Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Covid-19: For updates and resources, head to UT's Protect Texas Together site.

Tarlton Law Library logo Texas Law Home Tarlton Law Library Home
Today's Operating Hours:

Drafting of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights

A guide to the records behind the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Ratification Records


  • Adoption of Constitution depended on ratification by state conventions
  • Accuracy of records of debates is doubtful; reporters were often partisan and had trouble with shorthand
  • For more information, see Gregory Maggs, A Concise Guide to the Records of the State Ratifying Conventions as a Source of the Original Meaning of the U.S. Constitution, 3 U. Ill. L. Rev. 457 (2009).



Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, 1781-1791: Online and KF 4502 D63

  • Most comprehensive source
  • 25 vols., with more to come

Elliot’s Debates (Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption . . .)

  • Online (from Library of Congress) and Print: KF 4510 E44
  • Classic collection of published debates, but problematic
  • 5 vols. (first published 1827-1830)
  • Source for period between Convention in Sept. 1787 and first Congress in March 1789
  • Besides debates in the states, also includes a journal of the Convention (from a version that is earlier and less accurate than Farrand’s Records)

The Federalist


  • 85 essays from Oct. 1787 to Aug. 1788
  • Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
  • Published anonymously under “Publius” in New York state newspapers
  • Compiled for publication during that same time, in two volumes
  • Because of its unusual publishing history, the assignment of authorship, numbering, and exact wording may vary by edition 
  • 1818 edition, with revisions by Madison, was first to identify essays by author
  • For more information, see:
    • Gregory Maggs, A Concise Guide to the Federalist Papers as a Source of the Original Meaning of the United States Constitution, 87 B.U. L. Rev. 801 (2007).
    • Aaron Zelinsky, Misunderstanding the Anti-Federalist Papers: The dangers of Availability, 63 Ala. L. Rev. 1067 (2012).



Anti-Federalist Papers

"Anti-Federalist papers" denotes essays written in opposition to the Constitution, although they were not the result of an organized effort like the Federalist.

Selected Compilation:

The Complete Anti-Federalist: KF 4515 C65 1981

  • 7 vols.
  • Most extensive set

Other compilations exist; in the online catalog TALLONS, do a keyword search for "anti-federalist."