The English Bill of Rights of 1689 inspired the American Bill of Rights. One of the bill's authors, James Madison, also drew inspiration from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, ratified before the Constitution of Virginia in 1776.
The Bill of Rights came into effect on Dec. 15, 1791, and makes up the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, according to History.com. The document includes a number of guarantees intended to protect the rights of the country's citizens from "cruel and unusual punishments." Black Americans, however, did not receive equal protection under the law until 1868. Women and Native Americans also struggled for equality.