-Civil-Rights-logoIn this year, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of three significant events from the Civil Rights movement— the March on Washington for Rights and Freedom, the murder of African-American civil rights activist Medgar Evers who was involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama— it’s a good time to reflect on our civil rights and liberties, and how lucky we are to have them.

Image: Civil Rights Movement 50th Anniversary logo. Courtesy: City of Birmingham, Alabama

How can you obtain official publications that explain the Bill of Rights and other documents of American rights?

About the author(s): Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


You Scream, I Scream for National Ice Cream Month

July 15, 2013

fruit-sorbetIce cream, long beloved by Americans, has a long, even pre-colonial history in the Americas. Some of my Mexican friends have told me that the Aztec emperor Moctezuma (popularly referred to today as Montezuma) had servants climb the snow-capped volcanic mountains for snow to mix with fruit juices as a hot-weather treat.

Image: Could this have been how the Aztec emperor was served his favorite icy dessert made of and served in natural fruit? Source. Cool Stuff Sorbet.

The United States got in on the game early, too. In 1744 Barbara Janssen Bladen, daughter of Lord Baltimore and wife of Proprietary Colonial Governor of Maryland Sir Thomas Bladen, first served ice cream in the American colonies. Ice cream, at that time, was a fashion of the well-heeled.

Williamsburg-Ice-Cream-MakingClick image to watch this Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, video of how ice cream was made during the colonial era.

The French connectionjeffersonicecream

The sweet treat did not become popular in this country until after the American Revolution, when the Americans had continued contact with the French.

Thomas Jefferson learned how to make ice cream during his tenure in Paris as the United States’ Ambassador to France. He collected many recipes while in France, but ice cream was one of his favorites. In fact, the Library of Congress possesses a copy of a recipe for vanilla ice cream used by Thomas Jefferson written in Jefferson’s own hand.

Many visitors to Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia, recorded enjoying ice cream during their meals there, probably fueling the dessert’s increasing national popularity.

Monticello-Garden-PartyImage: Monticello summer garden party where ice cream was sure to be served. Photo Credit: Jacob J. Gayer, National Geographic, December 1928

Ice cream gets added to the American “melting pot”

Americans’ fondness for ice cream has only increased over the years. Mary Todd Lincoln held berry parties which featured seasonal strawberries and ice cream served on the side.

An American named Abe Doumar is attributed by some as creating the first ice cream cone on July 23, 1904, at the World’s Fair at St. Louis, because the vendor ran out of ice cream dishes to use to serve it and resorted to rolled-up thin waffles. Having a cool container to keep our sweet treats in has certainly helped with our consumption of it.

Ice-cream-cones-Chicago-Worlds-fair

Image: Children and their mother enjoying the new sensation of ice cream cones at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Source: Aworldaffair blog.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service’s monthly publication Dairy Products, Americans consumed 163,544 pounds of ice cream (that’s hard and soft, full fat and low-fat combined) in May 2013.  It seems like we just can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.

I do declare…  It’s National Ice Cream Month

Ice cream is such a national institution that Congress passed a Joint Resolution favoring President Reagan’s declaration of July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day and July as National Ice Cream Month. Presidential ice cream promotion continues to the present day.

Reagan-ice-cream-proclamation

Image: President Ronald Reagan conceived of National Ice Cream Month. Source: SubZero Ice Cream & Yogurt.

The Senate Inauguration Committee provided the recipe for the sour cream ice cream the White House chefs served at President Obama’s second inauguration. Whether it’s a result of the presidential lead, or simply ice cream’s yummy factor, hungry Americans and the dairy industry continue to celebrate every July as National Ice Cream Month.

