The documents featured on this page are perhaps the most famous documents in all of American history. They have helped shape the U.S. government and direct our country since its very birth. Today’s government was built on these documents. They are the very essence of The United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence, 1776
Declaration of Independence
The Continental Congress believed that they could solve the growing tension with Britain by pleading with King George.
After this failed and the situation worsened, it was time to sever ties with England.
Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull depicts the five men—John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin— who drafted the Declaration presenting their work to the Congress. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The U.S. Constitution, 1787
When the 13 Colonies broke from England, the predominant sentiment was strongly anti-British, especially toward the King. In designing the government system for the fledgling country, Congress had to tread very carefully to avoid anything resembling a monarchy while still retaining enough power for the central government to be functional.
The U.S. Constitution was written to create moral guidelines, open to some translation, while making room for a new country to grow and change as needed without stifling the people.
Amendments had to be made as needs arose for the Constitution to be more specific to avoid loopholes. The first ten of those are referred to collectively as the Bill of Rights. Perhaps the most famous and widely argued one is the people’s right to bear arms. In light of that, we collected the founding fathers’ quotes on the subject.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763
The King of England and Parliament laid down a law under the Royal Proclamation of 1763 forbidding colonists to cross over the Appalachian mountains or settle the land to their west.
The Articles of Confederation, 1777
Articles of Confederation
It became more and more evident that the new country would need some form of government. Congress came together and wrote these Articles, the first laws laid down by the newly declared independent country. Over time, flaws in the document left the central government with little to no power to enforce the laws they had written up which led to the writing of the Constitution.