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A Radical Patriot Urges "Common Sense and a Plain Understanding" in the Pennsylvania Constitution

In 1776 Pennsylvania organized a convention to write a new state constitution. James Cannon, a radical patriot leader, advised Pennsylvania militia members to be sure to select delegates to this convention who would respect the rights and authority [...]

Congress Signs An Act Respecting Alien Enemies

The Act Respecting Alien Enemies was one of four Alien and Sedition Acts that Congress passed and president Adams signed into law in 1789. The laws were controversial in that they challenged the authority of the Constitution, specifically the Tenth [...]

Chief Justice Taney's Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered two key questions: did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African-Americans, and could Congress prohibit slavery in new states? The first excerpt below addresses [...]

Congress Passes the First Immigration Law

In March 1790, the newly-formed Congress passed a law establishing the rules for becoming a citizen. Under the law, only "free white persons" who had been in the United States for at least two years were eligible for citizenship, thus excluding free [...]

The United States Bars Chinese Immigrants (with text supports)

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed on May 6, 1882, was the first major restriction placed on immigration in the U.S., and the only immigration law that explicitly barred a specific group from entering the country. The Exclusion Act forbade Chinese [...]

Anti-Federalists Oppose Slavery Provisions in Constitution

Slavery was one of the most divisive issues in the debates over whether or not to ratify the Constitution. Although the constitution banned the importation of slaves beginning in 1808, it did not restrict the continued use and ownership of slaves, [...]

A Massachusetts Yeoman Opposes the "Aristocratickal" Constitution

The ratification of the United States Constitution was the subject of intense discussion, debate, and dissent during the period 1787-1789. This letter gives a sense of the opposition of many Anti-Federalists to what they perceived as the [...]

Massachusetts Anti-Federalists Take a Skeptical View of Federal Power

The ratification of the United States Constitution was the subject of intense discussion, debate, and dissent during the period 1787-1789. Democracy was yet a largely untried experiment, and those who pondered what form the new constitution should [...]

A Son of Liberty Lists His Objections to the New Constitution

After delegates to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia finished their work and adopted the U.S. Constitution in September, 1787, it remained for the states to ratify it. Vigorous debates took place in all of the thirteen states. This [...]

President Johnson Ushers in a New Era in U.S. Immigration Policy

In 1965 the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, were signed by President Johnson, ending the quota system which had guided U.S. immigration policy since the 1920s and which had given overwhelming preference [...]