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Lorraine and Tom Pangle, Co-Directors BAT 2.116, C4100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-6648

Essential Documents in American History

These letters, speeches, bills, sermons, and essays have been selected not chiefly for the historical importance of the events they document but for their intrinsic merit as sources of reflection on issues of abiding importance to us as human beings and American citizens. Please help us refine our selections by reviewing or downloading our working list and adding your comments on those that you think should be included or removed. Recommendations should be directed to

Documents, Discussions, and Classroom Activities

Magna Carta (1215)

Declaration of Independence (1776)

Brutus No. 1 (1787)

Centinel No. 1 (1787)

  • Full Text: doc--pdf
  • Discussion: doc--pdf

Constitution of the United States (1787)

Federalist No. 10 (1787)

Northwest Ordinance (1787)

Essay by a Maryland Farmer No. 5 (1788)

  • Full Text: doc--pdf
  • Discussion: doc--pdf

Federalist No. 51 (1788)

Bill of Rights (1789)

George Washington, Farewell Address (1796)

Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Memorial of the Cherokee Nation (1830)

Seneca Falls Declaration (1848)

Frederick Douglass - The 4th of July (1852)

  • Full Text: doc--pdf
  • Discussion: doc--pdf

Dred Scott (1857)

Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Freeport (1858)

Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address (1861)

  • Full Text: doc--pdf
  • Abridged Text: doc--pdf
  • Discussion: doc--pdf

Gettysburg Address (1863)

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865)

Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Exposition (1895)

Plessy vs Ferguson (1896)

Woodrow Wilson, Fourteen Points for Peace (1918)

Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963)

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