Featured Primary Sources

Creating a New Government

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, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. Additionally, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

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
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:
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+

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

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:
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:

An African American soldier’s pay warrant, 1780

Creator: the State of Connecticut Curriculum Subjects: Economics 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:

Martha Washington on life after the Revolution, 1784

Creator: Martha Washington Curriculum Subjects: 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
 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:
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: