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100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives

The following is a list of 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.

The list begins with the Lee Resolution of June 7, 1776, a simple document resolving that the United Colonies “are, and of right, ought to be free and independent states…” and ends with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a statute that helped fulfill the promise of freedom inherent in the first documents on the list. The remaining milestone documents are among the thousands of public laws, Supreme Court decisions, inaugural speeches, treaties, constitutional amendments, and other documents that have influenced the course of U.S. history. They have helped shape the national character, and they reflect our diversity, our unity, and our commitment as a nation to continue our work toward forming “a more perfect union.”

The decision not to include milestone documents since 1965 was a deliberate acknowledgement of the difficulty in examining more recent history. As stated in the guidelines for the National History Standards, developed by the National Center for History in the Schools, “Historians can never attain complete objectivity, but they tend to fall shortest of the goal when they deal with current or very recent events.”

  • Lee Resolution (1776)
  • Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • Articles of Confederation (1777)
  • Treaty of Alliance with France (1778)
  • Original Design of the Great Seal of the United States (1782)
  • Treaty of Paris (1783)
  • Virginia Plan (1787)
  • Northwest Ordinance (1787)
  • Constitution of the United States (1787)
  • Federalist Papers, No. 10 & No. 51 (1787–1788)
  • President George Washington's First Inaugural Speech (1789)
  • Federal Judiciary Act (1789)
  • Bill of Rights (1791)
  • Patent for Cotton Gin (1794)
  • President George Washington's Farewell Address (1796)
  • Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
  • Jefferson's Secret Message to Congress Regarding the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1803)
  • Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803)
  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • Treaty of Ghent (1814)
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
  • Missouri Compromise (1820)
  • Monroe Doctrine (1823)
  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
  • President Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress 'On Indian Removal' (1830)
  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)
  • Compromise of 1850 (1850)
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)
  • Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)
  • Telegram Announcing the Surrender of Fort Sumter (1861)
  • Homestead Act (1862)
  • Pacific Railway Act (1862)
  • Morrill Act (1862)
  • Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
  • War Department General Order 143: Creation of the U.S. Colored Troops (1863)
  • Gettysburg Address (1863)
  • Wade-Davis Bill (1864)
  • President Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (1865)
  • Articles of Agreement Relating to the Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia (1865)
  • 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865)
  • Check for the Purchase of Alaska (1868)
  • Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868)
  • 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (1868)
  • 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)
  • Act Establishing Yellowstone National Park (1872)
  • Thomas Edison's Patent Application for the Light Bulb (1880)
  • Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
  • Pendleton Act (1883)
  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887)
  • Dawes Act (1887)
  • Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
  • De Lôme Letter (1898)
  • Joint Resolution to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States (1898)
  • Platt Amendment (1903)
  • Theodore Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1905)
  • 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Federal Income Tax (1913)
  • 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Direct Election of U.S. Senators (1913)
  • Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 (1916)
  • Zimmermann Telegram (1917)
  • Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Germany (1917)
  • President Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points (1918)
  • 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women's Right to Vote (1920)
  • Boulder Canyon Project Act (1928)
  • Tennessee Valley Authority Act (1933)
  • National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)
  • National Labor Relations Act (1935)
  • Social Security Act (1935)
  • President Franklin Roosevelt's Radio Address unveiling the second half of the New Deal (1936)
  • President Franklin Roosevelt's Annual Message (Four Freedoms) to Congress (1941)
  • Lend-Lease Act (1941)
  • Executive Order 8802: Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry (1941)
  • Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan (1941)
  • Executive Order 9066: Japanese Relocation Order (1942)
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Order of the Day (1944)
  • Servicemen's Readjustment Act (1944)
  • Manhattan Project Notebook (1945)
  • Surrender of Germany (1945)
  • United Nations Charter (1945)
  • Surrender of Japan (1945)
  • Truman Doctrine (1947)
  • Marshall Plan (1948)
  • Press Release Announcing U.S. Recognition of Israel (1948)
  • Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)
  • Armistice Agreement for the Restoration of the South Korean State (1953)
  • Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956)
  • Executive Order 10730: Desegregation of Central High School (1957)
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address (1961)
  • President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address (1961)
  • Executive Order 10924: Establishment of the Peace Corps. (1961)
  • Transcript of John Glenn's Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)
  • Aerial Photograph of Missiles in Cuba (1962)
  • Test Ban Treaty (1963)
  • Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)
  • Civil Rights Act (1964)
  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)
  • Social Security Act Amendments (1965)
  • Voting Rights Act (1965)

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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