Featured Primary Sources

Government and Civics

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, and text to place the document in historical context. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

Rufus King. Substance of Two Speeches, Delivered in the Senate of the United Sta

A Founding Father on the Missouri Compromise, 1819

Creator: Rufus King Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
John Adams to Richard Henry Lee, November 15, 1775 (GLC03864)

A plan for a new government, 1775

Creator: John Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
William Barret Travis, “To the Citizens of Texas,” February 24, 1836. (GLC)

A plea to defend the Alamo, 1836

Creator: William Travis Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“The Old Bull Dog on the Right Track,” Currier and Ives, NY, 1864. (GLC08594)

A political cartoon of Grant and Lee, 1864

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, General Orders No. 141, September 25, 1862 (GLC06099)

A proclamation on the suspension of habeas corpus, 1862

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
San Diego, California, c1904. Detroit Publishing, Library of Congress

A report from Spanish California, 1776

Creator: Fernando de Rivera y Moncada Curriculum Subjects: Foreign Languages, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Archibald Hinshelwood to Joshua Mauger, August 19, 1765. (GLC03902.61)

A report on reaction to the Stamp Act, 1765

Creator: Archibald Hinshelwood Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Alexander Hamilton to François, Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, October 12, 1780 (GLC)

Alexander Hamilton’s “gloomy” view of the American Revolution, 1780

Creator: Alexander Hamilton Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
The protectors of our industries, Gillam ; Mayer Merkel & Ottmann lithograph, NY

Anti-corporate cartoons, ca. 1900

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Art, Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Inaugural Parade. Michelle and Barack Obama watch the parade from the viewi

Barack Obama’s First Inaugural Address, 2009

Creator: Barack Obama Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Blank Advice sheet for The Birth of a Nation, 1915. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Birth of a Nation, 1915

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Gutzon Borglum,  National Monument Mount Rushmore Black Hills South Dakota..., S

Building Mount Rushmore, 1926

Creator: Gutzon Borglum Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:
Color Voters Read, broadside, 1894. (GLC09000)

Campaigning for the African American vote in Georgia, 1894

Creator: the State Democratic Party of Georgia Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Charles Sumner, [One man power versus Congress], c. October 2, 1866 (Gilder Lehr

Charles Sumner on Reconstruction and the South, 1866

Creator: Charles Sumner Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“Official Civilian Defense Insignia, United States Citizens Defense Corps,” US O

Civilian defense on the home front, 1942

Creator: The Office of Civilian Defense Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Theodore Roosevelt to William H. Hunt, September 26, 1901 (Gilder Lehrman Collec

Confirming governors for territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, 1901

Creator: Theodore Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
James Monroe to Thomas Rutter, November 13, 1816, on the Quakers’ petition for a

Conscientious objectors: Madison pardons Quakers, 1816

Creator: James Madison and James Monroe Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
David Crockett to Charles Schultz, December 25, 1834 (Gilder Lehrman Collect

Davy Crockett on the removal of the Cherokees, 1834

Creator: David Crockett Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Declaration of Independence, Charleston, South Carolina, August 2, 1776. (Gilde

Declaration of Independence, 1776

Creator: Continental Congress Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Giles B. Jackson to R.C. Burrow, June 22, 1901. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Disfranchisement of African American voters in Virginia, 1901

Creator: Giles Jackson Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Eleanor Roosevelt to Addie Frizielle, May 13, 1944 (GLC09544)

Eleanor Roosevelt’s four basic rights, 1944

Creator: Eleanor Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Curran, January 14, 1942. (Gilder Lehrman Collec

FDR on racial discrimination, 1942

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
First Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933. (GLC00675)

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inauguration, 1933

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics, Literature Grade Levels:
Frederick Douglass to Robert Adams, December 4, 1888. (Gilder Lehrman Collection

Frederick Douglass on the disfranchisement of black voters, 1888

Creator: Frederick Douglass Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
George Wallace to Ms. Martin, April 14, 1964. (GLC00295)

George Wallace on segregation, 1964

Creator: George Wallace Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
George Washington to Henry Knox, February 3, 1787. (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

George Washington discusses Shays’ Rebellion and the upcoming Constitutional Convention, 1787

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
George Washington to John Francis Mercer, September 9, 1786. (Gilder Lehrman

George Washington on the abolition of slavery, 1786

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
Franklin D. Roosevelt, [Press release of speech delivered on Memorial Day at Get

George Washington would have supported the New Deal, 1934

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
George Washington, by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1852 (GLC09119.01)

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, Literature Grade Levels:
Hamilton’s Report . . . on the Subject of Manufactures, Dec. 5, 1791. (GLC00891)

