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AMERICA’S HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

A Selection of Key Documents Dealing with the
Foundation, Growth, and Preservation of the
United States of America

Preserved in the U.S. National Archives

J. M. LaRoche, Editor



Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2009 J. M. LaRoche

Cover design and eBook formatting by
www.HTMPublishing.net.

To
Dana

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
—Edward Bulwer-Lytton

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Transcriptions are from the National Archives and Records Administration



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

LEE RESOLUTION (1776)
“Richard Henry Lee on June 7, 1776, introduced a resolution in the Second Continental Congress proposing independence for the colonies.”

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (1776)
“Although the section of the Lee Resolution dealing with independence was not adopted until July 2, Congress appointed on June 10 a committee of five to draft a statement of independence for the colonies.”

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION (1777)
“This document served as the United States’ first constitution, and was in force from March 1, 1781, until 1789 when the present day Constitution went into effect.”

TREATY OF ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE (1778)
“According to this first military treaty of the new nation, the United States would provide for a defensive alliance to aid France should England attack, and neither France nor the United States would make peace with England until the independence of the United States was recognized.”

TREATY OF PARIS (1783)
“This treaty, signed on September 3, 1783, between the American colonies and Great Britain, ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation.”

VIRGINIA PLAN (1787)
“Drafted by James Madison, and presented by Edmund Randolph to the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1787, the Virginia Plan proposed a strong central government composed of three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.”

NORTHWEST ORDINANCE (1787)
“Officially titled An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio, the Northwest Ordinance was passed on July 13, 1787.”

CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES (1787)
"Drafted in secret by delegates to the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787, this four-page document, signed on September 17, 1787, established the government of the United States.”

FEDERALIST PAPERS, NO. 10 & NO. 51 (1787-1788)
“The Federalist Papers were a series of essays published in newspapers in 1787 and 1788 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the Constitution.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FIRST INAUGURAL SPEECH (1789)
“Although not required by the Constitution, George Washington presented the first Presidential inaugural address on April 30, 1789.”

FEDERAL JUDICIARY ACT (1789)
“One of the first acts of the new Congress was to establish a Federal court system through the Judiciary Act signed by President Washington on September 24, 1789.”

BILL OF RIGHTS (1791)
“Although 12 amendments were originally proposed, the 10 that were ratified became the Bill of Rights in 1791. They defined citizens’ rights in relation to the newly established government under the Constitution.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON’S FAREWELL ADDRESS (1796)
“In his farewell Presidential address, George Washington advised American citizens to view themselves as a cohesive unit and avoid political parties and issued a special warning to be wary of attachments and entanglements with other nations.”

LOUISIANA PURCHASE TREATY (1803)
“In this transaction with France, signed on April 30, 1803, the United States purchased 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million. For roughly 4 cents an acre, the United States doubled its size, expanding the nation westward.”

MARBURY V. MADISON (1803)
“The decision in this Supreme Court Case established the right of the courts to determine the constitutionality of the actions of the other two branches of government.”

TREATY OF GHENT (1814)
“This treaty, signed on December 24, 1814, ended the War of 1812, fought between Great Britain and the United States.”

MISSOURI COMPROMISE (1820)
“This legislation admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state at the same time, so as not to upset the balance between slave and free states in the nation. It also outlawed slavery above the 36º 30´ latitude line in the remainder of the Louisiana Territory.”

MONROE DOCTRINE (1823)
“The Monroe Doctrine was articulated in President James Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. The European powers, according to Monroe, were obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States’ sphere of interest.”

GIBBONS V. OGDEN (1824)
“This Supreme Court decision forbade states from enacting any legislation that would interfere with Congress’s right to regulate commerce among the separate states.”

PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON’S MESSAGE TO CONGRESS ’ON INDIAN REMOVAL’ (1830)
“On December 6, 1830, in a message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson called for the relocation of eastern Native American tribes to land west of the Mississippi River, in order to open new land for settlement by citizens of the United States.”

TREATY OF GUADALUPE HIDALGO (1848)
“This treaty, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war between the United States and Mexico. By its terms, Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory, including parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, to the United States.”

COMPROMISE OF 1850
“The Compromise was actually a series of bills passed mainly to address issues related to slavery.”

KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT (1854)
“Officially titled "An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas,” this act repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had outlawed slavery above the 36º 30’ latitude in the Louisiana territories and reopened the national struggle over slavery in the western territories.”

