List of Laws, Writings, and Other Important Documents
Magna Carta, 1215 - Charter of the rights of nobles, "granted" to them by King John of England.
Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620 - Written by William Bradford, Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts.
"Body of Liberties," December, 1641 - Act of the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts
Second Treatise on Government, 1690 - John Locke, British philosophical predecessor to the Founding Fathers
Proclamation of 1763, October 7, 1763 - The French and Indian War ended and the colonists expected to continue expanding into the western frontier. This Proclamation by the King of England prevented them from doing this. It also created four new colonies: Quebec, East and West Florida, and Grenada off the coast.
The Stamp Act, March 22, 1765 - Act passed by Great Britain to tax goods being exported to the Colonies.
The Quartering Act, March 24, 1765 - Act passed by Great Britian to enforce the quartering (housing, etc.) of the British troops in the Colonies.
Resolutions on the Stamp Act, also called the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, October 19, 1765 - Resolutions of the Continental Congress in response to the Stamp Act.
The Declaratory Act, March 18, 1766 - Act passed the same day the Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. Declares the Crown's sovereignty over the Colonies, especially in matters of taxation.
Reply to Letter from London Merchants, June, 1766 - Written by George Mason of Virginia.
The Townshend Revenue Act, June 29, 1767 - Act of the British Parliament imposing new taxes and making the salaries of Colonial officials including governors and judges to be paid by the Crown alone.
Intolerable or Coercive Acts (Summary), beginning in 1774 - Additional Acts by Great Britain against the American Colonies.
Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, 1774 - Letter from Continental Congress to Quebec, Canada, requesting they join with the Colonies. Explains causes for union. Unfortunate they did not choose to join in the common cause.
Declaration of Colonial Rights: Resolutions of the First Continental Congress, October 14, 1774
"The Association," October 20, 1774 - Continental Congress' universal prohibition of trade with Great Britain.
Petition to the King, October 25, 1774 - Continental Congress' Petition to the King of England for redress of grievances.
Address to the People of Great Britain, 1774 - Drafted by John Jay and passed by order of the Continental Congress. Further elaborates on the sentiments of the October 25 Petition.
A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1774 - Thomas Jefferson
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death", March 23, 1775 - Famous speech by Patrick Henry.
Charlotte Town Resolves, May 31, 1775 - Resolution of the Colony of North Carolina nullifying acts of the British Crown and supporting the Continental Congress.
Olive Branch Petition, July 5, 1775 - Petition to the King of England for repeal of oppressive laws imposed unequally on the Colonies.
Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, July 6, 1775 - Declaration of the Second Continental Congress, written by John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, on the reasons for starting a violent revolution against the British.
A Proclamation for Supressing Rebellion and Sedition, August 23, 1775 - King of England proclaims that the "traiterous rebellion" in the Colonies must be stopped.
Benjamin Franklin's Dialogue Between Britain, France, Spain, Holland, Saxony, and America.
Common Sense, 1776 - Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet on the reasons and causes of the new country, with reflections on many topics including the error of heriditary succession of kings.
Continental Congress Recommends the Formation of State Governments, May 10, 1776
Preamble to the Virginia Constitution, June 29, 1776 - Written by Thomas Jefferson, lists grievances against the Colonies.
Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776 - Drawn up and ratified in Convention for the Colony of Virginia just prior to the Declaration of Independence, this document formed an important part of the Constitution of the State of Virginia, also supporting the future federal Bill of Rights.
Resolution for Independence, July 2, 1776 - Resolution of Continental Congress preceding the Declaration.
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, October 14, 1777
Articles of Confederation, November 15, 1777, Ratified March 1, 1781. - Established a Confederation of States.
Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1780 - The first Constitution to create a Republican form of government limiting the majority, according to Hamilton Abert Long.
Treaty of Paris, 1783 - Treaty with Prince George - King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland.
Virginia Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 1785 - A protest primarily written by James Madison, of a bill before the Virginia Legislature that would levy a tax "to restore and propagate the holy Christian religion."
