The essential primer on twenty of the most influential American documents between 1620 and 1830
The Great American Documents series, written by the graphic-book author Ruth Ashby and illustrated by the renowned Ernie Colón, tells the history of America through the major speeches, laws, proclamations, court decisions, and essays that shaped it.
Volume 1 introduces as the series narrator none other than Uncle Sam, who walks readers through twenty major documents bookended by the Mayflower Compact in 1620 and the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Each document gets its own chapter, in which Uncle Sam explains not only its key passages but its origins, how it came to be written, and its impact. In the chapter “The Maryland Toleration Act” we learn that the document was one of the first blueprints for modern religious tolerance. “Common Sense” depicts the Boston Tea Party and the British response as the prelude to Paine’s stirring pamphlet. And “The Louisiana Purchase Treaty” closes with Lewis and Clark setting off to map Jefferson’s “empire of liberty.”
As Ashby shows, the creation of that empire made for immense prosperity but also entailed the extension of slavery and the forcible removal of the Indians. Her balanced and teachable theme is that these twenty documents embodied our early struggles to live up to the principles of liberty and equality. A handy and elegantly concise guide, this masterfully illustrated volume is the perfect book for students of American history, young and old.