Ideas behind the forms of
The origins of America’s government can be traced
back some 200-300 years.
The new colonists in the Americas as they began to
settle along the cost and develop colonies, ports, and
cities, would take ideas from the Enlightenment
In the case of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, some
groups were escaping persecution in England.
Many of the laws that would come to be created
stemmed from the ideas of equal treatment for all
• The need for an ordered social
system, or government.
• The idea of limited government,
that is, that government should not
• The concept of representative
government—a government that
serves the will of the people
Three types of American Colonies
The royal colonies were ruled directly by the English
The King granted land to people in North
America, who then formed proprietary colonies.
The charter colonies were mostly self-governed, and
their charters were granted to the colonists.
British Colonial Practices
Until the mid-1700s, the colonies were allowed a great
deal of freedom in their governments by the English
In 1760, King George III imposed new taxes and laws
on the colonists.
The colonists would eventually: form a
confederation, propose an annual congress, and began
to rebel for independence.
Earliest forms of government
Colonist on the Mayflower signed the Compact agreeing
to help aid in the common good of all the people.
They agreed to create laws and follow the laws.
This form of government was basically a classical
Known for its rocky start in which the colony
experienced times of hardship, but thanks to James
Smith, Jamestown developed a “No work, no food”
policy and soon prospered.
Origins of Colonial Unity
In 1643, several New
formed the New
A confederation is a
joining of several
groups for a common
Origins of Colonial Unity
The Albany Plan
In 1754, Benjamin Franklin proposed the Albany Plan
of Union, in which an annual congress of delegates
(representatives) from each of the 13 colonies would be
Would inspire some of the basis for the future Articles
Problems with the British
During the mid-1700’s, the British
would begin to impose unfair laws
such as taxes to the American
Most of the taxes would be in an
effort to create revenue to fuel the
British military campaigns in
Canada or abroad.
The Intolerable Acts were a set of
laws put forth by British colonial
rulers that imposed unfair
treatment of the American
colonies OR imposed heavy taxes
upon the colonists, or goods they
Stamp Act of 1765
Required printed documents to be produced on
stamped paper and carry a Revenue (tax) stamp.
Townshend Acts of 1768
Acts that lead to further Taxation
Quartering Act of 1765
An act created by Thomas Gage, commander-in-chief of
the British in America. Used the act to allow soldiers to
stay in the houses of colonists.
Tea Act of 1773
An act to help the struggling British Easy India company
survive, as well as to support the Townshend duties.
Also attempted to cut down on smuggling tea into the
“No Taxation without Representation!”
A Quote from the 1750’s and 1760’s in which many
colonists felt they were not directly represented in the
distant British Parliament.
Any laws that were passed that were aimed at taxing
them were illegal under the English Bill of
This slogan, along with the idea of fair treatment and
equal representation would become further basis for
laws in the new future government.
Intolerable Acts angered many Americans and would
be one of the primary factors for Independence.
The Continental Congresses
The colonists sent a
Rights to King
The delegates urged
each of the colonies
to refuse all trade
with England until
British tax and trade
• In 1775, each of the 13
representatives to this
gathering in Philadelphia.
• The Second Continental
Congress served as the first
government of the United
States from 1776 to 1781.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress
adopted the Declaration of Independence.
Between 1776 and 1777, most of the States adopted
constitutions instead of charters.
State Constitution Commonalities
Common Features of State Constitutions
Civil Rights and Liberties
Separation of Powers and Checks
The principle of popular sovereignty was the basis for every new State
constitution. That principle says that government can exist and function
only with the consent of the governed. The people hold power and the
people are sovereign.
The concept of limited government was a major feature of each State
constitution. The powers delegated to government were granted
reluctantly and hedged with many restrictions.
In every State it was made clear that the sovereign people held certain
rights that the government must respect at all times. Seven of the new
constitutions contained a bill of rights, setting out the “unalienable rights”
held by the people.
The powers granted to the new State governments were purposely
divided among three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Each
branch was given powers with which to check (restrain the actions of) the
other branches of the government.
