5-Minute Guide to The Bill of Rights

The right to privacy is just one of many ­constitutional protections addressed in the Bill of Rights. Those are the first 10 amendments to the U.S. ­Constitution. They outline the basic rights and freedoms of Americans, such as freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to a trial by an impartial jury.

Read on for a quick overview of the Bill of Rights, how it was created, and how it works.

How Our Rights Were Established

Sarin Images/The Granger Collection

1. Some states (including New York and Virginia) agreed to ratify the Constitution only if a list of our individual rights was added.

2. In response, James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, went through the document and made suggested amendments, or changes.

3. Madison drafted nearly 20 amendments. Ten were eventually approved by the states, and the Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

12: Number of original copies of the Bill of Rights in existence today

How Amendments Are Ratified

Amending the Constitution is difficult. Here's how it's usually done.

Step 1: Proposal
Two-thirds of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) must agree to propose an amendment.

Step 2: Vote 
Each state legislature votes on whether to pass the amendment.

Step 3: Ratification
The amendment becomes part of the Constitution if three-quarters of the states (38 out of 50) vote to ratify it.

Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The First Amendment protects your right to protest.

Which Rights Do We Value the Most?

Americans were asked in a recent poll which amendment
they think is the most important.