Northwest Ordinance, July 13, 1787 - Act of Congress regarding U.S. Territories northwest of the Ohio River. Shows the intent of Congress at the time as to how the lands would be governed, with emphasis on lands set aside for purposes of education.
SEARCH Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention - Meticulous notes on the discussions and events of the Convention.
Benjamin Franklin on the Constitution, 1787 - A respected attendee to the Philadelphia Convention encourages signing of the proposed Constitution.
Constitution of the United States of America, September 17, 1787.
Washington's Letter Transmitting the Proposed Constitution from the Convention to Congress, September 17, 1787.
Ratification Speech, October 6, 1787, James Wilson - Speech promoting the ratification of the new Constitution, delivered to a public meeting outside the Pennsylvania State House by James Wilson, delegate to the Federal Convention. Widely printed in newspapers of the day throughout the States.
The Federalist Papers - Documents written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay in support of ratification of the Constitution of the United States, first appearing in newspapers in the State of New York.
Anti-Federalist Papers - Various writings of the day appearing in newspapers, presenting opposing views to the Federalist Papers. These were selected and edited by Morton Borden. Many more writings like this exist than are included here. We hope to expand the collection in the future.
Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?, June 5, 1788 - Patrick Henry speaking in the Virginia Convention for ratifying the Federal Constitution.
George Washington's First Inaugural Address
George Washington's First State of the Union Address (Summary), January 8, 1790 - This, the first State of the Union Address, is only known to be recorded in the form of a summary provided in The Massachusetts Spy newspaper, printed January 21, 1790.
Opinions on the Constitutionality of the National Bank - Starts with letter by Thomas Jefferson in 1791 to President Washington. Ends with President Andrew Jackson explaining why he closed it. To be expanded.
Newspaper Articles - Many of the Founders wrote short and concise articles on issues that have only become more important to Americans today. Here are some samples.
Proclamation of Neutrality, April 22, 1793 - Proclamation by President George Washington on the U.S. position of non-involvement in the war between Great Britain and France.
Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, 1794 - Treaty with Great Britain to re-establish relations, commerce and navigation.
Proclamation on the Whiskey Rebellion, 1794
Treaty of Greenville, 1795 - Treaty with the following indian tribes: The Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanoes, Ottawas, Chipewas, Putawatimes, Miamis, Eel-River, Weeas, Kickapoos, Piankashaws and Kaskaskias.
George Washington's Farewell Address - Delivered at the end of his term as the first President of the United States in 1796. This could be described as Washington's "last will and testament" to the American People, with warnings about corruption and compliments on their virtue. Published in every major newspaper of the day.
Alien and Sedition Acts, 1798 - Congressional Acts expanding the Presidential authority in deportation of aliens, and prosecution of seditious acts, whether or not successful, and conspiracy to commit seditious acts. Appears to violate the First Amendment with its prohibition against "false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government...or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government...or the said President..."
Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 - Authored by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in the case of Virginia, and Jefferson alone in the case of Kentucky. These Acts were done in protest of the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress.
Noah Webster's Oration on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, 1802 - New Haven, Connecticut.
Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address
Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805.
James Madison's First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1809.
James Madison's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1813.
Report and Resolutions of the Hartford Convention, January 1815
"What shall we do with the Negro?" by Frederick Douglass, a freed slave and prominent statesmen before, during, and after the War Between the States (commonly but erroneously named the "Civil War.")
On the Duty of Christian forgiveness - Quote by Patrick Henry.
A Plea for the Constitution of the United States - Wounded in the House of Its Guardians - Author George Bancroft traces monetary policy from Colonial times to the present, explaining the Constitutional limitations in clear terms.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Speech on States's Rights, delivered while Governor of the State of New York, March 2, 1930 - Presents Constitutional views (popularly understood at the time) of the roles of and relationship between the States and the Federal government.
Code of Ethics for Government Service - Passed by Congress July 11, 1958. Document provides "ten commandments" for our public servants to follow. We understand this notice is still commonly posted in government offices.
Who made you king? - Political discussion between two poor peasants and King Arthur, courtesy of the comedy feature film "Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail"
The Fate of the Signatories, by Gary Hildreth - Brief account of the hardships that many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered after pledging "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor."