This volume is updated from a compilation of noteworthy documents made for students of American history in other countries by the celebrated American historian Dr. Henry Steele Commager. Dr Commager was the editor of Documents of American History, a compendium of nearly seven hundred state papers, famous speeches, and significant court decisions which is a standard reference in American libraries Dr. Commager's original selections for earlier editions of this volume were informed by his long academic career in the United States and by his extensive experience teaching students of American civilization in other countries--in England, Denmark, Chile, Sweden, Germany, France, and Mexico. The volume has been updated to include recent documents and to provide additional material of special interest to students in China. Some of the documents have been abridged.


The volume may be approached from several thematic directions. A review of such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty, and the Northwest Ordinance provide an introduction to the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers which still animates modern legislation. Washington・s Farewell Address, Madison's Federalist Paper No. 10, and Jefferson・s First Inaugural Address provide insight into the early spirit of American public administration. The documents which relate to the expansion of the concept of equality, fromthe opinion in the case of Quock Walker, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and the opinion in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, through President Johnson's Civil Rights Statement, trace the continuing struggle to extend equal rights to all Americans. The same documents and the same issue represent the concept that American politics are evolutionary, that "America" can be defined not merely as a nation, country, or people, but as a process or movement toward ideals that are renewed and redefined by each new generation. Theodore Roosevelt's address on conservation, President Truman's announcement of the Point Four Program, and the several documents relating to the continuing search for a means to control armaments mark the application of American principles to modern issues Yet other documents--in addition to their specific Subjects--can be read either as examples of effective English rhetoric or as literature. Among the most memorable speeches would be Shurz・s "Liberty and Equal Rights," President Kennedy・s Inaugural Address, and Martin Luther King's "l Have a Dream." Similarly, Jefferson's First Inaugural Address andPresident Lincoln・s Gettysburg Address are widely read for their gifted literary expression.