Our Founding Documents

Growing up in the 1950′s and 60′s, most Baby Boomers like me didn’t learn very much about our founding documents, or even our founders for that matter. We memorized some important passages like the Gettysburg address, yes, but that didn’t include much about the man who gave that address to the nation or even under what circumstances it was given. The focus back then was almost exclusively on memorization of dates and places.

The Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers — those were glossed over, apparently with the idea of that they were beyond the grasp of students. But are they?

Even the Pledge of Allegiance is taken for granted and has been modified over the years, but to what end?

Follow these links to documents that all citizens should all know and love. The links include commentaries about the differences between Federalists and Republicans; the differences between a Republic and a Democracy; information about the importance of separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government; the underpinnings of the controversial commerce clause; the history of our national anthem and more — including the ‘authorizing clause’ for our system of federal taxation.

You will be rewarded and enriched for the time spent exploring these documents.

 

THE DOCUMENTS

The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution

Its History: A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution

The Bill of Rights and Later Amendments

Amendments 11 – 27

The Declaration of Independence as written by Thomas Jefferson — additions by Congress appear in red text and any deletions made by Congress are struck through in red text

A History of the Declaration of Independence

Transcript of The Constitution of the United States  –  a transcription in its original form  — items that are hyperlinked have since been amended or superseded

Questions and Answers pertaining to the U.S. Constitution

Original text of The Federalist Papers

Index to the Antifederalist Papers – In contrast to Hamilton, Madison and Jay who supported ratification of the Constitution of the United States, many others did not. While the former’s works were more logically organized (and eventually won the debate), the Antifederalist writers were nonetheless articulate. Serious questions were raised which eventually led to some of the Federalist writings that served as answers to allegations of the Antifederalists.

100 Milestone Documents — compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings — these documents chronicle U.S. history from 1776 to 1965

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

“Independence Forever: Why America Celebrates the Fourth of July” by Matthew Spalding  of the Heritage Foundation

“The Urgent Need for More George Washingtons” from the National Center for Constitutional Studies

The Reach of Congressional Power: Specific Article I and Article IV Powers — a discussion of how far the powers of Congress extend under the various grants

A Principle of the Traditional American Philosophy: LIMITED GOVERNMENT

“Of the Origin and Design of Government” by Thomas Paine — On January 10th, 1776 Thomas Paine published the most popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary, Common Sense. In this short pamphlet Paine outlined what would become the cornerstone and supreme argument for individual rights and liberties.

A Principle of the Traditional American Philosophy: TAXES, Limited to Safeguard Liberty

“Bipartisanship: Federalist and Republicans in the Early Republic” from the Encyclopedia of the New American Nation

The Founders on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms — extensive quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, John Adams, Samuel Adams, James Madison, George Washingon, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason and more

“Unalienable Rights” versus “Inalienable Rights”  — d0 you know the difference?

The most effective means of preserving liberty is “An Enlightened, Committed People Who Understand The Principles of Our Constitution”

“Small Federal Government/Strong Local and State Governments” — The basic idea of our Founders was to get government as close to the people as possible. The more remote it is from the people, the more dangerous it becomes

“Separation of Powers: The Genius of America’s Constitution” – America’s Founders had just declared themselves free of a tyrannical government. They were determined that such tyranny would never be repeated in this land

“Checks and Balances: The Constitutional Structure for Limited and Balanced Government” — The Constitution was devised with an ingenious and intricate system of checks and balances to guard the people’s liberty against combinations of government power. It structure the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary to be separate and wholly independent as to function but coordinated for proper operation with safeguards to prevent usurpations of power

“Private Property Rights: A Basic Premise of America’s Constitution”

History of the Pledge of Allegiance — The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of loyalty to the flag and the republic of the United States, composed originally by Francis Bellamy in 1892. The Pledge has been modified four times since then, with the most recent change adding the words “under God” in 1954

A History of  Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — This represents the earliest known of the five drafts of what may be the most famous American speech. It was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the dedication of a memorial cemetery on November 19, 1863

The story of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem — see also “All Four Stanzas” by Isaac Asimov and “Facts About the U.S. National Anthem”

Transcript of President George Washington’s First Inaugural Speech (1789) — On April 16, 1789, two days after receiving official notification of his election, George Washington, although not required by the Constitution, gave the first Presidential inaugural address on April 30, 1789

Transcript of President George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796) –  Originally published in David Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796 under the title “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States,” the letter was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in a pamphlet form

The Deist Roots of the United States of America by Robert L. Johnson — What is it that filled the souls of many of America’s founders with such passionate altruism that they were willing to risk everything they had, including their families, careers, and very lives, for an ideal? Was it their strong convictions in the teachings of Christianity and the Bible? Or was it something else?

 

 

 

About Dr Ellen K Rudolph

Dr. Ellen is an international photojournalist and educator, conservationist, animal lover, musician, and systems theorist. For many years she was a Bowen Family Therapist in the Virginia community mental health system and private practice, and a well known public speaker. Today she enjoys traveling the world and sharing what she has learned with others. Click on the various categories to the right to access her essays about conservation, education, the environment, the family, the art of photography, and the psychology of politics.
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