Historic Document Library
• American Colonial Documents
• American Revolutionary Era Documents
• U. S. Constitutional Documents
• U. S. Doctrines, Legislation and Policy
• U. S. Supreme Court Decisions
• Speeches, Letters and Editorials
• Charters, Treaties and Declarations
• Facts, Creeds and Practices
• Presidential Inaugural Addresses
We try to keep a wide range of documents in our Library ... from the historical, to the eye-opening, to the just plain heroic ... as inter-linked references to the ideas discussed on this site. If you don't see what you need, let us know.
American Colonial Documents
The Mayflower Compact
Before disembarking to settle in what was to become Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Mayflower Pilgrims drew up this Compact indicating their agreement to live together as one community.
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
Generally acknowledged as the first American constitution of government to embody the concept of democracy.
The Massachusetts Body of Liberties
Generally accepted as the first code of laws in New England, the Body of Liberties was both stern and common-sensical, reflecting the character of the Puritans who drafted it.
The Flushing Remonstrance
Although America's early settlers had come to these shores seeking religious freedom, many settlements exercised a religious persecution of their own. The Dutch settling in New Amsterdam (New York City) under Peter Stuyvesant were no different, refusing the right of worship to Quakers. Stuyvesant's intransigence led to this petition for freedom.
The Declaration of Rights
In response to restrictive British trade and economic laws, a hastily assembled Congress met to draw up a list of Rights which they felt ought to be enjoyed by the Colonies.
Samuel Adams' The Rights of the Colonists
When the Committee of Correspondence was formed in Boston on the instigation of Samuel Adams, one of its responsibilities was to draw up a statement of rights due the Colonists. This task fell to Adams himself whose thoughts also probably flavored the Declaration of the First Continental Congress.
American Revolutionary Era Documents
Declaration of the First Continental Congress
The first Congress of what would later become the United States of America met at Carpenter's Hall, in Philadelphia, on September 5, 1774. Their purpose was to petition the English Parliament -- again -- to remove certain onerous economic acts. It was to be the final petition.
Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
The Second Continental Congress issued this Declaration after the opening battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill, to justify continuing hostilities to the American people. This document was also America's declaration of war against Britain.
The Virginia Declaration of Rights
This important late Colonial document was a key source of ideas not only for the later Federal Bill of Rights, but also for the Declaration of Independence that same year.
The Declaration of Independence
Given little hope of resolving their grievances as a colony of Great Britain, the Continental Congress opted to declare for a new, independent nation with this document.
The Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were created early in the Revolution in an effort to bind the States together into a union of sufficient cohesion to win Independence from Britain. It was the shortcomings of the Articles that led to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
U. S. Constitutional Documents
Early in the Constitutional Convention, two major States presented their own competing plans for a new Constitution. The final product largely reflected these ideas.
The United States Constitution
The original idea was to make modifications to the Articles of Confederation. What emerged was a brand new idea in governance; one that has since been emulated all over the free world.
Federalist Papers -- Nos. 1-2
The first two Federalist Papers, articles written by Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, respectively, and appearing in the New York Independent Journal in October 1787, were intended as both an introduction and a brief overview of the case to be made for the proposed new Constitution of the United States.
Federalist Papers -- Nos. 3-5
Federalist Nos. 3 through 5 were written by John Jay and addressed the risk of foreign influence and coercion on the new United States.
Federalist Papers -- Nos. 6-8
Federalist Nos. 6 through 8, written by Alexander Hamilton, discuss the risks and consequences of hassles arising among the states in a disjointed Union.
The Bill of Rights
The oft-quoted Bill of Rights is comprised of the first ten Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
Amendments to the U. S. Constitution
These are the last seventeen Amendments to the U. S. Constitution. For the first ten, please select the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America
The Confederate Constitution is virtually identical in form to the U. S. Constitution, reflecting their basic reverence for the foundations of the nation, but the wording contains some important differences.
U. S. Doctrines, Legislation and Policy
The Monroe Doctrine
After the fall of Napoleon in France, a new wave of colonialism swept the major European powers. President Monroe's doctrine basically said "Don't try it in our Hemisphere!"
