The Constitution and Founding Resources
Consistently reliable resources for information about the Founding of the United States and the U. S. Constitution can be difficult to find. In particular, if you seek reliable interpretation of the Constitution in keeping with the original intent, those resources can be more difficult to find.
Dedicated to the Founding Principles and the U. S. Constitution The Founding Project seeks good sources for our members to use when exploring our nation’s laws and documents.
With that purpose in mind, outlined in this article are some good resources for our members to use, when your needs go beyond those offered on our website.
The Library of Congress
The most simple description of the Library of Congress is that it is the largest library in the world. Its archives contain books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts within its collections and is the main research arm of the United States Congress. It is also the home of the U. S. Copyright Office. The Library of Congress also has the world’s largest law library with a collection of over three million volumes covering nearly every jurisdiction in the world.
The Library of Congress originally began in 1800 inside the Capitol Building. Today, the Library of Congress includes three buildings on Capitol Hill, the Thomas Jefferson Building, built in 1897, which is the original Library of Congress building, The John Adams Building, built in 1938, the James Madison Memorial building, completed in 1981, and both the High Density Storage Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland, and the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia, added in 2002 and 2007 respectively.
As a resource, nearly anything and everything can be found at the Library of Congress. It is officially an agency of Congress and includes several internal divisions or service units that include Congressional Research, the Law Library of Congress, the U. S. Copyright Office, along with Library and Outreach Services.
The Oldest Federal Cultural Institutition
The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. British troops burned the Capitol Building where the Library was housed in 1814, destroying its collection of 3000 volumes. In 1815, Congress approved the purchase of the Thomas Jefferson personal library of 6487 books and established the beginning of their new library.
The Archives of the Library of Congress include the Law Library with congressional publications dating back to the nation’s founding and also a collection rare books and manuscripts, including the first books printed in North America and the handwritten manuscripts of 23 presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge and the Gutenberg Bible, one of three perfect copies of the 15th century book that exists in the world.
Searching “The U. S. Constitution” delivers a list of articles, documents and information about the formation of our Constitution. A search of the resource for “U. S. Founding Fathers” delivers another list of articles and information on both the well known and little known Founding Fathers.
You can find images of the Constitution with margin notes by George Washington, along with other letters, notes, and speeches by other Founding Fathers and a host of interesting historic documentation.
The Center for Legislative Archives of the National Archives and the National Archives
As a resource,The Center for Legislative Archives is part of the National Archives and Records Administration. It serves preserve and make available to researchers historical records of the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate. Their service to provide historical records is their most noteworthy task, along with their research services and resources.
The Center is located in the National Archives building in downtown Washington, D. C., and includes the records of all congressional activities, committees and commissions with its major holdings dating back to 1775.
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archive is known as the nation’s record-keeper and includes the archival documents from our nation’s founding, the above-noted congressional archives, military records, naturalization records of immigrants, slave ship manifests, surrender documents, photographs, and even accounting documents, such as the receipt for the purchase of Alaska.
Founded as a resource for American citizens, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) began out of need for adequate storage of growing documentation with a stand-alone structure begun in 1931, the cornerstone laid in 1934 and its employees set to work in 1935, strictly for the purpose of archiving valuable documents and serving citizens. The original building reached its storage capacity in the late 1960’s and a new facility located in College Park, Maryland, was completed in 1993 as an addendum to the original building.
The Heritage Foundation’s Constitution website segment
Perhaps primarily known as a think-tank, the Heritage Foundation also employs distinguished fellows of the legal world whose Constitution expertise is well-known. Their website’s segment dedicated to the U. S. Constitution includes an array of articles to explain the workings of the Constitution, amendment interpretation and articles on how varying laws work and all from the perspective of strict adherence to the intent of the Constitution or from the perspective of our Founders.
Their archived articles on the Constitution range from interviews with Supreme Court Justices to an explanation of the purpose of the control of spending originating in the House of Representatives and from an explanation of the First Amendment to explaining how government works during a “shutdown”.
The White House “Our Government” and “Constitution” segments of the website
Regardless of who the President of the United States is, this site remains largely untouched, except for the list of names of those currently serving in federal government offices. The site includes a description of the powers of the branches of the federal government from the perspective of the Constitution.
Also present on the site is the resource of the full text of The U. S. Constitution, information about The Constitutional Convention and Ratification and the Bill of Rights and a short explanation on the need for the Constitution from the Founders’ perspective.
While the list of resources, above, is certainly not exhaustive, the list does offer reliable sources with easy access via computer.
Hillsdale College offers a number of resources and online courses, free to citizens, and it is covered in a separate article on The Founding Project website.
-The Founding Project Admin Staff Writer
The Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov and the “Constitution” search: https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Constitution.html?&loclr=rec003
The Center for Legislative Archives of the National Archives:
The National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/education
The Heritage Foundation’s “Constitution” segment: http://www.heritage.org/the-constitution
The White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/constitution