Online Resources for Documents on the American Revolution


        Maryland Gazette (collection dates 1728-1839, Maryland State Archives):
†† Images of newspapers, indexed and organized by date, but not keyword searchable

        Virginia Gazette (collection dates: 1736-1780, Colonial Williamsburg)
Images of newspapers, indexed and organized by date, but not keyword searchable

Maryland State Archives:
The Maryland State Archives contains a wealth of online primary documents.  The most important resource here is the massive Archives of Maryland Online that reproduces hundreds of volumes of records of the colonial, revolutionary, and early national governments (and continues up to the 1970s). 

Your best bet may be to start by browsing to get a sense of the kind of records that are available: 
(Keep in mind that the lists are not chronological; instead they refer to the order in which the documents were published in the series.  For example, some of the most recently published volumes (700+) include some of the earliest records (from the 1730s-1760s).  The early volumes tend to focus on the colonial and Revolutionary years.  Unfortunately, after that, records from the period are scattered throughout the series.) 

If you have a topic or person or some other key word you want look for documents about, the SEARCH function will be most helpful.  Just enter a term (for example, "slave" or "slaves" or "woman" or "tory") and then click on box(es) for a date range of 1750-1799 and/or 1800-1849:

For the early 19th century, the State Archives also has some digitized newspaper holdings:

There are many other types of records available on the MSA's site.  Poke around and see what you can find. 

The fine folks at the MSA have already compiled a number of document sets that pertain to various topics.  Here are the relevant topics for the Revolutionary Era.  (If you plan to become a teacher, check out their Education and Outreach page and the list of online resources around which you can develop lessons: )

            Runaway Slave Ads During the Revolutionary War Era:  Newspaper advertisements placed by slaveholders or their agents attempting to capture runaway slaves. An excellent source for understanding Black resistance during the Revolution. See also the runaway ads for the New Republic:

Maryland Marriage Laws, 1640-1900: Laws (several from the Revolutionary Era) regulating marriage.  A good source for understanding how the Revolution changed the laws of marriage (if at all).

Writing It All Down: The Art of Constitution Making for the State & the Nation, 1776-1833:  Documents on constitution-making in Maryland and the nation.

            The Burning of the Peggy Stewart: Documents from the Maryland State Archives relating to Maryland's version of the Boston Tea Party. (Many of the documents are password protected.  I will put the passwords on Blackboard)

            George Washington and the Paradox of Slavery:  Documents related to George Washington and the slaves at Mount Vernon.

            Governor Robert Eden and the American Revolution:  Documents related to Maryland's royal governor at the time of the Revolution.

            Maryland Laws Relating to Slavery:  Printed laws relating to the slavery in Maryland covering a variety of subjects from the regulation of slavery to individual cases of slaves and slave holders

            Robert Long: Merchant of Baltimore: Documents relating to the confiscation of Loyalist property during the Revolutionary War.

            Washington's Resignation:  Documents relating to Washington's resignation as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.

Pension Applications of Revolutionary War Veterans and Widows: This site contains transcriptions of the applications for Revolutionary War veterans and widows.  As part of the application, veterans usually recounted their military service during the war.  The pensions are also a window in the lives of ordinary men and women before and, especially, after the war. 

Early Virginia Religious Petitions (1774-1802), Library of Congress:  Early Virginia Religious Petitions presents images of 423 petitions submitted to the Virginia legislature between 1774 and 1802 from more than eighty counties and cities. Drawn from the Library of Virginia's Legislative Petitions collection, the petitions concern such topics as the historic debate over the separation of church and state championed by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the rights of dissenters such as Quakers and Baptists, the sale and division of property in the established church, and the dissolution of unpopular vestries. The collection provides searchable access to the petitions' places of origin and a brief summary of each petition's contents, as well as summaries of an additional seventy-four petitions that are no longer extant. The collection complements the Library of Congress exhibition Religion and the Founding of the American Republic and is a collaborative venture between the Library of Congress and the Library of Virginia.

American Archives: Documents of the American Revolution, 1774-1776: A fantastic resource from Northern Illinois University: 9 volumes of the American Archives series fully digitized and keyword searchable. A massive collection of documents from 1774-1776 that deal with everything from the conflict with Britain, the process of state creation, political philosophies, the state of the economy, military engagements, clashes between patriots and loyalists, to the lives of ordinary farmers, artisans, slaves, and women.  The site is searchable in a variety of ways and the editors have categorized the documents by larger themes. 

American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920: collection of travelersí accounts from the Library of Congress. They are full text and keyword searchable (which is handy if you are looking for a document dealing with a specific topic).

The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820, Library of Congress:  The First American West consists of 15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The collection is drawn from the holdings of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky. Among the sources included are books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, scientific publications, broadsides, letters, journals, legal documents, ledgers and other financial records, maps, physical artifacts, and pictorial images. The collection documents the travels of the first Europeans to enter the trans-Appalachian West, the maps tracing their explorations, their relations with Native Americans, and their theories about the region's mounds and other ancient earthworks. Naturalists and other scientists describe Western bird life and bones of prehistoric animals. Books and letters document the new settlers' migration and acquisition of land, navigation down the Ohio River, planting of crops, and trade in tobacco, horses, and whiskey. Leaders from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to Isaac Shelby, William Henry Harrison, Aaron Burr, and James Wilkinson comment on politics and regional conspiracies. Documents also reveal the lives of trans-Appalachian African Americans, nearly all of them slaves; the position of women; and the roles of churches, schools, and other institutions.

Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860, Library of Congress:  Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 contains just over a hundred pamphlets and books (published between 1772 and 1889) concerning the difficult and troubling experiences of African and African-American slaves in the American colonies and the United States. The documents, most from the Law Library and the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, comprise an assortment of trials and cases, reports, arguments, accounts, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, a letter, and other works of historical importance. Of the cases presented here, most took place in America and a few in Great Britain. Among the voices heard are those of some of the defendants and plaintiffs themselves as well as those of abolitionists, presidents, politicians, slave owners, fugitive and free territory slaves, lawyers and judges, and justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Note: This collection is not organized by date so you will have to do some browsing to find documents from the time period.

Black Loyalists: Documents from a Canada's Digital Collections, a government website.  The site contains many excellent documents related to slaves and free Blacks who sided with Britain, many of whom settled in Canada after the war. 

Revolutionary War Letters, Diaries, and Orders: South Carolina: Documents related to South Carolina and the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War Military Documents:  This site contains a number of transcribed documents relating to the military aspects of the war, most focusing on recounting battles on land and sea.

History Matters: What follows are links from the "History Matters" website containing many excellent documents on various aspects on the American Revolution.  The documents are especially strong in the area of social history, providing windows into the experience of ordinary men and women, slaves, and Indians and on Great Awakening and the religious history of the era. The documents are arranged more or less chronologically so you'll have to scroll down and read through the summary paragraphs to get a sense of what the document is about:

Boston Massacre Trials: Part of University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School website on "Famous American Trials."  Contains documents and excerpts from trial transcripts related to the Boston Massacre.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects: and  Book of poetry from 1773 by famed African American author.  Digitized by New York Public Library and University of Oregon.

Elisabeth Murray: Documents from the "Elizabeth Murray Project," a biographical website that centers on the life of Elizabeth Murray, an eighteenth-century woman who was born in Scotland and who spent much of her adult life in colonial Boston. She was married three times, engaged in commerce as a shopkeeper and importer, and was involved in the struggles of the American Revolution.

The Rochambeau Map Collection, Library of Congress: The Rochambeau Map Collection contains cartographic items used by Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807), when he was commander in chief of the French expeditionary army (1780-82) during the American Revolution. The maps were from Rochambeau's personal collection, cover much of eastern North America, and date from 1717 to 1795. The maps show Revolutionary-era military actions, some of which were published in England and France, and early state maps from the 1790s. Many of the items in this extraordinary group of maps show the importance of cartographic materials in the campaigns of the American Revolution as well as Rochambeau's continuing interest in the new United States.

The American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789, Library of Congress:  This collection represents an important historical record of the mapping of North America and the Caribbean. Most of the items presented here are documented in Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789: A Guide to the Collections in the Library of Congress compiled by John R. Sellers and Patricia Molen van Ee in 1981. The bibliography contains approximately 2,000 maps and charts. Over the next several years many of the maps and charts in this bibliography will be added to the online collection each month.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789, Library of Congress:  The Continental Congress Broadside Collection (253 titles) and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection (21 titles) contain 274 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Most Broadsides are one page in length; others range from 1 to 28 pages. A number of these items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast.

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Library of Congress:

Records of the 1787 Constitutional Convention: (Farrand's Records) and James Madison's Notes:

Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress: The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents. This is the largest collection of original Jefferson documents in the world. Document types in the collection as a whole include correspondence, commonplace books, financial account books, and manuscript volumes. The collection is organized into ten series or groupings, ranging in date from 1606 to 1827.

The James Madison Papers, Library of Congress:  The James Madison Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consist of approximately 12,000 items captured in some 72,000 digital images. They document the life of the man who came to be known as the "Father of the Constitution" through correspondence, personal notes, drafts of letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and miscellaneous manuscripts.

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Library of Congress: Digitized versions of six volumes of correspondence relating to US diplomacy during the Revolution.

Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Papers: A searchable version of the Federalist Papers.

The Papers of George Washington, UVA:

Political Documents from the Revolutionary Era: This site contains many links to documents from the Revolutionary Era that are mostly about politics, either colonies vs. crown, internal documents relating to the creation of the American government, or treaties with Indians.

Letters from Spies During the American Revolution:  The exhibit is based on spy letters from the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Gallery of Letters provides a brief description of each letter and links to more information about the stories of the spies in the letter or the secret methods used to make the letter.

Loyalist Songs and Poetry: Songs and Poetry for you to decipher and decode.

Pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary Era documents from Fordam University This site links to many documents from the era which are mostly political in nature.

Documents on the American Revolution from Yale University: Again, lots of links to documents, mostly political, including state constitutions. 

Documents Relating to American Foreign Policy: (A website from Mount Holyoke that contains statements on foreign policy and treaties from the era, including Indian treaties).

Religion and the Founding of the American Republic: Library of Congress exhibit on religion and the American Revolution containing many documents and images.

Images of the Revolution from the National Archives:  The National Archives Digital Classroom with Documents and Lessons.

Colonial Currency: Examples of currency from around the colonies, new states, and new nation for you to examine and decode.

The Founding Library: A site with documents related to the elite founding fathers (letters and speeches) along with government documents and some religious sermons. 

The American Colonist's Library: A site with many documents relating to political and religious history.  It is a particularly good resource for documents relating to the religious aspects of the Revolution. The site also has links to other document-related websites.

Images of American Political History, 1750-1800: Images on site dedicated to teaching American political history (use only those images produced during the time period).