American Documents

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These are a handful of the basic documents that underlie the government of the United States of America. I've included them here as a reality check for Americans who visit this site and as an exposition for other visitors who may not be very knowledgeable about our political foundation.

The Declaration of Independence was a statement of intent to be a free self governing people. It's one of our founding documents and it sets forth the principles with which we intended to be guided. But it is also the political culmination of a yearning for freedom from oppression that was documented in the Magna Carta more than five hundred years earlier.

The Constitution forms the legal basis of our government and came about after we had first experimented with a looser confederation. It provides the mechanism for its own amendment and it was almost immediately amended with the so-called Bill of Rights which consists of the first 10 amendments.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address are documents from our Civil War (1860-1865) and were written by President Abraham Lincoln.

The Table of Contents links you with the text of each document stored within this homepage.


  • July 4, 1776 -- The Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 delegates of the original thirteen colonies, was unanimously adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
  • September 17, 1787 -- The Constitution was offered for ratification on September 17, 1787. It had been signed by 39 of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia beginning in May 1787. Ratification was accomplished on June 21, 1788.
  • 1789 -- The first ten amendments, the so-called Bill of Rights, were proposed to the state legislatures by the first Congress that assembled under the Constitution in 1789. They were ratified by 1791.
  • From 1798 -- Amendments XI to XXVII.
  • January 1, 1863 -- In a proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared free all slaves residing in territories in rebellion against the federal government.
  • November 19, 1863 -- This is the text of what has come to be known as The Gettysburg Address. It was given by President Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of the dedication of a national cemetery on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle of Gettyburg was fought on July 1-3, 1863. The full text of the address is reproduced here.

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This page is maintained by Art Dieli.
Last updated 8/3/15