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old HIS 100 - Perspectives in History

Research guidance and example sources for HIS100 Perspectives in History research assignment.

Primary sources


Here are a few examples of primary sources for the Drafting of the U.S. Constitution. They include two letters written by George Washington, noted American framer and the first President of the United States, and the Federalist Papers, essays written in defense of the new Constitution and published in 1787 and 1788.

Washington, G. (1786, May 18). Letter to John Jay, 18 May 1786.

Take a look at this letter from George Washington, framer and first President of the United States, to John Jay, framer, co-author of The Federalist Papers and first Chief Justice of the United States. In this letter, penned about a year before the Continental Congress called for amendments to the the Articles of Confederation, Washington agrees with Jay from a previous letter when he identified flaws in the current system of government. Washington indicates that he is agreeable to changes to the Amendments.

Washington, G. (1787, March 31). Letter to James Madison, 31 March 1787.

Also consider this letter from George Washington to James Madison, framer and fourth President of the United States dated March 31, 1787, shortly after the continental congress called for a convention to amend the original governing document, the Articles of Confederation. In this letter, Washington reflects on the reasons for amending the Articles. 

Hamilton, A., Madison, J. & Jay, J. (1788). The federalist: A collection of essays, written in favour of the new Constitution, as agreed upon by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787: In two volumes. New York, NY: J. and A. M'Lean.

The Federalist Papers were essays written by Hamilton, Madison and Jay under the pseudonym "Publius" arguing in favor of the the new Constitution and published in the Independent Journal, the New York Packet, and the Daily Advertiser between October 1787 and April 1788. The scanned copy you see above is a republished collection.

Searching for More


To look for more primary sources related to the Drafting of the U.S. Constitution, consider exploring the following resources. Some good keywords to try include names of the framers (Washington, Madison, Jay, Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, Randolph), Constitution, Articles of Confederation, and related issues (The Virginia Plan, The New Jersey Plan, Three-Fifths Compromise, Slavery, Compromise, Connecticut Compromise).