The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Below are the five freedoms, listed in order, and primary sources from throughout American history relating to them.
- United States Constitution (1789) – The supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution was first drafted in 1787 during the Constitutional Convention. It was ratified in 1788 and took effect in 1789. The US Constitution is the shortest written constitution and, so far, the longest-lasting, at 232 years. Comprising seven articles that delineate the frame and powers of government, the Constitution is a living document and has been amended 27 times. The first ten amendments compose the Bill of Rights, which were ratified in 1791. The latest amendment (#27) was ratified in 1992 and limited Congressional pay increases.
- Maine State Constitution (1820) – Each state has its own state constitution, and no two are exactly alike. Written in 1820, Maine’s State Constitution lays out many of the same rights as the Bill of Rights in the very first Article.
We will continue to add to these primary sources over time. Is there a primary source you’d find particularly useful? Let us know, and we’ll try to add it.