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Historic U.S. Documents: The Charters of Freedom

The charters of American freedom. Read the Constitution and the articles that explained what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they created it -- the Federalist Papers. Many other fascinating documents from American history, as well.

About the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) safeguards and preserves the records of the US Government.

Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" Speech
On June 17, 1858, Abraham Lincoln declared the start of two campaigns: one to become a U.S. Senator, the other to end slavery in the United States. In the first, he would fail, in the second, he would prevail. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," said Lincoln. While his audience had heard those words many times, Lincoln went on to give them momentous relevance and immediacy when, of slavery he stated, "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."

Lincoln Issues Proclamation Suspending Habeas Corpus Rights
Along with a declaring martial law, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the suspension of the constitutionally protected right to writs of habeas corpus in 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War. At the time, the suspension applied only in Maryland and parts of the Midwestern states. On Sept. 24, 1862, Lincoln issued this proclamation suspending the right to writs of habeas corpus nationwide.

Brief history of the Pledge of Allegiance
As written in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance didn't even include the words "under God." Who wrote the Pledge and where did the constitutionally controversial reference to God come from? Read the brief history of the Pledge of Allegiance.

NARA Teams With Google to Offer Historic Films Online
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has announced an exiting program to make its collection of historic movies, documentaries and other films available to the public via Google Video.

On June 19, 1865 -- more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation -- Union General Gordon Granger announce to the people of Galveston, Texas that "all persons held as slaves" in the Confederate States were "thenceforward, and forever free." We can hardly imaging the celebration this news caused among the now former slaves.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. Due to the amplification system being used, the President's words could also be heard on the Eastern (Communist-controlled) side of the wall. The address Reagan delivered that day is considered by many to have affirmed the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. On Nov. 9-11, 1989, the people of a free Berlin tore down that wall.

Constitution -- Text
Democracy in four pages. The full text of the United States Constitution plus amendments, from your About.com Guide.

The Articles of Confederation
With its ratification by Maryland on March 1, 1787, the Articles of Confederation served as the young nation's constitution until June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire ratified the current U.S. Constitution.

Bill of Rights -- Text
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, from your About Guide.

Federalist Papers
The 85 Federalist Papers were written between October 1787 and May 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Through publishing them, the authors hoped to both explain the new Constitution to the people of America and to garner their support for it.

Declaration of Independence -- Text
"In Congress, July 4, 1776" Complete text and signatures, provided by your About.com Guide.

Brief History of the Declaration of Independence
In August of 1775, King George of England had declared his American subjects to be "engaged in open and avowed rebellion" against the Crown and ordered the cargo of all American ships seized as the property of England. Less than a year later, church bells ring out over Philadelphia heralding the final adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Emancipation Proclamation -- Text
While it did not immediately free a single slave, it allowed blacks to fight for liberty. The complete text provided by your About.com Guide.

George Washington's Farewell Address
Washington says goodbye and offers advice to the people on how to go forward with freedom. Complete text of the 1796 address. Provided by your About.com Guide.

Gettysburg Address - Complete Text
Considered one of the most moving speeches ever delivered, here is the complete text of Lincoln's 1863 masterpiece. Provided by your About.com Guide.

Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address
Delivered March 4, 1865, many consider this Lincoln's greatest public speech.

Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance has been recited in three different ways since the original 1892 version. Read the Pledge and its interesting history.

The Clinton White House Web Site
If ever a Web site were worthy of a "virtual" historical marker, it is the Clinton White House site. Now, the National Archives has preserved the Clinton site as a resource that will serve students, educators and all Americans for generations to come.

Constitution -- Q & A
Dozens of interesting questions about the Constitution answered by NARA.

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