Thousands of documents throughout time have shaped the course of history. The US and other countries have put into words their ideals, their intents and laws that have determined the lifestyle of their citizens and the wars they fought.
Thousands of documents throughout time have shaped the course of history. The US and other countries have put into words their ideals, their intents and laws that have determined the lifestyle of their citizens and the wars they fought. From the Declaration of Independence to the surrender of Japan in World War II, these famous documents provide today’s historians insight into what our forefathers were thinking about and dealing with. The following resources provide the text of several of the world’s most important historical documents.
- Magna Carta: (June 15, 1215) The document that required King John to allow certain liberties, and passed into law in 1225.
- Letter from Christopher Columbus: (14 March 1493) A letter to Luis de Sant Angel announcing his discovery of America.
- Mayflower Compact: (November 1620) A written agreement between the settlers at New Plymouth creating the first laws of the New World.
- The First Thanksgiving Proclamation: (June 20, 1676) The document that set Thanksgiving as a holiday in the colonies.
- Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges: (28 October 1701) One of the first versions of the liberties allowed citizens of the colonies.
- Sugar Act: (April 5, 1764) Began the first tax on the American colonies by the British.
- The Stamp Act: (March 22, 1765) Parliaments first serious attempt to show authority over the colonies, listing fifty-five resolutions.
- Announcement of the Boston Tea Part: (December 20, 1773) A public notice announcing the plans for the Boston Tea Party.
- Quartering Act: (June 2, 1774) An act that allowed British troops to stay in private and commercial properties without compensating the owner.
- Olive Branch Petition: (July 5, 1775) The colonies last attempt to make peace with the King before the Revolutionary War.
- Virginia Declaration of Rights: (May 15, 1776) The first state constitution, drafted by George Mason.
- Declaration of Independence: (July 4, 1776) The document separating the colonies from Britain.
- The Townshend Act: (November 20, 1776) A document setting taxes on American colonies and plantations, payable to Britain.
- Articles of Confederation: (November 15, 1777) The first constitution of the United States of America and the document legalizing the union of the colonies.
- The Treaty of Paris: (September 3, 1783) The document that established peace between Paris and the US following the Revolutionary War.
- US Constitution: (September 17, 1787) The document laying out the supreme law of the United States of America.
- First State of the Union Address: (January 8, 1790) The first state of the union address given in the US by President George Washington.
- Petition from the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery: (February 3, 1790) One of the first petitions to the US government from the people.
- Bill of Rights: (December 15, 1791) A document including the first ten amendments of the US Constitution.
- The Proclamation of Neutrality: (April 22, 1793) A statement issued by George Washington declaring America neutral in the conflict between France and Britain.
- George Washington’s Farewell Address: (September 19, 1796) The address to the people following George Washington stepping down from his presidency.
- The Star Spangled Banner: (September 20, 1814) The national anthem of the United States.
- The Monroe Doctrine: (December 2, 1823) A document stating that further acts by European countries to colonize America would be seen as acts of aggression.
- Emancipation Proclamation: (January 1, 1863) A document created by Abraham Lincoln setting slaves free.
- The Gettysburg Address: (November 19, 1863) President Lincolns most famous speech concerning the equality of all citizens.
World War I
- Austria’s Ultimatum: (July 1914) A response to the ultimatum given by Austria to the US.
- The House-Grey Memorandum: (October 8, 1915) A invitation from the US to Germany to participate in peace talks.
- Treatment of Armed Merchantmen: (February 10, 1916) A translated document from the German government on how to handle the enemy.
- The Zimmerman Note: (March 1, 1917) A note intercepted by America between Germany and Mexico proposing an alliance.
- Swedish Telegram to US: (March 17, 1917) A telegram from Sweden to the US expressing concern over the current political climate in Russia.
- President Wilson's War Message: (April 2, 1917) The President’s address to Congress asking them to join World War I (The Great War).
- Formal Declaration of War: (April 6, 1917) The United State’s formal declaration of war with Germany.
- Letter to the Soldiers: (April 1918) A letter to US soldiers thanking them for their help from King George V.
- The Espionage Act: (May 16, 1918) A law prohibiting any attempt to interfere with military operations.
- Treaty of Versailles: (June 28, 1919) The treaty officially ending World War I.
World War II
- Proclamation of Unlimited National Emergency: (May 27, 1941) A radio address from President Franklin concerning the war.
- Atlantic Charter: (August 14, 1941) A document created by Britain and the US intended as a blueprint for after World War 2.
- Fourteen Part Message: (December 7, 1941) A telegram intercepted by the US detailing an attack planed on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
- FDR Asks Congress to Go To War: (December 8, 1941) President Roosevelt’s message to Congress asking them to declare war.
- German Declaration of War: (December 11, 1941) The official document from Germany declaring war on the US.
- St. James Declaration: (January 12, 1942) The resolutions on German War crimes preceding the Nuremburg Trials signed by 9 countries.
- Yalta Conference Protocol: (February, 1945) A document detailing the decisions made concerning postwar organization.
- Einstein’s Letter to the President: (March 25, 1945) A letter Einstein wrote to FDR detailing his concern over the lack of communication between scientists working on the Manhattan project and Cabinet members determining policy.
- U.S.S.R. Denunciation of Pact With Japan: (April 5, 1945) A peace message concerning a peace document between the USSR And Japan.
- Germany’s Instrument of Surrender: (May 8, 1945) The documents signed by Germany surrendering to the Allied Forces.
- Japanese Instrument of Surrender: (September 2, 1945) Japan’s signed surrender documents following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.