Get the scoop and read all about ice cream

If you want to read more about American ice cream production, you can check out the aforementioned Dairy Products title, which reviews American dairy production, including all types of ice cream and frozen yogurt. Find the details of the American ice cream industry in 1997 Economic Census. Manufacturing. Industry series. Ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturing. To do some research about the history of ice cream in America, read some of the many excellent books and electronic resources recommended in this Library of Congress pathfinder.

choosemyplateAfter all that consumption of ice cream related knowledge (and hopefully, some ice cream), you may find yourself worried about fitting into your trousers. Pick up a poster from the GPO Bookstore of What’s on Your Plate?: Choose My Plate  or Que Hay en Su Plato?: Mi Plato. They’ll inspire you to maintain your dietary goals of keeping healthy foods in balance with rich indulgences, such as ice cream.

quehayensuplatoI’m ready to get a copy of the poster for my office to keep my ice cream fixation in check. But first, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a hot summer day –I have an appointment with a double-scoop cone of Fear the Turtle.

How can I obtain these ice cream-related publications?

Federal Depository Librarians: You can find Dairy Products, Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Manufacturing, and What’s On Your Plate? at your local Federal Depository library via the cataloging records in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications, or buy them at the GPO Bookstore. You’re likely to find yourself hungry.

*Source: Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford, Oxford University Press, c1999.

About the author(s): Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and , GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram.


Secret Codes and the Founding Fathers

November 5, 2010

Never say “never.” I recently blogged about Thomas Jefferson’s Library, a reprint of our third President’s library catalogue as recreated by his secretary, Nicholas P. Trist. I’ve always been intrigued by Trist’s subsequent checkered diplomatic career, so I added, “Trist later had a controversial career as a diplomat – if I ever find a Government publication concerning him, you’ll hear all about it,” assuming that the chances of finding a book like that were practically nil. Meanwhile, I had requested copies of a number of publications from the Center for Cryptologic History at the National Security Agency to blog about. After they arrived, I began thumbing through Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900. Of course, the title of Chapter 15 is “Nicholas Trist Code.”  That’s why I decided to discuss this book first.

Masked Dispatches presents some of the Founding fathers as active participants in spycraft. America’s first espionage code was devised by Benjamin Tallmadge, General George Washington’s director of secret service, for use by a spy ring set up in New York in 1778. Another chapter discusses Washington’s supplying of invisible ink to Tallmadge. What would Parson Weems have thought?

Not surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson’s contribution to the world of codes and ciphers was a mechanical device – a wheel cylinder. Although not much came of this invention, which was developed some time before 1802, in 1922 the Army adopted a similar device, bearing out President John F. Kennedy’s White House remarks to a roomful of Nobel Prize winners: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Even less surprisingly, Aaron Burr, that brilliant and ever-controversial character, appears in Masked Dispatches, as does John Quincy Adams in his role as America’s representative at the Prussian court. While in Berlin, he developed a sliding strip cipher – apparently not the easiest device to use, but another tribute to early American ingenuity and aptitude for secrecy.

The book includes much more – a chapter on Civil War ciphers, the use of codes during the 1876 Tilden-Hayes Presidential election scandal, and several descriptions of State Department codes. Particularly intriguing are the many reproductions of the various codes and ciphers, so  puzzle lovers and would-be spies can spend hours encoding and decoding.

Masked Dispatches and other publications on the history of cryptology can be ordered from the Center for Cryptologic History area of the National Security Agency’s web site, or you can find it in a library. I’ll be blogging about some more of these excellent books in the near future.

Oh, wait, Nicholas Trist! According to Masked Dispatches, when he was Chief Clerk of the State Department, President James K. Polk sent him to Mexico as a secret agent in an effort to end the Mexican War. From Mexico, Trist wrote to Secretary of State James Buchanan and explained his design for a code. It was a book code, but the title of the particular book he used was a mystery until the 1980’s, when shrewd scholarly detective work revealed that it was an obscure book on the Spanish language (Verdaderos principios de la lengua castellana by Joseph Borras). Trist successfully negotiated the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, but only after ignoring his recall by Polk. The President accepted the treaty but fired his emissary – and Trist didn’t even get paid for his time in Mexico!


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