Transcript of Treaty of Alliance with France (1778)

Transcript of Treaty of Alliance with France (1778)


Treaty of Alliance

The most Christian King and the United States of North America, to wit, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhodes island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, having this Day concluded a Treaty of amity and Commerce, for the reciprocal advantage of their Subjects and Citizens have thought it necessary to take into consideration the means of strengthening those engagements and of rondring them useful to the safety and tranquility of the two parties, particularly in case Great Britain in Resentment of that connection and of the good correspondence which is the object of the said Treaty, should break the Peace with france, either by direct hostilities, or by hindring her commerce and navigation, in a manner contrary to the Rights of Nations, and the Peace subsisting between the two Crowns; and his Majesty and the said united States having resolved in that Case to join their Councils and efforts against the Enterprises of their common Enemy, the respective Plenipotentiaries, impower’d to concert the Clauses & conditions proper to fulfil the said Intentions, have, after the most mature Deliberation, concluded and determined on the following Articles.





ART. 1.
If War should break out betwan france and Great Britain, during the continuance of the present War betwan the United States and England, his Majesty and the said united States, shall make it a common cause, and aid each other mutually with their good Offices, their Counsels, and their forces, according to the exigence of Conjunctures as becomes good & faithful Allies.

ART. 2.
The essential and direct End of the present defensive alliance is to maintain effectually the liberty, Sovereignty, and independance absolute and unlimited of the said united States, as well in Matters of Gouvernement as of commerce.

ART. 3.
The two contracting Parties shall each on its own Part, and in the manner it may judge most proper, make all the efforts in its Power, against their common Ennemy, in order to attain the end proposed.

ART. 4.
The contracting Parties agree that in case either of them should form any particular Enterprise in which the concurrence of the other may be desired, the Party whose concurrence is desired shall readily, and with good faith, join to act in concert for that Purpose, as far as circumstances and its own particular Situation will permit; and in that case, they shall regulate by a particular Convention the quantity and kind of Succour to be furnished, and the Time and manner of its being brought into action, as well as the advantages which are to be its Compensation.

ART. 5.
If the united States should think fit to attempt the Reduction of the British Power remaining in the Northern Parts of America, or the Islands of Bermudas, those Countries or Islands in case of Success, shall be confederated with or dependent upon the said united States.

ART. 6.
The Most Christian King renounces for ever the possession of the Islands of Bermudas as well as of any part of the continent of North america which before the treaty of Paris in 1763. or in virtue of that Treaty, were acknowledged to belong to the Crown of Great Britain, or to the united States heretofore called British Colonies, or which are at this Time or have lately been under the Power of The King and Crown of Great Britain.

ART. 7.
If his Most Christian Majesty shall think proper to attack any of the Islands situated in the Gulph of Mexico, or near that Gulph, which are at present under the Power of Great Britain, all the said Isles, in case of success, shall appertain to the Crown of france.

ART. 8.
Neither of the two Parties shall conclude either Truce or Peace with Great Britain, without the formal consent of the other first obtain’d; and they mutually engage not to lay down their arms, until the Independence of the united states shall have been formally or tacitly assured by the Treaty or Treaties that shall terminate the War.

ART. 9.
The contracting Parties declare, that being resolved to fulfil each on its own Part the clauses and conditions of the present Treaty of alliance, according to its own power and circumstances, there shall be no after claim of compensation on one side or the other whatever may be the event of the War.

ART. 10.
The Most Christian King and the United states, agree to invite or admit other Powers who may have received injuries from England to make common cause with them, and to accede to the present alliance, under such conditions as shall be freely agreed to and settled between all the Parties.

ART. 11.
The two Parties guarantee mutually from the present time and forever, against all other powers, to wit, the united states to his most Christian Majesty the present Possessions of the Crown of france in America as well as those which it may acquire by the future Treaty of peace: and his most Christian Majesty guarantees on his part to the united states, their liberty, Sovereignty, and Independence absolute, and unlimited, as well in Matters of Government as commerce and also their Possessions, and the additions or conquests that their Confederation may obtain during the war, from any of the Dominions now or heretofore possessed by Great Britain in North America, conformable to the 5th & 6th articles above written, the whole as their Possessions shall be fixed and assured to the said States at the moment of the cessation of their present War with England.

ART. 12.
In order to fix more precisely the sense and application of the preceding article, the Contracting Parties declare, that in case of rupture between france and England, the reciprocal Guarantee declared in the said article shall have its full force and effect the moment such War shall break out and if such rupture shall not take place, the mutual obligations of the said guarantee shall not commence, until the moment of the cessation of the present War between the united states and England shall have ascertained the Possessions.

ART. 13.
The present Treaty shall be ratified on both sides and the Ratifications shall be exchanged in the space of six months, sooner if possible.

In faith where of the respective Plenipotentiaries, to wit on the part of the most Christian King Conrad Alexander Gerard royal syndic of the City of Strasbourgh & Secretary of his majestys Council of State and on the part of the United States Benjamin Franklin Deputy to the General Congress from the State of Pensylvania and President of the Convention of the same state, Silas Deane heretofore Deputy from the State of Connecticut & Arthur Lee Councellor at Law have signed the above Articles both in the French and English Languages declaring Nevertheless that the present Treaty was originally composed and concluded in the French Language, and they have hereunto affixed their Seals

Done at Paris, this sixth Day of February, one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight.

Transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)

Transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)


Transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)

Soviet scientists stunned the world on October 4, 1957, when they launched a satellite, called Sputnik I, into orbit around the earth. It weighted 184 pounds. A month later they exceeded their previous mark by launching a larger satellite that weighed 1,120 pounds and carried a dog. This amazing scientific accomplishment sent a shock wave through America. The military significance of Sputnik was lost on no one, for if the Soviets could fire heavy objects into outer space, they could certainly reach America with intercontinental missiles loaded with nuclear warheads. A space and arms race fever swept the nation, and by January 31, 1958, America regained some confidence and prestige by launching Explorer I, a grapefruit sized-sized (2.5 pounds) satellite, into orbit. To stay competitive in this race, President Eisenhower proposed and Congress passed the National Defense and Education Act, which authorized $887 million in loans and grants to aid college students in teaching sciences and languages. Between 1958 and 1961, a series of unmanned launches by the Americans and the Soviets resulted in the launch of the first man into space by the Soviets on April 12, 1961. Just over 20 days later, on May 5, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American in space.

