Primary Sources

primary_sources.PNGPrimary Sources for United States History

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet


See 100 Milestone Documents in American History from the National Archives.

History in the Raw from the National Archives

Primary Documents in American History from the Library of Congress.

U.S. History Primary Sources from National History Day.

Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century compiled by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999.

Multimedia.pngFamous Speeches from History & Politics Out Loud features important speeches by influential 20th and 21st century political leaders.


SOURCE
DATE
.....SIGNIFICANCE
Magna Carta
1215
The King is not above the law; It led to the establishment of constitutional law by stating that no freeman could be punished except through the law of the land.

See also World History I.8
Mayflower Compact
1620
First governing document by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.

See also Grade 3.4 and Grade 5.8 and 5.9
Massachusetts Body of Liberties
1641
First legal code by colonists in New England; earliest source of individual rights in the colonies

See also Grade 5.19
English Bill of Rights
1689
Limits on the power of the king; right of freedom of speech in Parliament; basis for American Bill of Rights

For more, see World History I.8
Second Treatise of Government
1690
John Locke outlines a vision of society based on natural rights; sets the foundation for American political principles including sovereignty of the people, limitations on the power of the executive or legislature, and the idea that people can revoke the social contract if government does not meet their needs.

See also United States History I.2 and United States Government 2.3
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Speech
1775
Patrick Henry urged raising a militia in every Virginia county in this speech that set a tone of defiance of British rule.

See also United States History I.4
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
1786
Statement of religious freedom and separation of church and state by Thomas Jefferson; Virginia became the first state to separate church and state.

See also United States Government 2.2
Suffolk Resolves
1774
Precursor to the Declaration of Independence; endorsed by the Continental Congress after being delivered to Philadelphia by Paul Revere

See also United States History I.3
Massachusetts Constitution
1780
Model for the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights; John Adams, the future President, was a primary writer. Oldest functioning written constitution.

See also United States History I.5 and United States Government 3.2
Northwest Ordinance
1787
Established the concept that the nation would expand westward by admitting new states, banned slavery in new states, establishing the Ohio River as the boundary at the time between free and slave states
Federalist No. 10
1787
James Madison's argument for Constitution and against political factions.

See also United States History I.8
Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments
1848
Women's declaration of independence written by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

See also United States History I.33
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
1865
Approach to Reconstruction that featured mutual forgiveness; Condemned slavery

See also United States History I.38
Lincoln's House Divided Speech
1858
Lincoln's speech against Dred Scott Decision

See also United States History I.36
War Department General Order 143
1863
This document ordered the creation of African American troops during the Civil War

For more, see United States History I.39
The New Colossus
1883
Emma Lazarus's account of immigrants coming to America through New York City

For more, see United States History II.3
East Goes West
1937
Younghill Kang's novel of immigrant experience

For more see United States History II.3
Roosevelt Corollary
1905
Roosevelt's addition to the Monroe Doctrine stated that Western Hemisphere countries are not only closed for colonization, but it was up to the US to protect them.

See also, United States History II.9
The New Nationalism Speech
1910
Theodore Roosevelt statement that human welfare supported by a strong federal government

For more, see United States History II.8
Peace Without Victory Speech
1917
Wilson Wilson's terms for ending the war without a traditional victory

For more, see United States History II.7
Niagara Movement Declaration of Principles
1905
W.E.B. Du Bois expressed his opposition to racial segregation and disenfranchisement as well as his opposition to the policies of accommodation of Booker T. Washington. The Niagara Movement was founded by Du Bois.

For more, see United States History II.9
Atlanta Exposition Address
1895
Booker T. Washington addressing racial progress through accommodation

For more, see United States History II.9
Four Freedoms Speech
1941
Franklin Roosevelt's statement of the freedoms of people everywhere in the world; Freedom of speech; Freedom of religion; Freedom from war; Freedom from fear
Multimedia.pngClick here for a youtube clip of the Four Freedoms Speech

For more, see United States History II.15
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
1943
Justice Robert M. Jackson's defense of freedom of speech. He wrote "[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

For more, see United States Government 2.5
The Spirit of Liberty
1944
Learned Hand defined liberty as the types of attitudes people have toward one another; urging that Americans must be open-minded and reject dogmatism

For more see United States Government 2.5
The Truman Doctrine
1947
President Truman announced that it was U.S. policy to assist any country threatened by Communism, expressing a global role for the nation and essentially ending isolationism as a foreign policy approach.

For more, see United States History II.18
The Sources of Soviet Conduct
1947
George Kennan's statement of containment as American policy in the Cold War.

For more, see United States History II.18
John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address
1961
Expressed the role of the United States in combating communism around the world; considered one of the finest inaugural speeches ever delivered

Multimedia.png Youtube Video of Kennedy's Address

For more, see United States History II.28
Letter from Birmingham City Jail
1963
Reverend Martin Luther King's statement that civil disobedience is necessary when opposing unjust laws

For more, see United States History II.25
I Have a Dream Speech
1963
Reverend Martin Luther King's call for racial justice at the March on Washington
Multimedia.pngClick here for MLK's I Have a Dream Speech

For more, see United States History II.25 and United States Government 2.10
Johnson's Voting Rights Speech to Congress
1965
Lyndon Johnson declares that every men should have the right to vote and that civil rights problems are a national issue. He used the phrase "we shall overcome" near the end of the speech

For more, see United States History II.26
Carter's Crisis of Confidence Speech
1979
Jimmy Carter addresses public doubt and the lack of confidence of the people toward their government and their own identities as Americans.

-Multimedia.pngYoutube video here
Reagan's Speech at Moscow State University
1988
Reagan discussed American freedoms he hoped Russian people will enjoy and proposed greater exchanges between the two nations
Multimedia.pngClick here for a clip of the speech. It also has a link to the full version.

For more, see United States History II.29