The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
is an independent agency of the federal government charged
with preserving and documenting government and historical records.
The National Archives Building, known informally as Archives I, opened as its
original headquarters in 1935. It holds the original copies of the three main
formative documents of the United States and its government: the Declaration
of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These are displayed
to the public in the main chamber of the National Archives, which is called
the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.
Among the many documents on display, the four most important documents, that were the starting documents
of the United States are the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation,
United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Declaration of Independence is considered to be the founding document of the United States.
It was the formal document we used to sever political ties with Great Britain and was adopted on July 4,1776.
John Hancock, as the elected President of Congress, was the only person to sign the Declaration of
Independence on July 4th. It was not until the following month on August 2nd that the remaining 55
other delegates began to sign the document.
Probably the most famous section of the documents is:
" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. "
The Articles of Confederation was the first governing document of the United States.
It was adopted by Congress in 1777 but was not fully ratified by the states until
the last stated signed in 1781.
The Articles of Confederation establish the name of the confederation as "The United States of America."
The articles established the United States as a league of states united, but each state
retained its sovereignty, freedom, and independence.
The United States Constitution was adopted by Congress on September 17, 1787 and
after the ninth state ratified it on June 21, 1788, become the law of the United States.
This set in motion the start of operations under the Constitution,
and on March 4, 1789, the government under the Constitution began operations.
The Bill of Rights were the ten amendments added to the Constitution in 1791. The English Bill
of Rights (1689) was an inspiration for the American Bill of Rights. For example, both require
jury trials, contain a right to bear arms, and prohibit excessive bail as well as "cruel and
unusual punishments." Many liberties protected by state constitutions and the Virginia
Declaration of Rights were incorporated into the United States Bill of Rights.
The Preamble states:
" We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America. "
For more information, visit the links below
National Archives Home Page
Documents of American history
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