John Glenn blasted into orbit around the earth on February 20, 1962. Encased in a bulky pressurized suit, strapped into a seat, and crammed into a tiny capsule, Glenn put his life at risk as he traveled at 17,500 miles per hour 160 miles above Earth. With great skill, courage, and grace, Glenn manually piloted Friendship 7 when the autopilot function failed. Mission Control was also concerned about whether the capsule’s life-saving heat shield would hold when Glenn reentered the atmosphere. After Glenn began his second orbit, Mission Control received a signal that the heat shield, designed to prevent the capsule from burning up during reentry, was loose. Although it could have been a faulty signal, Mission Control took no chances. Normally, the retropacket package would be jettisoned after the rockets were fired to slow the capsule for reentry. In this case, however, Glenn was ordered to retain the retropack to hold the heat shield in place. While struggling to maintain control of the spacecraft, Glenn watched as huge chunks flew past the window and wondered whether it was the retropack or heat shield breaking up. The heat shield held. If it hadn’t, Glenn and his capsule would have been incinerated. Glenn returned to Earth after five hours, suffering no injury more severe than scraped knuckles, sustained as he prepared to exit the capsule after a safe splashdown.

In the flood of enthusiasm after Glenn’s flight, President John F. Kennedy proposed a new challenge on September 12, 1962, in an address at Rice University:

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

The documents presented here are pages of the official flight transcript of Glenn’s 1962 spaceflight document the reentry.

For more information and other documents from the Friendship 7 mission, visit the Featured Documents section of the National Archives’ Online Exhibit Hall.





Transcript of Transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with the Command Center (1962)

04 36 56 0.4 CC Roger.
04 37 00 9.6 P There is quite a bit of cloud cover down in this area. I can, ah, right on track, I can only see certain areas. I can see quite a bit on up to the north, however.
04 37 18 2.4 P This is Friendship 7, going to manual control.
04 37 21 1.3 CC Ah, Roger, Friendship 7.
04 37 23 2.7 P This is banging in and out here; I’ll just control it manually.
04 37 25 0.4 CC Roger.
04 37 48 3.1 CC Friendship 7, Guaymas Cap Com, reading you loud and clear.
04 37 51 2.1 P Roger, Guaymas, read you loud and clear also.
04 38 06 4.0 CT Friendship 7, Friendship 7, this is Texas Com Tech. Do you read? Over.
04 38 10 1.3 P Roger, Texas, go ahead.
04 38 13 3.9 CT Ah, Roger. Reading you 5 square. Standby for Texas Cap Com.
04 38 16 0.4 P Roger.
04 38 25 23.8 CC This is Texas Cap Com, Friendship 7. We are recommending that you leave the retropackage on through the entire reentry. This means that you will have to override the 05g switch which is expected to occur at 04 43 _3. Tis also means that you will have to manually retract the scope. Do you read?
04 38 49 4.0 P This is Friendship 7. What is the reason for this? Do you have any reason? Over.
04 38 53 3.6 CC Not at this time; this is the judgement of Cape Flight.
04 38 58 2.6 P Ah, Roger. Say again your instructions please. Over.
04 39 01 22.1 CC We are recommending that the retropackage not, I say again, not be jettisoned. This means that you will have to override the 05g switch which is expected to occur at 04 43 53. This is approximately 4-1/2 minutes from now. This also means that you will have to retract the scope manually. Do you understand?
04 39 25 9.7 P Ah, Roger, understand. I will have to make a manual 05g entry when it occurs, and bring the scope in, ah, manually. Is that affirm?
04 39 35 2.5 CC That is affirmative, Friendship 7.
04 39 39 0.6 P Ah, Roger.
04 39 42 3.6 P This is Friendship 7, going to reentry attitude, then, in that case.
04 40 00 3.8 CC Friendship 7, Cape flight will give you the reasons for this action when you are in view.
04 40 06 2.6 P Ah, Roger. Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.
04 40 09 2.5 CC Everything down here on the ground looks okay.
04 40 12 1.5 P Ah, Roger. This is Friendship 7.
04 40 14 1.4 CC Confirm your attitudes.
04 40 16 0.4 P Roger.
04 40 23 1.7 CC Ah, Friendship 7, this is Cape. Over.
04 40 25 1.5 P Go ahead, Cape. Friend 7.
04 40 27 4.9 CC Ah, recommend you go to reentry attitude and retract the scope manually at this time.
04 40 32 1.9 P Ah, Roger, retracting scope manually.
04 40 36 14.6 CC While you’re doing that, we are not sure whether or not your landing bag has deployed. We feel it is possible to reenter with the retropackage on. Ah, we see no difficulty at this time in that type of reentry. Over.
04 40 51 1.6 P Ah, Roger, understand.
04 41 10 1.4 CC Seven, this is Cape. Over.
04 41 12 1.5 P Go ahead, Cape. Friendship 7.
04 41 15 5.4 CC Estimating 05g at 04 44.
04 41 21 0.6 P Ah, Roger.
04 41 23 3.0 CC You override 05g at that time.
04 41 31 2.7 P Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.
04 41 33 13.2 P This is Friendship 7. I’m on straight manual control at present time. This was, ah, still kicking in and out of orientation mode, mainly in yaw, ah, following retrofire, so I am on straight manual now. I’ll back it up —
04 41 45 0.8 CC — on reentry.
04 41 47 0.9 P Say again.
04 41 50 0.6 CC Standby.
04 41 53 6.2 P This is Friendship 7. Ah, going to fly-by-wire. I’m down to about 15 percent on manual.
04 42 00 8.9 CC Ah, Roger. You’re going to use fly-by-wire for reentry and we recommend that you do the best you can to keep a zero angle during reentry. Over.
04 42 09 1.2 P Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.
04 42 13 3.4 P This is Friendship 7. I’m on fly-by-wire, back-it up with manual. Over.
04 42 18 1.1 CC Roger, understand.
04 42 29 9.2 CC Ah, Seven, this is Cape. The weather in the recovery area is excellent, 3-foot waves, only one-tenth cloud coverage, 10 miles visibility.
04 42 39 1.2 P Ah, Roger. Friendship 7.
04 42 47 1.4 CC Ah, Seven, this is Cape. Over.
04 42 49 2.5 P Go ahead, Cape, you’re ground, you are going out.
04 42 52 1.8 CC We recommend that you —
04 43 16 2.9 P This is Friendship 7. I think the pack just let go.
04 43 39 2.4 P This is Friendship 7. A real fireball outside.
04 44 20 1.9 P Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Over.
04 45 18 1.9 P Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Over.
04 45 43 2.3 P Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Do you receive? Over.
04 46 20 2.0 P Hello, Cape. Friendship 7. Do you receive? Over.
04 47 18 1.2 CC — How do you read? Over.
04 47 20 1.5 P Loud and clear; how me?
04 47 22 1.6 CC Roger, reading you loud and clear. How are you doing?
04 47 25 1.0 P Oh, pretty good.
04 47 30 3.8 CC Roger. Your impact point is within one mile of the up-range destroyer.
04 47 34 0.5 P Ah, Roger.
04 47 35 0.2 CC — Over.
04 47 36 0.3 P Roger.
04 47 44 3.4 CC This is Cape, estimating 4 50. Over.
04 47 48 1.5 P Roger, 04 50.
04 47 53 1.6 P Okay, we’re through the peak g now.
04 47 55 4.0 CC Ah, Seven, this is Cape. What’s your general condition? Are you feeling pretty well?
04 47 59 2.8 P My condition is good, but that was a real fireball, boy.
04 48 05 3.2 P I had great chunks of that retropack breaking off all the way through.
04 48 08 2.1 CC Very good; it did break off, is that correct?
04 48 11 3.4 P Roger. Altimeter off the peg indicating 80 thousand.
04 48 15 1.7 CC Roger, reading you loud and clear.
04 48 17 0.3 P Roger.

