15 Facts About the Bill of Rights

iStock.com/LPETTET
iStock.com/LPETTET

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, so let's celebrate by exploring the amendments that helped shape America.

1. IT OWES A LOT TO MAGNA CARTA.

Magna Carta
The seal of Magna Carta.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Some of the sentiments in our bill of rights are at least 800 years old. In 1215, King John of England had a serious uprising on his hands. For many years, discontentment festered among his barons, many of whom loathed the King and his sky-high taxes. On May 17, a rebellious faction led by Robert Fitzwalter captured London, forcing John to negotiate.

Their talks produced one of the most significant legal documents ever written. The King and his barons composed a 63-clause agreement which would—ostensibly—impose certain limits on royal rule. Among these laws, the best-known gave English noblemen the right to a fair trial. They called their groundbreaking peace treaty Magna Carta, or "The Great Charter."

The original version didn't last long, though. John persuaded Pope Innocent III to invalidate the document and, within three months, His Holiness did just that. The next year, King John's 9-year-old son, King Henry III, issued an abridged version of Magna Carta to appease the barons, and in 1225 enforced a new and revised Magna Carta. Today, citizens of the U.K. are protected by three of the 1225 version's clauses, such as the aforementioned right to a trial by jury.

Magna Carta's influence has also extended far beyond Britain. Across the Atlantic, its language flows through the U.S. Constitution. Over half of the articles in America's Bill of Rights are directly or indirectly descended from clauses in said charter. For instance, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that "private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation." Article 28 of Magna Carta makes a similar statement about the seizure of "corn or other goods."

2. ANOTHER BIG INFLUENCE WAS THE ENGLISH BILL OF RIGHTS.

An engraving showing the English Bill of Rights being presented to William and Mary (William III of England and Mary II of England), 1689.
An engraving showing the English Bill of Rights being presented to William and Mary (William III of England and Mary II of England), 1689.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Issued in 1689, this Parliamentary Act made several guarantees that were later echoed by the first 10 U.S. constitutional amendments. For instance, the English Bill of Rights forbids "cruel and unusual punishments" while ensuring the "right of the subjects to petition the king."

3. THE U.S. VERSION WAS CHAMPIONED BY AN OFT-IGNORED FOUNDING FATHER.

George Mason
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There's a decent chance that you've never heard of George Mason. By founding father standards, this Virginian has been largely overlooked. But if it weren't for Mason, the Constitution might have never been given its venerated Bill of Rights.

Back in 1776, Mason was part of a committee that drafted Virginia's Declaration of Rights. "[All] men," the finished product said, "are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent rights … namely the enjoyment of life and liberty." Sound familiar? It should. As everybody knows, Thomas Jefferson would write another, more famous declaration that year. When he did so, he was heavily influenced by the document Mason spearheaded.

Fast-forward to 1787. With the Constitutional Convention wrapping up in Philadelphia, Mason argued that a bill of inalienable rights should be added. This idea was flatly rejected by the State Delegates. So, in protest, Mason refused to sign the completed Constitution.

4. MASON FOUND AN ALLY IN THE "GERRY" OF "GERRYMANDERING."

portrait of Elbridge Gerry
NYPL, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

At the convention, the motion to include a bill of rights wasn't made by Mason, although he seconded it. Instead, credit belongs to one Elbridge Gerry, who had also withheld his signature from the Constitution. He'd go on to become a notorious figure during his tenure as the governor of Massachusetts. A staunch Democratic-Republican, Gerry was governor during the blatantly partisan re-drawing of the Bay State's congressional districts. These days, we call this unfair political maneuver "gerrymandering."

5. THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS A HUGE PROPONENT …

portrait of Thomas Jefferson
iStock.com/benoitb

The Sage of Monticello sided with Mason. Following the Constitution's approval, Jefferson offered a few comments to his friend James Madison (whom history has called its father). "I do not like … the omission of a bill of rights," he wrote. "Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth."

6. … AND SO WAS JOHN ADAMS.

John Adams
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Adams was away in Great Britain when the Constitution was being created. Upon reading its contents, he proclaimed that "A Declaration of Rights I Wish to see with all my heart, though I am sensible of the Difficulty in framing one, in which all the States can agree."

7. AT FIRST, JAMES MADISON THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE USELESS.

James Madison
National Archive/Newsmakers

From the onset, this future president admired the principle behind a bill of rights. Still, he initially saw no point in creating one. Madison explained his position to Jefferson in October 1788, writing, "My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights … At the same time, I have never thought [its] omission a material defect." But Madison eventually changed his tune. After becoming a congressman in 1789, he formally introduced the amendments that would comprise the current bill of rights.

8. BEFORE HE COULD INTRODUCE THE BILL OF RIGHTS, MADISON HAD TO DEFEAT JAMES MONROE.

James Monroe
James Monroe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Madison won his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after running against the man who would become his Oval Office successor. Both candidates acted with civility: While on the campaign trail, they regularly dined together and even shared sleeping quarters.

9. CONGRESS PASSED 12 AMENDMENTS, BUT TWO WERE LATER EXCLUDED.

Declaration of Independence signatures
iStock.com/fstop123

Originally, Representative Madison presented 19 amendments. On August 24, 1789, the House green-lit 17 of them. That September, the Senate made some heavy edits, trimming these down to an even dozen, which the states then looked over. In the end, numbers three through 12 were approved and collectively became our Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791.

10. AN UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT GOT ONE OF THOSE AXED AMENDMENTS RATIFIED IN 1992.

Bill of Rights
iStock.com/leezsnow

Better late than never. The second proposed amendment would have restricted Congress' ability to give itself a pay raise or cut. No law that tweaked the salaries of its members would take effect until after the next Congress had begun. Sensible as this idea sounds, the amendment wasn't ratified by the required three-fourths majority of U.S. states. So, for 202 years, it was stuck in limbo.

Enter Gregory Watson. His rollercoaster-like journey with the dormant proposal began in 1982. Then a student at the University of Texas, Watson was researching a term paper when he discovered this Congressional Pay Amendment. As he dug deeper, the undergrad found that it was still “technically pending before state legislatures.”

So Watson mounted an aggressive letter-writing campaign. Thanks to his urging, state after state finally ratified the amendment until, at last, over 38 had done so. After a bit of legal wrangling with Congress, on May 20, 1992, the constitution was updated to include it as the 27th (and most recent) amendment. (Watson, by the way, got a C on that term paper.)

11. SOME OF THE ORIGINAL COPIES WERE PROBABLY DESTROYED.

Original Bill of Rights
National Archives and Records Administration, WIkimedia Commons // Public Domain

During his first term, President Washington and Congress had 14 official handwritten replicas of the Bill of Rights made. At present, two are conspicuously unaccounted for.

One copy was retained by the federal government while the rest were sent off to the 11 states as well as Rhode Island and North Carolina, which had yet to ratify. Subsequently, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Georgia all lost theirs somehow. It's believed that the Empire State's was burned in a 1911 fire while Georgia’s likely went up in smoke during the Civil War.

In 1945, a long-lost original copy—experts aren't sure which—was gifted to the Library of Congress. Forty-nine years earlier, the New York Public Library had obtained another. Because it's widely believed that this one originally belonged to Pennsylvania, the document is currently being shared between the Keystone State and the NYPL until 2020, when New York will have it for 60 percent of the time and Pennsylvania for the rest.

12. NORTH CAROLINA'S COPY MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN BY A CIVIL WAR SOLDIER.

General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865.
General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865.
National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

During the spring of 1865, Raleigh was firmly under the control of pro-Union troops. According to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office in that city, "Sometime during the occupation, a soldier in Gen. William Sherman's army allegedly took North Carolina's copy of the Bill of rights [from the state capitol] and carried it away."

Afterward, it changed hands several times and eventually came into antique dealer Wayne Pratt's possession. When the FBI learned of his plan to sell the priceless parchment, operatives seized it. In 2007, the copy went on a well-publicized tour of North Carolina before returning to Raleigh—hopefully for good.

13. THREE STATES DIDN'T RATIFY IT UNTIL 1939.

amendments
iStock.com/zimmytws

To celebrate the Constitution's 150th anniversary, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia formally gave the Bill of Rights the approval they'd withheld for well over a century.

14. THE BILL OF RIGHTS'S LEAST-LITIGATED AMENDMENT IS THE THIRD.

1st amendment at Independence Hall
iStock.com/StephanieCraig

Thanks to this one, soldiers cannot legally be quartered inside your home without your consent. Since colonial Americans had lived in fear of being suddenly forced to house and feed British troops, the amendment was warmly received during the late 1700s. Today, however, it's rarely invoked. As of this writing, the Supreme Court has never based a decision upon it, so the American Bar Association once called this amendment the "runt piglet" of the constitution.

15. BILL OF RIGHTS DAY DATES BACK TO 1941.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Central Press/Getty Images

On November 27, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt urged America's citizenry to celebrate December 15 as "Bill of Rights Day" in honor of its anniversary:

"I call upon the officials of the Government, and upon the people of the United States, to observe the day by displaying the flag of the United States on public buildings and by meeting together for such prayers and such ceremonies as may seem to them appropriate."

"It is especially fitting," he added, "that this anniversary should be remembered and observed by those institutions of a democratic people which owe their very existence to the guarantees of the Bill of Rights: the free schools, the free churches, the labor unions, the religious and educational and civic organizations of all kinds which, without the guarantee of the Bill of Rights, could never have existed; which sicken and disappear whenever, in any country, these rights are curtailed or withdrawn."

This story first ran in 2015.

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

From September 23 to September 24, customers can get as much as 80 percent off home decor, furniture, WFH essentials, kitchen appliances, and more during the Wayfair's Way Day 2020 sale. Additionally, when you buy a select Samsung appliance during the sale, you'll also get a $200 Wayfair gift card once the product ships. Make sure to see all that the Way Day 2020 sale has to offer. These prices won’t last long, so we've also compiled a list of the best deals for your home below.

Rugs

AllModern/Wayfair

- Mistana Hillsby Power Loom Beige Saffron/Teal Rug $49 (save $97)

- Wrought Studios Shuff Abstract Blue Area Rug $100 (save $105)

- All Modern Lydia Southwestern Cream/Charcoal Area Rug $49 (save $100)

- Union Rustic Gunter Power Loom Blue/Khaki Rug $22 (save $38)

- Willa Arlo Interiors Omri Oriental Light Gray/Ivory Area Rug $49 (save $149)

Furniture

Langley Street/Wayfair

- Alwyn Home 14-inch Medium Gel Memory Foam King Mattress $580 (save $1420)

- Andover Mills Pascal Upholstered King Bed Frame $318 (save $832)

- Sol 72 Outdoor 8-Piece Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $650 (save $1180)

- Langley Street Darren 68-Inch Tuxedo Arm Sofa $340 (save $1410)

- Three Posts Tyronza Coffee Table $147 (save $193)

Kitchen

NutriBullet/Wayfair

- Cuisinart 11-Piece Aluminum Non Stick Cookware Set $100 (save $200)

- Rachael Ray Cucina 10-Piece Non-Stick Bakeware Set $92 (save $108)

- NutriBullet Rx Smart 45-Ounce Personal Countertop Blender $124 (save $56)

- Henckels Graphite 13-Piece Knife Block Set $160 (save $340)

- DeLonghi ECP3220 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine $120 (save $90)

Electronics

Samsung/Wayfair

- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Energy Smart Refrigerator $3600 (save $400)

- Cosmo 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range Oven $1420 (save $1580)

- Whynter 19-Bottle Single Zone Built-In Wine Refrigerator $380 (save $232)

- bObsweep PetHair Robotic Vacuum Cleaner with Mop Attachment $226 (save $443)

- Rowenta Focus 1700 Iron with Burst of Steam $68 (save $47)

Work From Home Essentials

Foundery Select/Wayfair

- Techi Mobili Adjustable Laptop Cart $50 (save $20)

- Foundry Select Arsenault Farmhouse Desk $210 (save $190)

- Symple Stuff Clay Mesh Task Chair $128 (save $121)

- Three Posts Salina Standard Bookcase $183 (save $617)

- Lorell Hard Floor Chairmat $52 (save $39)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

14 Burning Facts About Lucifer

Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2020

He's in the details, he makes deals, and he lost an epic fiddle contest in Georgia. Lucifer Morningstar (not a stage name) has played a lot of roles in popular culture, but he had never been a nightclub-owning amateur detective in Los Angeles until he got his own TV show on Fox in 2016.

In Lucifer, Tom Ellis plays the titular demon, who has left hell and the punishment business in order to get a little Earthside R&R in the City of Angels. Just as Dracula went from rotten-skinned monster to debonair seducer in literature, Lucifer’s version of the devil (who comes to us courtesy of Californication creator Tom Kapinos) is all tailored suits, wry smiles, and addictive flirtation. He’s also very, very persuasive and people just have a tendency to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets—which is the next best thing to having a superpower when you're trying to solve mysteries alongside a cynical cop (played by Lauren German) … even if she is immune to those charms.

As you catch up with the hit series on Netflix (season 5 dropped in late August) and prepare for its upcoming sixth and final season, here are some facts to know about Lucifer.

1. Supernatural predicted Lucifer’s arrival.

The long-running, beloved genre show Supernatural welcomed Lucifer into the world with a joke. In "The Devil in the Details," episode 10 of Supernatural's 11th season, their show's Lucifer (played by Mark Pellegrino) joked that if he ever got out of his cage in hell, he'd move to Los Angeles to solve crimes. Fans of Eric Kripke’s series might have been surprised five days later when Lucifer's first episode landed on Fox and showed the titular demon (played here by Tom Ellis) doing exactly that.

2. Though Lucifer isn’t a Supernatural spinoff, both shows exist in a similar universe.

Though Supernatural and Lucifer aren’t officially related, both shows occupy somewhat of a shared universe and feature some of the same mythical characters. They also clearly have a shared affinity, as both shows have made sly nods to each other over the years.

