When it comes to the most important historical documents in US history, there are many that make the short list–in fact, for those are interested, there is even a long list of the Top 100 Milestone Documents. While Hankering for History has covered numerous important documents, here is our short list of the top 5 important historical documents in US history.
The Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers is a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Through these publications, they attempted to influence the political debates concerning whether or not the public would choose to follow the ideology and policies laid out by the Federalists or the Anti-Federalists (for the differences between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists check out this article).
The Bill of Rights
Hands down, in my opinion, the Bill of Rights is the most important historical document in US history. As part of the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights was a major debate point of the Federalist Papers.
Founded on the ideology of other important historical documents–namely the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the English Bill of Rights, and the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms, clear limitations on government power, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people.
The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation–a document that we’ve argued as being one of the biggest mythconceptions in history–served as a very important document leading to the 13th-15th Amendments. While it essentially was nothing more than a piece of paper, as President Lincoln was powerless over the South, it did serve as a symbolic gesture that resonated what the North–and the American government–stood for in terms of ending slavery.
The Fourteen Points
Given as a speech by President Wilson, the Fourteen Points was a statement of principles to be used as peace negotiations for ending World War I and to establish world peace. The speech was given to the United States Congress and was embraced by the majority of Europe; however, most of our Allies (France, the United Kingdom, and Italy) were skeptical of his ideas.