Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding


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Founding Principles

Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776

The Rights of the Colonists
November 20, 1772
One of the clearest statements of principle published by an elected body during the founding era, this document gives a fuller account of the principles of the Declaration.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights
June 12, 1776
This was the first "Bill of Rights" to appear in America. It was printed at the beginning of the Virginia Constitution. Its principal author was George Mason. It became the basis for the Declarations of Rights of several other states, including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Massachusetts Constitution, Preamble
March 2, 1780
The Preamble summarizes the origin and purpose of government, and is explicit on the social compact basis of American government.

Northwest Ordinance
July 13, 1787
This federal law for the territories that were not yet states shows how the Founders understood the basic principles and institutions of free government.

Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863
Lincoln ties the Civil War to the equality idea of the founding.


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