The Bill of Rights: Two Amendments That Didn’t Make the Cut

On September 25, 1789, the original draft of the Bill of Rights was proposed and accepted by Congress. The first draft, written by James Madison, contained 12 amendments, though only 10 were ratified by the states in the end. Do you know what the two unratified amendments were?

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The original first amendment stipulated that a congressional district cannot have more than 50,000 residents. While this amendment was passed by the First Congress, it was not ratified by the states nor was it passed in the centuries since. If the amendment was passed today, the House of Representatives would have to have over 6,000 members (1).

The original second amendment outlined when Congress could change their pay. The amendment would require any pay change to happen after the election, essentially allowing citizens to approve or disapprove of any pay changes during the election. While this amendment was not originally ratified by the states, it finally became the 27th Amendment in 1992.

The ability to make changes to the Constitution was important to founding father Thomas Jefferson. In a letter he wrote to James Madison on September 6, 1789 (who was at the time, in the process of penning the Bill of Rights), Jefferson said, “The question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water . . . it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct . . . every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right (4). While Jefferson’s suggestion was not incorporated, the founding fathers did allow Congress to add amendments to the Constitution beginning with the original 10.

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