If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:6:42

Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson I'm here with Professor Joseph Ellis we've been talking about the Constitution I think a lot of people think the Constitution does things like says you know you don't have to testify again you know yourself and you have a right to free speech but that's not actually in the Constitution it's in the first ten amendments to the Constitution which are called Bill of Rights and whereas we can plausibly argue that Madison is the father of the Constitution maybe governor Mars deserves mention too there's no question Madison is the author of the Bill of Rights tell us why the Bill of Rights were separate it's a codicil to the document you're right it's a kind of epilogue even though for a lot of people in America and outside they if you said cite something from the Constitution they'd all pick something from what is really the Bill of Rights here is the prosaic truth of it all when the state ratifying conventions met throughout 87 and 88 seven of them ratified one but with amendments suggesting amendments to the Constitution so by 1788 we'd got most of the stage willing to sign on to the Constitution but they'd said hey you need to make it a little bit that here's the amendments were not conditional but the amendments were recommendations that Madison made a big point about this anyway turns out there are a hundred and twenty four amendments okay recommended now some of them repeat each other was good to get them down to ten but Madison says look in order to assure the full participation of all the states especially you take about like Rhode Island still hasn't even signed you know North Carolina is lingering New York really signed against its will we want to get them inside the big ten we need to say we've listened to you and so what do they do they meet in Philadelphia and write a bill of rights now the government is in New York and it's being written by Madison who's then a member of the House of Representatives on his own time mm-hmm and so let's go through them it says a amendment one maybe the most famous it's Congress shall make no law expecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or the press or the right of the people to assemble way that's got a lot in it that's collapses like six of the recommended amendments you can see two things working together them one is Magna Carta some of these are the very rights that have come from you know medieval England and have a great history and Americans are aware of those and many of the state constitutions have this stuff in them in the preface the religion that's a different thing Madison and Jefferson together are responsible for the most revolutionary radical proposal in Virginia politics that becomes the basis for this the total separation of church and state before then a lot of the colonies and then states had an established religion that's right Virginia had Episcopal see Massachusetts had congregation was Catholic Maryland was Catholic and in those states when you paid your taxes for example in Massachusetts a part of your taxes we're going to support the Congregational minister and does this also mean that pure freedom of religion or does it just mean there won't be an establishment of a church in the version it's in the Virginia Constitution it's total freedom Jefferson is really clear about that religion is a personal matter it's a matter of conscience and that you're free to pursue that and whatever way you wish to as long as you're not harming anybody else but the second amendment is controversial even as we speak the second amendment which is probably could be a Trivial Pursuit test for some people here is the one that says 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 a friends this has so many clauses and commas that were still debating on what did they really mean by the right to bear arms is that a well this is a controversial this is a very controversial thing a recent Supreme Court decision on the major decision by Mr Justice Scalia did interpret this to mean that the right to bear arms is an inherent right most of the Supreme Court decisions based on this over the preceding century said that that's not the case and I tend to agree with the president's here and not Scalia because I know what was Madison was thinking about here what Madison was thinking about was the fear of a standing army many of the states that had recommended amendments really calling for the some way of being assured that we were not going to have a standing army that's what this doctor this so it's really about a well-regulated militia it's well it's lied to their arms it's an insistence that National Defense will be in the hands of militia not a professional army by the way what this means is like when we get to the war of 1812 Massachusetts refuses to allow its militia to go outside the borders of mass but it does show how the Constitution is a living breathing document because it does legitimately over the years become a way to guarantee the right to bear arms whether or not that's what Madison initially intended what are we so Scalia and others have interpreted as it's crowded you know what's interesting to me I've always loved is the least-known of the amendments perhaps in one of the least known is know as the amendment 3 which is know shal soldier shall be in time of peace quartered in any house without the consent of the owner it's because we had a constant we had almost a genetic aversion to occupation right right that's right I mean there's a quartering Act passed by the British government in New York in 1766 that allows the British army to stay in where they want to and take your house over and when they occupy Boston in 1774 the same thing happens and so this is the fear that they're remembering the revolution they're remembering the way in which the British Army imposed itself I think when this is perhaps controversial when the government of Afghanistan says we want you out mm-hmm they're talking about the same year that's not why I'm important because we sort of understand that we don't like occupations and yet you know we've had to occasionally wrestle with that when it comes to its watering our troops in other countries it's one of the reasons we don't do it well we don't exactly right we're going to move on in the next lesson to some of the other amendments thank you very much