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US Constitution – Ratification and the Bill of Rights, 1787-91

4. The Bill of Rights

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In this module we explore the crucial contribution made by the Antifederalists to the new US Constitution: the Bill of Rights, focusing in particular on: (i) the present irony that when many Americans now speak of their Constitutional rights, they are speaking not of the Constitution itself but rather the amendments to that Constitution proposed as a means of compromise with the Antifederalists; (ii) the First Amendment; (iii) the Second Amendment; (iv) why these amendments are so important; (v) the inherent difficulty – but not impossibility, as seen in 1933 with Prohibition – in attempting to repeal them.


This course picks up just after the proposal of a new US Constitution by the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. We begin in the first lecture by exploring the process of state ratification and its significance, before moving on in the second lecture to the debate between the Federalists and Antifederalists over the proposed new Constitution. In the third lecture, we ask the question “Why did the Federalists win?” given the likelihood that the majority of the American population opposed the constitution at this time. In the fourth lecture, we analyse the Antifederalists’ key contribution to the constitutional project: the Bill of Rights. In our fifth and final lecture we conclude with some comments about the 1776 Declaration of Independence and the enduring US Constitution.


Professor Frank Cogliano's research is mainly concerned with the political, cultural and diplomatic history of revolutionary and early national America. In 2008 he edited a collection on The Atlantic Enlightenment with Professor Susan Manning of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. His 2006 book, 'Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy', offered the first study of Jefferson’s reputation in fifty years. He also recently edited the Blackwell Companion to Thomas Jefferson. His latest book, 'Emperor of Liberty: Thomas Jefferson's Foreign Policy​' was published by Yale University Press in 2014. He runs a week-long seminar on the Age of Jefferson for schoolteachers from across the United States at Monticello sponsored by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History and has been president of the Scottish Association for the Study of America. He is currently a member of the advisory board of the International Center for Jefferson Studies.

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APA style

Cogliano, F. (2022, January 05). US Constitution – Ratification and the Bill of Rights, 1787-91 - The Bill of Rights [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cogliano, Frank. "US Constitution – Ratification and the Bill of Rights, 1787-91 – The Bill of Rights." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Jan 2022,

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