Relying on Reason
In the 1600s and early 1700s, many European philosophers wrote that people have the power of reason, the ability to think clearly. People could use reason to recognize their natural rights, rights they are born with and that no government can take away. Two philosophers who inspired the colonists were the English writer John Locke and the French writer Montesquieu (mon tes KYOO).
John Locke argued that representative government is the only reasonable kind. He wrote that government exists to serve the people, rather than the other way around. He said the purpose of government is to protect natural rights—the rights to life, liberty, and property. Any government that abuses its power should not he obeyed.
Colonial leaders knew that power could lead to tyranny. Therefore, they were drawn to Montesquieu's proposal for separation of powers, dividing government power among legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The legislature would only make the laws; the executive, such as a governor, would only enforce the laws; the judges would only interpret the meaning of the laws. Such a system would guard against tyranny because no government official or branch of government could gain too much power.
Reading Check Would Montesquieu and Locke have agreed with one another's ideas? Why or why not?
Section 2 Assessment
Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: direct democracy, republic, natural rights, separation of powers
Target Reading Skill
1. Identify Cause and Effect Reread the text on page 93. Identify one cause of the English Bill of Rights and one effect of the document.
Comprehension and Critical Thinking
a. Describe Describe the government of ancient Athens.
b. Compare What was the most important thing the Athenian and Roman governments had in common?
a. Recall List the important freedoms set forth in the English Bill of Rights.
b. Contrast What was the major difference between the English Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta?
a. Explain Explain Montesquieu's proposed design for a government.
b. Determine Relevance How did Montesquieu's system reflect John Locke's ideas about government?
Write a short biography about either Montesquieu or Locke. Focus on the details of your chosen writer's career, his major works and ideas, and his influence on other thinkers. Use reliable sources from the library or the Internet.
TIP Make an outline before you begin writing. Organize your information under major headings. This will help you to include only the most important main ideas and supporting details.
Moving Toward Nationhood
In this section you will
• Explain the clash of views that brought the colonists into open conflict with England.
• Summarize the Declaration of Independence.
• Describe how the Americans organized a new government.
• Understand the challenges that a struggling American government would have to face.
After becoming dissatisfied with English rule, the colonies declared themselves an independent nation. After winning the American Revolution, they turned to the task of strengthening and improving their new government.
Target Reading Skill
Understand Effects An effect is the result of an event or action. As you read this section, take note of the effects of England's attempts to tighten control over the colonies.
Make a diagram like the one below. As you read this section, complete the diagram with information about the events that led to American independence.
If the colonists had inherited their tradition of representative government from England, why did they become dissatisfied with English rule? Why did relations between the colonies and England eventually explode into war and lead to American independence? Let's find out by looking at how tensions developed over the issue of representation in government.
A Clash of Views
The English colonists had different views on important issues than the English government did. These differences would soon bring the colonists into conflict with England.
Government and Trade England believed that Parliament represented all English citizens including the colonists. The colonists believed that they were represented only by their own legislatures. The colonists could not vote for members of Parliament, and no colonists were members of Parliament. Unlike the colonial legislatures, Parliament had little understanding of the colonists' needs.
The colonists and the English government also had opposing views on colonial trade. Parliament permitted the colonies to trade only with England. The colonists wanted the freedom to sell their products to any country.
Despite these differences, many colonists were still loyal English citizens. In fact, they helped England defeat France in the French and Indian War in 1763.
The colonists became angry when England added a tax on tea. Colonists in Boston, Massachusetts, responded by dumping British tea into Boston Harbor.
Analyzing Political Cartoons
One of the major causes of the American Revolution was the colonists' anger over being taxed by England without representation in the British government. In this cartoon, a group of colonists protest the Stamp Act of 1765, which was a new tax for the colonists.
1. What does the sign that the man is carrying say? Restate its meaning in your own words.
2. What kind of effect do you think this cartoon had on the colonists? Explain your answer.
Target Reading Skill
Understand Effects As you read Steps Toward Independence, think about the actions the colonists took in response to England's attempt to assert its powers. Read on to understand the further effects of England's actions.
"No Taxation Without Representation" Facing huge war debts, Parliament decided to squeeze money out of the colonies through taxes. The colonists protested that they should not be taxed unless their own representatives approved such taxes. The colonists believed that taxation without representation was taking people's property without their consent. Soon the cry of "no taxation without representation" was heard throughout the colonies.
To make people pay the taxes, Parliament gave the governors greater power. Colonists accused of breaking tax laws were thrown in jail. Parliament ignored all protest, claiming that it had the power to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."
Steps Toward Independence Some colonists organized Committees of Correspondence to pass news from colony to colony about how England was violating colonists' rights. Eventually many colonial legislatures saw the need for a united response to Parliament's threats. They called for a congress, or a formal meeting, of representatives from all the colonies.
In 1774, delegates from 12 colonies met in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. The delegates hoped to convince the English government to respect colonists' rights. To pressure Parliament, they pledged to cut off all trade with England. They agreed to meet the following year if the situation did not improve.
