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Defining Documents Home

Wade - Davis Bill
At the end of the Civil War, this the Wade-Davis Bill created a framework for Reconstruction and the readmittance of the Confederate states to the Union.

Oct 23, 2011, 11:29pm

The Silent Majority Speech
Nixon delivered an address to the nation now referred to as "The Silent Majority Speech" on November 3, 1969. Nixon laid out a plan for the end of the war through the process of diplomatic negotiation and Vietnamization.

Oct 19, 2011, 11:48pm

The Volstead Act
The congressional act that created prohibition was called the Volstead Act, after Representative Andrew Volstead of Minnesota chaired the Judiciary Committee in the 66th and 67th Congresses (1919-1923)
Oct 19, 2011, 6:12pm

Supreme Court Decisions
Roe V. Wade - Women's Right to Choose
Roe V. Wade was a Supreme Court decision upholding a woman's right to choose and maintain control over her body. It is one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history.

Oct 18, 2011, 6:50pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
19th Amendment of the US Constitution - Women's Right To Vote
August 1995 marked the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. The amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote.

Oct 18, 2011, 11:03am

The Alien and Sedition Acts
In 1798 the United States stood on the brink of war with France. The Federalists believed that Democratic-Republican criticism of Federalist policies was disloyal and feared that aliens living in the United States would sympathize with the French during a war. As a result, a Federalist-controlled Congress passed a collection of laws, known as the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Oct 16, 2011, 8:00pm

"I Have A Dream" Speech (1963)
Read the "I Have A Dream" speech that Martin Luther King Jr. turned into a unique national legacy.
Oct 16, 2011, 2:34pm

US Constitution & The Bill Of Rights
Bill of Rights - Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution
On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States therefore proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution that met arguments most frequently advanced against it. The first two proposed amendments, which concerned the number of constituents for each Representative and the compensation of Congressmen, were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12, however, ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

Oct 5, 2011, 1:44pm

Important Writings, Papers, & Designs
Zimmerman Telegram
This telegram, written by German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, is a coded message sent to Mexico, proposing a military alliance against the United States.

Oct 5, 2011, 12:46pm

Antarctic Treaty
The 12 nations listed in the preamble (below) signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 at Washington, D.C. The Treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961; the 12 signatories became the original 12 consultative nations.

Oct 5, 2011, 9:57am

Sherman Act, 1890
The Sherman Antitrust Act has stood since 1890 as the principal law expressing our national commitment to a free market economy in which competition free from private and governmental restraints leads to the best results for consumers. Congress felt so strongly about this commitment that there was only one vote against the Act.

May 9, 2011, 4:00pm

National Labor Relations Act, 1935
The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, passed through Congress in the summer of 1935 and became one of the most important legacies of the New Deal.

May 5, 2011, 11:07pm

President Nixon's Phone Call to the Moon
On July 20, 1969, 600 million people watched the moon landing as the astronauts took photographs, gathered samples, set up scientific instruments, raised the flag, and received a phone call from President Nixon.

May 5, 2011, 11:06pm

Coinage Act, 1792 (The Mint Act)
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton suggested the establishment of a national currency. Congress enacted this legislation following his recommendations the following year.

May 5, 2011, 10:38pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
12th Amendment
Election of President

The 12th amendment governs the procedures for the election of the President of the United States.

May 5, 2011, 2:30pm

Social Security Act Amendments - Medicare, 1965
The Social Security Act Amendments 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.

May 5, 2011, 2:06pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
16th Amendment to the US Constitution
Income Tax

Passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913, the 16th amendment established Congress's right to impose a Federal income tax.

May 5, 2011, 11:32am

Amendments To The US Constitution
17th Amendment to the US Constitution
Direct Election of Senators, 1913

William Maclay (1st elected Senator)
The 17th Amendment to the Constitution (1913) established direct election of senators, as well as a means of filling vacant Senate seats

May 5, 2011, 11:29am

Amendments To The US Constitution
18th Amendment to the US Constitution
Prohibition of Intoxicating Liquors

In 1918, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitition, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.

May 5, 2011, 11:10am

Amendments To The US Constitution
20th Amendment to the US Constitution
The Advancement of the Presidential Inauguration and the Convening of the Congressional Session

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is also called the Lame Duck Amendment, because it put a stop to "lame duck" sessions of Congress by advancing the dates for the President's inauguration to January 20 from March 4th, and the date for Congress to convene to January 3rd from march 4th. This avoided the time in office with diminished power.

May 5, 2011, 12:20am

Amendments To The US Constitution
14th Amendment to the US Constitution
Civil Rights, 1868

On July 28, 1868, former slaves became citizens when the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified.

