The Great American Documents: Volume 1 1620-1830

Ruth Ashby; Illustrated by Ernie Colón; Editorial Consultant Russell Motter

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

160 Pages



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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.

Documents Covered in Volume I (1620 - 1830)

The Mayflower Compact
"A Model of Christian Charity"
The Maryland Toleration Act
1705 Virginia Slave Codes
The Albany Plan of Union
The Virginia Resolves
Common Sense
The Declaration of Independence
The Crisis
The Constitution
The Federalist Papers
The Bill of Rights
Washington's Farewell Address
Jefferson's First Inaugural Address
Marbury v. Madison
The Louisiana Purchase
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
The Missouri Compromise
The Monroe Doctrine
The Indian Removal Act


Praise for The Great American Documents: Volume 1

"An illustrated history of the early United States, narrated by Uncle Sam. . . The narrative doesn't sugarcoat history . . . The cartoon approach helps refresh history and make it come alive. A good primer for students and a refresher course for their parents."—Kirkus Reviews

"Uncle Sam leads the reader on a tour of the United States' foundational documents in [Ashby's] graphic history primer. The 20 items presented here cover the time of the Pilgrims' arrival in the New World to the tense period preceding the Civil War . . . Colón's illustrations [clarify] concepts and [add] dashes of drama and humor to the work. A helpful suggested reading list for students wishing to take the next step in their research is included. An effective and engaging introduction to some of the key documents that shaped our nation. Highly recommended for middle and high school collections as well as readers looking for a quick-reading survey of American historical highlights."—Neil Derksen, Pierce County Library System, Tacoma, Washington, Library Journal

"[Ashby and Colón] breathe accessible and cogent life into the written documents that formed U.S. policy, beginning with the Mayflower Compact (1620) and ending with the Indian Removal Act (1830) . . . Colón uses well-designed, full-color panel layouts to eloquently blend charts and other informative graphics with straightforward images of events, clothing, and customs as well as clear, concise metaphors, all with an eye toward promoting a solid understanding of the basic facts and their impact . . . School libraries would do well to include this engaging volume in their history collections."—Francisca Goldsmith, Booklist (starred review)

"Using notable treatises, pamphlets, laws, proclamations, and other documents, [The Great American Documents]—which begins with the Mayflower Compact and ends with the Monroe Doctrine and the Indian Removal Act—weaves together nearly two dozen vignettes with clarity and synthesis. Most remarkably, it covers the culture and context of each time period with a balanced truthfulness . . . For those who aren't just curious about history but who really want to understand it, this is an exemplary volume."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Ruth Ashby; Illustrated by Ernie Colón; Editorial Consultant Russell Motter

  • Ruth Ashby is the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults. A former book editor, she teaches English at the Portledge School in Locust Valley, New York.

    Ernie Colón is the illustrator of the New York Times bestseller The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, After 9/11, Che, and Anne Frank (all published by Hill and Wang). He has worked at Marvel, where he oversaw the production of Spider-Man, and at DC Comics, where he did the same for Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Blackhawk, and the Flash. Ashby and Colón live in Huntington, New York.