We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
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Howard Chandler Christy, Signing of the Constitution, Architect of the Capitol, House wing, east stairway
Lesson 1 Primary Sources

A Modell of Christian Charity ("City Upon a Hill" sermon)--John Winthrop, 1630

Believed to be written and delivered en route to Massachusetts, Rev. Winthrop warned his Puritan colonists that their new community would be a "city upon a hill," watched by the world.

The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right--Rousseau, 1762

In this book, Rousseau examines the nature of legitimate authority and political community with regard to man's place in the state of nature.

Thoughts on Government, Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies--John Adams, 1776

From Wikipedia: This was written in response to a resolution of the North Carolina Provincial Congress, giving suggestions on the establishment of a new government and the drafting of a constitution.

Two Treatises of Government--John Locke, 1689

From Wikipedia: The Two Treatises of Government was published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks the patriotic state, and the Second Treatise outlines his thoughts on civil society based on natural rights and contract theory.

Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire 1639

A petition to King Charles I seeking permission to found and settle the town of Exeter, New Hampshire.

Aristotle--Politics, 350 BCE

Aristotle's work on such topics as the political community, economics, property rights, citizenship, leadership, constitutions and the ideal state.

Charter of Georgia, 1732

Document by King George II establishing a colony for the "poor people" of Britain to relocate to Georgia.

Cicero--De re publica (The Republic or On The Commonwealth), 54-51BC

Cicero's theories of constitutions, education, and citizenship.

Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769), by William Blackstone

William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England divides the history of English common law into four categories: rights of persons, rights of things, private wrongs (torts), and public wrongs (crimes). Written to be understood by non-lawyers, this work became an important source of legal information for the American colonists.

Complete Works, by Montesquieu

Montesquieu (Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu) was a French nobleman and lawyer, recognized as one of greatest thinkers of Enlightenment. He first gained fame for a satire, the Persian Letters, in 1721, pointing out absurdities of modern European, especially French, life. He also published Considerations of the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline (anonymously) in 1734. His masterpiece, The Spirit of the Laws, published 1748, was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by Catholic Church because of "liberal" views.

David Hume--A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739

Hume's seminal work, including his theories on morals, origins of government, laws of nations, political legitimacy, justice, and property.

De Officiis (On Moral Duties), by Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero's De Officiis is a profound meditation on morality and moral duty, including moral principles as applied to public life. The book has deeply influenced Western civilization since its writing in 44 BC. De Officiis was so influential that when the printing press was invented, it was the second book to be printed after the Bible.

Declaration of Independence (1776)

The Declaration of Independence is a proclamation passed by Congress on July 2, 1776, and issued on July 4, announcing the separation of the "United Colonies" from Britain and the formation of a new nation, the United States of America. The document listed reasons for the separation and a philosophical argument in defense of the action.

Habeas Corpus Act 1679

The Habeas Corpus Act 1679 is an act of the English Parliament defining and strengthening habeas corpus, by which a detainee who has appealed to the judiciary must either be set free or have a charge brought against him.

John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690)

John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690) was widely read by the colonists. Important ideas found in it (as well as in the works of English republican writers) are also to be found in the Declaration of Independence, especially his theories of natural rights and defense of violent revolution after "a long train of abuses" of power by rulers. Two verbatim phrases of Locke's are found in the Declaration.

Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

Leviathan argues that humans without government live in a "state of nature," which is a "state of war" against all. Life in such conditions is "solitary, poore, nasty brutish, and short." Thus in a state of nature, all fear violent death; and violent death is what people fear most. To avoid violent death, they agree to set up a state with strict authority and the power to protect life. People agree to leave this state of nature through "social contract" and to give all power to the Leviathan state, which Hobbes characterized as a "mortal god." Hobbes was accused of atheism for the views he expressed in Leviathan, where Hobbes pilloried various theological ideas. The English Parliament asserted that Leviathan helped cause the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. The book was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Catholic Church because it undermined the theory of divine right of kings.

Montesquieu--The Spirit of Laws, 1748

In this political treatise Montesquieu advocates the idea that political and legal institutions ought to reflect the social and geographical character of each particular community, that governments need not be permanent.

Pericles' Funeral Oration

Pericles' speech given at the annual public funeral for fallen soldiers, as told in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, which extols the virtues and accomplishments of Athens.

Petition for a Charter of New England, March 3, 1619

A petition by the Northern Company of Adventurers to create a new settlement and local government in the area they designate as New England.

Plato--"Ring of Gyges"

Story contained within Plato's Republic, which examines morality as a social construct.

The Charter for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations July 15, 1663

Notice from King Charles II, establishing the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England.

The Combination of the Inhabitants Upon the Piscataqua River for Government, 1641

A letter to King Charles I, seeking permission to create a local government along the Piscataqua River.

The Constitution of the United States of America (1787)

The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States that provides the framework for the government. The Constitution outlines the nation's institutions of government and the most important rights of the people. The document was created in 1787 during the Philadelphia Convention. The government created by the Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.

The First Charter of Virginia, 1606

From Wikipedia: Document in which King James I of England grants land rights to the Virginia Company for the stated purpose of spreading Christianity in the New World.

The Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey in America, 1683

An early constitution, creating a governing council and providing a limited enumeration of rights.

Thomas Hobbes--Leviathan, 1651

In Leviathan, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of states and legitimate governments--based on social contract theories.

Thomas Paine--Common Sense, 1776

Common Sense is a pamphlet, written anonymously by Thomas Paine, giving arguments for American independence from Britain.

Tocqueville--Democracy in America, 1835, 1840

A review of American representational government in the 1830s, focusing on the reasons for success in America versus attempts and failures in other places.

Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris is an agreement signed on September 3, 1783, between Great Britain and the United States that ended the Revolutionary War. With the treaty, Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Also called the Peace of Paris.

United States Constitution

The supreme law of the United States that provides the framework for the government. The Constitution outlines the nation's institutions of government and the most important rights of the people. The document was created in 1787 during the Philadelphia Convention. The government created by the Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.

Lesson 1      What Did the Founders Think about Constitutional Government?
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