The Birth of the Bill of Rights, 1776-1791

By Robert Allen Rutland | Go to book overview
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This book represents an effort to draw together in one volume the story of how Americans came to rely on legal guarantees for their personal freedom. The English common law, colonial charters, legislative enactments, and a variety of events in the thirteen colonies were the chief elements contributing to the rationale for a bill of rights. Throughout the research and writing it was obvious that no single man, no single occurrence, could be set apart for special distinction. The facts show that the Federal Bill of Rights and the antecedent state declarations of rights represented, more than anything else, the sum total of American experience and experimentation with civil liberty up to their adoption. It is worth noting that the Salem witchcraft trials and the adoption of the Federal Bill of Rights virtually opened and closed the 18th century; and these historical incidents indicate the tremendous American intellectual advancement during that stirring span of time.

While this is not a book "with a message," the author nevertheless hopes that the work will aid Americans in understanding the background of their Bill of Rights, and that they will thus regard more dearly the hard-earned rights bequeathed to them by the Revolutionary generation.

The assistance and encouragement of teachers and friends has been the sustaining force behind the book. Special acknowledgment must go to Robert E. Cushman of Cornell University and Aubrey C. Land of Vanderbilt University. Others who have generously offered advice and criticism include Paul Hardacre, Vanderbilt University; Mildred Throne, State Historical Society of Iowa; Stow Persons, State University of


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