The Fugitive Slave Act
Slaveowners angered over the passage of emancipation laws in many Northern states prevailed upon Congress to settle once and for all their right to retrieve their escaped "property".
The Emancipation Proclamation
When Lincoln drew up this well-known Presidential edict, it was not to free all of the slaves as is often believed, but only those in as-yet-unconquered rebel territory. The Thirteenth Amendment finished the job.
The Tonkin Gulf Resolution
Responding to a skirmish in North Vietnam's Tonkin Gulf, this Resolution delivered to President Johnson the power to escalate the Vietnam War.
The War Powers Resolution
As the grueling war in Vietnam ended, Congress felt compelled to curb the power of the president to unilaterally deploy troops into combat. This Resolution was the result of that effort.
Speeches, Letters and Editorials
"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!"
A fiery orator known to turn an attention-grabbing phrase, Patrick Henry made his famous demand before the revolutionary Convention of Virginia in March, 1775, coincidentally a month before the opening shot of the Revolution.
Thomas Paine's Common Sense
An Englishman by birth, Thomas Paine nonetheless used his 50-page pamphlet Common Sense to tell the colonies that they were deriving nothing from their British masters. To Paine, common sense pleaded for an independent America.
John Adams' Birth of a Nation Letter
Having just joined a unanimous Continental Congress in approving full independence for the American colonies, future president John Adams wrote this revealing letter to his wife, Abigail.
The Battle of Yorktown -- An Eyewitness
Ebenezer Denny of Pennsylvania was a major in the Continental Army. His diary offers an eyewitness account of the capture of British General Cornwallis and the last major battle of the American Revolution.
James Madison's Memorial & Remonstrance
During his service with the Virginia Assembly, the future father of the Bill of Rights made this impassioned argument in favor of religious liberty. His thoughts were later captured in the First Amendment.
Washington's Farewell Address
After serving eight years as our first President -- and pointedly declining re-election -- George Washington used his Farewell Address to leave the new nation some advice he had picked up along the way.
Travis' Letter from the Alamo
In February, 1836, as a small band of valiant Texian defenders hunkered down inside an old Spanish mission in San Antonio, Mexican General Santa Anna stood outside with several thousand troops and demanded their surrender. His answer came from a cannon.
Jefferson Davis' Farewell to Congress
Following his state out of the Union, the future Confederate president gave this departing speech to his fellow members of the U.S. Congress.
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Well-known for its brevity, its words also reach into America's soul.
Lee's Farewell to his Army
Robert E. Lee was renowned as a gentleman, as well as a soldier. His farewell address helps us to understand why his troops respected him as they did.
FDR's "Four Freedoms" Speech
As war raged in Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his 1941 State of the Union message in which he appealed to American patriotism to help supply the beleagered British. Part of that appeal is his famous vision of the four essential freedoms.
General McAuliffe's Christmas Message
In the midst of the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division is trapped in Bastogne, surrounded by the German Army. Acting division commander B.G. Anthony McAuliffe has just one answer to the German demand for surrender ... "Nuts!".
Kennedy's Inaugural Address
John F. Kennedy came to town in 1961 with a new agenda, and a need to communicate it to the American people. His inaugural address is a fine and stirring speech which does more to create the image of "Camelot" than to illuminate his plans for more government involvement in many areas. JFK's thousand days marked the end of an era as much as the beginning.
Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech
When King led the Civil Rights movement, he sought only equality under the Constitution, and an equal shot at what it means to be an American -- things to which he had every right. My, how times have changed. We think a return to our true foundations could bring his dreams to reality.
Charters, Treaties and Declarations
The "Great Charter" was drafted to address the specific grievances of the English aristocracy in a feudal world. But it marked the beginning of the long, winding march towards representative government in Europe and beyond, and for that it is renowned.
Treaty of Paris
Although the worst of the fighting had ended with Washington's Yorktown victory in 1781, skirmishing continued into 1783, when the Treaty of Paris finally brought an end to the American Revolution, and formally recognized the existence of the independent United States. It also added to the nation the great stretch of lands out to the Mississippi.
The Northwest Ordinance
The organization of the Northwest Territories of the Ohio River basin was one of the Confederation government's (1781-9) great achievements. The Ordinance established free governance for the Territories.
Louisiana Purchase Treaty
When President Thomas Jefferson arranged to buy the Louisiana territory from the French, he was making a deal that would almost double the size of the United States, adding over a half-billion acres and eventually thirteen states.
Treaty of Ghent
Early victories in the War of 1812 led the British to demand territorial and military concessions when they opened negotiations in 1814. News of setbacks convinced them to sign this Treaty, ending the War and restoring America's pre-war rights and boundaries.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The third and last addition of vast lands to the United States proper occurred with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War of 1846-8. With it the U.S. gained the great Southwest, expanding essentially to its current continental borders.
South Carolina's Declaration of Secession
As the first state to secede from the Union, South Carolina's Declaration of Secession is presented as a typical example of the causes that propelled ten states follow her lead and travel the road to war.
Grant's Surrender Terms At Appomatox
By April, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had seen enough suffering in his Army of Northern Virginia, and applied to Union General Ulysses S. Grant for surrender terms. This letter is Grant's very generous reply.
Treaty of Paris
Paris was a popular place for treaty negotiations. This particular document settled the outcome of the Spanish-American War, and gave the U.S. the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and a few other island possessions.
Versailles Treaty -- Parts I-VI
In the first six parts of the huge document that brought temporary peace after World War I, we see the League of Nations created and the former German and Austrian empires carved up into a new Europe of independent states.
Versailles Treaty -- Parts VII-XII
In the second installment of the complex agreement that brought temporary peace after World War I, Germany is hit with the reparations and financial burdens that will drive her into ruin and give rise to the Nazi Party.
Versailles Treaty -- Parts XIII-XV
In the last part of the mammoth Treaty that brought temporary peace after World War I, the Allies form a complex bureaucracy to administer their view of labor justice in Europe.
The Atlantic Charter
With war raging in Europe and the U.S. being badgered by Britain to weigh in, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met aboard ship in Newfoundland and drew up this charter reflecting their post-war vision.
The Declarations of War on Japan and Germany
The day after Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR went before Congress and, declaring December 7th to be a "date which will live in infamy", asked for a Declaration of War against the Empire. Read both his speech and the Declarations.
World War II Surrender Documents
World War II ended in 1945 with the surrender of Nazi Germany in May, followed by that of Imperial Japan in September. Here are the simple documents effectuating those surrenders.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A major coup for presidential widow Eleanor Roosevelt, the United Nations declaration on human rights contains many of the principles embodied in free societies, but can't resist the temptation to push a few social buttons.
The North Atlantic (NATO) Treaty
Driven by fear of Soviet expansionist policies following World War II, the former Allies in the West created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide for their common defense in case of Communist aggression.
The Geneva Conventions on Civilians
The currently applicable body of international law governing the treatment of civilians in a war zone.
The Geneva Conventions on Prisoners of War
The currently applicable body of international law governing the treatment of captives taken in battle, rewritten from the earlier Geneva Convention III of 1929.
Facts, Creeds and Practices
The Star Spangled Banner
Our National Anthem originated in a poem written by lawyer Francis Scott Key, after he witnessed the unsuccessful British bombardment of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812. Here are the words to all four verses.
The American's Creed
A semi-offical patriotic statement, written by the Clerk of the House of Representatives, during the year of our entry into World War I.
Frederick Engels' Principles of Communism
This short work by Engels clearly communicates what -- at least in his opinion, which predates the likes of Lenin -- communism is about. It can make a scary read to a Common Sense American.
The Communist Manifesto
During the height of the revolutionary convulsions in Europe in the mid-19th century, riding the wave of stressful change wrought by the emerging industrial revolution, Karl Marx created his seminal blueprint for communism.
The Humanist Manifesto
This was the first major attempt to define the precepts of modern humanism, which in its most evolved form rejects the existence of anything which cannot be proven through human reasoning.
The Humanist Manifesto II
This rewrite of the original 1933 Manifesto finally scrubs out any vestiges of spirituality based upon faith, and tries to address a wide variety of specific social issues from the perspective of humanism.