Out of all the important documents in the history of the United States there are 4 which are the most important. Each one of these documents profoundly changed the way in which the United States formed and developed.
Simply put, the 4 most important documents in the history of the U.S are the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, U.S Constitution, and the Monroe Doctrine. Each of these documents forever changed the course of U.S history.
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Without further ado, here are the 4 most important documents in the history of the United States.
The Declaration of Independence
|Date of Document||1776|
|Further Reading||Declaration of Independence: The 3 Reasons For Its Creation|
One of the most important documents in the history of the U.S would be none other than the declaration of independence. Written in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson this document announced the creation of the United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence stated why the British colonies were forming the United States of America. For nearly a decade the British Colonists had been positioned as second class subjects next to their English brethren.
The British Colonists would be given several taxes to help pay back the debt incurred by the British Crown during the Seven Years War of 1756-1763. This war was fought between the French and British for global dominance with the British eventually winning the war.
Jefferson would combine several enlightenment ideals and conceptions to create the foundational text of the United States of America. To this day the Declaration of Independence has been cited by presidents, politicians, business men, and leaders from around the world.
It should come to nobody’s surprise that the Declaration of Independence ends up on this list of the 4 most important documents in U.S history.
The Articles Of Confederation
|Date of Document||November 15th, 1777|
|Written By||The Continental Congress|
|Further Reading||Could The U.S Have Survived With The Articles Of Confederation|
One of the most important documents in U.S history would be the Articles of Confederation. This document was created on November 15th, 1777 by the entirety of the Continental Congress.
The Articles of Confederation sought to create a nation of 13 separate sovereign states. In theory these states would come together to jointly agree to help other states during times of distress.
For domestic threats each state would have to deal with their problems independently. This presented problems as most states lacked the resources to either properly defend themselves or manage their treasuries.
For international threats the Articles of Confederation created a central government that in theory would deal with foreign nations. However in practice this national government held no power and could not even engage in diplomacy properly.
As such you might be wondering why the Articles of Confederation lands on this list as one of the most important documents in U.S history? The reason is that the Articles of Confederation put in place the ability for the U.S to expand fast and add other states/provinces to the nation.
Two ordinances in the Articles of Confederation (Land Ordinance of 1785 and Northwest Ordinance of 1787) made it possible to admit new states and territories to the union.
Because of this the United States had an expansion structure put in place long before it started to expand. This would set the stage for the manifest destiny movement of the 19th century.
As such, the Articles of Confederation lands on this list of the top 4 most important documents in the history of the U.S.
The U.S Constitution
|Date of Document||September 17th, 1787|
|Writer||Members of The Philadelphia Convention|
|Further Reading||U.S Constitution: The 3 Influences Which Helped Create It|
One of the most important documents in the history of the United States is the U.S Constitution.
Once it was discovered that the Articles of Confederation didn’t have any real power to force states to comply with a federal government the United States was in trouble. This was because without a strong federal government there was nothing that could force the states to comply and work together. As you might imagine this would cause each state to work in its best interest.
Meeting in secret over the summer of 1787 the Constitutional Convention would eventually put forward a new form of government for the United States. In order to explain this new form of government the U.S Constitution was created.
This document built off the previous Articles of Confederation but put in provisions that clearly outlined the powers of the newly created federal government of the United States of America. These powers are what we call the amendments and they all worked together to form a binding arrangement that provided overarching governance for the states.
This newly created document drew inspiration from several enlightenment thinkers on the proper form of government. The Founding Fathers of the U.S decided to incorporate the visions of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Montesquieu. One of the most important parts of this enlightenment inspiration was that the constitution was a living document; at any moment it could change with the addition of new amendments.
In doing this the U.S Constitution was created to preserve individual liberty, outline a separation of power, and also help to protect the United States from both internal and external foes.
As such one of the most important documents in the history of the United States is the U.S constitution.
The Monroe Doctrine
|Date of Document||December 2nd, 1823|
|Further Reading||Monroe Doctrine: The 3 Lasting Impacts On U.S History|
The Monroe Doctrine remains one of the most important documents in the history of the United States.
First declared in 1823 the Monroe Doctrine stated that the entire western hemisphere was to be off limits from outside influence. Regions such as Asia and Europe would be prevented to interfere with the people of North and South America. Simply put, the Americas would be left alone to develop on their own.
Further, Monroe stated that any intrusion into the western sphere would be seen as an aggressive action against the United States. This was a bold move as in 1823 the United States had just started to enter into a period of economic and cultural growth. Today we call this the “era of good feelings” and it lasted the whole length of James Monroe’s preseidency.
In return, Monroe stated that the United States would stay out of European affairs and politics. The Monroe Doctrine in essence sought to be both an expansionist policy for the United States and also a firm reaffirmation that the U.S.A would not interfere with European politics; at this point Europe was recovering from the events of the fall of the French Empire of Napoleon.
The reason this document is so important is that it set the tone for the rapid expansion of U.S influence during the 19th century. Over the course of 100 years, the United States would expand from the initial 13 colonies to a nation that spanned from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. Historians debate how effective the Monroe Doctrine was in preventing foreign interference but they can not deny that in one small century the U.S saw more expansionist policy than it has ever since.
Simply put, without the Monroe Doctrine it’s doubtful that the United States would have expanded as far as it has. Further, it remains one of the most cited documents by U.S presidents to this day. Without this document then the U.S might have never sought to push out towards the Pacific and as such the West Coast of the United States, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands might not have come under U.S control.
As such, it firmly lands on this list of the top 4 most important documents in U.S History.
There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 4 most important documents in the history of the United States.
For potential students of history the concept of constitutional history is a fascinating subject. Almost on a daily basis academics publish articles on constitutional theory and practice. Each one of these 4 documents can be the subject of substantial research projects.
Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the internet.
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