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Historical Documents of the United States of America
by Ann Valentin

Category: History/Reference
Description: There appears to be turmoil in every State and part of our country. It is important that each of us as a citizen know what our individual rights are, particularly under Federal law. A few of the significant documents that affect each of us has been gathered together for easy reference and so you may actually read them. If you read about a certain Amendment, now you can look it up easily on your device. This is all about citizenship. Let's be informed citizens!
eBook Publisher: Gate Way Publishers,
eBookwise Release Date: April 2012


Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [83 KB]
Words: 17950
Reading time: 51-71 min.


Often I wonder if history is even taught in schools anymore. Yes, most everyone knows that George Washington was our first president. Yet, the history of the United States is so much more than that.

Core values of protecting the underdog or the one bullied are part of the history. Some of the documents that our country is based upon and have helped it evolve to where it is now are reprinted here for you to read. You are encouraged to really read them, not just glance over each one. The Constitution was not written in a day. It took months. Each word was considered and then reconsidered again and again. Think about the circumstances of the citizens and the status of everyday living as you read this documents. These papers, also known as Instruments, are the basis for our country's foundations of all parts of the federal government.

As countries throughout the world, including the United States of America (USA), become increasingly mired in financial difficulties, it would seem that a review of the founding principles of each nation be studied. Using the USA as a model, let's give a brief look at the status of the citizens and everyday circumstances when the political changes boiled and emerged.

We so often talk about the Constitution, which is well and good, however, when first looking at the Declaration of Independence, it is amazing, albeit very enlightening, to observe the anger within the words. The citizens were controlled by ways and means of edicts from the British Crown and had very little freedom. The fact that so many of the individuals living in the colonies in the early 1700's were born in America is at the root of much of the discussions.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948] is a document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Are we once again reading a declaration so profound, so far-reaching that it overwhelms the reader? I dare say, it is amongst one of the statements that could have and should change the world--for the better. Alas, we must ask ... why has it not done so?

The Human Rights document of 1948 through the United Nations is interesting as a historical document in so much that nowadays in the 21st Century it can be considered idealistic. Were Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and the other drawers and designers of the paper idealists or were they naive? Coming out of the days of World War II it may have been that the horrors of the then wars on two fronts that more or less covered the entire world in some way, influenced their thinking and decisions. Seeking to do good and see each person as an individual and worthy of existing in clean, healthy environments with food and shelter as a norm was honorable and commendable. Yet, in the practicability of the edicts it became in many cases, who was going to pay for these circumstances to occur? How was all of this to be implemented?

The people behind many of these historical documents were individuals who saw a greater good in all people and hoped and planned for a harmonious living together. That sounds well and good. However, when you carefully read each document and ponder the content and meaning of each one, you may start to think differently. Emerging from each proclamation is a ruling class, the decision makers if you will. Who was that supposed to be?

Putting these documents together at this time is a suggestion that you actually read them. Pull them apart if you wish. Discuss them with other people. Even rant if you want. However, these are the foundations for the United States of America as well as part of the United Nations and even Great Britain--world leaders. When you hear about reference to a certain Amendment, look it up and see what the document actually states.

Keep in mind that it is necessary that when individuals live together in a community or society, they must have laws or regulations for all to follow. How to structure the "village" so all inhabitants can get along and live together in harmony is not an easy accomplishment. However, you can see from these documents that efforts have been made for centuries to work something out to make the community possible.

Native American rights and the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 and the Native American Rights Fund of 1970. The Citizenship Act gave to many Native Americans official citizenship under law. Many had become citizens by serving in the armed services.

Perhaps you have heard of the Magna Carta. Now you can read it. Many people consider it the basis of the Declaration and the Constitution.

How about the Emancipation Proclamation? Read it now too.

Some of the old English words have been changed to modern language for ease of reading, otherwise the content remains as originally written.

There is much information within these documents. Read them with an open mind, yet realize how they affect you even today. Plus, you can get a sense of history and the times they were written in and you can see what has and has not changed nowadays.

-Ann Valentin

* * * *

SECTION I: Foundational Documents

* * * *


(The Great Charter)


John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we have granted as underwritten by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, bishops; of Master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of our lord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of the Knights of the Temple in England), and of the illustrious men William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl of Warenne, William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerold, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert De Burgh (seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d'Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and others, our subjects.

* * * *

1. In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.

2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by military service shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir shall be full of age and owe "relief", he shall have his inheritance by the old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs of an earl, for the whole barony of an earl by 100 pounds; the heir or heirs of a baron, 100 pounds for a whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100s, at most, and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.

3. If, however, the heir of any one of the aforesaid has been under age and in wardship, let him have his inheritance without relief and without fine when he comes of age.

4. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thus under age, shall take from the land of the heir nothing but reasonable produce, reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction or waste of men or goods; and if we have committed the wardship of the lands of any such minor to the sheriff, or to any other who is responsible to us for its issues, and he has made destruction or waster of what he holds in wardship, we will take of him amends, and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that Trust, who shall be responsible for the issues to us or to him to whom we shall assign them; and if we have given or sold the wardship of any such land to anyone and he has therein made destruction or waste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that Trust, who shall be responsible to us in like manner as aforesaid.

5. The guardian, moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, shall keep up the houses, parks, fishponds, ponds, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the issues of the same land; and he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his land, stocked with plows and produce, according as the season of husbandry shall require, and the issues of the land can reasonable bear.

6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the marriage takes place the nearest in blood to that heir shall have notice.

7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance; nor shall she give anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of that husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.

8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the moveable possessions of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor is able to satisfy the debt; and if the principal debtor shall fail to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then the sureties shall answer for the debt; and let them have the lands and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are indemnified for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show proof that he is discharged thereof as against the said sureties.

10. If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, die before that loan be repaid, the debt shall not bear interest while the heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt fall into our hands, we will not take anything except the principal sum contained in the bond.

11. And if anyone die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if any children of the deceased are left under age, necessaries shall be provided for them in keeping with the holding of the deceased; and out of the residue the debt shall be paid, reserving, however, service due to feudal lords; in like manner let it be done touching debts due to others than Jews.

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