Articles of Confederation
First attempt at a federal government system in the
Approved November 15, 1777
Est. “a firm league of friendship” between the states
Needed the ratification of the 13 states
March 1, 1781 Second Continental Congress declared
the Articles effective
Articles of Confederation
Powers of Congress
Make war and
Send and receive
Set up a money
Est. post offices
Build a navy
Raise an army by
asking the states for
standards of weights
among the states
Articles of Confederation
Pledge to obey the
Articles and Acts of the
Provide the funds and
troops requested by the
Treat citizens of other
states fairly and equally
Give full faith and credit
acts, records, and
Submit disputes to
Allow open travel and
trade b/w and among
for protecting life and
promoting the general
welfare of the people
After the War: The 1780’s
ended on October
Signed the Treaty of
With Peace comes
Problems a result
of the weaknesses
• Problems included:
– Central government who
could not act
– States entering into treaties
– States taxing on goods and
– Debts, public and private
• Shay’s Rebellion
– Farmers were losing their
– Shut down courts
– Led and attack on Federal
– Mass. State legislature eases
the burden of debtors
The NEED for a Strong, Central
Government becomes crucial
Two states meet to discuss Trade issues
Maryland and Virginia
Meet at Mount Vernon
The meeting was so successful that the
Virginia General Assembly requested a
meeting of all thirteen States, which
eventually became the Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia.
A Party held in Philly, Again.
Mid-February of 1787
Seven states name
Delaware, Georgia, New
Carolina, Pennsylvania, a
Leaders of the Philadelphia Convention
James Madison was the co-author of the Articles of
Gouverneur Morris was a lawyer who helped develop
the U.S. system of money.
Alexander Hamilton was a lawyer who favored a strong
George Washington was the successful leader of the
Some famous leaders who were NOT
at the Philadelphia Convention
Patrick Henry said he “smelt a rat” and refused to
Patrick Henry was an opponent of a Strong Central
Samuel Adams and John Hancock were not selected as
delegates by their states.
Both were in Massachusetts with their respective jobs.
Both also voiced opinions over the Constitution
Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were in Paris.
John Adams was on diplomatic missions to England
Organization and Procedures
Meet summer of 1787 in
Washington as president of
One vote per State on all
Majority of votes needed to
Worked in Secrecy
Father of the Constitution
Kept detail records of
Contributed more to
the constitution than
Full body settled all
Differences between the two plans
How should the states be
represented in Congress?
Based on population?
4 weeks they deliberated
Lines drawn in the sand
Senate – equal representation
House – proportional representation
Combination of Virginia and New Jersey plans
AKA: The Great Compromise
Should Slaves be
Split North v South
All “free person’s” will be
counted; 3/5 of all other
Southerners could count
slaves but had to pay
taxes on them
The Commerce and Slave
Congress = power to
regulate foreign and
Congress: forbidden the
power to tax the export
of goods from any state
Could not act on the
slave trade for 20 years
the New Constitution
The Framers were familiar with the political
writings of their time
Jean Jacques Rousseau (Social Contract Theory)
John Locke (Two Treaties of Government).
They also were seasoned by
The Second Continental Congress,
The Articles of Confederation and
Experiences with their own State governments.
the New Constitution
When the Constitution was complete, the Framers’
opinions of their work varied. Some were
disappointed, like George Mason of Virginia, who opposed
the Constitution until his death in 1792.
Most agreed with Ben Franklin’s thoughts when he said,
“From such an assembly [of fallible men] can a perfect
production be expected? It…astonishes me, Sir, to find this
system approaching so near to perfection as it does…”
Ratifying the Constitution
argued for the
ratification of the
objected to the
including the strong
the lack of a bill of
Patrick Henry, John
The Constitution is Ratified
Nine States ratified the
Constitution by June
21, 1788, but the new
government needed the
ratification of the large States
of New York and Virginia.
Great debates were held in
both States, with Virginia
ratifying the Constitution
June 25, 1788.
New York’s ratification was
hard fought. Supporters of
the Constitution published a
series of essays known as The
Inaugurating the Government
The new Congress met for the first
time on March 4, 1789.
Congress finally attained a quorum
(majority) on April 6 and counted the
electoral votes. Congress found that
George Washington had been
unanimously elected President. He
was inaugurated on April 30.