US History to 1877: Historical Documents


Early Colonial

Bartolome de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (local)

John Smith describes the “Starving Time” at Jamestown (at Wadsworth)

Laws and Documents Relating to Religion in Early Virginia (at Virtual Jamestown)

The Mayflower Compact (at Avalon Project)

John Winthrop: A Model of Christian Charity (excerpts) (at Hanover)

The Dutch Arrive on Manhattan Island: An Indian Perspective (at History Matters)

“Your People Live Only Upon Cod”: An Algonquian Response to European Claims of Cultural Superiority (at History Matters)

Colonial Laws of Massachusetts, 1651 Sumptuary Laws (Laws Regarding What One May or May Not Wear) (at American Colonist’s Library)

Late Colonial

A briefe account of a strange & unusuall Providence of God (New England Witchcraft- at Hanover)

General Declaration of Bacon’s Rebellion (at From Revolution to Reconstruction)

The Great Awakening Comes to Weathersfield, Connecticut: Nathan Cole’s Spirtual Travels (at History Matters)

“We Unfortunate English People Suffer Here”: An English Servant Writes Home (at History Matters)

“Packed Densely, Like Herrings”: Gottlieb Mittelberger Warns His Countryman of the Perils of Emigration, 1750 (at History Matters)

“Work and labor in this new and wild land are very hard”: A German Migrant in Philadelphia, 1750 (at History Matters)

Excerpts from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (at Hanover)

Letter From an American Farmer: Letter III – What Is An American? (at the Avalon Project)

The Revolutionary Era

The Declaratory Act (at the Avalon Project)

George Hewes’ Recollection of the Boston Massacre (at History Matters)

Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (at Hanover)

Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” illustration

Patrick Henry’s address, March 23, 1775 (at The Avalon Project)

An Occasional Letter On The Female Sex by Thomas Paine (at Teaching American History)

Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms (at the Avalon Project)

The Olive Branch Petition (at Learner.org)

Thomas Paine: Common Sense (at Teaching American History)

Thomas Paine: The American Crisis (at Teaching American History)

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams, 1776 (at Pearson)

The Diary of Ebenezer Denny, 1781 (at From Revolution to Reconstruction)

Early Republic

The US under the Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation (at the Avalon Project)

The Land Ordinance of 1785 (at the Library of Congress)

1833 Land Survey Sketch (image)

The Northwest Ordinance (at the Avalon Project)

William Manning, “A Laborer,” Explains Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts: “In as Plain a Manner as I Am Capable” (at History Matters)

William Manning, “The Key of Liberty: Showing the Causes Why a Free Government Has Always Failed and a Remedy against It” (1799) (at Indiana)

The Constitution and Constitutional Convention

James Madison’s notes on the Convention (at Consource)

The Constitution (at Consource)

The Bill of Rights (Amendments I-X) (at Consource)

Amendments (XI-XXVII) (at Consource)

Ratification Debates

Daniel Shays: To the Anti-Federal Junto in Philidelphia, September 25, 1787 (at Consource)

Federalist #10 (at Consource)

“All Men Are Born Free and Equal”: Massachusetts Yeomen Oppose the “Aristocratickal” Constitution, January, 1788. (At History Matters)

The Constitution Era

Washington’s 1st inaugural (at Hanover)

Benjamin Franklin presents an Algierian pro-slavery speech, 1790 (at Google Books)

Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes” (at the UPenn Digital Library)

Alexander Hamilton’s First Report on the Public Credit (local)

Opinion on the Consitutionality of a National Bank by Thomas Jefferson (at Teaching American History)

A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom by Thomas Jefferson (at Teaching American History)

The Treaty of Greenville 1795 (at the Avalon Project)

Kentucky Resolution, 1799 (at the Avalon Project)

The Jeffersonian Revolution

Let every Federalist do his duty, and Masschusetts will yet be saved!!! Federal republicans! Boston, April 1811. (at the Library of Congress)

Letter to John B. Colvin by Thomas Jefferson (at Teaching American History)

Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association by Thomas Jefferson (at Teaching American History)

Expansion and Nationalism

“My Husband Was Seized With the Mania”: Emigration from New York to Michigan, 1824 (at History Matters)

“The Natural Tie Between Master and Apprentice has been Rent Asunder”: An Old Apprentice Laments Changes in the Workplace, 1826 (at Albany)

The Demand for a 10 Hour Day (1835) (at Albany)

Harriet Robinson: Lowell Mill Girls (at Modern History Soucebook)

An Address to the Working-Men of New-England (at Albany)

“I Was a Very Apt Scholar in This Kind of Street Etiquette”: William Otter Brawls His Way Through New York City, 1830s (at History Matters)

“Everything Here is But the Forests”: Englishman Thomas Woodcock Travels to Niagara on the Erie Canal, 1836. (at History Matters)