A Year Later Far from improving, the situation got worse. By the time the Second Continental Congress met in 1775, colonists in Massachusetts were already fighting English soldiers. Delegate Patrick Henry argued for independence, stating that the war had already begun and that there was no turning back.
Many colonists feared independence, however. Even if they fought and won, they thought, what future would they face without the security of being part of a strong nation like England?
The writings of Thomas Paine changed many people's minds. In 1776, Paine published his pamphlet entitled Common Sense, in which he presented his argument:
"To be always running three or four thousand miles with a tale or a petition, waiting four or five months for an answer, which when obtained requires five or six more [months] to explain it in, will in a few years be looked upon as folly and childishness 'There was a time when it was proper, and there is a proper time for it to cease.... England [belongs] to Europe, America to itself."
Reading Check Why do you think Thomas Paine called his pamphlet Common Sense?
The Declaration of Independence
Popular support for separation from England increased. The delegates to the Second Continental Congress finally voted for independence. They appointed a committee to write a declaration of independence. Among the committee members were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams. Jefferson was asked to do the actual writing.
The ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence capture many of the colonists' beliefs about natural rights:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
As did John Locke, Jefferson described these rights as "unalienable"—meaning that no government has the power to take them away. Further reflecting Locke's views, Jefferson described the purpose of government:
"... to secure these rights, Governments are instituted [established] among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Thomas Paine was a respected political theorist and essayist. Common Sense was widely read and did much to sway hearts and minds toward the Patriot cause.
In other words, the people give power to their government as long as it protects their rights. If a government abuses its powers, the people may change it or do away with it:
"... whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."
Jefferson then listed the ways in which England had ignored the colonists' rights as English citizens proof that England was trying to rule the colonies with "absolute Tyranny."
The Declaration concludes with the signers pledging to support it with "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." Adopted in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that "these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States" The full text of the Declaration of Independence can be found on pages 106-109.
Reading Check What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?
Thomas Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration of Independence. He is shown here (wearing a red vest), presenting the document to the Second Continental Congress.
Organizing a New Government
Now that the colonies had become "free and independent states," each had to organize its own government. Because the colonies had been established by charters, people were used to the idea of having a written plan of government. People also remembered that the Mayflower passengers had made a compact, a written agreement to make and obey laws for the welfare of the group.
State Constitutions Each state created a constitution, or plan of government. By creating written constitutions, the states were clearly spelling out the limits on government power. Some state constitutions also included a list of citizens' rights, such as trial by jury and freedom of religion.
To help guard against tyranny, each state constitution limited the number of years a governor could hold office. As a further protection against the abuse of power, each state used Montesquieu's idea of separating government into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Of the three branches, the legislature was given the most power because it most directly represented the interests of citizens.
The Articles of Confederation Although the states were united in opposing England, they were still 13 separate governments. During the war against England, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress debated how to form a national government.
The delegates faced a difficult task. Conflicts with the English king and Parliament had made the colonists fearful of giving power to a central government. Also, the states disagreed on how many representatives each should have in the government. Large states like Virginia wanted the number of representatives to be based on population. Small states like Rhode Island feared that large states would then have too much power. They argued that each state should have the same number of votes.
The Second Continental Congress drew up a plan for a loose confederation, or alliance of independent states, in 1777. This compact, known as the Articles of Confederation, called for a national legislature in which each state would have one vote. There would be no executive or judicial branches of government. The state legislatures feared that these branches might try to take power away from them.
The national legislature, known as Congress, was given power to declare war, make treaties with foreign countries, and work out trade agreements between states. However, it was not given the power to tax or to enforce any laws it made. Therefore, most of the power would remain with the states.
Toward a Central Government
The Articles of Confederation established a national legislature, or Congress, which was given certain powers. The states took four years to ratify it.
Drawing Inferences Why do you think the states took so long to ratify the compact?
John Dickinson (1732-1808) of Pennsylvania stirred up colonial opposition to English taxes in his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767-1768). The Letters paved the way for Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Unlike Paine, Dickinson hoped to come to an agreement with England. He refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was opposed to independence. However, Dickinson headed the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation. He also served in the Continental Army and later published essays urging public support for the Constitution.
Why do you think Dickinson served and supported the new nation when he did not believe the colonies should have become independent?
Before the Articles of Confederation could go into effect, they needed the ratification, or approval, of all 13 states. At first it seemed the states would reject the plan because many state legislatures still did not trust a central government. Even while fighting the Revolutionary War, it took four years for the states to agree on a plan of government. Finally, the states realized that they had to cooperate or lose the war. The Articles were ratified in 1781.
Reading Check Why were the states reluctant to give any power to a central government?
A Limping Government
You know the story of how the Patriots under General George Washington won our independence in the Revolutionary War. However, after winning the war, the new government had to face another challenge. A struggling economy made life difficult for Americans and their new government.
Problems With Debt and Trade Congress and the states had borrowed a large amount of money to buy war supplies to fight for independence. Now they could not pay off these huge debts because they did not have enough gold and silver to back up their printed money. Many Americans and foreigners lost confidence in the value of American money.