HOMESTEAD ACT (1862)
“Passed on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act accelerated the settlement of the western territory by granting adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land for a minimal filing fee and 5 years of continuous residence on that land.”

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION (1863)
“Lincoln’s [proclamation] was a military measure and came just a few days after the Union’s victory in the Battle of Antietam. With this Proclamation he hoped to inspire all blacks, and slaves in the Confederacy in particular, to support the Union cause and to keep England and France from giving political recognition and military aid to the Confederacy.”

WAR DEPARTMENT GENERAL ORDER 143: CREATION OF THE U.S. COLORED TROOPS (1863)
“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and another 19,000 served in the Navy.”

GETTYSBURG ADDRESS (1863)
“Perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg, PA, July 1 to July 3, 1863. At the end of the battle, the Union’s Army of the Potomac had successfully repelled the second invasion of the North by the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia. Several months later, President Lincoln went to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the cemetery for the Union war dead.”

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT RELATING TO THE SURRENDER OF THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA (1865)
“On April 9, 1865, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met in the parlor of a house in Appomattox Court House, VA, to discuss this surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, which would end the Civil War. According to the terms, the men of Lee’s army could return home in safety if they pledged to end the fighting and deliver their arms to the Union Army.”

13TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION: ABOLITION OF SLAVERY (1865)
“The 13th amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed the Senate on April 8, 1864, and the House on January 31, 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865.”

TREATY CONCERNING THE CESSION OF THE RUSSIAN POSSESSIONS IN NORTH AMERICA (1868)
The purchase of Alaska—"For less that 2 cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000 square miles.”

TREATY OF FORT LARAMIE (1868)
“In this treaty, signed on April 29, 1868, between the U.S. Government and the Sioux Nation, the United States recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people.”

DAWES ACT (1887)
“Approved on February 8, 1887, "An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations,” known as the Dawes Act, emphasized severalty, the treatment of Native Americans as individuals rather than as members of tribes.”

JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROVIDE FOR ANNEXING THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS TO THE UNITED STATES (1898)
“To a nation poised to take its place as a world power, the control of Hawaii, strategically located to serve as a mid-Pacific naval installation, seemed crucial. In 1898, with a naval base firmly established at Pearl Harbor, the United States officially annexed Hawaii.”

PLATT AMENDMENT (1903)
“Approved on May 22, 1903, the Platt Amendment was a treaty between the U.S. and Cuba that attempted to protect Cuba’s independence from foreign intervention. It permitted extensive U.S. involvement in Cuban international and domestic affairs for the enforcement of Cuban independence.”

THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S COROLLARY TO THE MONROE DOCTRINE (1905)
“The corollary stated that not only were the nations of the Western Hemisphere not open to colonization by European powers, but that the United States had the responsibility to preserve order and protect life and property in those countries.”

PRESIDENT WILSON’S ADDRESS TO CONGRESS LEADING TO A DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST GERMANY (1917)
“On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson delivered this address to a joint session of Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. The resulting congressional vote brought the United States into World War I.”

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT’S ADDRESS TO CONGRESS LEADING TO A DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST JAPAN (1941)
“On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered this "Day of Infamy Speech.” Immediately afterward, Congress declared war, and the United States entered World War II.”

SURRENDER OF GERMANY (1945)
“This instrument of surrender was signed on May 7, 1945, at Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims by Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff of the German Army. At the same time, he signed three other surrender documents, one each for Great Britain, Russia, and France.”

SURRENDER OF JAPAN (1945)
“Aboard the USS Missouri, this instrument of surrender was signed on September 2, 1945, by the Japanese envoys Foreign Minister Mamora Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu.”

TRUMAN DOCTRINE (1947)
“On March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman presented this address before a joint session of Congress. His message, known as the Truman Doctrine, asked Congress for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Turkey and Greece.”

ARMISTICE AGREEMENT FOR THE RESTORATION OF THE SOUTH KOREAN STATE (1953)
"This armistice signed on July 27, 1953, formally ended the war in Korea. North and South Korea remain separate and occupy almost the same territory they had when the war began.”

TONKIN GULF RESOLUTION (1964)
“This joint resolution of Congress (H.J. RES 1145) dated August 7, 1964, gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to increase U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam.”

Quotations from U.S. National Archives & Records Administration.

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