Drafts of the First Amendment in Congress

August 15, 1789
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The First Amendment didn't go from James Madison's pen straight to the National Archives. It was the product of legislative wrangling in the House and Senate of the first Congress. Here, without annotation, are the different drafts the lawmakers considered.
On June 8, 1789, James Madison proposed a religious freedom amendment to the Constitution:

"That in article 1st, section 9, between clauses 3 and 4, be inserted these clauses, to wit: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed."

On July 28, 1789, a select House Committee approved the following language instead:

ART. 1, SEC. 9 — Between PAR. 2 and 3 insert, "No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed."

On August 20, after debating the measure, revised it further and instead approved this substitute amendment:

"Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience."

On August 24, the full House of Representatives approved this version:

"Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of Conscience be infringed. "

On Septmber 3, the Senate met and considered several versions of the amendment..

This amendment was offered, and rejected:

"Congress shall make no law establishing one religious sect or society in preference to others."

This amendment was offered, and rejected:

"Congress shall not make any law infringing the rights of conscience, or establishing any religious sect or society."

This amendment was offered and rejected:

"Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another."

This amendment was offered and accepted:

"Congress shall make no law establishing religion."

On September 9, the Senate changed its view again and instead passed this amendment:

"Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion."

A House-Senate conference committee met. Whilte the House agreed to numerous amendments suggested by the Senate, the Senate agreed to accept the House version of the religious freedom amendment.

On September 24 House accepted the language. Septmember 25, the Senate accepted the language that became our First Amendment:

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.

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