We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
Start  |  WTP  | CCE
Howard Chandler Christy, Signing of the Constitution, Architect of the Capitol, House wing, east stairway
Unit 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.

Association of the Sons of Liberty of New York, 1773

A publication of an organization of American colonists formed in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act.

Discourses on Livy--Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli's early work on the benefits and structure of a republican government.

New Atlantis--Francis Bacon, 1627

From Wikipedia: Released in English in 1627, this utopian novel was Bacon's creation of an ideal land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendor, piety and public spirit" were the commonly held qualities of its inhabitants.

Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences--Luther, 1517

Luther used these theses to display his displeasure with some of the Roman Catholic clergy's abuses, most notably the sale of indulgences; this ultimately gave birth to Protestantism.

Of Commerce--David Hume, 1752

Hume's essay on the ways politics and economics overlap.

The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved--James Otis Jr., 1764

In the wake of the Seven Years' War, as relations between the colonies and Britain worsened, Otis wrote this pamphlet asserting that divine right existed not in single men, but in all people.

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.

A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms

From Wikipedia: The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was a document issued by the Second Continental Congress on July 6, 1775, to explain why the thirteen colonies had taken up arms in what had become the Revolutionary War.

A resolution of House of Commons, 1669

A resolution of the House of Commons in 1669 guaranteeing the right to petition the lower house of Parliament.

Abolition of Star Chamber

The Star Chamber was a court that heard criminal and civil cases against prominent Englishmen, who, it was believed, would not receive a fair trial in the regular courts. In 1641, it was abolished by Parliament after controversial incidents with religious dissenters.

Act of Supremacy 1533

From Wikipedia: The first Act of Supremacy granted King Henry VIII of England Royal Supremacy which is still the legal authority of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Royal Supremacy is specifically used to describe the legal sovereignty of the civil laws over religious ones, which validated Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Adam Smith--Wealth of Nations, 1776

Adam Smith's view on the state of economics during the Industrial Revolution as well as his thoughts on free market economies.

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.

Albany Plan of Union 1754

From Wikipedia: Benjamin Franklin's early attempt at forming a union of the colonies "under one government as far as might be necessary for defense and other general important purposes."

Aristotle--Politics, 350 BCE

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

Articles of Association 1774

The First Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Association in 1774 to implement a trade boycott against Britain without severing allegiance to the crown.

Bacon's Declaration 1676

The declaration of grievances issued to Governor William Berkeley by wealthy planter Nathaniel Bacon and his army.

Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England

From Wikipedia: The Commentaries on the Laws of England are an influential 18th century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765-1769.

Boston Port Act, 1774

An act of British Parliament in response to the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Port Act blockaded the Port of Boston, preventing the loading or shipping of any goods until restitutions were made for loss of customs duties to the crown and damages to the East India Company.

Charter for the Province of Pennsylvania 1861

Official permission from King Charles II for settlers to "have, hold, possess, and enjoy" the land in Pennsylvania for the purpose of expanding the British Empire.

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.

Circular Letter of the Boston Committee of Correspondence

A letter written by Samuel Adams in response to the Boston Port Act, which closed all trade in and out of Boston Harbor in response to the Boston Tea Party.

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.

Constitution of Pennsylvania 1776

A highly democratic early constitution, creating a unicameral legislature, a council of censors, a legislatively elected judiciary and a legislatively elected president.

Contract For Quarrying & Dressing Stone, 1248

Contract between two parties regarding stone quarrying work.

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 Libellis Famosis (1606)

From Wikipedia: The crime of seditious libel was defined and established in England during the 1606 case De Libellis Famosis by the Star Chamber. The case defined seditious libel as criticism of public persons, the government, or King.

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.

Declaration of Independence 1776

From Wikipedia: The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American Colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire.

Declaration of Rights and Grievances of the First Congress of the American Colonies, 1765

The Declaration of Rights from the Stamp Act Congress declared that, as loyal British subjects, taxes imposed upon colonies without formal consent were unconstitutional.

Declaratory Act of 1766

The Declaratory Act was an act of the British Parliament in 1766, stating that Parliament had the right to make laws for the colonies in all matters.

