The Declaration of Independence - Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.
The declaration opens with a preamble describing the document's necessity in explaining why the colonies have overthrown their ruler and chosen to take their place as a separate nation in the world. All men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When a government fails to protect those rights, it is not only the right, but also the duty of the people to overthrow that government. In its place, the people should establish a government that is designed to protect those rights. Governments are rarely overthrown, and should not be overthrown for trivial reasons. In this case, a long history of abuses has led the colonists to overthrow a tyrannical government.
The King of Great Britain, George III, is guilty of 27 specific abuses. The King interfered with the colonists' right to self-government and for a fair judicial system. Acting with Parliament, the King also instituted legislation that affected the colonies without their consent. This legislation levied taxes on the colonists. It also required them to quarter British soldiers, removed their right to trial by jury, and prevented them from trading freely. Additionally, the King and Parliament are guilty of outright destruction of American life and property by their refusal to protect the colonies' borders, their confiscation of American ships at sea, and their intent to hire foreign mercenaries to fight against the colonists.
The colonial governments tried to reach a peaceful reconciliation of these differences with Great Britain, but were continually ignored. Colonists who appealed to British citizens were similarly ignored, despite their shared common heritage and their just cause. After many peaceful attempts, the colonists have no choice but to declare independence from Great Britain.
The new nation will be called the United States of America and will have no further connections with Great Britain. The new government will reserve the right to levy war, make peace, make alliances with foreign nations, conduct trade, and do anything else that nations do.
The Constitution of the United States - The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Because the delegations from only two states were at first present, the members adjourned from day to day until a quorum of seven states was obtained on May 25. Through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government.
All through the summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the new Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected--directly by the people or by the state legislators. The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.
On December 13, 1952, the Constitution and the Declaration were placed in helium-filled cases, enclosed in wooden crates, laid on mattresses in an armored Marine Corps personnel carrier, and escorted by ceremonial troops, two tanks, and four servicemen carrying submachine guns down Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues to the National Archives. Two days later, President Harry Truman declared at a formal ceremony in the Archives Exhibition Hall.
"We are engaged here today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages. This magnificent hall has been constructed to exhibit them, and the vault beneath, that we have built to protect them, is as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man can devise. All this is an honorable effort, based upon reverence for the great past, and our generation can take just pride in it."
REF: The National Archives