Our Nation's Documents

The Ohio Constitution

The Ohio Constitution is the basic governing document of the State of Ohio. Since achieving statehood in 1803, Ohio has had three constitutions. With numerous later amendments, the 1851/1912 Constitution remains the governing law of the state. It has one of the shortest preambles of any state constitution:

We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our general welfare, do establish this Constitution.

Read the Ohio Constitution

Read more here about the process for amending the Ohio Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of our nation. The first three Articles of the Constitution establish the rules and separate powers of the three branches of the federal government: A legislature-the bicameral Congress, an executive branch led by the President, and a federal judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. The last four Articles frame the principle of federalism.

The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in 11 states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789.

Read the Constitution of the United States

Bill of Rights

During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government. They demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of individual citizens. On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States proposed to the state legislatures 12 amendments to the Constitution. The first two proposed amendments were not ratified. Articles 3 to 12, however, ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures, constitute the first 10 amendments of the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

Read the Bill of Rights

The Declaration of Independence

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. The political philosophy of the Declaration and its ideals of individual liberty were summarized in "self-evident truths" and this document set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to present a case before the world for the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.

Read the Declaration of Independence

The Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787. The primary effect of the ordinance was the creation of the Northwest Territory as the first organized area of the United States out of the region south of the Great Lakes, north and west of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River.

Next to the Declaration of Independence, it is arguably the single most important piece of legislation passed by members of the earlier continental congresses. It established the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign and expand westward across North America with the admission of new states, rather than with the expansion of existing states and their established sovereignty under the Articles of Confederation.

Read the Northwest Ordinance

The Federalist Papers 

The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution written by  Alexander HamiltonJames Madison, and John Jay. Most of the essays were published serially in  The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788.

The authors of The Federalist Papers wanted to influence the vote in favor of ratifying the Constitution. However, the authors of the Federalist Papers also had a greater plan in mind. According to Federalist 1:

It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.

Read the Federalist Papers

The Anti-Federalist Papers

The Anti-Federalist Papers are a collection of articles, letters and speeches, written in opposition to the ratification of the 1787 United States Constitution. The authors of these articles, mostly operating under pen names, were not engaged in a strictly organized project. Unlike the Federalist Papers, it is a matter of opinion what writings specifically are included and in what order they are best presented. One notable presentation is that by Morton Borden, who collected 85 of the most significant papers and arranged them in an order closely resembling that of the 85 Federalist Papers, e.g. #10 in Borden's arrangement argues against Federalist No. 10. The most frequently cited modern collection, The Complete Anti-Federalist, was produced by Herbert Storing and, at seven volumes, is considered the authoritative compendium on the publications.

Read the Anti-Federalist Papers