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Rights Interactive

Constitutional Rights: Origins and Travels

How did the Founders decide what rights to include in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights? And how have constitutional drafters around the world approached the same task? You can explore these questions in Constitutional Rights: Origins and Travels.

Constitutional Rights home page screen shot

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When drafting a constitution, lawmakers look at other governments, works of political philosophy, and the historical experiences of their predecessors. Before the drafting of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and the Bill of Rights in 1789, very few countries had a written set of guaranteed rights. But today, nearly every country has a national, written constitution that includes at least some rights.

Rights also come from other sources. In the United States, state constitutions protect additional rights. Globally, some nations rely upon tradition or other important documents as well as their national constitutions. Those sources are not explored here. And as history shows, just because a right is written down does not mean it always gets enforced.

Credits

This project is a joint venture between the National Constitution Center and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. The graphics employ global historical data from the Comparative Constitutions Project, and its related website, Constitute, an online tool designed in collaboration with Google Ideas. Infographic design was provided by the Texas Advanced Computer Center and Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez. Support for the Comparative Constitutions Project comes from the National Science Foundation and Google Ideas.