What were some rights guaranteed by the English Bill of Rights?
elsewhere. English colonists in America remained loyal subjects of England. They
accepted common law and expected the same rights they enjoyed in England.
B. A charter is a written document granting land and the authority to set up colonial
governments. The Virginia Company’s charter promised the colonists of Jamestown
the same liberties as in England.
C. The colonists chose representatives called burgesses to meet with the governor. These
representatives formed the House of Burgesses, the first legislature in the colonies. It
marked the beginning of self-government in the colonies.
D. Before arriving in Plymouth, the Pilgrims drew up the Mayflower Compact, a written
plan that set up a direct democracy in the colony. A compact is an agreement, or
contract, among a group of people. All men would vote. The majority would rule.
What expectations for government did English colonists bring with them to America?
Compact and the House of Burgesses. Each colony had a governor and elected legislature,
often modeled after Parliament.
B. The colonial governments took on more power over time, as the king and Parliament
were preoccupied at home. The colonists grew used to making their own decisions.
What examples did new colonies follow in setting up their governments?
adopted a policy of mercantilism, the theory that a country should sell more goods
to other countries than it buys. Britain wanted to buy American raw materials at low
prices and sell colonists British products at high prices.
off war debts and cover the costs of ruling the new lands, Britain taxed the colonists.
a result, Parliament agreed to repeal, or cancel, the Stamp Tax and other taxes.
However, Parliament soon replaced them with new taxes. Parliament’s Declaratory
Act stated that it had the right to tax and make decisions for the colonies.
and sell tea directly to shopkeepers at low prices. In response, colonists blocked all
the company’s ships from colonial ports, except in Boston. There colonists dressed as
Native Americans dumped the British tea into Boston Harbor—the Boston Tea Party.
What name did the colonists give to the Coercive Acts, and why?
as the First Continental Congress. They demanded that King George III restore their
rights. The king responded with force.
B. The Revolutionary War began with battles at Lexington and Concord. Colonists
started to question their loyalty to Britain. They began talking about independence,
or self-reliance and freedom from outside control.
C. At the Second Continental Congress, some delegates wanted independence. Others
still felt loyal to Britain. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense swayed public
opinion toward independence. Finally, the Second Continental Congress agreed.
Why did some members of the Second Continental Congress oppose independence?
the United States should be a free nation. It argued that the British government did
not look after the interests of the colonists. It listed many abuses by the king.
B. The Declaration said that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the
people. Government is based on consent of the people. If it disregards their rights
or their will, the people are entitled to change or overthrow it.
C. These ideas were influenced by philosopher John Locke. He saw government as a
contract between the people and the rulers. The people agree to give up some freedoms
and abide by government decisions. In return, the government promises to
protect them and their liberty. If it misuses its power, the people should rebel.
freedom arrived when Britain officially recognized the United States at the war’s end.
What are some ideas that the authors of the Declaration of Independence adopted
from the writing of John Locke?
I. Early State Constitutions
A. New Hampshire was the first colony to organize as a state and craft a written plan for
government, or constitution. Other states formed similar systems of government.
of the two houses were chosen by different methods.
interpret the laws.
more evenly among the legislature, governor, and courts. It gave the governor and
the courts the authority to check the legislature. The constitution itself was not created
by the legislature but by a convention of elected delegates.
Under the state constitutions, what were the jobs of the legislature, the governor,
and the courts?
II. The Articles of Confederation
A. Separately, the states could not maintain a large army to fight the British. For this
and other reasons, the Second Continental Congress made a plan for union called the
together for a common purpose.
British government, the states refused to give Congress the power to tax or to enforce
its laws. Congress could not require the states to give money or do anything else.
C. The states ratified, or approved, the Articles. Soon, serious problems became clear.
Strict voting requirements to pass laws or amend (change) the Articles made it difficult
for Congress to accomplish anything. Even when it passed laws, Congress could
not enforce them. States could just ignore the laws.
also run up deep debts. To pay their debts, the states overtaxed their citizens and even
taxed goods from other states and foreign countries. The Confederation Congress had
no power to solve these problems.
because of a problem the state had created. He led an uprising, known as Shays’s
Rebellion. This unrest swayed leaders toward revising the Articles of Confederation
to create a stronger national government.
What problems did the tax practices of the states cause for their citizens after
the Revolutionary War? (To pay their deep debts, state governments taxed their citizens
heavily, driving many farmers out of business and sparking widespread resentment. The
states also taxed goods from other states and foreign countries, hurting trade.)
I. A Distinguished Gathering
A. Each state except Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia to fix the flaws in the
Articles of Confederation.
Americans, African Americans, and women were not included.
and scientist. Two delegates—George Washington and James Madison—would later
D. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could not attend. They were in Europe as representatives
of the United States government. Patrick Henry opposed the convention
and did not attend.