3. Lucifer is a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

The main character of Lucifer is less an adaptation of the embodiment of evil from religious texts and more an official riff on the Lucifer that Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg created for The Sandman comic book series for DC Comics. Lucifer eventually got his own spin-off comic book series.

4. Lucifer star Tom Ellis had no idea the show was a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

When asked if he used the Gaiman comics as research for his character in Lucifer, Ellis admitted that he wasn’t even aware the show was adapted from a comic book series. "It is a loose adaptation," he told Digital Spy in 2016. “I hadn't used anything from the comic to start with. But since then Neil Gaiman, who was behind the original incarnation, has got in touch with me. He told me he really enjoyed the pilot, so that was nice—it was almost like one of the parents giving us their blessing.”

5. Watch Lucifer carefully and you’ll spot some Neil Gaiman Easter eggs.

To honor its original creator, Lucifer has featured nods to some of Gaiman’s other work. Most notably, Chloe (Lauren German) reads Gaiman's Coraline to her daughter Trixie (Scarlett Estevez), and references Trixie conning her father into reading her "the book about the sneezing panda," which is a reference to Gaiman's book Chu's Day.

6. There was a petition to stop Lucifer from airing before it ever even premiered.

Tom Ellis stars in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix

Before a single episode of Lucifer had ever even aired, the conservative group One Million Moms rallied to get the show canceled. They garnered 11,000 signatures on a petition that objected to the series because they felt it would glamorize the devil. The incident was a bit of déjà vu for Gaiman, since Sandman faced similar calls for cancellation when it was published.

7. There was also a petition to save Lucifer from cancellation.

When Lucifer was canceled after three seasons (due to low ratings), fans fought back and kept the series alive with the social media hashtag #SaveLucifer. Fox sold the series to Netflix, which produced a fourth season with a penultimate episode titled "Save Lucifer." Netflix then renewed the series for a fifth season, which premiered on August 21, 2020 and was initially scheduled to be its last. However, in June—just two months ahead of the season 5 premiere—Netflix surprised and delighted the show’s massive fan base by announcing that they had greenlit a sixth and (this time definitely) final season.

8. Lucifer's Tom Ellis comes from a family of pastors.

Irony works in mysterious ways. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Ellis explained that while he's playing the Lord of Hell, his father, sister, and uncle are all pastors. They're all also big fans of his acting work.

9. There are no Christmas episodes of Lucifer.

That may not be surprising given the main character's predilections, but it's surprising considering that Christmas-themed shows are a staple of the TV industry in search of extra nudges to entice their viewership. Refusing to make Christmas-themed episodes is a big diversion from the norm. It's a bold choice, but it falls in line with the show never mentioning Jesus Christ (not even when someone stubs a toe).

10. Lucifer never smokes on the show.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, and Lauren German as Chloe Decker in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

Beginning with the very first episode, there are several times where Lucifer can be seen just as he's about to light a cigarette, stubbing one out, or tapping ash into an ashtray, but you'll never see him actually take a drag and inhale. Still, even the fact that he's got them raises the important question: Why does the devil need to smoke?

11. Lauren German describes Chloe and Lucifer's relationship as "sad fireworks."

There's no better way to say it. Since the beginning, their reluctant partnership and blooming intimacy has been an exploration of conflicting emotions. That includes the looming revelation of something Lucifer has been telling Chloe since the beginning: That he's the devil. While describing their relationship as "sad fireworks," German also told TV Guide, “There's a lot of love and respect there, and her vulnerability is more present than ever before—but that can often be the most intoxicating element in a relationship. Someone that keeps you on your toes can be thrilling.”

12. Lucifer's nightclub has a fitting name.

Lucifer means "light bringer" in Latin so it's perfect that his club, Lux, is also the SI standard unit for measuring luminescence. Plus, Club Hell was already taken.

13. Lucifer star Tom Ellis has got some serious air piano chops.

D.B. Woodside and Tom Ellis in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

One of the perks of owning your own nightclub is that you can play piano whenever you want. And if you're immortal, you've got all the time in the universe to take lessons. (Just ask Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors.) Lucifer plays and sings a lot on the show, and while it's Ellis doing the singing, it's not him at the keys. “I’m very good at air piano, let me put it that way!" Ellis told TV Insider about his talent for faking it.

14. Lucifer drives a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1.

If you're wondering the make and model of Lucifer's automotive object of desire, now you know. The classic is sleek, a little dangerous, and has a mix of sharp angles and softer edges, matching the main character nicely. Plus, it's the last of its kind: 1962 was the final year the C1 chassis was available on the Corvette.