The Townshend Acts 1767

Townshend Acts


The Townshend Acts were a series of measures introduced into Parliament by Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend in 1767. The acts imposed duties on glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea imported into the colonies and created a Board of Customs Commissioners to enforce customs laws without the accused having recourseto a trial by jury.

Townshend hoped the acts would defray imperial expenses in the colonies. Because Benjamin Franklin and other Americans in Britain had argued against Parliament’s power to impose the Stamp Act on the ground that it was a direct tax, British leaders convinced themselves that the colonists would accept so-called indirect taxes such as import duties, a wishful misunderstanding of colonial opinion.

Many influential Americans believed that Parliament had no right to impose any taxes on the colonists, viewing taxation as an abuse of Great Britian’s constitutional relationship with the colonies. As Samuel Adams, speaking for the Massachusetts legislature, put it: “In all free states, the constitution is fixed; it is from thence, that the legislature derives its authority; therefore it cannot change the constitution without destroying its own foundation.” Governor Francis Bernard of Massachusetts dissolved the legislature when it issued a Circular Letter describing the measures it had taken against the Townshend Acts. The Circular Letter led to a series of Non-Importation Agreements, which reduced colonial imports from Britain in 1768-1769 by half.

In April 1770, Parliament repealed all the Townshend duties except the tax on tea, which it retained in order to assert its right to tax the colonies. This led to a sort of truce, which lasted until the burning of the British patrol boat Gaspee in 1772. In the years before the Revolution, resistance to the tea tax became a symbol of American patriotism.

Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)

Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)

Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)

On August 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that two days earlier, U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin had been attacked by the North Vietnamese. Johnson dispatched U.S. planes against the attackers and asked Congress to pass a resolution to support his actions. The joint resolution “to promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia” passed on August 7, with only two Senators (Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening) dissenting, and became the subject of great political controversy in the course of the undeclared war that followed.

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution stated that “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repeal any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent any further aggression.” As a result, President Johnson, and later President Nixon, relied on the resolution as the legal basis for their military policies in Vietnam.

As public resistance to the war heightened, the resolution was repealed by Congress in January 1971.







Transcript of Tonkin Gulf Resolution (1964)

Eighty-eighth Congress of the United States of America

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the seventh day of January, one thousand nine hundred and sixty-four

Joint Resolution
To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia.

Whereas naval units of the Communist regime in Vietnam, in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked United Stated naval vessels lawfully present in international waters, and have thereby created a serious threat to international peace; and

Whereas these attackers are part of deliberate and systematic campaign of aggression that the Communist regime in North Vietnam has been waging against its neighbors and the nations joined with them in the collective defense of their freedom; and

Whereas the United States is assisting the peoples of southeast Asia to protest their freedom and has no territorial, military or political ambitions in that area, but desires only that these people should be left in peace to work out their destinies in their own way: Now, therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.

Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.



Maryland Toleration Act of 1649; September 21, 1649

Maryland Toleration Act of 1649; September 21, 1649

Maryland Toleration Act of 1649; September 21, 1649

An Act Concerning Religion.

Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Common Weath matters concerning Religion and the honor of God ought in the first place to bee taken, into serious consideracion and endeavoured to bee settled, Be it therefore ordered and enacted by the Right Honourable Cecilius Lord Baron of Baltemore absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province with the advise and consent of this Generall Assembly:

That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto helonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires.

And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid, That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the summe of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such person soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfyeing of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publiquely whipt and bee imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit tenne pound sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed as aforesaid, or in case such offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattells within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publiquely and severely whipt and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and bee for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.

And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth uppon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, traffiqueing, trading or comerceing within this Province or within any the Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian popish prest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and loose the somme of tenne shillings sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed on the goods and chattells of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachfull words are or shalbe spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province. But if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speake any such reproachfull words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattells sufficient and overt within this Province to bee taken to satisfie the penalty aforesaid or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed, that then the person or persons soe offending shalbe publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without baile or maineprise [bail] untill hee, shee or they respectively shall satisfy the party soe offended or greived by such reproachfull Language by asking him or her respectively forgivenes publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate of cheife Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shalbe given.

And be it further likewise Enacted by the Authority and consent aforesaid That every person and persons within this Province that shall at any time hereafter prophane the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday by frequent swearing, drunkennes or by any uncivill or disorderly recreacion, or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require it shall for every such first offence forfeit 2s 6d sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s sterling or the value thereof, and for the third offence and soe for every time he shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s sterling or the value thereof. And in case such offender and offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattells within this Province to satisfy any of the said Penalties respectively hereby imposed for prophaning the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday as aforesaid, That in Every such case the partie soe offending shall for the first and second offence in that kinde be imprisoned till hee or shee shall publickly in open Court before the cheife Commander Judge or Magistrate, of that County Towne or precinct where such offence shalbe committed acknowledg the Scandall and offence he hath in that respect given against God and the good and civill Governement of this Province, And for the third offence and for every time after shall also bee publickly whipt.

