In its most basic form, the U.S. system of government is a mutual agreement between the people and the government to ensure that individual liberties are maintained and continue to pros­per under a free society. This idea was established upon the signing of the Mayflower Compact by some of America’s first settlers, the Pilgrims, in 1620. The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, listed America’s reasons for independence from Great Britain, but also further explained the rights of free people and how they should live under a responsible government.

As it developed into a nation, based upon the firm foundation of the Constitution, the United States government has continued to adapt in order to live up to its promise of liberty and equality for all individuals. The Federalist Papers, written between 1787 and 1788, give today’s citizens a remark­able look into the framing of our government more than 200 years ago. Through the Bill of Rights and seventeen subsequent amend­ments, the Constitution has been changed over the years to solidify America’s promise of liberty for all its citizens. The following section introduces you to these, and other important documents, that have helped make the United States the land of opportunity it is today.