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Go directly to the collection, Documents
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789,
in American Memory, or view a Summary of Resources
related to the collection.
A broadside (or broadsheet) is a large sheet of paper, usually printed on one side. Citizens would read posted broadsides and gather to discuss their content. Broadsides set the stage for the open public debate and free press that became ideals in our society. These broadside collections document the hopes, fears, motivations, and interests of Americans who fought the Revolutionary War and created the United States Constitution.
1) The collection contains classic documents of the Revolutionary War era including the
Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.
2) The broadsides document debate on issues such as states rights, balance of power, and branches of government. The broadsides record hallmark events in American history such as the call for the first presidential election and the establishment of the Supreme Court.
on Articles of Confederation, Bill of Rights, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence.
|In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration By the Representatives of the United
of America, In General Congress Assembled. Philadelphia: John Dunlap, July 4,
[The First Assembly of Congress]. François Godefroy (c.1743 - 1819). Mixed method,
in Essais Historiques et Politiques sur la Revolution de l'Amerique
|Search on election, Congress, president, states rights, and Supreme Court for text such as:
Be it therefore ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that a supreme court of
appeals, for the United States of America, in all cases of captures, shall be constituted and
established, and it is hereby constituted and established, to consist of three judges, to be chosen
by ballot from time to time by Congress and commissioned by the president ... .
From the broadside: "The committee to whom the several ordinances relating to captures on water, were committed, report the following ordinance : In pursuance of the power vested in Congress by the Articles of Confederation ... it becomes necessary that a supreme court of appeals, in all cases of captures, should be constituted and established,..."1782?"
3) These broadsides present diverse views on how and why the Revolutionary War was
fought. The broadsides paint a picture of how colonists became convinced to fight a war
JOIN, or DIE. Artist unknown. Woodcut, in The
Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1754.
|Search on broadsides and broadsheets to find rallying cries for the war for Independence. For example, search on broadsides for text such as:
A Plan was carried on by the British Ministry for several Years in a systematic Manner to
enslave you to that Kingdom. After various Attempts in an artful and insidious Manner to bring
into Practice the laying you under Tribute, they at last openly and decisively asserted their Right
of making Laws to bind you in all Cases whatsoever.
From the broadside: "The representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, to the people in general, and particularly to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, and the adjacent states." 1776.
4) These documents trace the legislative process. Many of the broadsides appear in several
drafts. These drafts highlight the process of negotiation and compromise during this era.
Debate over the new Constitution is well chronicled in the Constitutional Convention
Search on laws or legislation combined with specific topics.
5) Broadsides on the Revolutionary War effort are prevalent. The documents reveal the
details and financial difficulties of organizing 13 separate governments and militias into a
united fighting force.
- For example, to study the development of the American monetary system, search on legislation, money
for text such as:
The weight, size or value of the several pieces of money that shall be made, or rather the most
convenient value of the money unit, is a question not easily determined, considering that most of
the citizens of the United States, are accustomed to count in pounds, shillings and pence; and
that those sums are of different values in the different states...
From the broadside: "Propositions respecting the coinage of gold, silver, and copper." 1785.
- And text such as:
[Resolved] That the money unit of the United States, being by the resolve of Congress of the 6th
July, 1785, a dollar, shall contain of fine silver, three hundred and seventy-five grains, and
sixty-four hundredths of a grain.
From the broadside: "By the United States in Congress assembled. August 8, 1786 : On a report of the Board of Treasury..."
- And the broadside: "An ordinance for the establishment of the mint of the United States of America, and for regulating the value and alloy of coin." Oct. 16, 1786.
General Washington (1732-1799). Painted by John Trumbull (1756- 1843). Engraved by Valentine Green 1739-1813). Mezzotint, 1781
Search on continental, army, war, or George Washington to find out
about the war effort. For example, search on continental for text such as:
And whereas great confusion hath arisen from the manner in which officers and soldiers have
been paid for rations and parts of rations allowed to, but not drawn by, them respectively:
Resolved, That the parts of a ration be estimated as follows, viz. For the daily allowance of beef,
pork, or fish, Four-Ninetieths of a Dollar; of bread or flour, Two-Ninetieths; of pease or beans,
One-Ninetieth; of milk, One-Ninetieth; of beer, One-Ninetieth; of rice, One-Half of a Ninetieth;
and of soap, One-Half of a Ninetieth; making in the whole Ten-Ninetieths of a Dollar for each
From the broadside: "In Congress, June 10, 1777 : Resolved, I. That for
supplying the Army of the United States with provisions..."
6) Under the treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the war, Britain relinquished a large tract
of land in the west. The collection traces Congressional debate over division, distribution,
and governance of these territories. For example, Congress designated some of the
territory lands as rewards for soldiers of the Continental Army.
Search on western territory for text such as:
Be it further ordained, That the secretary at war issue warrants for bounties of land to the
several officers and soldiers of the late continental army who may be entitled to such bounties,
or to their respective assigns or legal representatives, certifying therein the rank or station of
each officer, and the line, regiment, corps and company in which the officer or soldier served.
From the broadside: "By the United States in Congress assembled. July 9, 1788:
A supplement to an ordinance entitled An ordinance for
ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the Western
7) As part of the debate over western territories, the early congress also debated treatment
of and relationships with Native Americans. The collection covers Native American issues
such as treaty formation, trade, and settlement of Native American lands.
8) These broadsides do not present history from the perspective of the common citizen. The
documents were written by patriot leaders steeped in the ideology of freedom and equality.
While the broadsides do not commonly cite authors, many famous patriots are named in or are
signers of the documents.
JOSEPH THAYENDANEKEN, The Mohawk Chief. Artist unknown. Mixed method, in The London Magazine, July 1776
Indian, treaty, and the names of specific tribes (such as Shawnee, Cherokee, Mohawk and
Wabash). For example, search on Indian for text such as:
[And be it further ordained,] That no person, citizen or other, under the penalty of five hundred
dollars, shall reside among or trade with any Indian or Indian nation, within the territory of the
United States, without a license for that purpose first obtained from the superintendant of the
From the broadside: "By the United States in Congress assembled. August 7, 1786 : An ordinance for the regulation of Indian affairs."
Detail from Signing of the Declaration of Independence. John Trumbull (1756-1843). Oil on canvas, c. 1819.
|Search on James Monroe, John Adams, George Washington,
John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and others. For example, search on Benjamin Franklin for text such as:
The solemn ratifications of the present treaty, expedited in good and due form, shall be
exchanged between the contracting parties, in the space of six months, or sooner if possible, to
be computed from the day of the signature of the present treaty. In witness whereof, we the
undersigned, their ministers plenipotentiary, have in their name and in virtue of our full powers,
signed with our hands the present definitive treaty, and caused the seals of our arms to
be affixed thereto.
DONE at Paris, this third day of September, in the year of our Lord
one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.
(L.S.) D. HARTLEY, (L.S.) JOHN ADAMS ,
(L.S.) B. FRANKLIN,
(L.S.) JOHN JAY.
From the broadside: " By the United States in Congress assembled, a proclamation : Whereas definitive articles of peace and friendship, between the United States of America and His Britannic Majesty, were concluded and signed at Paris, on the 3rd day of September, 1783 ..."