Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The American Colonist's Library-A Treasury of Primary Documents (Repost)
Rick Gardiner Website ^ | various | various

Posted on 12/05/2004 12:30:14 PM PST by Gritty

The American Colonist's Library


Primary Source Documents Pertaining to Early American History
An invaluable collection of historical works which contributed to the formation of American politics, culture, and ideals  The following is a massive collection of the literature and documents which were most relevant to the colonists' lives in America. If it isn't here, it probably is not available online anywhere.

(Use Your Browser's FIND Function to Search this Library) 
Given the Supreme Court's impending decision, the ultimate historic origins of the national motto, "In God We Trust" and the phrase "under God" are drawing interest. Click Here to learn the history.

Classical Literature Having Significant Influence Upon the American Colonists
Classic Philosophers and Poets,  Most of the founding fathers in America were thorougly familiar with these Greco-Roman authors: e.g., Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Virgil.
The Latin Library, (Cicero, Livy, Horace, etc.) Ability to read these sources extemporaneously was an entrance requirement at colonial schools such as Harvard.
The Vulgate, The Holy Bible in Latin.
The Bible, The best Bible online, which allows the user to immediately discover the Hebrew and Greek words behind the English words.
The Bible, This book was, of course, the most influential piece of literature in Colonial America.
St. Augustine, The church father of choice among American Puritans.
St. Augustine, English translations of his works on predestination which greatly influenced the Puritans. 
Major Medieval Sources Having Significant Influence Upon the American Colonists
Ordinance of William the Conqueror Sowing the seeds of separation of Church and State in the English world.
Laws of William the Conqueror
Constitutions of Clarendon (1164) Established rights of laymen and the church in England.
Assize of Clarendon (1166) Defined rights and duties of courts and people in criminal cases. Foundation of the principle of "due process."
Assize of Arms (1181) Defined rights and duties of people and militias.
Magna Carta (1215) One of the American colonists' most revered documents, the Magna Carta established the principle that no one, not even the king or a lawmaker, is above the law of God.
De Legibus Et Consuetudinibus Angliæ, Henry de Bracton (1268) This text was the most important legal treatise written in England in the medieval period as it organized, systematized, and explicated the principles of English Common Law later embraced by the American colonists.
Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1265-1273) Pinnacle of Scholasticism. Covering a wide range of topics, by the colonial times, most educated people in the Western world were thoroughly familiar with this important text.
Marco Polo's Travels [excerpt] (@1300), the description of the South Pacific which inspired Columbus to attempt to go to India by way of the Atlantic.
The First Manual of Parliamentary Procedure (@ 1350)
An English Law Library, The sources studied by many of the lawyers who founded the U.S.
The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) Scotland's declaration of independence from England. An early model for the U.S. Declaration, this document ends with a phrase parallel to that of the U.S. Declaration: "and to Him as the Supreme King and Judge we commit the maintenance of our cause, casting our cares upon Him and firmly trusting that He will inspire us with courage and bring our enemies to nought." Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Sources Profoundly Impacting the History of America
Malleus Maleficarum, Directions for witch hunting (1486)
Journal, Christopher Columbus, (1492). This document begins with Columbus' statement that the reason why Isabella sponsored his voyage was for the sake of going to India to convert Khan to Roman Catholicism.
Epistola De Insulis Nuper Inventis, Christopher Columbus (1493)
Letter to the King and Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus (1494)
Prince Henry VII's Commission to John Cabot (1497) Cabot was the first Englishman to discover New England.
The Prince, Machiavelli (1513) Practical advice on governance and statecraft, with thoughts on the kinds of problems any government must be able to solve to endure.
Works of Martin Luther, The father of the Protestant Reformation, his principles were a major part of the American colonists' worldview.
On Secular Authority, Luther (1523). This document started the political discussion about religious liberty which led to the American Revolution. In this document Luther sets forth the idea of "two kingdoms," one is political and the other is spiritual, and the two ought be separate. President James Madison commended this "due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due to God." (Madison to F.L. Schaeffer, December 3, 1821).
The Bondage of the Will, Luther (1524). Luther claimed that this particular document was the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation; it argues the idea of predestination and God's sovereignty, two principles which were paramount to many of the American colonists.
The Act of Supremacy, Henry VIII (1534). By this act, the English Reformation began, and the pope was stripped of his jurisdiction over the English Church. This allowed Lutheran principles to make their way into the English church, and led to the birth of Puritanism.
Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (1540). Calvin's magnum opus. The most celebrated American historian, George Bancroft, called Calvin "the father of America," and added: "He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty." To John Calvin and the Genevan theologians, President John Adams credited a great deal of the impetus for religious liberty (Adams, WORKS, VI:313). This document includes a justification for rebellion to tyrants by subordinate government officials; this particular justification was at the root of the Dutch, English, and American Revolutions.
Coronado's Report to Mendoza (1540)
Coronado to the King of Spain (1541)
The Journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza De Vaca (1542)
Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies, Bartolome de la Casas (1542)
On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, Copernicus (1543). This document touched off the Scientific Revolution as it repudiated the Geocentric theory and asserted a Heliocentric theory of the solar system.
The Council of Trent (1545) The Roman Catholic responses to the Protestant Reformation.
Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius Loyola (1548). Rules for the Jesuits written by the founder of the Jesuit Order.
The Magdeburg Bekenntnis or Magdeburg Confession (1550). A document written by followers of Luther stating a theological justification for resisting tyranny.
The Genevan Book of Order (1556) The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc. Used in the English Congregation at Geneva
A Short Treatise on Political Power, John Ponet, D.D. (1556) President John Adams credited this Calvinist document as being at the root of the theory of government adopted by the the Americans. According to Adams, Ponet's work contained "all the essential principles of liberty, which were afterward dilated on by Sidney and Locke" including the idea of a three-branched government. (Adams, Works, vol. 6, pg. 4). Published in Strassbourg in 1556, it is the first work out of the Reformation to advocate active resistance to tyrannical magistrates, after the Magdeburg Bekenntnis (the Magdeburg Confession).
How Superior Powers Ought to Be Obeyed by Their Subjects, Christopher Goodman (1558). Justifying a Christian's right to resist a tyrannical ruler. Goodman indicated that he had presented the thesis of this book to John Calvin, and Calvin endorsed it.
The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, John Knox (1558). A vigorous critique of the tyranny of "Bloody Mary's" reign in England, and a call to resist. A large portion of the Americans who fought in the American Revolution were adherents to Knox's doctrines as set forth in this document.
Act of Supremacy, Elizabeth I (1559). After the brief and bloody reign of her sister, Mary I, who executed numerous Protestants for the cause of Roman Catholicism, this document states Elizabeth's intention to reaffirm the English Church's independence from Rome. Her beloved status among her subjects caused the first settlers of America to name their colony "Virginia" in honor of this virgin queen.
Complete Works of Elizabeth I, Including her letters and her poems.
Writings and Speeches of Elizabeth I
Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563). Detailing the bloody persecutions of Puritans during the reign of Mary I, this book was second only to the Bible in its popularity in the American colonies.
Supralapsarian Calvinism, Theodore Beza (1570) Laying out the principle that God willed and predestined the fall of Adam and the existence of sin and evil. This assertion became the most controversial philosophical conflict among American colonists up through the 19th century.
The Scholemaster (1570) Philosophy of Education among English people, particularly with respect to the importance of learning Latin.
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (1571) The official statement of faith of the Church of England; this document formally adopts the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination and repudiates common notion of "free will."
Treasons Act  (1571) Forbidding criticism of Queen Elizabeth.
The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (1572)
The Right of Magistrates Over Their Subjects, Theodore Beza (1574). Expanding upon Calvin's political resistance theory set forth in the final chapters of his Institutes, this work by Calvin's successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, was published in response to the growing tensions between Protestant and Catholic in France, which culminated in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre in 1572. This text suggests that it is the right of a Christian to revolt against a tyrannical King: a principle central to the American colonists' cause.
Of the Tabaco and of His Greate Vertues, Nicholas Monardes (1577)
The Works of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sponsor of the First Settlements in Virginia
De Jure Regni apud Scotos, George Buchanan (1579) Considered the most important piece of political writing in the 16th century as it articulated the doctrine of "the rule of law."
Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, or, A Vindication Against Tyrants (1579). This Calvinist document is one of the first to set forth the theory of "social contract" upon which the United States was founded. The idea was disseminated through the English Calvinists to the pen of John Locke, and eventually into the Declaration of Independence. John Adams reported the relevance of this document to the American struggle.
The Dutch Declaration of Independence (1581); This Calvinistic document served as a model for the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In his Autobiography, Jefferson indicated that the "Dutch Revolution" gave evidence and confidence to the Second Continental Congress that the American Revolution could likewise commence and succeed. Recent scholarship has has suggested that Jefferson may have consciously drawn on this document. John Adams said that the Dutch charters had "been particularly studied, admired, and imitated in every State" in America, and he stated that "the analogy between the means by which the two republics [Holland and U.S.A.] arrived at independency... will infallibly draw them together."
A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, Thomas Hariot.
Discourse of Western Planting, Richard Hakluyt, (1584)
First Voyage To Virginia, Arthur Barlowe (1584)
Adam Winthrop's Commonplace Book (1586) Early diary of a Puritan whose family eventually settled in America.
The Colony of Roanoke, Ralph Lane (1586). The first English attempt at colonizing the New World
Return To Roanoake, John White (1590) Relating the surprise of the loss of the Roanoake colony and the few clues left regarding their fate.
An Act Against Papists (1593) Parliament's tough words against those who would attempt to depose Elizabeth for her Protestantism.
Works of Richard Hooker (1593) Anglican political commentator and major influence upon John Locke.
Journey of Coronado (1596)