Several documents are relevant to the history and character of the United States government. Each section is given in chronological order of publication or presentation.
Formation of the Government
- The Declaration of Independence - the initial document that outlines the colonies' dissatisfaction with the rule of King George of England.
- The Articles of Confederation - that establish the alliance between the original thirteen states.
- The United States Constitution - that constructs the foundations of American government and remains the "highest law of the land".
- The Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the Constitution that guarantee personal and societal rights and freedoms.
- The Second Treatise on Government - John Locke's version of the Social Contract theory.
- Common Sense - Thomas Paine's pamphlet that helped the Revolution gain popularity.
- The Federalist Papers - like the Declaration, these are not binding legal documents; they are the thoughts of the founding fathers regarding the nation they were building.
Notable American Documents
- The Emancipation Proclamation - ended the institution of slavery.
- The Gettysburg Address - Abraham Lincoln's great statement on the unity of the United States