Edmund Burke's Speech to the Electors at Bristol, 1774

Edmund Burke's acceptance speech after being elected to represent Bristol, in which he defends the principles of representative democracy.

English Bill of Rights 1689

Act passed by the British Parliament in 1689 enumerating rights of British subjects and residents.

English Translation of Magna Carta

English translation of Magna Carta

Federalist No. 37

From Wikipedia: Federalist No. 37 is an essay by James Madison, published on January 11, 1788 discussing some of the political questions raised at the Constitutional Convention, such as the question of the authority of the state versus the liberty of the people.

Governor Berkeley's Response to Bacon's Declaration 1676

Governor Berkeley's response to the allegations against him enumerated in Bacon's Declaration.

Grant of a Gild to the Tanners of Rouen, 1170

A contract between King Henry II of England and the tanners of Rouen.

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.

Indenture Contract of Richard Lowther, 1627

An indenture contract promising labor in exchange for transportation, food and drink and 50 acres of land.

Indenture Contract of William Buckland 1755

The agreement between William Buckland and Thomas Mason granting Buckland would work for Mason in Virginia in exchange for transportation, food and drink, washing and lodging, as well as a salary of 20 pounds per year.

James Madison - Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

James Madison's thoughts on the separation of church and state.

Jefferson to Edmund Pendleton 1776

A letter from Thomas Jefferson to Virginia Convention president Edmund Pendleton on August 26, 1776.

Jefferson's Original Draft of the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson's Original Draft of the Declaration of Independence

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.

Maryland Toleration Act, 1649

The Maryland Toleration Act, passed by the assembly of the Maryland colony, mandated tolerance for Christians who did not practice Anglican Christianity.

Massachusetts Government Act, 1774

This act of British Parliament abolished the Massachusetts charter and brought the colony's government under British control.

Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony.

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.

Olive Branch Petition

A document attempting to reconcile with King George III, stating that the colonists were merely seeking to regulate taxes and trade with Great Britain.

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.

Petition of Right

From Wikipedia: The Petition of Right is a major English constitutional document, which sets out specific liberties of the subject that the king is prohibited from infringing.

Plato--"Ring of Gyges"

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

Quartering Act of 1765

This act, passed by the British Parliament, required colonies to house and provide food for British soldiers.

Quartering Act of 1774

This act amended the Quartering Act of 1765 and was part of the group of acts of Parliament known as the Intolerable Acts.

Quebec Act

The act enlarged the boundaries of the Province of Quebec and instituted reforms generally favorable to the French Catholic inhabitants of the region, although denying them an elected legislative assembly.

Royal Proclamation of 1763

From Wikipedia: The purpose of the proclamation was to organize Great Britain's new North American empire after the French and Indian War and to stabilize relations with the Native Americans through regulation of trade, settlement, and land purchases on the western frontier.

Stamp Act of 1765

From Wikipedia: The Stamp Act of 1765 was a tax imposed by the British Parliament on the American colonists requiring that many printed materials in the colonies carry a tax stamp in order to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the Seven Years' War.

State Constitution

A link to each states' Constitution.

The Administration of Justice Act

This act of Parliament allowed the trials of royal officials to be moved to other colonies or back to Britain if it was thought that the official could not receive a fair trial in the original jurisdiction.

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 Massachusetts 1780

The Massachusetts Constitution provided the framework followed by the United States Constitution.

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.

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina 1669

From Wikipedia: Constitution adopted in 1669 for the area between Virginia and Georgia, written largely by John Locke. This document was very unpopular and mostly abandoned by 1700.

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639

The Fundamental Orders describe the government to be established by the Connecticut Colony as a self-governed entity.

The Habeas Corpus Act of 1641

From Wikipedia: Ac Act of the Parliament of England that was passed by the Long Parliament shortly after the impeachment and execution of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford in 1641 and before the English Civil War. The writ was amended by the Habeas Corpus Act 1679.

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.

Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

From Wikipedia: The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was written in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson to place a separation between church and state. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the statute into the state's law.

Virginia Declaration of Rights

Virginia Declaration of Rights

Unit 1      Primary Sources
Menu Unit Lesson Section Tools