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We the People

Photo of many people standing on the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
[Detail] Oath of Office.
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Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.
~John Marshall Harlan (Dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896)

primary source set

This Primary Source Set includes images, documents, maps, sound files and analysis tools to help teach about the United States Constitution.

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online resources
Especially for Teachers...

Alcove 9 - U.S. Politics, Government and Law - (Internet Resources) A Library of Congress collection of internet sites related to U.S. government, politics, and law.

American History as Seen in Congressional Documents, 1774-1873 - (Special Presentation) Chart America’s story through its legislative records and documents.

American Memory Timeline: Confederation Government Policy Toward Native Americans, The - (Feature) View 18th and 19th century documents related to policies and strategies America developed to keep peace between white settlers and Native Americans.

American Memory Timeline: The United States Constitution - (Feature) Read debates, drafts and documents related to the adoption of the Constitution.

Benjamin Franklin: In His Own Words - (Exhibition) Learn about Benjamin Franklin's public, professional, and scientific accomplishments through important documents, letters, books, broadsides, and cartoons. The Continental Congress section highlights his role as a delegate.

Congressional Information on the Library of Congress Web Site - (Library of Congress Bibliography) This guide provides access to Congressional information available on the Library of Congress Web site. Click on 1763-1815 for links to more information about the Constitution and related documents.

Creating the United States - (Exhibition) Learn how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. Themes include Creating the Declaration of Independence, Creating the Constitution and Creating the Bill of Rights.

Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents - (Exhibition) Learn about the history of the Declaration of Independence and view original drafts and related documents.

Emancipation Proclamation, The - (Special Presentation) View a timeline and gallery of images related to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Finding Franklin: A Resource Guide - (Library of Congress Bibliography) This online bibliography links to Benjamin Franklin resources across the Library of Congress Web site and beyond.

George Washington Papers Timeline - (Special Presentation) This timeline links to selected documents covering the Colonial Period, the American Revolution and the Early Republic.

George Washington: A Resource Guide - (Library of Congress Bibliography) Link to digital materials related to Washington such as letters, broadsides, government documents, books, and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site.

Gettysburg Address, The - (Exhibition) View two original drafts of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Guide to the Law Online - (Internet Resources) An annotated guide to government and law information available online prepared by the Law Library of Congress.

Guide to Washington, D.C., A - (Library of Congress Bibliography) This guide consists of materials relating to the history of Washington, D.C. from the Library of Congress sites and other related web sites.

Inaugurations - (Feature) Through images and written accounts, observe the pageantry of presidential inaugurations. The inauguration of the President represents the beginning of a new era for the Executive branch of the US government.

Introducing ... THOMAS! - (Learning Page Activity) Learn about the Web site: THOMAS, Legislative Information on the Internet.

James Madison and the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 - (Special Presentation) Learn about James Madison's significant role in the founding of the federal government.

James Madison: A Resource Guide - (Library of Congress Bibliography) Link to digital materials related to Madison such as manuscripts, letters, broadsides, government documents, and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site.

James Madison: Philosopher and Practitioner of Liberal Democracy - (Cybercast) View cybercasts of presentations made during a 2001 symposium celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of James Madison.

James Monroe: A Resource Guide - (Library of Congress Bibliography) Link to digital materials related to Monroe such as manuscripts, letters, broadsides, government documents, and images that are available throughout the Library of Congress Web site.

Madison’s Treasures - (Exhibition) Explore handwritten documents from the Madison collection – many related to the drafting and ratification of the Constitution and the amendments that became the Bill of Rights.

Presidents as Poets - (Library of Congress Bibliography) Explore this guide to the poetic endeavors of U.S. presidents.

Primary Documents in American History - (Library of Congress Bibliography) This Web site, arranged by historical era, links to important documents in American history. Click on 1763-1815 for links to the Constitution and related documents.

Publishing the Declaration of Independence - (Cybercast) Robin Shields discusses the distribution of the Declaration of Independence through early American newspapers in this Journeys and Crossings presentation.

Religion and the Founding of the American Republic - (Exhibition) What role did religion play in the founding of the American colonies? This exhibit examines books, manuscripts, letters, prints, paintings, artifacts and music related to this theme.

Slave Code for the District of Columbia - (Special Presentation) View two 1860’s slave codes outlining slavery related law in force in the District of Columbia.

Star Spangled Banner - (Performing Arts) Celebrate National Anthem Day on September 14th with song sheets, sheet music, sound files and historical information from Patriotic Melodies.

State and Local Governments - (Internet Resources) A Library of Congress collection of internet sites related to state and local governments.

Thomas - (Legislative Resource) Thomas provides links to legislative information. View this site dedicated to archiving the day-to-day activiites of the United States Congress.

Thomas Jefferson Papers - (Special Presentation) View Thomas Jefferson (1743-1827) and Virginia Records (1553-1743) timelines with links to selected images and documents from the Thomas Jefferson Papers.

Thomas Jefferson's Library - (Exhibition) This exhibition reveals how books were vital to Thomas Jefferson’s education and well–being and how his personal library provided Jefferson with a broad knowledge of the contemporary and ancient worlds. Exhibition themes include Memory, Reason and Imagination and feature opportunities to explore pages from a selection of books in each category.