May 4, 2011, 11:48pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
15th Amendment to the US Constitution
Voting Rights, 1870

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified and enacted in early spring, 1870, gave male citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

May 4, 2011, 11:40pm

US Constitution & The Bill Of Rights
Constitution of the United States
The Constitution defines the fundamental law of the United States federal government, setting forth the three principal branches of the federal government, outlining their jurisdictions, and propounding the basic rights of U.S. citizens.

May 4, 2011, 6:01pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
11th Amendment to the Constitution
Suit Against States

Limitations of the Judicial power of the United States.

May 4, 2011, 2:38pm

Amendments To The US Constitution
13th Amendment to the US Constitution
Abolition of Slavery, 1865

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, relating to slavery, was proposed on January 31, 1865, and ratification was completed on December 6, 1865.

May 3, 2011, 11:50pm

President Bush's Immigration Speech - May 2007
Immigration has become one of the top issues in the United States in the last decade. This speech was President Bush's response to the growing immigration crisis.
Oct 28, 2007, 10:53pm

President Bush's 9-11 Address to the Nation
September11th, 2001

On September 11th, 2001, the United States was attacked in both New York and Washington DC by a group of terrorists who used planes to crash into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. This speech was President Bush's address to the nation.

Oct 28, 2007, 10:10pm

Thanksgiving - The Continental Congress Gives Thanks
It's interesting in a time of political correctness and the eradication of God from our political documents to remember that our Founders actually issued a formal proclamation giving thanks to God for our independence.
Nov 19, 2006, 10:49pm

Pendleton Act (Civil Service Reform Act), 1883
The Pendleton Act classified certain jobs, removed them from the patronage ranks, and set up a Civil Service Commission to administer a system based on merit rather than political connections. As the classified list was expanded over the years, it provided the American people with a competent and permanent government bureaucracy.

Aug 11, 2006, 6:49pm

Civil Rights Act, 1964
The assassination of John Kennedy in November 1963 left most civil rights leaders grief-stricken. Kennedy had been the first president since Harry Truman to champion equal rights for black Americans. But on November 27, 1963, addressing the Congress and the nation for the first time as president, Johnson called for passage of the civil rights bill as a monument to the fallen Kennedy.

Aug 11, 2006, 6:40pm

Important Writings, Papers, & Designs
The de Lôme Letter
The De Lome letter, a note written by Sor Don Enrigue Dupuy de me, the Spanish Ambassador to the United States. De ms unflattering remarks about McKinley helped fuel this countrs aggressive, warlike foreign policy.

Aug 11, 2006, 6:35pm

Federal Highway Act of 1956
The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, authorized the building of highways throughout the nation, which would be the biggest public works project in the nation's history.

Aug 11, 2006, 6:11pm

Kansas Nebraska Act, 1854
The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which spawned "Bleeding Kansas," was another dramatic episode in the struggle between pro- and antislavery advocates.

Aug 11, 2006, 6:06pm

Boulder Canyon Project Act, 1928
The Boulder Canyon Project Act, passed in 1928, authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to construct Boulder Dam on the Colorado River, thereby creating Lake Mead above the dam.

Aug 11, 2006, 5:47pm

Keating Owen Child Labor Act, 1916
The Keating-Owen Act banning articles produced by child labor from being sold in interstate commerce. The act was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just two years later.

Aug 11, 2006, 3:36pm

Tennessee Valley Authority Act
This act of May 18, 1933, created the Tennessee Valley Authority to oversee the construction of dams to control flooding, improve navigation, and create cheap electric power in the Tennessee Valley basin.

Aug 11, 2006, 3:31pm

Lend Lease Act, 1941
The Lend-Lease Act, approved by Congress in March 1941, gave President Roosevelt virtually unlimited authority to direct material aid such as ammunition, tanks, airplanes, trucks, and food to the war effort in Europe without violating the nation's official position of neutrality.

Aug 11, 2006, 3:22pm

Social Security Act, 1935
FDR had proposed a three-part program of old-age security consisting of: old-age welfare pensions; compulsory contributory social insurance (what we now think of as Social Security); and a third-tier which would consist of optional annuity certificates sold by the government to workers who, upon retirement, could convert the certificates to monthly annuities which would be used as supplements to their basic Social Security retirement benefit.

Aug 11, 2006, 3:14pm

Morrill Act, 1862
Passed on July 2, 1862, The Morrill 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.

Aug 11, 2006, 2:45pm

Homestead Act, 1862
The Homestead Act of 1862 has been called one the most important pieces of Legislation in the history of the United States. Signed into law in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln after the secession of southern states, this Act turned over vast amounts of the public domain to private citizens. 270 millions acres, or 10% of the area of the United States was claimed and settled under this act.

Aug 11, 2006, 2:24pm


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