Topic: Legal History

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Abraham Lincoln to Henry L. Pierce

In this letter, Abraham Lincoln discusses Thomas Jefferson’s enduring contributions to American society. He attacks slavery as antithetical to American values. He also comments on the irony that...
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Administration of Justice Act

The Administration of Justice Act allowed British officials accused of crimes in Massachusetts to be tried in England, where they could expect greater leniency.This law was one of...
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Adoption of the Polish Constitution

This painting depicts the adoption of the Polish constitution of 1791, just four years after the U.S. produced the world’s first written constitution. The Polish document, which introduced...
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Ambrose Serle Reacts to Proclamations of Independence

This journal was written by Ambrose Serle, the private secretary to the British Commander-in-Chief General William Howe. Serle was a strong believer in the authority of the British...
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An Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

Thomas Jefferson first drafted this bill in 1777. For him, religious freedom meant the right to have any of religious beliefs, or none at all. It also meant...
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An Act for Regulating Government

The Massachusetts Government Act set aside the colony’s existing charter and replaced it with a system of government that was directly under royal control. Representative institutions were severely...
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Articles of Confederation

This document was the first agreement between the thirteen founding colonies that formed the United States of America. Proposed by the Continental Congress in 1777, it was ratified...
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Benjamin Franklin to the Federal Convention

This speech in support of the Constitution was written by Benjamin Franklin. At 81 years old, Franklin was too weak to deliver the speech himself; his colleague from...
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Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom

Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom became law in 1786. But because a law could be amended or repealed, he worried about the future of religious liberty in Virginia....
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Bill for More General Diffusion of Knowledge

Jefferson proposed this Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge in 1779 as part of a larger plan to democratize Virginia. He wanted a three-tiered system of...