To Form a More Perfect Union - The Work of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention - (Special Presentation) Learn about the birth of the American nation through its documents.

Web Guide: The American Founders Online - (Library of Congress Bibliography)The digital resources described in this guide provide online access, in varying degrees, to the personal papers and/or publications of the major founders of the American Republic.

Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, The - (Cybercast) Linda Monk discusses her book - The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution.

  Especially for your Students...

American Political Parties Past - (Learning Page Activity) Match political parties with their platforms.

American Treasures: A Looking Glass for 1787 - (Exhibition) This satirical, eighteenth-century engraving touches on some of the major issues in Connecticut politics on the eve of ratification of the Constitution.

American Treasures: A Rare Civics Lesson - (Exhibition) What were the duties of the president and other governmental officials in 1825?

American Treasures: Draft of the Virginia Constitution - (Exhibition) Learn about Jefferson’s May, 1776 draft document which influenced the Virginia government and was the direct predecessor of the Declaration of Independence.

American Treasures: Report of the Committee of Detail - (Exhibition) Read the draft constitution submitted on August 6, 1787 by the five-man Committee of Detail to the Federal Convention.

American Treasures: Report of the Committee of Style - (Exhibition) This September 12, 1787 report contained suggestions for last minute changes to the Constitution.

American Treasures: The Federalist - (Exhibition) The eighty-five Federalist articles, originally published in the daily newspapers in New York City, analyzed the system of government presented in the Constitution.

Elections - the American Way - (Feature) Explore the history of the election process through primary source materials.

For and Against - (Learning Page Activity) Enjoy 1914 vaudeville jokes poking fun at the ideologies and behavior of political parties from our nation's past.

Gerald Ford - (Special Presentation) Link to resources about former president Gerald Ford who died on December 26, 2006 at the age of 93.

I Spy: Gray’s Ferry - (Learning Page Activity) Spot items in this 1789 drawing of the Gray’s Ferry community preparing to receive General Washington.

I Spy: Lincoln's Inauguration - (Learning Page Activity) Spot items in this 1865 photograph taken at Lincoln’s inauguration.

Jump Back in Time: April 13, 1743 - (America's Library) Read about Thomas Jefferson.

Jump Back in Time: December 12, 1745 - (America's Library) Read about John Jay, one of our nation’s founding fathers.

Jump Back in Time: December 15, 1791 - (America's Library) Read about the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Jump Back in Time: January 12, 1737 - (America's Library) Read about John Hancock.

Jump Back in Time: January 23, 1964 - (America's Library) Read about the passage of the 24th Amendment that ended the poll tax.

Jump Back in Time: July 20, 1848 - (America's Library) Read about the Seneca Falls Convention and women’s fight for equal rights.

Jump Back in Time: July 28, 1868 - (America's Library) Read about the passage of the 14th Amendment that granted citizenship to those born in the United States.

Jump Back in Time: May 29, 1736 - (America's Library) Read about Patrick Henry.

Jump Back in Time: November 15, 1777 - (America's Library) Read about the adoption of the Articles of Confederation.

Jump Back in Time: November 19, 1863 - (America's Library) Read about Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address.

Making of the Constitution, The - (Wise Guide) Each May 1, Law Day is celebrated in honor of the laws that are the guiding principles of the nation.

Meet Amazing Americans - Dynamite Presidents - (America's Library) Have fun learning about the four presidents whose images are carved into Mount Rushmore.

Meet Amazing Americans Presidents Scavenger Hunt - (America's Library) Locate the answers and earn a certificate in this presidential fact finding activity.

Meet Amazing Americans: Abraham Lincoln - (America's Library) Learn about America’s 16th president.

Meet Amazing Americans: Dwight D. Eisenhower - (America's Library) Learn about America’s 34th president.

Meet Amazing Americans: George Washington - (America's Library) Learn about America’s 1st president.

Meet Amazing Americans: James Madison - (America's Library) Learn about James Madison’s contribution to the Consititution.

Meet Amazing Americans: Theodore Roosevelt - (America's Library) Learn about America’s 26th president.

Meet Amazing Americans: Thomas Jefferson - (America's Library) Learn about America’s 3rd president.

Today in History (September 17, 1787) The United States Constitution - (Today in History) On this date members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution. Search the Archives using the term "Consititution" for related events.

Who’s the Father of the Constitution? - (Wise Guide) James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution because of his pivotal role in the document's drafting.

lesson plans

Use these lesson plans (created by educators for educators) to explore American government and civics with your students in your classroom:

Created Equal? - (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12) Students argue Thomas Jefferson's intentions in stating Students gain an appreciation of Thomas Jefferson's efforts to deal with the complex issues of equality and slavery in the Declaration of Independence.

In Congress Assembled - (Grades 6-12) Students look at the Constitution and link early legislative debates to issues of today.

Constitution: Counter Revolution or National Salvation?, The - (Grade 11) Students identify arguments for and against the ratification of the Constitution.