Hamilton’s Report on the Subject of Manufactures, 1791

Creator: Alexander Hamilton Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Harry S. Truman to Dean Acheson, March 31, 1950. (GLC00782.22)

Harry S. Truman responds to McCarthy, 1950

Creator: Harry S. Truman Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Henry Knox, Order of march to Trenton, December 26, 1776 (Gilder Lehrman Collect

Henry Knox’s Order of March to Trenton, 1776

Creator: Henry Knox Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Herbert Hoover to Louis L. Emmerson, July 10, 1931. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Herbert Hoover on the Great Depression and New Deal, 1931–1933

Creator: Herbert Hoover Curriculum Subjects: Foreign Languages Grade Levels:
Inaugural Address of President Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929 (Gilder Lehrman Col

Herbert Hoover’s Inaugural Address, 1929

Creator: Herbert Hoover Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
J. Edgar Hoover, An Open Address to Students, September 21,1970. (The Nixon Libr

J. Edgar Hoover on campus unrest, 1970

Creator: J. Edgar Hoover Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Japanese internment broadside, May 3, 1942. (GLC06360)

Japanese internment, 1942

Creator: J. L. DeWitt Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, June 16, 1792. (GLC08063p2)

Jefferson on the French and Haitian Revolutions, 1792

Creator: Thomas Jefferson Curriculum Subjects: Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
John S. Mosby to Sam Chapman, July 25, 1897 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

John Mosby on the silver issue, 1895

Creator: John S. Mosby Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
John Quincy Adams to Roger S. Baldwin, November 11, 1840 (Gilder Lehrman Co

John Quincy Adams and the Amistad case, 1841

Creator: John Quincy Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment concerning the abolition of slavery, ca. July 1

Lincoln on abolition in England and the United States, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment on slavery and the American government, ca. 185

Lincoln speech on slavery and the American Dream, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Literacy and the immigration of “undesirables,” 1903

Creator: Immigration Restriction League Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Draft of a circular letter by J. Milton Turner to Republican delegates at the Na

Nominating an African American for vice president, 1880

Creator: James Milton Turner Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Our Victorious Fleets in Cuban Waters, 1898. (GLC03534)

Our Victorious Fleets in Cuban Waters, 1898

Creator: Currier & Ives Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
People’s Party campaign poster, 1892. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photograp

People’s Party campaign poster, 1892

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Henry W. Smith, “Texas Expects Every Man to Do His Duty,” February [28], 1836 (G

Politics and the Texas Revolution, 1836

Creator: Henry W. Smith Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.

President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Inaugural address of President Abraham Lincoln delivered at the National Cap

President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Ronald Reagan, official White House photograph, 1981 (Library of Congress Prints

President Reagan’s First Inaugural Address, 1981

Creator: Ronald Reagan Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Harry S. Truman, Farewell Address, 1953. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

President Truman’s Farewell Address, 1953

Creator: Harry S. Truman Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
“Americans All” poster, War Manpower Commission, Washington DC, 1942. (GLC09530)

Preventing labor discrimination during World War II, 1942

Creator: War Manpower Commission Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
King George III, Proclamation of 1763, 1763. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Proclamation of 1763, 1763

Creator: George III, King of Great Britain Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Gerald Ford, Granting pardon to Richard Nixon: A Proclamation, September 8, 1974

Proclamation pardoning Richard Nixon, 1974

Creator: Gerald R. Ford Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
US Constitution printed in Albany, New York, 1788. (GLC07866)

Ratification of the US Constitution in New York, 1788

Creator: George Washington and the Constitutional Convention Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Iowa joint resolution ratifying the 13th Amendment, March 30, 1866. (GLC02631)

Ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment, 1866

Creator: the Iowa General Assembly Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:

Robert F. Kennedy on Vietnam, 1967

Creator: Robert F. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Robert F. Kennedy, [Report to President John F. Kennedy regarding civil rights],

Robert Kennedy on civil rights, 1963

Creator: Robert F. Kennedy Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Ronald Reagan to Harold Ward, May 26, 1962. (GLC00782.17)

Ronald Reagan on economics and political parties, 1962

Creator: Ronald Reagan Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Enoch M. Duley, “Two Hundred Dollars Reward!” broadside, KY (GLC06377.01)

Runaway slave ad, 1860

Creator: Enoch M. Duley Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, “Justice the Issue! Shall Sacco and Vanzetti

Sacco and Vanzetti, 1921

Creator: Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Freedmen’s contract between Isham G. Bailey and freedmen Cooper Hughs and Charl

Sharecropper contract, 1867

Creator: Isham G. Bailey Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Census results, New York State, ca. 1800. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Slavery in the New York State census, 1800