And whereas the inforceing of the conscience in matters of Religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous Consequence in those commonwealthes where it hath been practised, And for the more quiett and peaceable governement of this Province, and the better to preserve mutuall Love and amity amongst the Inhabitants thereof, Be it Therefore also by the Lord Proprietary with the advise and consent of this Assembly Ordeyned and enacted (except as in this present Act is before Declared and sett forth) that noe person or persons whatsoever within this Province, or the Islands, Ports, Harbors, Creekes, or havens thereunto belonging professing to beleive in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth bee any waies troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging nor any way compelled to the beleife or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent, soe as they be not unfaithfull to the Lord Proprietary, or molest or conspire against the civill Governement established or to bee established in this Province under him or his heires. And that all and every person and persons that shall presume Contrary to this Act and the true intent and meaning thereof directly or indirectly either in person or estate willfully to wrong disturbe trouble or molest any person whatsoever within this Province professing to beleive in Jesus Christ for or in respect of his or her religion or the free exercise thereof within this Province other than is provided for in this Act that such person or persons soe offending, shalbe compelled to pay trebble damages to the party soe wronged or molested, and for every such offence shall also forfeit 20s sterling in money or the value thereof, half thereof for the use of the Lord Proprietary, and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, and the other half for the use of the party soe wronged or molested as aforesaid, Or if the partie soe offending as aforesaid shall refuse or bee unable to recompense the party soe wronged, or to satisfy such fyne or forfeiture, then such Offender shalbe severely punished by publick whipping and imprisonment during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary, or his Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the tyme being without baile or maineprise.

And bee it further alsoe Enacted by the authority and consent aforesaid That the Sheriff or other Officer or Officers from time to time to bee appointed and authorized for that purpose, of the County Towne or precinct where every particular offence in this present Act conteyned shall happen at any time to bee committed and whereupon there is hereby a forfeiture fyne or penalty imposed shall from time to time distraine and seise the goods and estate of every such person soe offending as aforesaid against this present Act or any part thereof, and sell the same or any part thereof for the full satisfaccion of such forfeiture, fine, or penalty as aforesaid, Restoring unto the partie soe offending the Remainder or overplus of the said goods or estate after such satisfaccion soe made as aforesaid.

The freemen have assented.

Three-fifths Compromise 1787

Three-fifths Compromise  1787

Ratification Debate on the U.S. Constitution

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— Declaration of Independence, 1776

When the American colonies broke from England, the Continental Congress asked Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. In the declaration, Jefferson expressed American grievances and explained why the colonists were breaking away. His words proclaimed America’s ideals of freedom and equality, which still resonate throughout the world.

Yet at the time these words were written, more than 500,000 black Americans were slaves. Jefferson himself owned more than 100. Slaves accounted for about one-fifth of the population in the American colonies. Most of them lived in the Southern colonies, where slaves made up 40 percent of the population.

Many colonists, even slave holders, hated slavery. Jefferson called it a “hideous blot” on America. George Washington, who owned hundreds of slaves, denounced it as “repugnant.” George Mason, a Virginia slave owner, condemned it as “evil.”

But even though many of them decried it, Southern colonists relied on slavery. The Southern colonies were among the richest in America. Their cash crops of tobacco, indigo, and rice depended on slave labor. They weren’t going to give it up.

The first U.S. national government began under the Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781. This document said nothing about slavery. It left the power to regulate slavery, as well as most powers, to the individual states. After their experience with the British, the colonists distrusted a strong central government. The new national government consisted solely of a Congress in which each state had one vote.

With little power to execute its laws or collect taxes, the new government proved ineffective. In May 1787, 55 delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia. (Rhode Island refused to send a delegation.) Their goal was to revise the Articles of Confederation. Meeting in secret sessions, they quickly changed their goal. They would write a new Constitution. The outline of the new government was soon agreed to. It would have three branches–executive, judiciary, and a two-house legislature.

A dispute arose over the legislative branch. States with large populations wanted representation in both houses of the legislature to be based on population. States with small populations wanted each state to have the same number of representatives, like under the Articles of Confederation. This argument carried on for two months. In the end, the delegates agreed to the “Great Compromise.” One branch, the House of Representatives, would be based on population. The other, the Senate, would have two members from each state.

Part of this compromise included an issue that split the convention on North-South lines. The issue was: Should slaves count as part of the population? Under the proposed Constitution, population would ultimately determine three matters:

(1) How many members each state would have in the House of Representatives.

(2) How many electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections.

(3) The amount each state would pay in direct taxes to the federal government.

Only the Southern states had large numbers of slaves. Counting them as part of the population would greatly increase the South’s political power, but it would also mean paying higher taxes. This was a price the Southern states were willing to pay. They argued in favor of counting slaves. Northern states disagreed. The delegates compromised. Each slave would count as three-fifths of a person.

Some historians have suggested there was more to the three-fifths compromise. While the Constitutional Convention was debating in Philadelphia, Congress under the Articles of Confederation was meeting in New York, 80 miles away. With many members absent and the South for the moment holding a majority, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. (This land would later be divided into five states: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and part of Wisconsin.) Some historians believe that the Northwest Ordinance was part of the three-fifths compromise.

Following this compromise, another controversy erupted: What should be done about the slave trade, the importing of new slaves into the United States? Ten states had already outlawed it. Many delegates heatedly denounced it. But the three states that allowed it–Georgia and the two Carolinas–threatened to leave the convention if the trade were banned. A special committee worked out another compromise: Congress would have the power to ban the slave trade, but not until 1800. The convention voted to extend the date to 1808.

A final major issue involving slavery confronted the delegates. Southern states wanted other states to return escaped slaves. The Articles of Confederation had not guaranteed this. But when Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance, it put in a clause promising that slaves who escaped to the Northwest Territories would be returned to their owners. This was part of the price of making the Northwest Territories free. The delegates placed a similar fugitive slave clause in the Constitution. This was part of a deal with New England states. In exchange for the fugitive slave clause, the New England states got concessions on shipping and trade.

These compromises on slavery had serious effects on the nation. The fugitive slave clause (enforced through legislation passed in 1793 and 1850) allowed escaped slaves to be chased into the North and caught. It also resulted in the illegal kidnaping and return to slavery of thousands of free blacks. The three-fifths compromise increased the South’s representation in Congress and the electoral college. In 12 of the first 16 presidential elections, a Southern slave owner won. Extending the slave trade past 1800 brought many more slaves to America. South Carolina alone imported 40,000 slaves between 1803 and 1808 (when Congress overwhelmingly voted to end the trade). So many slaves entered that slavery spilled into the Louisiana territory and took root.

But the Northern states didn’t push too hard on slavery issues. Their main goal was to secure a new government. They feared antagonizing the South. Most of them saw slavery as a dying institution with no economic future. They had no way of knowing that in five years the cotton gin would be invented, which would make growing cotton on plantations very profitable. So instead they used slavery as a bargaining chip to win other concessions.

Slaves were not the only group shortchanged in the Constitution. Another group, Indians, are specifically excluded from population counts for taxation or representation. At best, the framers looked on Indians as sovereign nations. At worst, they saw them as savages unworthy of citizenship. For their part, the Indians mostly just wanted to be left alone.

