Archive for Online Primary Sources

Online Primary Sources for American History: Colonial Charters and Grants

While all these fundamental documents are found online, this site aggregates them all into a single file, making it easy to trace the development of government in individual colonies as well as comparing the various legal principles employed.

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Constitutional Amendments

 “I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”   -Benjamin Franklin,  in Madison, Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787 

The Article V Convention for Proposing Constitutional Amendments: Historical Perspectives for Congress (CRS)

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 (US Library of Congress)

Chronicling America (millions of newspaper articles; special features on the 16th, 18th, 19th amendments)

Congressional Record (links to predecessor publications here as well)

Constitution Annotated (CRS)

Constitutional Amendment Process (The National Archives)

Constitutional Amendments – United States (HathiTrust)

Founders’ Constitution (University of Chicago)

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on the Constitution

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Did the Lewis & Clark Expedition Have a Black Participant?

The Corps of Discovery did indeed have a black man as part of its travels – it was William Clark’s slave named York. We have no knowledge of his first name and scant biographical information. Much of what we know of him can be gleaned from the authoritatively edited Journals and glimpsed in the recently published Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark. A summation of his activities on the exploration could read as the following: “He seems to have carried a gun and to have performed his full share of the duties with other members of the party; a body servant who could neither defend himself nor carry his share of the load would have been an unacceptable luxury on the expedition.” (Journals, volume 2, appendix A)

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Presidential Impeachment

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 4

“The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United Statesis tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall beconvicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6


There have been only two impeachments in this country’s history: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. There would have been a third, but Richard Nixon resigned before that process was implemented.

Here are some primary sources for both:

Andrew Johnson

(A good introduction to this trial can be found here at this Senate Historical Office site.)

Broadsides and other ephemera.

Chronicling America. “The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson.” Hundreds of contemporary newspaper accounts.

Congressional Globe. Contains the debates of Congress between 1833 and 1873. It published a special volume containing the documents on this trial. Also printed as a separate volume: Proceedings in the trial of Andrew Johnson, president of the United States, before the United States Senate, on articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives. : With an appendix (1868)

Expulsion of the president / opinion of Hon. Charles Summer of Massachusetts, in the case of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, president of the United States (1868)

Harper’s Weekly. “The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson” Over two hundred contemporary articles from this important chronicle of the times.

Impeachment investigation : Testimony taken before the Judiciary committee of the House of Representatives in the investigation of the charges against Andrew Johnson. Second session, Thirty-ninth Congress, and first session, Fortieth Congress (1867)

Letters. Mostly between Johnson and Abraham Lincoln.

The life and public services of Andrew Johnson. including his state papers, speeches and addresses. (1866)

Public Papers.


Bill Clinton

(A brief overview is here.)

C-SPAN Has selected videos on this topic.

Clinton Impeachment. From The New York Times containing documents, speeches, articles, interviews, etc.

Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton : the evidentiary record pursuant to S. Res. 16. (24 vols., 1999)

Proceedings of the United States Senate in the impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton (4 vols., 2000)

Public Papers.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: The Dr Martin Luther King Jr Digital Archive Project

This archives contains one million online source documents ranging from speeches to oral histories. You can browse the archives by themes, type of document, or keyword. It calls itself a “dynamic” archives because more material is being added. In light of recent events, read letters to and from John Lewis. A goldmine of texts dealing with a tumultuous time in our history. May this always be preserved.

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FBI Files on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

The FBI maintained surveillance on Dr King and his colleagues for years. These files, in some cases heavily redacted, contain over 17,000 pages of documentation, including wiretaps.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Wisconsin

Published in twenty volumes between 1855 and 1915, the Wisconsin Historical Collections are brimming with first-hand accounts, journals, recollections, and reminiscences of early Wisconsin. An index to the entire collection is also online. Since 1915, the Wisconsin Magazine of History is the vehicle for disseminating additional primary source material.

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