Readings: U.S. Legal & Constitutional History

The Origins of Magna Carta, 1215: There are multiple pages and links to explore here.
The Petition of Right, 1628: This is the text of the petition.
The Petition of Right, 1628: This is background information about the petition.
The Declaration of Rights, 1689 – “The English Bill of Rights.”
The Origins of Common Law


Letters Patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 1578
The First Charter of Virginia, 1610
The Virginia Company of London
Charter of Carolina, 1663
Background on Charter of Carolina, 1663


Dale’s Laws, 1610
History of House of Burgesses
Virginia Rules on Conduct and Religion, 1619
Virginia Statues on Slavery, 1662-69
Maryland Toleration Act, 1649
The Mayflower Compact, 1620
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, Roger Williams, 1644
Pennsylvania, William Penn: Frame of Government, 1682


Locke: Second Treatise of Government, 1688
The Zenger Case, 1735


James Otis: Against Writs of Assistance (1761)
The Stamp Act, 1765Blackstone: Parliamentary Omnipotence (1765)
Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions (1765)
The Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress
Dickenson: Letter from a farmer in Pennsylvania, 1767
Boston Non-Importation Agreement, 1768
Charleston Non-Importation Agreement, 1769


Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York, 1773
Proceedings of Farmington, Connecticut, on the Boston Port Act, 1774
Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, 1774
The Charlotte Town Resolves, 1775
Paine: Common Sense, 1776
Adams: Thoughts on Government, 1776


Lee’s Resolutions, 1776
Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, 1776
Declaration of Independence, 1776
Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776
Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1776
Constitution of Maryland, 1776


Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1779
An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, 1780
Articles of Confederation, 1781
Northwest Ordinance, 1787


The Virginia Plan, 1787
The New Jersey Plan, 1787
Hamilton’s Plan, 1787
Madison Debates, 1787
Constitution of the United States, 1787
Debate Over the Importation of Slaves, 1787



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