University of Wisconsin–Madison

Document of the Month

Welcome to the Document of the Month webpage. The editors of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, housed here at the Center, have the privilege of studying and reflecting on documents from America’s founding on a daily basis. These documents chronicle the evolution of constitution-making during the Revolutionary era and illuminate the human element of that venture—the passion, the sacrifice, the intelligence, the anxieties and doubts, and, not least, the hopes. The Founders, whose rhetorical eloquence is displayed in the documents, brought together historical perspectives on government and centuries of philosophy to create an enduring framework for self-government, a beacon of freedom and an example of increasing civic and social equality for the entire world.

Each month the editors will select one or more documents from the Center’s collection of more than 70,000 documents that underscore various concepts from the Founding era, particularly the debates over the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some selections reflect views that are complementary. Documents, sometimes paired, reveal contrasting viewpoints are indicated by asterisks (*). Clicking on the titles will take you to a PDF version of the documents with resources for teachers. To receive the Document of the Month via email, please join our mailing list.

February 2017- Union, Consolidation, and The Federalist #39 

  • Numa: Political and Moral Entertainment VII, Hampshire Gazette, 5 September 1787 (excerpts)
  • Agrippa IV, Massachusetts Gazette, 4 December 1787 (excerpts)
  • Publius: The Federalist #39, New York Independent Journal, 16 January 1788 (excerpts)

October 2015 – Access to the Newspapers: A Radical New Policy

  • A Citizen, Massachusetts Gazette, 16 October 1787 (excerpts)
  • Solon, Boston Independent Chronicle, 18 October 1787 (excerpts)
  • A Pennsylvania Mechanic, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 29 October 1787 (excerpts)
  • Philadelphia Freeman’s Journal, 31 October 1787 (excerpts)
  • Argus, Providence United States Chronicle, 8 November 1787 (excerpts)
  • A Farmer, Gazette of the State of Georgia, 29 November 1787 (excerpts)

September 2015The Debate over the Religious Test Clause

  • William Williams to the Printer, Hartford American Mercury, 11 February 1788
  • Mathias Stone: Speech in the New Hampshire Convention, 20 February 1788
  • David Caldwell: Speech in the North Carolina Convention, 30 July 1788
  • A Landholder VII (Oliver Ellsworth), Connecticut Courant, 17 December 1787 (excerpts)
  • A Friend to Society and Liberty, Pennsylvania Gazette, 23 July 1788 (excerpts)

April 2015 – Elbridge Gerry’s Opposition to the Constitution

  • Elbridge Gerry to the Massachusetts General Court, 18 October (Massachusetts Centinel, 3 November 1787)
  • Rufus King and Nathaniel Gorham Unpublished Response to Gerry’s Objections

February 2015 – The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate Over a Bill of Rights

  • Richard Henry Lee to Edmund Randolph, New York, 16 October 1787
  • An Old Whig IV, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 27 October 1787
  • Brutus II, New York Journal, 1 November 1787
  • John Smilie’s Speech in the Pennsylvania Convention, 28 November 1787
  • Luther Martin: A Citizen of the State of Maryland Remarks Relative to a Bill of Rights, 12 April 1788
  • James Wilson’s Speech in the State House Yard, Philadelphia, 6 October 1787
  • A Countryman II, New Haven Gazette, 22 November 1787
  • Marcus I, Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal, 20 February 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 51, New York Independent Journal, 6 February 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 84, New York, 28 May 1788

January 2015 – The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate Over the Judiciary

  • Brutus XIII, New York Journal, 21 February 1788
  • Brutus XIV, New York Journal, 28 February 1788
  • Brutus XV, New York Journal, 20 March 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 78, New York, 28 May 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 80, New York, 28 May 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 81, New York, 28 May 1788

December 2014 – The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate Over the Executive Branch

  • Cato IV, New York Journal, 8 November 1787
  • Publius: The Federalist 69, New York Packet, 14 March 1788

November 2014 – The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate Over the Senate

  • George Mason to George Washington, Gunston Hall, 7 October 1787
  • Cincinnatus IV: To James Wilson, Esquire, New York Journal, 22 November 1787
  • Luther Martin: Genuine Information IV, Baltimore Maryland Gazette, 8 January 1788
  • Hampden, Pittsburgh Gazette, 16 February 1788
  • Brutus XVI, New York Journal, 10 April 1788
  • George Mason’s Speech in the Virginia Convention, 18 June 1788
  • An American Citizen II: On the Federal Government, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 28 September 1787
  • Remarker, Boston Independent Chronicle, 17 January 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 62, New York Independent Journal, 27 February 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 64, New York Independent Journal, 5 March 1788
  • Publius: The Federalist 76, New York Packet, 1 April 1788

October 2014 – The Federalist and Antifederalist Debate Over the House of Representatives

  • Cato V, New York Journal, 22 November 1787
  • Hampden, Pittsburgh Gazette, 16 February 1788
  • George Mason Speech in the Virginia Convention, 4 June 1788
  • Patrick Henry Speech in the Virginia Convention, 5 June 1788
  • An American Citizen III: On the Federal Government, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 29 September 1787
  • “Publius”: The Federalist 53, New York Independent Journal, 9 February 1788
  • “Publius”: The Federalist 55, New York Independent Journal, 13 February 1788
  • “Publius”: The Federalist 57, New York Packet, 19 February 1788

September 2014 – Washington and Franklin in the Constitutional Convention

  • Boston American Herald, 1 October 1787
  • Centinel I, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 5 October 1787
  • “Z,” Boston Independent Chronicle, 6 December 1787
  • An American, Boston American Herald, 28 January 1788
  • Alexander White, Winchester Virginia Gazette, 29 February 1788
  • A Virginian, Norfolk and Portsmouth Journal, 12 March 1788

April 2014 – Political Humor during the Ratification Debate (pdf)

  • Peter Prejudice: The New Breeches, Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 15 April 1788
  • Honestus, York Journal, 26 April 1788

March 2014 – French Diplomats Foresee an American Counter-Revolution (pdf)

  • Louis Guillaume Otto to Comte de Vergennes, New York, 10 October 1786
  • Comte de Moustier to Comte de Montmorin, New York, 2 August 1788 (excerpt)

February 2014 – The Debate Begins (pdf)

  • Brutus I, York Journal, 18 October 1787
  • Publius, The Federalist 1, New York Independent Journal, 27 October 1787

January 2014 – We the People (pdf)

  • James Wilson: Speech in the Pennsylvania Convention, 28 November 1787
  • John Smilie: Speech in the Pennsylvania Convention, 28 November 1787
  • Samuel Adams to Richard Henry Lee Boston, 3 December 1787
  • “The Republican Federalist” V, Massachusetts Centinel , January 1787
  • Edmund Pendleton: Speech in the Virginia Convention, 5 June 1788

November 2013 – Who Will Support the Constitution? (pdf)

  • Harrington: To the Freemen of the United States, Pennsylvania Gazette, 30 May 1787
  • Alexander Hamilton: Conjectures About the Constitution, September 1787

October 2013 – The Nature of the Republic (pdf)

  • Publius: The Federalist 2, New York Independent Journal, 31 October 1787
  • Cato III, New York Journal, 25 October 1787

September 2013 – The Last Day of the Constitutional Convention (pdf)

  • Benjamin Franklin’s Last Speech in the Convention, September 1787
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Final Remarks, 17 September 1787
  • George Washington’s Letter to the President of Congress, Philadelphia, 17 September 1787

August 2013 – Preparing for the Constitutional Convention (pdf)

  • Virginia Act Authorizing Election of Delegates to Constitutional Convention, 23 November 1786
  • James Madison to Governor Edmund Randolph, 8 April 1787

July 2013 – Advice to Americans (pdf)

  • Thomas Paine, American Crisis #13, 19 April 1783
  • George Washington: Last Circular letter to the States, June 1783