Another problem was that the new Congress had no power to regulate trade with England. Americans were buying most of their manufactured goods from England because prices were low. American merchants could not sell their goods as cheaply as the English could. Congress could not help because it did not have the power to raise the prices of English goods by taxing them. England no longer allowed Americans to trade with English colonies in the British West Indies. This had been one of the most important markets for American crops and manufactured goods.
Shays' Rebellion Many farmers slid into debt, largely because they could not sell their crops to the Caribbean colonies. Farmers in Massachusetts faced an added problem. To pay its war debts, the state legislature had sharply raised taxes on land. Many farmers who were unable to pay the taxes faced the loss of their farms. Local courts threatened to sell the farms and use the money to pay the taxes.
In 1786, hundreds of angry Massachusetts farmers, led by a former war hero named Daniel Shays, stormed into courthouses to disrupt court business. Congress did not have the power to force other states to help put down the uprising. Massachusetts had to use its own state militia to crush the rebellion.
Newspapers quickly spread word of the violent clash, which shocked people throughout the states. Many Americans called for a stronger national government, one that would keep law and order and solve the economic problems that had led to Shays' Rebellion. George Washington thought that the Articles of Confederation had weakened Congress, leaving it unable to keep order, raise money through taxes, or deal effectively with European nations.
Most Americans agreed that the 13 proud and independent states would have to face the challenge of establishing a stronger national government. Their future was at stake.
Reading Check What was the importance of Shays' Rebellion?
Daniel Shays' army of farmers gather on the courthouse steps during Shays' Rebellion in 1786.
Section 3 Assessment
Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: compact, ratification
Target Reading Skill
1. Understanding Effects Reread the text on this page. List one effect of Shays' Rebellion.
Comprehension and Critical Thinking
a. Explain How did the conflict between England and the colonies develop?
b. Draw Conclusions Why did Parliament refuse to listen to the colonists' protests?
a. Recall What was the purpose of the Declaration of Independence?
b. identify Main Ideas What are its most important ideas?
a. Recall List the powers reserved for the central government in the Articles of Confederation.
b. Analyze Information Why do you think the colonists wanted state governments to have more power than the central government?
a. Describe What challenges did the new national government face at the end of the American Revolution?
b. Predict How might Congress meet these challenges?
You are a delegate to Congress from one of the 13 states. You believe that the central government must be made stronger. Give a speech in which you urge the other delegates to give Congress greater powers.
TIP Include specific reasons to support your argument. Remember that political speeches often use emotional language to persuade listeners to vote a certain way.
Debating the Issues
CLOSE UP FOUNDATION
The debates in this feature are based on Current Issues, published by the Close Up Foundation. Go to PHSchool.com, Web Code mph-2044 to view additional debates from Current Issues.
The United States has a history of helping nations around the world. After World War II, the Marshall Plan sent millions of dollars in aid to Western European nations to help them rebuild. Japan and the United States were enemies during the war, but American aid helped Japan become an economic superpower. In 2003, the United States ousted the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Afterward, the United States attempted to help Iraq launch a new government, rebuild its cities, and feed its people.
Should the United States Lead Nation-Building Efforts Around the World?
• The United States is an extremely wealthy nation and the world's only remaining superpower. It has both the financial and human resources to help nations rebuild.
• Any conquering nation has a responsibility to help its defeated enemies. It is only right that the United States should try to help repair the damage it causes.
• By helping nations rebuild, the United States gains valuable allies. With growing anti-American sentiment in some parts of the world, the United States needs to establish and encourage friendly relations with all nations.
• The United States should not try to be an international police force. Instead, the United Nations should help nations solve their problems.
• The United States should turn its attention to troubles at home. Problems such as poverty and hunger have not yet been solved within our own country. It would be best if each nation took care of itself to the best of its ability.
• Many countries do not welcome what they regard as American interference. Terrorist attacks against American targets show that there is much anti- American feeling in the world today.
What Is Your Opinion?
1. Determine Relevance What factors should the U.S. government take into account when deciding to send military or financial aid to another nation? Explain.
2. Support a Point of View Do you believe that the United Nations, not the United States, should lead global nation- building efforts? Why?
3. Writing to Persuade Suppose that you are the President of the United States. You believe you should send aid to help a war-torn African nation rebuild its government and infrastructure. Write a short, informal speech that you will make at a Cabinet meeting to persuade your Cabinet to support your position.
Review and Assessment
The Colonial Experience
• The values and experiences of the settlers in the 13 English colonies, such as religious freedom and freedom of the press, are an important part of America's heritage
• England established each colony by granting it a charter, which could be taken away if a colony challenged England's authority.
• In the colonies, white men who owned property were citizens, able to participate in government by electing representatives to the legislature.
• When the royal governors began showing signs of tyranny, the colonists began to worry that they would lose their rights and freedoms.
Roots of American Government
• As they began thinking about self- government, the colonists looked to the direct democracy of ancient Athens and the republic of ancient Rome.
• The colonists believed Locke's idea that government should exist to protect people's natural rights.
• Montesquieu's system of separation of powers within the government influenced colonial leaders.