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In 1776, America's Founders came together in Philadelphia to draw up a "Declaration of Independence," ending political ties to Great Britain. Written by Thomas Jefferson, it is the fundamental statement of people's rights and what government is and from what source it derives its powers:

Eleven years later, after the war for independence had been won, our Founders assembled once again to draw up a plan for governing the new nation. That plan would be ratified two years later as the Constitution of the United States of America.


© 2015 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action.

The U.S. Constitution established America’s national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens. It was signed on September 17, 1787, by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, presided over by George Washington. Under America’s first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, the national government was weak and states operated like independent countries. At the 1787 convention, delegates devised a plan for a stronger federal government with three branches–executive, legislative and judicial–along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power. The Bill of Rights–10 amendments guaranteeing basic individual protections such as freedom of speech and religion–became part of the Constitution in 1791. To date, there have been a total of 27 constitutional amendments.


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The Bill of Rights

After the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Founding Fathers turned to the composition of the states’ and then the federal Constitution. Although a Bill of Rights to protect the citizens was not initially deemed important, the Constitution’s supporters realized it was crucial to achieving ratification. Thanks largely to the efforts of James Madison, the Bill of Rights officially became part of the Constitution in December 1791.


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"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."


Guarantees of the Right to Arms In State Constitutions -Michigan

Every person has a right to keep or bear arms for the defense of himself and the state. (Mich. Const. art. I, § 6) (1963; previous versions 1850, 1835).

© 2015 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action

Jefferson's letter has been misquoted as the source of "separation of church and state".  Nowhere in any of the founding documents does this statement appear.


Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

January 1, 1802


The Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote to President Thomas Jefferson on October 7, 1801, to complain about the infringement of their religious liberty by their state legislature: “what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.” The Baptists, of course, acknowledged that “the president of the United States is not the national legislator,” but expressed the wish that his views on religious liberty would “shine and prevail through all these states and all the world.”


© 2016, The Heritage Foundation
Conservative policy research since 1973

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“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do.”


― Henry Ford

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, itis an instrument for the people to restrain the government lest it come to dominateour lives and interests”

- Patrick Henry