The Declaration of Independence expressed lofty ideals of equality. The framers of the Constitution, intent on making a new government, left important questions of equality and fairness to the future. It would be some time before the great republic that they founded would approach the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb (1880)

Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb (1880)


Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb (1880)

Thomas Edison propelled the United States out of the gaslight era and into the electric age. From the time he was a boy, he was mesmerized by the mechanics of the universe and, with virtually no formal education, brought forth innovations that continue to dominate our lives. Out of his New Jersey laboratories, which were themselves inventions—thoroughly equipped and fully staffed—came 1,093 patented inventions and innovations that made Edison one of the most prolific inventors of all time.

Three of his most famous inventions, the phonograph, a practical incandescent light bulb, and the moving picture camera, dazzled the public and revolutionized the way people live throughout the world. His thundering dynamos transformed the United States into the world’s greatest industrial superpower.

In 1878 the creation of a practical long-burning electric light had eluded scientists for decades. With dreams of lighting up entire cites, Edison lined up financial backing, assembled a group of brilliant scientists and technicians, and applied his genius to the challenge of creating an effective and affordable electric lamp. With unflagging determination, Edison and his team tried out thousands of theories, convinced that every failure brought them one step closer to success. On January 27, 1880, Edison received the historic patent embodying the principles of his incandescent lamp that paved the way for the universal domestic use of electric light.




To the Honorable Commissioner of Patents:

Your Petitioner Thomas A. Edison of Menlo Park in the State of New Jersey prays that Letters Patent may be granted to him for the invention of an Improvement in Electric Lamps and in the method of manufacturing the same set forth in the annexed specification. (Case no. 186).

And further prays that you will recognize Lemuel W. Serrell, of the City of New York, N.Y., as his Attorney, with full power of substitution and revocation, to prosecute this application, to make alterations and amendments therein, to receive the Patent, and to transact all business in the Patent Office connected Therewith.



The First Virginia Charter 1905

The First Virginia Charter


Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1905)

European intervention in Latin America (see the Platt Amendment) resurfaced as an issue in U.S. foreign policy when European governments began to use force to pressure several Latin American countries to repay their debts. For example, British, German, and Italian gunboats blockaded Venezuela’s ports in 1902 when the Venezuelan government defaulted on its debts to foreign bondholders. Many Americans worried that European intervention in Latin America would undermine their country’s traditional dominance in the region.

To keep other powers out and ensure financial solvency, President Theodore Roosevelt issued his corollary. “Chronic wrongdoing . . . may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation,” he announced in his annual message to Congress in December 1904, “and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”

Roosevelt tied his policy to the Monroe Doctrine, and it was also consistent with his foreign policy of “walk softly, but carry a big stick.” Roosevelt stated that in keeping with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States was justified in exercising “international police power” to put an end to chronic unrest or wrongdoing in the Western Hemisphere. This so-called Roosevelt Corollary—a corollary is an extension of a previous idea—to the Monroe Doctrine contained a great irony. The Monroe Doctrine had been sought to prevent European intervention in the Western Hemisphere, but now the Roosevelt Corollary justified American intervention throughout the Western Hemisphere. In 1934, Franklin D. Roosevelt renounced interventionism and established his Good Neighbor policy within the Western Hemisphere.



Transcript of Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1905)

(Excerpted from Theodore Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1904)

In treating of our foreign policy and of the attitude that this great Nation should assume in the world at large, it is absolutely necessary to consider the Army and the Navy, and the Congress, through which the thought of the Nation finds its expression, should keep ever vividly in mind the fundamental fact that it is impossible to treat our foreign policy, whether this policy takes shape in the effort to secure justice for others or justice for ourselves, save as conditioned upon the attitude we are willing to take toward our Army, and especially toward our Navy. It is not merely unwise, it is contemptible, for a nation, as for an individual, to use high-sounding language to proclaim its purposes, or to take positions which are ridiculous if unsupported by potential force, and then to refuse to provide this force. If there is no intention of providing and keeping the force necessary to back up a strong attitude, then it is far better not to assume such an attitude.

The steady aim of this Nation, as of all enlightened nations, should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. There are kinds of peace which are highly undesirable, which are in the long run as destructive as any war. Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. Many times peoples who were slothful or timid or shortsighted, who had been enervated by ease or by luxury, or misled by false teachings, have shrunk in unmanly fashion from doing duty that was stern and that needed self-sacrifice, and have sought to hide from their own minds their shortcomings, their ignoble motives, by calling them love of peace. The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. The goal to set before us as a nation, the goal which should be set before all mankind, is the attainment of the peace of justice, of the peace which comes when each nation is not merely safe-guarded in its own rights, but scrupulously recognizes and performs its duty toward others. Generally peace tells for righteousness; but if there is conflict between the two, then our fealty is due first to the cause of righteousness. Unrighteous wars are common, and unrighteous peace is rare; but both should be shunned. The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right can not be divorced. One of our great poets has well and finely said that freedom is not a gift that tarries long in the hands of cowards. Neither does it tarry long in the hands of those too slothful, too dishonest, or too unintelligent to exercise it. The eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty must be exercised, sometimes to guard against outside foes; although of course far more often to guard against our own selfish or thoughtless shortcomings.

If these self-evident truths are kept before us, and only if they are so kept before us, we shall have a clear idea of what our foreign policy in its larger aspects should be. It is our duty to remember that a nation has no more right to do injustice to another nation, strong or weak, than an individual has to do injustice to another individual; that the same moral law applies in one case as in the other. But we must also remember that it is as much the duty of the Nation to guard its own rights and its own interests as it is the duty of the individual so to do. Within the Nation the individual has now delegated this right to the State, that is, to the representative of all the individuals, and it is a maxim of the law that for every wrong there is a remedy. But in international law we have not advanced by any means as far as we have advanced in municipal law. There is as yet no judicial way of enforcing a right in international law. When one nation wrongs another or wrongs many others, there is no tribunal before which the wrongdoer can be brought. Either it is necessary supinely to acquiesce in the wrong, and thus put a premium upon brutality and aggression, or else it is necessary for the aggrieved nation valiantly to stand up for its rights. Until some method is devised by which there shall be a degree of international control over offending nations, it would be a wicked thing for the most civilized powers, for those with most sense of international obligations and with keenest and most generous appreciation of the difference between right and wrong, to disarm. If the great civilized nations of the present day should completely disarm, the result would mean an immediate recrudescence of barbarism in one form or another. Under any circumstances a sufficient armament would have to be kept up to serve the purposes of international police; and until international cohesion and the sense of international duties and rights are far more advanced than at present, a nation desirous both of securing respect for itself and of doing good to others must have a force adequate for the work which it feels is allotted to it as its part of the general world duty. Therefore it follows that a self-respecting, just, and far-seeing nation should on the one hand endeavor by every means to aid in the development of the various movements which tend to provide substitutes for war, which tend to render nations in their actions toward one another, and indeed toward their own peoples, more responsive to the general sentiment of humane and civilized mankind; and on the other hand that it should keep prepared, while scrupulously avoiding wrongdoing itself, to repel any wrong, and in exceptional cases to take action which in a more advanced stage of international relations would come under the head of the exercise of the international police. A great free people owes it to itself and to all mankind not to sink into helplessness before the powers of evil.

We are in every way endeavoring to help on, with cordial good will, every movement which will tend to bring us into more friendly relations with the rest of mankind. In pursuance of this policy I shall shortly lay before the Senate treaties of arbitration with all powers which are willing to enter into these treaties with us. It is not possible at this period of the world’s development to agree to arbitrate all matters, but there are many matters of possible difference between us and other nations which can be thus arbitrated. Furthermore, at the request of the Interparliamentary Union, an eminent body composed of practical statesmen from all countries, I have asked the Powers to join with this Government in a second Hague conference, at which it is hoped that the work already so happily begun at The Hague may be carried some steps further toward completion. This carries out the desire expressed by the first Hague conference itself.

It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power. If every country washed by the Caribbean Sea would show the progress in stable and just civilization which with the aid of the Platt Amendment Cuba has shown since our troops left the island, and which so many of the republics in both Americas are constantly and brilliantly showing, all question of interference by this Nation with their affairs would be at an end. Our interests and those of our southern neighbors are in reality identical. They have great natural riches, and if within their borders the reign of law and justice obtains, prosperity is sure to come to them. While they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort, and then only if it became evident that their inability or unwillingness to do justice at home and abroad had violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire body of American nations. It is a mere truism to say that every nation, whether in America or anywhere else, which desires to maintain its freedom, its independence, must ultimately realize that the right of such independence can not be separated from the responsibility of making good use of it.

In asserting the Monroe Doctrine, in taking such steps as we have taken in regard to Cuba, Venezuela, and Panama, and in endeavoring to circumscribe the theater of war in the Far East, and to secure the open door in China, we have acted in our own interest as well as in the interest of humanity at large. There are, however, cases in which, while our own interests are not greatly involved, strong appeal is made to our sympathies. Ordinarily it is very much wiser and more useful for us to concern ourselves with striving for our own moral and material betterment here at home than to concern ourselves with trying to better the condition of things in other nations. We have plenty of sins of our own to war against, and under ordinary circumstances we can do more for the general uplifting of humanity by striving with heart and soul to put a stop to civic corruption, to brutal lawlessness and violent race prejudices here at home than by passing resolutions and wrongdoing elsewhere. Nevertheless there are occasional crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiar horror as to make us doubt whether it is not our manifest duty to endeavor at least to show our disapproval of the deed and our sympathy with those who have suffered by it. The cases must be extreme in which such a course is justifiable. There must be no effort made to remove the mote from our brother’s eye if we refuse to remove the beam from our own. But in extreme cases action may be justifiable and proper. What form the action shall take must depend upon the circumstances of the case; that is, upon the degree of the atrocity and upon our power to remedy it. The cases in which we could interfere by force of arms as we interfered to put a stop to intolerable conditions in Cuba are necessarily very few. Yet it is not to be expected that a people like ours, which in spite of certain very obvious shortcomings, nevertheless as a whole shows by its consistent practice its belief in the principles of civil and religious liberty and of orderly freedom, a people among whom even the worst crime, like the crime of lynching, is never more than sporadic, so that individuals and not classes are molested in their fundamental rights–it is inevitable that such a nation should desire eagerly to give expression to its horror on an occasion like that of the massacre of the Jews in Kishenef, or when it witnesses such systematic and long-extended cruelty and oppression as the cruelty and oppression of which the Armenians have been the victims, and which have won for them the indignant pity of the civilized world.


The Whiskey Rebellion

The Whiskey Rebellion



By the president of the United States of America


Whereas, combinations to defeat the execution of the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States and upon stills have from the time of the commencement of those laws existed in some of the western parts of Pennsylvania.

And whereas, the said combinations, proceeding in a manner subversive equally of the just authority of government and of the rights of individuals, have hitherto effected their dangerous and criminal purpose by the influence of certain irregular meetings whose proceedings have tended to encourage and uphold the spirit of opposition by misrepresentations of the laws calculated to render them odious; by endeavors to deter those who might be so disposed from accepting offices under them through fear of public resentment and of injury to person and property, and to compel those who had accepted such offices by actual violence to surrender or forbear the execution of them; by circulation vindictive menaces against all those who should otherwise, directly or indirectly, aid in the execution of the said laws, or who, yielding to the dictates of conscience and to a sense of obligation, should themselves comply therewith; by actually injuring and destroying the property of persons who were understood to have so complied; by inflicting cruel and humiliating punishments upon private citizens for no other cause than that of appearing to be the friends of the laws; by intercepting the public officers on the highways, abusing, assaulting, and otherwise ill treating them; by going into their houses in the night, gaining admittance by force, taking away their papers, and committing other outrages, employing for these unwarrantable purposes the agency of armed banditti disguised in such manner as for the most part to escape discovery;

And whereas, the endeavors of the legislature to obviate objections to the said laws by lowering the duties and by other alterations conducive to the convenience of those whom they immediately affect (though they have given satisfaction in other quarters), and the endeavors of the executive officers to conciliate a compliance with the laws by explanations, by forbearance, and even by particular accommodations founded on the suggestion of local considerations, have been disappointed of their effect by the machinations of persons whose industry to excite resistance has increased with every appearance of a disposition among the people to relax in their opposition and to acquiesce in the laws, insomuch that many persons in the said western parts of Pennsylvania have at length been hardy enough to perpetrate acts, which I am advised amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States, the said persons having on the 16th and 17th of July last past proceeded in arms (on the second day amounting to several hundreds) to the house of John Neville, inspector of the revenue for the fourth survey of the district of Pennsylvania; having repeatedly attacked the said house with the persons therein, wounding some of them; having seized David Lenox, marshal of the district of Pennsylvania, who previous thereto had been fired upon while in the execution of his duty by a party of armed men, detaining him for some time prisoner, till, for the preservation of his life and the obtaining of his liberty, he found it necessary to enter into stipulations to forbear the execution of certain official duties touching processes issuing out of a court of the United States; and having finally obliged the said inspector of the revenue and the said marshal from considerations of personal safety to fly from that part of the country, in order, by a circuitous route, to proceed to the seat of government, avowing as the motives of these outrageous proceedings an intention to prevent by force of arms the execution of the said laws, to oblige the said inspector of the revenue to renounce his said office, to withstand by open violence the lawful authority of the government of the United States, and to compel thereby an alteration in the measures of the legislature and a repeal of the laws aforesaid;

And whereas, by a law of the United States entitled “An act to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions,” it is enacted that whenever the laws of the United States shall be opposed or the execution thereof obstructed in any state by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by that act, the same being notified by an associate justice or the district judge, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia of such state to suppress such combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed. And if the militia of a state, when such combinations may happen, shall refuse or be insufficient to suppress the same, it shall be lawful for the President, if the legislature of the United States shall not be in session, to call forth and employ such numbers of the militia of any other state or states most convenient thereto as may be necessary; and the use of the militia so to be called forth may be continued, if necessary, until the expiration of thirty days after the commencement of the of the ensuing session; Provided always, that, whenever it may be necessary in the judgment of the President to use the military force hereby directed to be called forth, the President shall forthwith, and previous thereto, by proclamation, command such insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within a limited time;

And whereas, James Wilson, an associate justice, on the 4th instant, by writing under his hand, did from evidence which had been laid before him notify to me that “in the counties of Washington and Allegany, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshal of that district”;

And whereas, it is in my judgment necessary under the circumstances of the case to take measures for calling forth the militia in order to suppress the combinations aforesaid, and to cause the laws to be duly executed; and I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but withal the most solemn conviction that the essential interests of the Union demand it, that the very existence of government and the fundamental principles of social order are materially involved in the issue, and that the patriotism and firmness of all good citizens are seriously called upon, as occasions may require, to aid in the effectual suppression of so fatal a spirit;

Therefore, and in pursuance of the proviso above recited, I. George Washington, President of the United States, do hereby command all persons, being insurgents, as aforesaid, and all others whom it may concern, on or before the 1st day of September next to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes. And I do moreover warn all persons whomsoever against aiding, abetting, or comforting the perpetrators of the aforesaid treasonable acts; and do require all officers and other citizens, according to their respective duties and the laws of the land, to exert their utmost endeavors to prevent and suppress such dangerous proceedings.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia the seventh day of August, one thousand seven hundred and ninety- four, and of the independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.


The Volstead Act 1919

The Volstead Act


The Volstead Act

The National Prohibition Act of 1919 (commonly called the Volstead Act) was enabling legislation enacted to provide for the implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established National Prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

The Eighteenth Amendment was very brief and general in its provisions. It stated simply that “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited” and that “Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

What constituted “intoxicating liquors” and other terms needed specific legal definitions as well as penalties to be legislated before enforcement could occur.

The required enabling law was called the Volstead Act after Congressman Andrew J. Volstead who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and whose job it was to sponsor the legislation. However, its author was largely Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League who conceived and drafted the bill. Nevertheless, Prohibition transformed the name of an otherwise obscure legislator from Minnesota into a household word. The name Volstead was cursed by some, praised by others, but known by all.

The bill was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson on both constitutional and ethical grounds but overridden by Congress on the same day, October 28, 1919.

You can read both the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act at the bottom of the page.

The Volstead Act was officially titled “An act to prohibit intoxicating beverages, and to regulate the manufacture, production, use, and sale of high-proof spirits for other than beverage purposes, and to insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye, and other lawful industries.” Thus, its title identified its three distinct purposes (1) to “prohibit intoxicating beverages,” (2) “to regulate the manufacture, production, use and sale of high proof spirits for other than beverage purposes,” and (3) to “insure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research and in the development of fuel, dye and other lawful industries.”

The Volstead Act specified that “no person shall manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish or possess any intoxicating liquor except as authorized by this act.” The act defined intoxicating liquor as any beverage over 0.5% alcohol and superseded all existing prohibition laws in effect in states with such legislation. Contrary to common belief it did not specifically prohibit the purchase or consumption of intoxicating liquors. For example, those who had stockpiled alcoholic beverages could legally consume them.

The Eighteenth Amendment was only 111 words whereas the Volstead Act was over 25 pages in length. Its provisions and their subsequent interpretation by courts were confusing. However, even as written, its provisions were complex. The day before it went into effect the New York Daily News interpreted the law for its readers:

  • You may drink intoxicating liquor in your own home or in the home of a friend when you are a bona fide guest.
  • You may buy intoxicating liquor on a bona fide medical prescription of a doctor. A pint can be bought every ten days.
  • You may consider any place you live permanently as your home. If you have more than one home, you may keep a stock of liquor in each.
  • You may keep liquor in any storage room or club locker, provided the storage place is for the exclusive use of yourself, family or bona fide guests.
  • You may get a permit to move liquor when you change your residence.
  • You may manufacture, sell or transport liquor for non-beverage or sacramental purposes provided you obtain a Government permit.
  • You cannot carry a hip flask.
  • You cannot give away or receive a bottle of liquor as a gift.
  • You cannot take liquor to hotels or restaurants and drink it in the public dining room.
  • You cannot buy or sell formulas or recipes for homemade liquors.
  • You cannot ship liquor for beverage use.
  • You cannot store liquor in any place except your own home.
  • You cannot manufacture anything above one half of one percent (liquor strength) in your home.
  • You cannot display liquor signs or advertisements on your premises.
  • You cannot remove reserve stocks from storage. 1

In spite of its thousands of words, the Volstead Act could obscure rather than clarify. The U.S. Attorney General was asked, for example, if it was illegal under the Act to publish or circulate George Washington’s recipe for making beer, even when it was a photographic copy of the recipe written in his own handwriting. 2 Would hanging an antique alcohol ad in a private living room be illegal? Exactly what would be a bona fide guest? Even a casual reading of the Act reveals apparent inconsistencies. Legal rulings about different matters conflicted with each other and confusion reigned.

Effects of Prohibition

Within a week after the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, small portable stills were on sale throughout the country. 3 California’s grape growers increased their acreage about 700 percent during the first five years of Prohibition and production increased dramatically to meet a booming demand for home-made wine. 4 The mayor of New York City even sent instructions on winemaking to all of his constituents. 5

There was also wort, or beer that had been halted in the manufacturing process before the yeast was added. The purchaser added yeast, let the wort ferment, and then filtered it. Since wort was sold before it contained alcohol, it was legal and openly sold throughout the entire country. 6 Organized smuggling of alcohol from Canada and elsewhere quickly developed. “Rum rows” existed off the coasts of large cities where ships lined up just beyond the three mile limit to off-load their cargoes onto speed boats. Murder and hijacking were common in this dangerous but lucrative business.