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Timothy Pickering, Speech in favor of the Twelfth Amendment, October 17, 1803 (T

Speech in favor of the Twelfth Amendment, 1803

Creator: Timothy Pickering Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Lincoln Said Women Should Vote, ca. 1910 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Suffragists invoke Lincoln, 1910

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Susan B. Anthony, Statement of the current state of her work for equal rights fo

Susan B. Anthony on suffrage and equal rights, 1901

Creator: Susan B. Anthony Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Texas Declaration of Independence, March 2, 1836. (GLC02559)

Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836

Creator: Delegates of the People of Texas Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“Thanksgiving-Day,” by Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, December 5, 1863. (Gilder L

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863

Creator: Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nast Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
The Articles of Confederation, 1777 (GLC04759)

The Articles of Confederation, 1777

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Benjamin Duvivier, George Washington before Boston, medal, ca. 1790 (GLC03221)

The British evacuation of Boston, 1776

Creator: Benjamin Duvivier Curriculum Subjects: Art, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The Cold War in the classroom, 1952

Creator: Federal Civil Defense Administration Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Angelica Schuyler Church to Philip Schuyler, July 11, 1804. (Gilder Lehrman

The duel: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, 1804

Creator: Angelica Schuyler Church Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
William Henry Seward, [Fifteenth Amendment resolution], February 27, 1869 (Gilde

The Fifteenth Amendment, 1870

Creator: William Henry Seward Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“I feed you all!” lithograph by American Oleograph Co., Milwaukee, c. 1875. (Lib

The Grange Movement, 1875

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

The Haymarket Affair, 1886

Creator: Dyer D. Lum Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
 President’s Annual Message to Congress, Washington Republican Extra, Dec. 2, 18

The Monroe Doctrine, 1823

Creator: James Monroe Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Geography, Government and Civics, World History Grade Levels:
Daniel Horsmanden, A Journal of the Proceedings . . . 1744. (GLC04502.01)

The New York Conspiracy of 1741

Creator: Daniel Horsmanden Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Frederick S. Greene, July 28, 1932. (GLC00224)

The origins of FDR’s New Deal, 1932

Creator: Franklin D. Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
A Memorial of the State of the Province of Massachusetts Bay (detail)

The Province of Massachusetts Bay requests aid from Queen Anne, 1708

Creator: Thomas Oliver Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Mary Walker to James Hardie, September 23, 1864 (GLC06882)

The service of Medal of Honor recipient Dr. Mary Walker, 1864

Creator: Mary E. Walker Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
The Stamp Act, pamphlet, published in London, 1765. (GLC03562.11)

The Stamp Act, 1765

Creator: George III Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Anne Brown Adams to Alexander Ross,circa 1880s (GLC03007.53)

The struggle for married women’s rights, circa 1880s

Creator: Anne Brown Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:

The Supreme Court upholds national prohibition, 1920

Creator: Wayne B. Wheeler Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Alexander Hamilton to Governor Thomas Mifflin, September 20, 1794. (GLC07920)

The Whiskey Rebellion, 1794

Creator: Alexander Hamilton Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, notes for the “House Divided” speech, December 1857 (Gilder

The “House Divided” Speech, ca. 1857–1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Theodore Roosevelt to Oscar King Davis, June 23, 1915. (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

Theodore Roosevelt on the sinking of the Lusitania, 1915

Creator: Theodore Roosevelt Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Thomas Jefferson to David Howell, December 15, 1810. (GLC01027)

Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to the Federalists, 1810

Creator: Thomas Jefferson Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Constitution [printing of first draft] [Committee of Detail], August 6, 1787.

Two versions of the Preamble to the Constitution, 1787

Creator: Constitutional Convention Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
William C. Bryant to Hamilton A. Hill, February 11, 1876. (GLC02595)

William Cullen Bryant opposes the protective tariff, 1876

Creator: William Cullen Bryant Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels:
William Howard Taft to George Lorimer, October 10, 1922. ( GLC08052)

William H. Taft recalls dispute with Theodore Roosevelt, 1922

Creator: William H. Taft Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
William Jennings Bryan to I. J. Dunn, January 4, 1895 (GLC07189)

William Jennings Bryan and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, 1895

Creator: William Jennings Bryan Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Woman Suffrage Party of the City of New York, Women in the Home broadside, ca. 1

Women’s suffrage poster, 1915

Creator: Woman Suffrage Party of the City of New York Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
“Roosevelt or Reaction?” campaign poster, Democratic National Campaign Committee

“Reelect Roosevelt—Friend of Labor,” 1936

Creator: Democratic National Campaign Committee Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: