Recently, I was reading the first ten amendments of the American bill of rights and was struck by the variance in the number of rights granted by each particular amendment.

For example, the first amendment contains the freedom to speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition while amendments four, five, six, and seven (and 8 to some extent) are four separate amendments all of which are related to the rights of those accused of a crime, e.g, the sixth amendment is the right to a speedy trial and the seventh amendment is the right to a jury trial.

Now, if the freedom of religion and the freedom to petition can make it into the same amendment, it seems strange that the right to a jury and the right to a speedy trial should warrant two separate amendments.

Is there a historical reason that the bill of rights contains this imbalance?

I should add that the third and second amendment, while also quite specific, do not have an obvious grouping and so I am not surprised that those two are presented separately. Regarding the ninth and the tenth amendments, I do not understand the ninth amendment well enough to have an opinion about it and the tenth amendment seems appropriately distinct from the others to warrant its own number.

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    – MCW
    Jul 9, 2021 at 18:52
  • 4
    They weren't designed; they were collected from the submissions of the states. They lacked even the coherence of a committee design. They were approved in a four step process, and the first draft had 17 articles; quick glimpse suggests these two were separate in that first draft. The seventh protects against the star chamber, which was already 100 years in the past, and the sixth protects against abuses that Madison would have regarded as contemporary.
    – MCW
    Jul 9, 2021 at 18:56
  • 2
    The first amendment is about freedom of expression, be it spoken, written, religious, political, etc. Many, if not most, European countries do not have juries, but simply trial by a (few) judge(s). Speed and juries are, simply speaking, distinct concepts.
    – Lucian
    Jul 9, 2021 at 19:07
  • Actually, the 6th already protects the right for jury trial to those accused of crime. The 7th extends those right to civil cases. Jul 17, 2021 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


The right of a speedy trial comes from a problem where people accused of a crime were held in prison until they could be tried. However, they would be sent to prison for long indefinite periods which acted as a de facto punishment without proof of guilt. A modern example would be the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

So the protection from this abuse of justice guaranteed (to citizens) by the US Constitution is quite a different right than the right that the trial be by jury.

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