Documents of Freedom: A Look at the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution

Documents of Freedom: A Look at the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution

By: Gwenyth Swain
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: January 2012
ISBN: 978-0761385608
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 2012

By the 1600s people started to cross the Atlantic Ocean and began to settle in what is now known as the United States. Their colonies were governed by Great Britain’s king, King George III. Because the “king ruled the thirteen colonies set up in North America,” the colonists had to follow British law. Although many of them liked Britain, they didn’t like King George III and didn’t want to obey him or follow Parliament’s laws. The Stamp Act, which taxed paper goods, and the tea tax, a tax on tea, made them angry. Protests followed and in 1774 “Parliament passed laws to punish colonists.” Things were not looking good. Colonist’s homes were invaded by British soldiers, Boston Harbor was closed, and soldiers marched through the streets.

Unwilling to put up with British domination one minute longer, a meeting with representatives from all the colonies was held. The Continental Congress met in Pennsylvania in 1774 and “the leaders talked about what to do.” In 1775 war broke out between the colonists and Great Britain. In 1775 the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and it was there that Richard Henry Lee made a motion that the “colonies should be independent states.” In this book you’ll learn about the decisions they made, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Articles of Confederation, how the colonies pulled together, the Constitutional Convention, the Virginia Plan, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the amendments, and many other interesting facts about our documents of freedom.

This book is very well written, clear, and concise. It’s a difficult task to narrow down such a wide range of information, but each chapter could easily become a stepping stone to a school report. In the chapter about the Bill of Rights, there is a brief overview of each of the original ten amendments to the Constitution as well as an explanation as to why George Washington asked Congress to consider adding amendments. There are numerous archival art reproductions and photographs of all the documents mentioned, including the title page of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: This is an excellent overview of the history of the “important documents that helped to shape our country.”

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