Founding Documents

Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1744-1789, American Memory, Library of Congress

The Continental Congress Broadside Collection and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection contain 274 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The documents are presented as page images and as text, and are keyword searchable.

Our Documents, National Archives and Records Administration; National History Day; U.S.A. Freedom Corps

A cooperative effort, this website is an online repository of 100 milestone primary documents in American history. The first document is the Richard Henry Lee Resolution of June 7, 1776, proposing independence for the American colonies. The last is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In between, visitors will find Eli Whitney’s 1794 cotton gin patent, the 1862 Pacific Railway Act, and the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling. There is a full-page scan and transcription of each document. In addition to the chronological list of 100 documents, the site includes a “People’s Vote” top-ten list. The site offers resource tools for educators and librarians on how to integrate the milestone documents into the classroom.

Charters of Freedom, National Archives and Records Administration

This site features three documents central to early U.S. history: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. Transcriptions of all three documents are accompanied by high-resolution images of the originals. The site also includes supporting materials, such as the 1823 William J. Stone engraving. Several scholarly articles (about 8,000 words each) provide further context. There is also extensive information on the creation of the documents, and the impact they have had on American society.

Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1873, American Memory, Library of Congress

This site offers records and acts of Congress from the Journals of the Continental Congress through The Congressional Globe, which ceased publication with the 42nd Congress in 1873. An excellent resource for Antebellum and Reconstruction politics, the site also includes valuable information about early America through a collection of debates about adopting the Federal Constitution, and a collection entitled The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.

Drafting the Documents of Independence, Library of Congress

Eight documents and prints relating to the Declaration of Independence are presented on this site, including a fragment of the earliest known version and Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” with changes by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others. This site is well organized and successfully tracks the Declaration’s development and effect.