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The Constitution and other Founding Documents  

Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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U.S. Constitution Text - Annotated Sources

What is an annotation?

"An annotation is a short description of an item. Annotations describe (summarize important content) and evaluate (critically analyze) the resource based on standard criteria. An annotation differs from an abstract or summary, as abstracts and summaries usually only describe or summarize the content and do not critically evaluate. Annotations may be written to describe books, Web sites, articles, government documents, videos, or other items."

From the Weber State University's Stewart Library.

  • Full-text of the Constitution from the Senate Library
    Original text with brief commentary about the meaning of the original text and how it has changed since 1789. See also Bibliography, as well as links on following topics: amending the Constitution, the Senate and the Constitution and the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
  • CRS Annotated Constitution
    Produced by the Congressional Research Service and accessible through the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute's web site. Lengthy annotations provide explantions and historical context for each article of the Constitution.
  • Constitution Annotated (
    "Contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law...The Featured Topics and Cases page highlights recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate pivotal interpretations of the Constitution's provisions."

Constitutional Conventions - Sources

  • Elliott's Debates
    "Also known as The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, this five-volume collection was compiled by Jonathan Elliot in the mid-nineteenth century. The volumes remain the best source for materials about the national government's transitional period between the closing of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787 and the opening of the First Federal Congress in March 1789." From the Library of Congress. See also print version at UVA Library.
  • Farrand's Records (The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787)
    "Published in 1911, Farrand's work gathered the documentary records of the Constitutional Convention into four volumes--three of which are included in this online collection". See also print version at UVA Library.

Other Founding Documents from the Library of Congress

  • Declaration of Independence
    "On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), approved the Declaration of Independence, severing the colonies' ties to the British Crown."

  • Articles of Confederation
    "The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, on November 15, 1777. However, ratification of the Articles of Confederation by all thirteen states did not occur until March 1, 1781. The Articles created a loose confederation of sovereign states and a weak central government, leaving most of the power with the state governments. The need for a stronger Federal government soon became apparent and eventually led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The present United States Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789."
  • Bill of Rights
    "On September 25, 1789, the First Federal Congress of the United States proposed to the state legislatures twelve amendments to the Constitution. The first two, concerning the number of constituents for each Representative and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified. Articles three through twelve, known as the Bill of Rights, became the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution and contained guarantees of essential rights and liberties omitted in the crafting of the original document."

  • Federalist Papers
    "The Federalist, commonly referred to as the Federalist Papers, is a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison between October 1787 and May 1788. The essays were published anonymously, under the pen name "Publius," in various New York state newspapers of the time.

    The Federalist Papers were written and published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution, which was drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. In lobbying for adoption of the Constitution over the existing Articles of Confederation, the essays explain particular provisions of the Constitution in detail. For this reason, and because Hamilton and Madison were each members of the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers are often used today to help interpret the intentions of those drafting the Constitution."

  • See also The American Revolution and The New Nation, 1763-1815
    Linked documents include Virginia Declaration of Rights, Treaty of Alliance with France, Northwest Ordinance, and many others.

American State Papers

  • American State Papers
    The American State Papers, comprising a total of thirty-eight physical volumes, contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 1838. The collection includes documents that cover the critical historical gap from 1789 to the printing of the first volume of the U.S. Serial Set in 1817. The books are arranged into ten topical classes or series:

    I. Foreign Relations. II. Indian Affairs. III. Finances. IV. Commerce and Navigation. V. Military Affairs
    VI. Naval Affairs. VII. Post Office Department. VIII. Public Lands. IX. Claims. X. Miscellaneous

    Print volumes are classed as Z in the New Stacks.
    Microfiche - Proquest/LN microfiche cabinets (near East Window in 3EAST)
    Also available via Proquest Congressional.

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