Which Documents in American History Are the Most Important to America’s Foundation?

When it comes to American history, there are certain documents that are considered the most important to America’s foundation. These documents have shaped the country’s values, laws, and political system. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of these pivotal documents and explore why they are so significant.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most well-known document in American history. It was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 and declared the 13 American colonies independent from Great Britain.

The document famously states that “all men are created equal” and have certain unalienable rights such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Declaration of Independence laid the groundwork for American democracy and inspired similar movements around the world.

The United States Constitution

The United States Constitution is another crucial document in American history. It was written in 1787 during a time when the fledgling nation was struggling to establish a stable government.

The Constitution outlines the structure of the federal government and sets forth principles such as separation of powers and checks and balances to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. It also includes amendments such as the Bill of Rights which protect individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religion.

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation is a lesser-known but equally important document in American history. It was issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in 1863 and declared that all slaves held in Confederate territory were to be set free. While it didn’t immediately free all slaves – many were still held in border states loyal to the Union – it marked a turning point in the fight against slavery and paved the way for its eventual abolition.

The Gettysburg Address

While not technically a legal document, The Gettysburg Address is still regarded as one of the most important speeches in American history. It was given by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In just 272 words, Lincoln eloquently expressed the ideals of democracy and freedom that the nation was fighting for. He famously ended with the words “government of the people, by the people, for the people” which have become a cornerstone of American democracy.

The Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act is a landmark piece of legislation that was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. It prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and paved the way for greater equality and justice for all Americans. The Civil Rights Act was a key victory for the civil rights movement and demonstrated a commitment to upholding America’s founding principles.


These documents are just a few examples of how pivotal moments in American history have been captured in writing. They remind us of our country’s founding principles and serve as a guidepost for future generations. By understanding their significance and importance, we can better appreciate America’s rich history and continue to strive towards a more perfect union.