Since most Americans did not call the first set of amendments the Bill of Rights until the 1890s, what did they call bill of rights up until that time? There were state bills of rights, of course, and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Other less obvious candidates included:
1. Magna Carta–There are cases and commentaries that labeled this as “the great bill of rights.”
2. The Declaration of Independence. Even John Bingham once referred to this as the bill of rights.
3. The Civil Rights Act of 1866–I’ve found a case referring to this as “this famous bill of rights.”
4. The Resolution of the Continental Congress in 1765. Chancellor Kent referred to this as a bill of rights in his Commentaries on American Law.
5. Article One, Sections 9-10. Each of these were called a bill of rights in Supreme Court cases prior to the 1890s.
More on this tomorrow, including a surprising turning point in the use of the Bill of Rights following the Spanish-American War.