December 15, 1791: The freedoms of speech, religion, the press and others included in the Bill of Rights were not part of the original Constitution. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution were proposed in 1789, and added a year and a half later after ratification by the 13 states.

Without a Bill of Rights, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789 (via the National Archives), civil rights are "in constant progression from bad to worse."

"The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period," Jefferson added.

The Bill of Rights has been the ACLU's blueprint for action since 1920. The ACLU of Southern California became the first affiliate to add an Economic Bill of Rights in 1983, supporting the right to employment and the right to a decent standard of living.

Read the full text of the Bill of Rights.

Document: An 18th-century print of the proposed Bill of Rights originally included 12 articles (two were not ratified). This line is from Article 3, which became the First Amendment, and began: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." (Source: National Archives)