History for the Rest of Us

The Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris brought an end to the American Revolutionary War. Signed September 3, 1783, the United States was represented by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay while David Hartley, a member of the British Parliament represented King George III. The document was signed in Paris at the Hotel d’York (presently 56 Rue Jacob). Great Britian also signed separate agreements with France, Spain, and the Netherlands on the same day. The document consists of Ten Articles, summarized below: Article 1: Acknowledgment that the United States are free sovereign and independent states, and that the British Crown and her heirs relinquish claims to govern, to property, and to territorial rights Article 2: Establishment of the boundaries between the United States and British North America Article 3: Grant of fishing rights, in the Grand Banks (off the coast of Newfoundland) and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to United States fishermen Article 4: Recognition that lawfully contracted debts will be paid to creditors on either side Article 5: Congress of the Confederation will ‘earnestly recommend’ that state legislatures recognize and provide restitution for confiscated lands belonging to Loyalists Article 6: United States will prevent future confiscations of Loyalist properties Article 7: Prisoners of war and property left by the British Army in the United States will be released (including slaves) unmolested Article 8: The United States and Great Britain will both have perpetual access to the Mississippi River Article 9: Territories captured by Americans subsequent to treaty will be returned without compensation Article 10: Ratification of the treaty is to occur within six months from the signing by the contracting parties Full Text of the Treaty of Paris: The Definitive Treaty of Peace 1783 In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted...

The Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact

Mar 17, 2014

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was signed on November 11, 1620 (based on the Julian calendar used by the colonists – November 21 based on the Gregorian calendar) by 41 of the 101 passengers on board the ship. It was written by Separatists who were fleeing religious persecution by King James of England. When storms forced the ship to anchor at the hook of Cape Cod instead of the original destination of the Colony of Virginia, some passengers proclaimed that they ‘would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them…’ Many other colonists felt that a government should be established and the Mayflower Compact was a contract in which settlers agreed to follow rules and regulations with the ultimate goal of order and survival. The original has been lost, but three 17th century versions of the document exist. Two are written by William Bradford. His handwritten manuscript is kept in a vault at the State Library of Massachusetts. The text as it appears in Bradford’s writing is as follows: In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc. having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Codd the 11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our sovereigne lord, King James, of England,...

Declaration of Independence – Rough Draft

Declaration of Independence – Rough Draft

Oct 31, 2012

The following is Thomas Jefferson’s “original rough draft” of the Declaration of Independence, before being revised by the other members of the Committee of Five and Congress: A Declaration of the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independant station to which the laws of nature & of nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the change. We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organising it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. but when a long train of abuses & usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to subject them to arbitrary power, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government & to provide new guards for their future security. such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. the history of his present majesty, is a history of...

Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation

Sep 24, 2012

January 1, 1863 By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation. Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit: “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. “That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.” Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order...

George Washington’s Farewell Address

George Washington’s Farewell Address

Sep 19, 2012

FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: 1 The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made. 2 I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both. 3 The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea. 4 I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained...

Bill of Rights

Bill of Rights

Aug 17, 2012

The United States Bill of Rights. The Ten Original Amendments to the Constitution of the United States Passed by Congress September 25, 1789 Ratified December 15, 1791 I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. II A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. III No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for...