University of Wisconsin–Madison

Foundational Documents of American Constitutionalism

Below is a list of foundational documents for American constitutionalism curated by CSAC. Many of the documents from the colonial and revolutionary periods listed below are available in Richard L. Perry and John C. Cooper’s Sources of Our Liberties or Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner’s The Founders’ Constitution. They are reproduced here in a printable form for use in classrooms.

The British Background and Colonial Period Documents

Magna Charta, 1215 (pdf)
The Petition of Right, 1628 (pdf)
The Nineteen Propositions, 1642 (pdf)
The English Bill of Rights, 1689 (pdf)
The First Charter of Virginia, 1606 (pdf)
The Mayflower Compact, 1620 (pdf)
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639 (pdf)
Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641 (pdf)
Maryland Act of Toleration, 1649 (pdf)
The Albany Plan of Union, 10 July 1765 (pdf)

American Revolutionary Period Documents

Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress, 19 October 1765 (pdf)
The Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking Up Arms, 6 July 1775 (pdf)
Virginia Bill of Rights, 12 June 1776 (pdf)
Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776 (pdf)
The Articles of Confederation, 1777 (pdf)
Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, 8 June 1783 (pdf)
Madison’s Vices of the Political System, April 1787 (pdf)
Harrington, 30 May 1787 (pdf)
The Northwest Ordinance, 13 July 1787 (pdf)
Recommended Amendments to the Articles of Confederation 6 August 1786 (pdf)

Ratification Period Documents

Washington’s Letter to the President of Congress, 17 September 1787 (pdf)
The Constitution, 17 September 1787 (pdf)
James Wilson Speech, 6 October 1787 (pdf)
James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 24 October 1787 (pdf)
Cato III, 25 October 1787 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 1, 27 October 1787 (pdf)
Old Whig IV, 27 October 1787 (pdf)
Old Whig V, 1 November 1787 (pdf)
Cincinnatus II: To James Wilson Esquire, 8 November 1787 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 10, 22 November 1787 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 39, 16 January 1788 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 51, 6 February 1788 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 69, 14 March 1788 (pdf)
Brutus XV, 20 March 1788 (pdf)
Aristocrotis: c. 27 April 1788 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 78, 28 May 1788 (pdf)
Publius: The Federalist 84, 28 May 1788 (pdf)
Massachusetts Form of Ratification, 6-7 February 1788 (pdf)
Virginia Recommendatory Amendments, 27 June 1788 (pdf)
New York Recommendatory Amendments, 26 July 1788 (pdf)

The Complete Federalist Papers

Original Printings of the Constitution

Early National Period Documents

James Madison’s Speech, 8 June 1789 (pdf)
The Bill of Rights, 15 December 1791 (pdf)