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This STORY OF THE CONSTITUTION was the chief publication of the Commission during the Celebration and about 700,000 copies of it have been distributed. It is reprinted here for more permanent record and as an important part of the History of the Formation of the Union, as well as an exposition of the principles of the Constitution. It is dedicated to “We the People”—to the 131,000,000 who desire to know something about the Constitution, and to have it told to them in such a way that they can understand what it is all about. It tries to reach the millions who are not judges or lawyers or professors or historians or otherwise trained in a knowledge of the Constitution which governs the daily lives of all of us. It is a book
a for the people. Accordingly, it tells briefly the origins of our country, and what the steps were that led up to the formation of the Constitution. Having told how and why the national government came
. about, the book tells what the Constitution stands for, its principles and the means by which it operates.
The original edition carried an exact reprint of the Constitution and amendments, and of other great public papers. These are in the present book transferred to the section on Liberty Documents. Other features are intended to promote through various means-alphabetical analysis, portraits and sketches of the signers, tables, short articles, maps, and questions and answers-an understanding of constitutional history.
This book was planned and edited by the Director General, and prepared by and under the more immediate supervision of the Historian of the Commission, David M. Matteson. Other workers upon the book, who prepared various portions of it, are Mr. Ira E. Bennett, Dr. John C. Fitzpatrick, and Mr. Charles A. Cusick. Accuracy as to all facts and dates has been a constant aim in the publication, and especially of literal exactness in the reprint of the original documents. It is believed that the care which has been taken in these matters justifies a claim of unusual correctness.
Origin of the United States
DISCOVERY-TITLE TO THE SOIL
Though King Henry VII of England may have turned a cold shoulder upon Christopher Columbus when he asked for financial aid in undertaking a highly speculative voyage in search of India by sailing westward from Europe, yet he was a keen and enterprising monarch, and quickly realized the importance of Columbus' discovery. In 1496 he commissioned John Cabot to go out and discover countries then unknown to Christian people and take possession of them in the name of the English king.
Cabot made two voyages, and by 1498 had sailed along what is now the Atlantic Coast of the United States and claimed it for England. By tacit agreement the European sovereigns rested their respective claims upon priority of discovery. The natives were regarded as heathens possessing no rights of sovereignty. Quarrels arose between the European powers over boundary questions, but the British claims based upon right of discovery were made good by sword and by treaty, so that ultimately the title to all lands embraced in the thirteen original states was vested in the British
The first permanent English settlement on this continent was made under the charter granted by King James I to Sir Thomas Gates and others in 1606. Three years later a new and enlarged charter was given to the “Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony in Virginia.” The colony was given in absolute property all the lands extending along the sea-coast 400 miles northward from near the 34th degree of north latitude and running back from the coast “from sea to sea.' In 1620 another charter was granted to the Duke of Lennox and others, denominated the Council for New England, conveying to them in absolute property all the lands between the 40th and 48th degrees of north latitude.