Constitution: Drafting a More Perfect Union , The - (Grades 9-12,) This lesson focuses on the drafting of the United States Constitution. George Washington’s annotated copy of an early draft of the Constitution lets students analyze changes to the draft and explore the evolution of the final document.

Suffragists and Their Tactics - (Grades 9-12,) Students use primary sources to explore strategies and challenges of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson’s Library: Making a Case For a National Library - (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12,) Students examine a Thomas Jefferson letter and identify techniques he used to persuade Congress to purchase his personal library. Students then consider a selection of those books and write their own persuasive letters urging the books' purchase.

Minerva Mosaic of the Library of Congress: Taking a Closer Look, The - (Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8,) Students take a close look at the historic Minerva mosaic from the Great Hall of the Library of Congress and discover what it can tell them about the Library’s mission. They perform a basic primary source analysis and discuss the mosaic’s symbolism.

Bill of Rights: Debating the Amendments , The - (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12,) Students examine a copy of twelve possible amendments to the United States Constitution from 1789, and debate and vote on which of these amendments they would ratify to produce a Bill of Rights.

Declaration of Independence: From Rough Draft to Proclamation, The - (Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12,) Students analyze Thomas Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence, compare its text to that of the final document adopted by Congress, and discuss the significance of wording differences.

From Jim Crow to Linda Brown - (Grades 9-12) Students explore the era of legalized segregation. Students simulate the National Afro-American Council that met in Washington, D. C. in 1898.

George Washington - (Grades 8-12) Students engage in three lessons examining George Washington's leadership. Lessons two and three relate to Washington’s role in the development of American government and his tenure as president.

Great Depression and the 1990s, The - (Grades 7-11) Students gain a better understanding of why the government takes care of its people and how welfare programs started. Lessons one and three relate to current issues in government.

All History is Local - (Grades 9-12) Creating an archive of primary source materials constitutes the principal activity of a year-long American Studies class focusing on historiography and the use of primary sources. Students understand and articulate the interplay between national, state, local, and personal history.

Conservation at a Crossroads - (Grades 9-12) Two separate lessons for students to investigate and debate the controversies inherent in conservation programs. Students research federal laws related to conservation.

Reservation Controversies - (Grades 6-8) Students are confronted with two real world problems regarding Native Americans, which have no preconceived right or wrong answers. In Scenario 2, students explore the effects of laws regarding Indian reservations.

Voices for Votes: Suffrage Strategies - (Grades 4-6) Students create original documents encouraging citizens to vote in current elections. Students stage mock elections and design ephemera to influence public opinion.


Is there a title (or two) that you always read to (or with) your students when teaching about American government and civics? Are there invaluable reference books that you use when working with this theme? Staff from The Library of Congress have generously donated favorite titles for the "We The People..." theme. We hope you will contribute your favorite titles to our growing bibliography!

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collection connections

Create your own collaborative lesson plans using material related to this month's theme assembled from The Learning Page Collection Connections:

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Look for tips for using these classic documents from the Revolutionary War era to help students trace the legislative process.

Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, The - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Make sure to check out this collection of 27,000 documents ranging in date from 1606-1827.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress - (Summary and Teaching Resources) The collection can be used to explore key history content such as colonial America, the American Revolution, the Constitution, and the Presidency.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress - (Summary and Teaching Resources) The draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is one of the treasures in this collection of over 20,000 documents.

Early Virginia Religious Petitions - (Summary Only) This collection includes 423 petitions on a variety of topics submitted to the Virginia legislature between 1774 and 1802.

Evolution of the Conservation Movement: 1850-1920, The - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Of particular interest to this month's theme are the items from the Law Library of Congress which include over 140 statutes and 360 presidential proclamations on conservation related issues.

Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress, The - (Summary Only) Of paticular interest to this month's theme is the Adolf Eichmann File (1938 - 1968) which contains correspondence, reports, transcripts, notes, reviews, clippings and related material concerning the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

Slaves and the Courts 1740-1860 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection is comprised on an assortment of trials, cases, decisions, proceedings and other works of historical importance related to the experiences of the African and African-American slaves in the American colonies and the United States.

Chicago Anarchists on Trial - Evidence From the Haymarket Affair 1886-1887 - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection of over 3,800 original manuscripts, broadsides, photographs, prints and artifacts related to the Haymarket Affair includes many items documenting the trial, conviction and subsequent appeals of those accused of inciting the bombing.

Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873, A - (Summary and Teaching Resources) Learn techniques to help students decode the historic legistlative debates that shaped our nation.

James Madison Papers, 1723-1836, The - (Summary and Teaching Resources) This collection documents the life of the man who came to be known as the "Father of the Constitution."

search terms

These terms may be useful when searching for items related to this theme in the American Memory collections.

Amendments Government Names of presidents
Articles of Confederation House of Representatives Politics
Bill of Rights Justice Presidents
Citizens Laws Senate
Civics Legislation Senators
Continental Congress Names of branches of government Suffrage
Constitution Names of Congressional representatives Supreme Court
Declaration of Independence Names of political parties Treaties
Elections Names of political leaders Voting
Gettysburg Address Names of political organizations  

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Last updated 08/25/2005