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  • During the debates on the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, its opponents charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government. Fresh in their minds was the memory of the British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolutionary War, so they demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of individual citizens. Several state conventions, in their formal ratification of the Constitution, asked for such amendments. Others ratified the Constitution with the understanding that the amendments would be offered. On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States therefore proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution that met the arguments most frequently advanced against it. The first two proposed amendments, which concerned the number of constituents for each representative and the compensation of congressmen, were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12, however, were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures and constitute the first ten amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

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Institution