Monroe Doctrine; December 2 1823

The Jacksonian Age

“I Was a Cabinet-maker By Trade”: A Working Man’s Recollections of America, 1825-35 (at History Matters)

Speech on President Jackson’s Veto of the Bank Bill in Senate by Henry Clay (at Teaching American History

South Carolina Exposition and Protest

Reform and Perfection

What a Revival of Religion Is by Charles Finney (at Teaching American History)

“My Heart Was So Full of Love That It Overflowed”: Charles Grandison Finney Experiences Conversion (at History Matters)

“The Meeting Continued All Night, Both by the White & Black People”: Georgia Camp Meeting, 1807 (at History Matters)

John Humphrey Noyes and Bible Communism (1845 and 1849)

“Their Habits Of Order Are Carried to the Extreme”: A Lowell Mill Worker Visits the Shakers (at History Matters)

Seneca Falls: The Declaration of Sentiments, 1848 (at Modern History Sourcebook)

Cady Answers Newspaper Reports (at Virginia)

Letters on the Equality of the Sexes

The Liberator: “To the Public”- First Edition (at PBS)

The following letter was written, shortly after the pro-slavery riot in Boston by Angeline E. Grimke to William Lloyd Garrison … 1835. (at the Library of Congress)

Garrison’s Defense of His Positions

Douglass on Colonization (at Virginia)

Slavery and the Old South

“Is It Not Enough that We Are Torn From Our Country and Friends?”: Olaudah Equiano Describes the Horrors of the Middle Passage, 1780s (at History Matters)

Fugitive Slave Act 1850 (at the Avalon Project)

Dred Scott v. Sandford (at Teaching American History)

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? by Frederick Douglass (at Teaching American History)

“So Cheapened the White Man’s Labor”: White Artisans Contest the Labor of Black Workers, 1838 (at History Matters)

George Fitzhugh, “The Blessings of Slavery” (1857) (at Pearson)

The Breakup of a slave family (at McGraw Hill)

“Time Did Not Reconcile Me To My Chains”: Charles Ball’s Journey to South Carolina, 1837 (at History Matters)

“It Was a Mournful Scene Indeed”: Solomon Northup Remembers the New Orleans Slave Market (at History Matters)

James Stirling: Life on a Plantation (at Modern History Sourcebook)

“Memoirs of a Monticello Slave, as Dictated to Charles Campbell by Isaac” (1847) (at Virginia)

Frederick Douglass describes his escape from slavery

Manifest Destiny and The Mexican War

Luzena Wilson’s View of the Overland Trek (at the Library of Congress)

California: A Trip Across the Plains [James Abbey] (at the Library of Congress)

Present at the Beginning of the Gold Rush: Journalist Edward Gould Buffum Pans Gold in California, 1848 (at History Matters)

The Wilmot Proviso, 1846

Speech on the Mexican-American War by Henry Clay (at Teaching American History)

Speech Against Mexican War by Abraham Lincoln (at Teaching American History)

U.S. Grant’s recollection of the war (local)

The Age of Sectionalism

The Fugitive Slave Act, September 18, 1850 (at the Modern History Sourcebook)

Opposing Editorials on the Kansas-Nebraska Act:

Opposing Editorials on the Dred Scott decision:

(From the Secession Era Editorials Project)

House Divided Speech by Abraham Lincoln (at Teaching American History)

The Civil War

Address at Cooper Institute by Abraham Lincoln (at Teaching American History)

Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Address

Amendments Proposed in Congress by Senator John J. Crittenden, December 18, 1860 (at the Avalon Project)

Amendments Proposed by the Peace Conference, February 8-27, 1861. (at the Avalon Project)

South Carolina’s Address to the slave-holding states, 1861 (at Hanover)

Men of Color, To Arms! by Frederick Douglass

“If It Were Not For My Trust in Christ I Do Not Know How I Could Have Endured It”: Testimony from Victims of New York’s Draft Riots, July, 1863

Mother of a Northern Black Soldier to the President

“We Feel as Though Our Country Spurned Us”: Soldier James Henry Gooding Protests Unequal Pay for Black Soldiers, 1863

The Gettysburg Address (at usconstitution.net)

“The Evil Shadow of Slavery No Longer Hangs Over Them”: Charlotte Forten Describes Her Experiences Teaching on the South Carolina Sea Islands, 1862

Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln (at the Avalon Project)


Testimony of a South Carolina Freedman before the American Freedmen’s Inquiry Commission

The Effects of Negro Suffrage

Robert Smalls, Election Methods in the South

Organization of Principles of the KKK (1868) (local)

Ku Klux Klan Violence in Georgia, 1871

Account of Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment

Account of Johnson’s Acquittal

Dressmaker and Former Slave Elizabeth Keckley (ca.1818-1907), Tells How She Gained Her Freedom, 1868.

A Letter from a Freedman to his Old Master (at Project Gutenberg)

The Negro Exodus

Race and Gender in the Reconstruction Era: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1866

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