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On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, introduced this resolution in the Second Continental Congress proposing independence for the American colonies.
The Continental Congress adopted this on July 4, 1776. It was engrossed on parchment and on August 2, 1776, delegates began signing it.
After considerable debate and alteration, this was adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. This document served as the United States' first constitution, and was in force from March 1, 1781, until 1789 when the present day Constitution went into effect.
Drafted by James Madison, and presented by Edmund Randolph to the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1787, it proposed a strong central government composed of three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
Officially titled An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio, this was passed on July 13, 1787.
These papers were a series of essays published in newspapers in 1787 and 1788 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the Constitution.
Although not required by the Constitution, George Washington presented the first speech/address on April 30, 1789.
One of the first acts of the new Congress was to establish a Federal court system through this, signed by President Washington on September 24, 1789.
Although 12 amendments were originally proposed, the 10 that were ratified became this in 1791. They defined citizens' rights in relation to the newly established government under the Constitution.
Designed to separate cotton fiber from seed, Whitney's invention, for which he received a patent on March 14, 1794, introduced a new, profitable technology to agricultural production in America.
In this address, George Washington advised American citizens to view themselves as a cohesive unit and avoid political parties and issued a special warning to be wary of attachments and entanglements with other nations.
Passed in preparation for an anticipated war with France, these Acts tightened restrictions on foreign-born Americans and limited speech critical of the Government.
In this secret message of January 18, 1803, President Jefferson asked Congress for $2,500 to explore the West—-all the way to the Pacific Ocean. At the time, the territory did not belong to the United States. Congress agreed to fund the expedition that would be led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
In this transaction with France, signed on April 30, 1803, the United States purchased 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River for $15 million. For roughly 4 cents an acre, the United States doubled its size, expanding the nation westward.
The decision in this Supreme Court Case established the right of the courts to determine the constitutionality of the actions of the other two branches of government.
This treaty, signed on December 24, 1814, ended the War of 1812, fought between Great Britain and the United States.
This Supreme Court Case addressed the issue of Federal power and commerce.
This legislation admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state at the same time, so as not to upset the balance between slave and free states in the nation. It also outlawed slavery above the 36º 30´ latitude line in the remainder of the Louisiana Territory.
This dotrine was articulated in President James Monroe's seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. The European powers, according to Monroe, were obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States' sphere of interest.
This Supreme Court decision forbade states from enacting any legislation that would interfere with Congress's right to regulate commerce among the separate states.
On December 6, 1830, in a message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson called for the relocation of eastern Native American tribes to land west of the Mississippi River, in order to open new land for settlement by citizens of the United States.
This treaty, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war between the United States and Mexico. By its terms, Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory, including parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, to the United States.
The Compromise was actually a series of bills passed mainly to address issues related to slavery. The bills provided for slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty in the admission of new states, prohibited the slave trade in the District of Columbia, settled a Texas boundary dispute, and established a stricter fugitive slave act. This featured document is Henry Clay's handwritten draft.
This act repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had outlawed slavery above the 36º 30' latitude in the Louisiana territories and reopened the national struggle over slavery in the western territories.
In this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that slaves were not citizens of the United States and, therefore, could not expect any protection from the Federal Government or the courts. The opinion also stated that Congress had no authority to ban slavery from a Federal territory.
The first engagement of the Civil War took place at this fort on April 12 and 13, 1861. After 34 hours of fighting, the Union surrendered the fort to the Confederates.
Passed on May 20, 1862, this act accelerated the settlement of the western territory by granting adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land for a minimal filing fee and 5 years of continuous residence on that land.
Passed on July 2, 1862, this act made it possible for new western states to establish colleges for their citizens. The new land-grant institutions, which emphasized agriculture and mechanic arts, opened opportunities to thousands of farmers and working people previously excluded from higher education.
President Abraham Lincoln issued this on January 1, 1863, announcing, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious areas "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Order on May 22, 1863, creating the United States Colored Troops. By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and another 19,000 served in the Navy.
Perhaps the most famous battle of the Civil War took place at Gettysburg, PA, July 1 to July 3, 1863. At the end of the battle, the Union's Army of the Potomac had successfully repelled the second invasion of the North by the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia. Several months later, President Lincoln went to Gettysburg to speak at the dedication of the cemetery for the Union war dead. Speaking of a "new birth of freedom," he delivered one of the most memorable speeches in U.S. history.
At the end of the Civil War, this bill created a framework for Reconstruction and the readmittance of the Confederate states to the Union.
On March 4, 1865, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of mutual forgiveness, North and South, asserting that the true mettle of a nation lies in its capacity for charity.
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, this amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
In this treaty, signed on April 29, 1868, between the U.S. Government and the Sioux Nation, the United States recognized the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people.
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868, this amendment extended liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves.
Yellowstone became the first Federally protected national park by the Act of Congress signed into law on March 1, 1872.
On January 27, 1880, Thomas Edison received the historic patent embodying the principles of his incandescent lamp that paved the way for the universal domestic use of electric light.
This act was approved on May 6, 1882. It was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States.
Approved on January 16, 1883, this act established a merit-based system of selecting government officials and supervising their work.
