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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Happy Bill of Rights Day

Add one more holiday to the calendar for December observances. Dec. 15 is Bill of Rights Day.

We here at Spin Control know, because we've seen the presidential proclamation making it so. President Obama was following a tradition dating back to 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed a similar proclamation.

Why Dec. 15th, you may ask? It's because on that day in 1791, Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the 10 amendments that make up what we now call the Bill of Rights. 

So FDR was issuing his proclamation on the 150th anniversary of those 10 amendments becoming law. He signed it on Nov. 27, 1941. Ten days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and shortly thereafter FDR would take actions to intern some American citizens of Japanese descent, which one could reasonably argue shredded some of those amendments. 

A few fun factoids about the Bill of Rights:

  • It wasn't part of the original Constitution, but was promised as a way to convince some states to ratify the Constitution.
  • James Madision drafted them and worked to get them passed.
  • The original Bill of Rights had 12 amendments. The two that were not ratified had to do with how to apportion members of the House of Representatives by population, and not allowing members of Congress to have a raise during their current term in office but only after they've survived another election.
  • The order in the original Bill of Right had those two unratified amendments as one and two, which means every amendment we think of now was two places down the list. In other words, the First Amendment would have been the Third if all 12 had been ratified in the 1790s, the Second Amendment the Fourth, and so on.
  • The amendment that doesn't allow for sitting senators and representatives to get a raise until after an election was ratified some 200 years later, in 1992. It's the 27th Amendment.


The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.