There was also the notorious and ever-present organized bootlegging. The scourge led to massive and widespread corruption of politicians and law enforcement agencies and helped finance powerful crime syndicates. The widespread corruption of public officials became a national scandal. Several rather typical cases reported by the New York Times in a short period illustrate the problem:

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – The sheriff, the assistant chief of police, and seventeen others, including policemen and deputy sheriffs, were arrested on charges of conspiracy.

Morris County, New Jersey – The former county prosecutor was found guilty of accepting bribes from liquor-law violators.

Philadelphia – A city magistrate was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting $87,993 in liquor graft during his ten months in office.

Edgewater, New Jersey – The mayor, the chief of police, two local detectives, a United States customs inspector, a New York police sergeant, and eight others were found guilty of conspiracy. A rum- runner confessed that he had paid them $61,000 to help land liquor worth one million dollars.

South Jacksonville, Florida – Practically the entire city administration, including the mayor, the chief of police, the president of the city council, the city commissioner, and the fire chief, were indicted by a federal grand jury. 7

In addition to the murders of law enforcement officers an even more common cause of death and disability were bootlegger’s hastily-made illegal products that were sometimes toxic and caused paralysis, blindness and death.

It became very difficult to convict those who violated Prohibition because public support for the law and its enforcement eroded dramatically. For example, of 7,000 arrests in New York between 1921 and 1923, only 27 resulted in convictions. 8 That is a conviction rate of only one for every 260 arrests.

In addition to being ineffective, Prohibition was counterproductive in that it led to the heavy and rapid consumption of alcohol in secretive, non-socially regulated and controlled ways. “People did not take the trouble to go to a speakeasy, present the password, and pay high prices for very poor quality alcohol simply to have a beer. When people went to speakeasies, they went to get drunk.” 9

The problems caused by Prohibition and its enforcement imposed enormous financial burdens on the nation, but bootleg, being untaxed, deprived the treasury of much needed revenue. A Congressional investigation (the Wickersham Commission report) found that two-thirds of the federal budget for law enforcement went to trying to police Prohibition.

Repeal of Prohibition

National Prohibition in the United States had been viewed by tens of millions of Americans as the solution to the nation’s poverty, crime, violence, and other ills and they eagerly embraced it. Upon establishment of the Noble Experiment in 1920, famous evangelist Billy Sunday staged a mock funeral for alcoholic beverages and then extolled the benefits of Prohibition. “The rein of tears is over,” he asserted. “The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs.”10 Since alcohol was to be banned and since it was seen as the cause of most, if not all, crime, some communities sold their jails. 11

Unfortunately, Prohibition not only failed in its promises but actually created serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. This led to an increasing disillusionment by millions of Americans. Journalist H. L. Mencken wrote in 1925 that “Five years of prohibition have had, at lest, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.” 12

Women, led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), had been pivotal in bringing about National Prohibition. Their interest had been a moral one: protecting the family, women and children from the effects of alcohol abuse. And with the passage of time it became women who proved to be pivotal in repealing Prohibition. Their interest was again a moral one: prohibition was undermining the family and corrupting the morals of women and children. The Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform and other women’s groups called for change.

As disillusionment and dissatisfaction spread, the number of Repeal organizations and their membership grew and the demand for Repeal became louder and louder. They included the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, Labor’s National Committee for the Modification of the Volstead Act, United Repeal Council, the Women’s Moderation Union, and the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers.

The Democratic Party platform in the 1932 election included an anti-Prohibition plank and Franklin Roosevelt ran for the presidency promising Repeal, which occurred on December 5, 1933. The popular vote for repeal of Prohibition was 74 percent in favor and 26 percent in opposition. 13 By a three to one vote, the American people rejected Prohibition; only one state opposed Repeal. The Eighteenth is the only Constitutional Amendment ever to be repealed.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Volstead Act had become null and unenforceable upon repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment because it had rested on a grant of authority to Congress by that Amendment. Therefore prosecutions for violations of the Act that had not reached final judgments of conviction before the date of Repeal had to be dismissed.

Although National Prohibition had been repealed, some states continued their own state-wide prohibition for decades. Even today there are hundreds of dry counties across the United States. About 18,000,000 people live in the approximately 10% of the area of the US that is dry. In addition, many vestiges of prohibition continue to exist across the entire country.

Happy throngs sang “Happy Days are Here Again!” and President Roosevelt would soon look back to what he called “The damnable affliction of Prohibition.” 14 But not everyone was happy and temperance leaders vowed to continue the fight. 15

The Present

The temperance movement never really died. It was relatively dormant for several decades after World War II, but has re-emerged with a new identity and modified ideology. It has been described variously as “neo-prohibition,” 16 “new temperance,” 17 “new Sobriety,” 18 “new Victorianism,” 19 and “new paternalism.” 20 The consumption of beer, wine, and spirits had declined over the last quarter-century. But lower is never low enough for some people. As a critic of neo-drys wrote, “The slogan for the new temperance is, regarding alcohol, ‘less is better.'” 21 It is clear that:

In contemporary America, both the tactics and the tone of temperance sentiment have changed appreciably from the 1800s. Inebriety, licentiousness, moral depravity and sin have all but vanished form the extant vocabulary. The new contender for the status of moral purity would seem to be health (although ill- health has not yet achieved equivalence with religious fundamentalists’ conceptions of sin). Today, rallying cries once structured in terms of social order, home and basic decency are now framed in terms of health promotion and disease prevention. 22

The renewed movement is based on the assumption that individuals cannot be trusted to make appropriate lifestyle choices. Therefore, “to protect people from themselves or to protect society, the state should pass legislation that enforces restrictions likely [in the belief of the reformers] to promote health by taking away the individual’s personal choice.” 23 This, in spite of the fact that alcohol legislation in the United States already appears to be among the most stringent in the world.

Neo-prohibitionists believe that the per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages should be reduced by legislation that further restricts its sale and consumption and also by changing social norms to reduce the acceptability of drinking. They believe that alcohol should be stigmatized and that drinking should be discouraged and “de-normalized.”

Opponents argue that drinking in moderation is associated with better health and greater longevity than is abstaining from alcohol.

The debate about alcoholic beverages and their place in society will likely extend long into the future. Several months before his death in a nursing home 1938, temperance leader John Brown Hammond was working to organize “The Eighteenth Amendment Rescue Association” and believed that Prohibition would eventually return. Only time will tell if he was correct.