Skip to main content
Create interactive lessons using any digital content including wikis with our free sister product
. Get it on the
Pages and Files
Democratic Teaching Methods
Hidden Histories, Dramatic Events
, Historical Biographies & Special Topic Pages
AP World History
AP United States History
AP Government & Politics
AP Art History
Grades 1 & 2
Grades 3 & 4
Grade 5 (United States History)
Grade 6 (World Geography)
Grade 7 (Ancient/Classical Civilizations)
World History I & II
United States History I & II
Influential Men: World
Infuential Men: U.S.
Influential Women: U. S.
Influential Women: World
Primary Sources: U.S.
Primary Sources: World
Public Domain and Copyright Information
Large Visitor Globe
Feedjit Live Blog Stats
Examine fundamental documents in the American political tradition to identify key ideas regarding limited government and individual rights.
Drafting of the Declaration of Independence
Magna Carta (1215), Mayflower Compact (1620), Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), English Bill of Rights (1689), Locke’s Treatises of Civil Government (1690), Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges (1701), Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), Declaration of Independence (1776), United States Constitution (1787), Bill of Rights (1791), and the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780
The Committee in the picture on the right side of the page: Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Livingston, and Sherman. 1776. Copy of engraving after Alonzo Chappel
For more information on Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, see
For more information on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, see
Expanding Civil Rights: Landmark Cases
Records of Rights
from the National Archives documents Americans ongoing struggle to "define, attain and protect their rights."
Important founding documents are located in the table below
(Great Charter of Freedoms)
The Magna Carta secured the rights of the people, assuring them that the King would held accountable to law.
Petition of Right
Sir Edward Coke
English constitutional document sets forth liberties that the King cannot violate including
non-Parliamentary taxation, forced billeting of soldiers, imprisonment without cause, and the use of martial law
Nov. 11, 1620
Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony
Regarded as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States; Social contract for sake of survival; Established government loyal to the king.
English Bill of Rights
Limits the power of the king; free elections; freedom of speech in Parliament; prohibits cruel and unusual punishment
Massachusetts Body of Liberties
First legal code established by European colonists in New England; Precursor to MA general laws and constitution; "Ahead of its time" = justice, right to appeal, counsel and jury; Abolished double jeopardy and cruel punishment; Gave some rights to women, children, servants and outlawed slavery.
Treatise on Civil Government
Provided foundation for modern forms of democracy and was a major influence on the Constitution.
Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges
Envisioned a colony that permitted religious freedom, the consent of the people for government and protection of property rights.
Freedom of worship was absolute
Declaration of Rights
Proclaimed the inherent natural rights of man and the right of people to rebel against an inadequate government; serves as a model for the Declaration of Independence
Protested the Intolerable Acts/Coercive Acts of Great Britain (Suffolk Courts, MA / Boston); Urged citizens to cease paying taxes, trading with Britain and approved the assembly of a militia against the government.
Sam Adams, James Bowdoin
Model for the United States Constitution with four
parts: a preamble, a declaration of rights, a description of the framework of government, and articles of amendment
July 13, 1787
Nathan Dane, Rufus King
Precedence for federal government sovereignty with regard to admission of new states. Prohibits slavery north of the Ohio River.
Nov. 22, 1787
Argued for Constitution and large republic in order to protect against insurrections; Large republics are better equipped to do so.
Washington's Farewell Address
Warns against party system; Stresses importance of religion and morality; Warns against foreign alliances and an over-powerful military establishment.
Jefferson's First Inaugural Address
Asserted freedom of speech and religion; Mix of federal and Republican values for a wise government.
Declaration of Sentiments
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Women's version of the Declaration of Independence; Endorsed women's rights/controversial (endorsed women's suffrage).
Frederick Douglass Independence Day Speech
In a speech entitled, "The Meaning of July 4 for the Negro," Douglass condemns American attitudes toward slavery.
Click here to see
Morgan Freeman read selections from the speech
Lincoln's House Divided Speech
Famous speech delivered by Lincoln at the beginning of his unsuccessful Senate campaign against Stephen A. Douglas in which he declared that the country cannot remain with some states allowing slavery and other states free
Nov. 19, 1863
Lincoln used the speech to focus attention on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the concept of equality, shifting the focus from the Constitution. See Gary Wills,
The Words That Remade America
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
March 4, 1865
Sought to avoid harsh treatment of South in wake of Civil War
“Photograph of a painting by Edward Percy Moran (1862-1935), showing Myles Standish, William Bradford, William Brewster and John Carver signing the Mayflower Compact in a cabin aboard the Mayflower while other Pilgrims look on.” ca.1900. The original hangs at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA.
Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution
from EdSitement, National Endowment for the Humanities
English Bill of Rights:
8th Grade Lesson
Connections: the 1780 Massachusetts State Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the Federal Constitution’s Bill of Rights
: from Falmouth High School
Understanding the Federalist 10
from Sally Stevens, Plymouth South High School
George Washington Lesson Plans
from Indiana State's government website
The Gettysburg Address
: from EdSitement, National Endowment for the Humanities
Cultural Change: The Women's Movement & Declaration of Sentiments
from EdSitement, National Endowment for the Humanities
The Mayflower Compact: Would You Sign?
Conscience and the Constitution: Curriculum Guide for Teachers
: from PBS.org
Thematic Teaching: Women's Rights- Then and Now: Related Resources
from PBS Teachers
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"