Topic: Legal History

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Rough Draft of Declaration of Independence

On July 2, 1776, Jefferson presented his draft of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress. In the document’s powerful preamble, he stated that “all men” had...
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U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. Its first version, shown here, included twelve amendments, but the first two were dropped. When...
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Statute for Religious Freedom (Audio)

This is a dramatic reading of Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom which became a statute (law) in 1786. Along with writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the...
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13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in January 1865 and ratified by the states in December of the same year, proclaimed an end to slavery...
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14th Amendment

This amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1866 and ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to those born in the United States, guaranteeing the rights of citizenship and equal...
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15th Amendment

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1869 and ratified by the states in 1870. It guaranteed that the right to vote would be...
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19th Amendment

This document is the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees women the right to vote. The amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1878 and it...
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A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion

In 1784, Patrick Henry proposed this bill, which would have provided tax-supported religious instruction for Virginians. Henry believed that Christian morality made people better citizens. He also thought...
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A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies

This document, written by Thomas Jefferson almost exactly one year before the Declaration of Independence, explains the reasons why the Continental Congress established the Continental Army. The document...
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A Summary View of the Rights of British America

Jefferson drafted the text of this pamphlet in July 1774, after Parliament passed the Coercive (or Intolerable) Acts but before the meeting of the First Continental Congress. The...