The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, famous in history as the Bill of Rights, were ratified effective December 15, 1795. George Mason, a principal architect of the Constitution and one of the founding fathers, was only one of three present at the constitutional convention who refused to sign.
Mason, more than any other individual, influenced all three American documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Yet he felt so strongly that the Constitution created too powerful a federal government, did not end the slave trade, and did not contain a Bill of Rights that he withheld his support.
Mason believed that a republic had to begin with the formal, legally binding commitment that individuals had inalienable rights that were superior to any government. He proposed that a Bill of Rights preface the Constitution and was unanimously voted down. At the time he stated, "I would rather chop off my right hand than to put it to the Constitution as it now stands."
The Constitution was ratified September 17, 1787, but until these 10 amendments were ratified more than eight years later it was not a complete document. The failure to include a Bill of Rights in the Constitution angered many Americans. It was not just the lack of a Bill of Rights that caused approximately 50% of the American people to oppose the Constitution in 1787 and 1788, but for many critics the missing Bill of Rights represented the gravest flaw. They said in effect: No Bill of Rights, No Constitution.
These are your naturally endowed rights as an American citizen. Cherish and defend them with all the vigor you can muster.