Approved on February 4, 1887, this Act created an Interstate Commerce Commission to oversee the conduct of the railroad industry. With this act, the railroads became the first industry subject to Federal regulation.
Approved on February 8, 1887, "An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations," it emphasized severalty, the treatment of Native Americans as individuals rather than as members of tribes.
The ruling in this Supreme Court case upheld a Louisiana state law that allowed for "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races."
This letter, written by the Spanish Ambassador to the United States, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, criticized American President William McKinley by calling him weak and concerned only with gaining the favor of the crowd. Publication of the letter helped generate public support for a war with Spain over the issue of independence for the Spanish colony of Cuba.
On July 7, 1898, the Hawaiian Islands were annexed by this joint resolution.
Approved on May 22, 1903, this Amendment was a treaty between the U.S. and Cuba that attempted to protect Cuba's independence from foreign intervention. It permitted extensive U.S. involvement in Cuban international and domestic affairs for the enforcement of Cuban independence.
In his annual messages to Congress in 1904 and 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the Monroe Doctrine. It stated that not only were the nations of the Western Hemisphere not open to colonization by European powers, but that the United States had the responsibility to preserve order and protect life and property in those countries.
Passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913, this amendment established Congress's right to impose a Federal income tax.
Passed by Congress May 13, 1912, and ratified April 8, 1913, this amendment modified Article I, section 3, of the Constitution by allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. Senators. Prior to its passage, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.
This telegram, written by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, is a coded message sent to Mexico, proposing a military alliance against the United States. The obvious threats to the United States contained in the telegram inflamed American public opinion against Germany and helped convince Congress to declare war against Germany in 1917.
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson delivered this address to a joint session of Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany. The resulting congressional vote brought the United States into World War I.
In this January 8, 1918, address to Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proposed a program for world peace. These points were later taken as the basis for peace negotiations at the end of the war.
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, this amendment granted women the right to vote.
This act authorized the construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and the All-American Canal to the Imperial Valley in California.
On June 16, 1933, this act established the NRA, which supervised fair trade codes and guaranteed laborers a right to collective bargaining.
Also known as the Wagner Act, this bill was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 5, 1935. It established the National Labor Relations Board and addressed relations between unions and employers in the private sector.
On August 14, 1935, this act established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind, and the physically handicapped.
In this radio address, President Franklin Roosevelt announced a second set of measures to combat the Great Depression, which become known as the Second New Deal. These included a series of new relief programs such as the Works Progress Administration.
This speech delivered by President Franklin Roosevelt on January 6, 1941, became known as his "Four Freedoms Speech," due to a short closing portion describing the President's vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world.
Passed on March 11, 1941, this act set up a system that would allow the United States to lend or lease war supplies to any nation deemed "vital to the defense of the United States."
In June of 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, banning discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work. The order also established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce the new policy.
On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered this "Day of Infamy Speech." Immediately afterward, Congress declared war, and the United States entered World War II.
This order was issued by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to encourage Allied soldiers taking part in the D-day invasion.
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, this act, also known as the GI Bill, provided veterans of the Second World War funds for college education, unemployment insurance, and housing.
This instrument of surrender was signed on May 7, 1945, at Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in Rheims by Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of Staff of the German Army. At the same time, he signed three other surrender documents, one each for Great Britain, Russia, and France.
On June 26, 1945, in San Francisco, the United Nations was established. Article 111 of its charter indicated that "The present Charter, of which the Chinese, French, Russian, English, and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall remain deposited in the archives of the Government of the United States of America. Duly certified copies thereof shall be transmitted by that Government to the Governments of the other signatory states."
Aboard the USS Missouri, this was signed on September 2, 1945, by the Japanese envoys Foreign Minister Mamora Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu.
On March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman presented this address before a joint session of Congress. His message asked Congress for $400 million in military and economic assistance for Turkey and Greece.
At midnight on May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed a new State of Israel. On that same date, the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31, 1949).
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.
This was signed on July 27, 1953, and formally ended the war in Korea. North and South Korea remain separate and occupy almost the same territory they had when the war began.
On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had led the fight in Congress to root out suspected Communists from the Federal Government. The censure described his behavior as "contrary to senatorial traditions."
In this milestone decision, the Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional. It signaled the end of legalized racial segregation in the schools of the United States, overruling the "separate but equal" principle set forth in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case.
This act authorized the building of highways throughout the nation, which would be the biggest public works project in the nation's history.
On January 17, 1961, in this farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the establishment of a "military-industrial complex."
On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered this address in which he announced that "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."
John Glenn conducted the first manned space orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962.
Instrumental in the early stages of the Cuban missile crisis, these photographs showed that the Soviet Union was amassing offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy warned that any attempt by the Soviet Union to place nuclear weapons in Cuba would be seen as a threat to the United States.
On August 5, 1963, this treaty was signed by the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. After Senate approval, the treaty that went into effect on October 10, 1963, banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.
This program listed the events scheduled at the Lincoln Memorial during the August 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of the march, which attracted 250,000 people, was Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
This joint resolution of Congress (H.J. RES 1145) dated August 7, 1964, gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to increase U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam.
This act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965, in Independence, MO. It established Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor.
This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.
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