Describe the political experience of the delegates.
set rules for conducting the convention.
state having one vote. Delegates agreed to keep all discussions secret to enable all to
C. No formal records were kept. Most of what we know comes from James Madison’s
personal notebook of events.
Thus the meeting came to be known as the Constitutional Convention.
Why did the delegates decide to keep all discussions secret?
branches: the legislative branch (lawmakers), executive branch (to carry out the
laws), and judicial branch (a system of courts to interpret and apply the laws). The
legislature would have two houses, with the states represented by basis of population
B. The Virginia Plan appealed to the large states. The small states feared a government
dominated by large states would ignore their interests.
would have one house and each state would get one vote. This plan would give equal
power to large and small states.
Why did large states favor the Virginia Plan and small states favor the New Jersey
II. Constitutional Compromises
A. Roger Sherman’s committee proposed a Senate and a House of Representatives. Each
state would have equal representation in the Senate. Representation in the House
would be based on population. The delegates accepted this Great Compromise.
most could agree. These letters, later published in book form as The
in determining representation in the House. Northern states opposed this plan.
In the Three-fifths Compromise, delegates agreed that every five enslaved persons
would count as three free persons for determining congressional representation and
C. Northern states wanted Congress to be able to regulate foreign trade and trade
between the states. Southern states feared Congress would then tax their exports and
stop the slave trade. They agreed to give Congress the power to regulate trade, but it
could not tax exports or interfere with the slave trade before 1808.
The solution was the Electoral College, a group of people named by each state legislature
to select the president and vice president. Today, the voters in each state, not
the legislators, choose electors.
Why did the Southern states at first oppose giving Congress the power to regulate trade?
Constitution would create a system of federalism, a form of government in which
power is divided between the federal, or national, government and the states.
Federalists argued for a strong central government.
national government. They also wanted a bill of rights to protect individual freedoms.
effect when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it.
it is also the highest authority in the nation. The powers of all branches come from it.
It has three main parts: the Preamble, seven articles, and amendments.
B. The Preamble states the goals and purposes of government. The first part makes
clear that government gets its power from the people and exists to serve them.
Justice,” “To insure domestic Tranquility,” “To provide for the common defense,”
“To promote the general Welfare,” and “To secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity.”
powers and responsibilities of the three branches of government.
It then describes how members will be chosen. The article also lists specific powers
Congress does and does not have.
F. Article II establishes the executive, or law-enforcing, branch headed by a president
and vice president. It explains how these leaders will be elected and can be removed,
and describes their powers and duties.
G. Article III establishes the judicial branch to interpret and apply the laws. It calls for
one Supreme Court plus lower courts and describes the powers of federal courts.
of creating new states. Article V specifies how the Constitution can be amended.
Article VI declares that the Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land” and federal
law prevails over state law. Article VII states that the Constitution would take effect
when nine states ratify it.
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged
by the United States or any state on account of sex.” After years
of nationwide debate, Congress passed the ERA in 1972. In the
end the ERA fell 3 states short of the 38 needed for ratification.
It never became law.
What are some powers that Article I grants to Congress?
support of the people. Only 27 amendments have become law.
may be proposed by a vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress or by a national
convention requested by two-thirds of the state legislatures.
D. Once proposed, an amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The
states can do this by a vote of either the state legislature or a special state convention.
Why did the Framers make the amendment process difficult?
proper” to carry out its duties. This necessary and proper clause allows Congress to
exercise implied powers not specifically listed in the Constitution.
C. Americans disagree on what laws are “necessary and proper.” Loose interpreters
believe Congress can make any laws not specifically forbidden. Strict interpreters
believe Congress can make only the kinds of laws mentioned by the Constitution.
D. The Supreme Court has the final authority on interpreting the Constitution. Each
new interpretation, whether strict or loose, changes our government.
example, the president requests legislation from Congress. This action is not directed
by the Constitution.
F. Custom also changes the interpretation of the Constitution. For example, political
parties, not mentioned in the Constitution, are part of today’s political system.
When William Henry Harrison died in office, Vice President John Tyler took the oath as president. Why was this action an interpretation of the Constitution?
the people and limited in scope. Power should be divided among different levels.
Constitution: popular sovereignty, rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances,
C. Article IV guarantees a republic, in which supreme power belongs to the people
(popular sovereignty). The people express their will through elected representatives.
Provisions, such as those about the right to vote, ensure popular sovereignty.
What does “popular sovereignty” mean? (Popular sovereignty is the notion that power
Government is also limited by the rule of law. This means that the law applies
to everyone, even those who govern.
How does the rule of law limit government?
government into three branches with different functions.
the separation of powers.
What did French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu believe was the best way to protect the liberty of the people?
branch can check, or restrain, the power of the others.
and the Supreme Court can overturn laws it finds contrary to the
What are some ways that Congress can check the powers of the other branches?
Americans must obey the laws of both.
the national government. