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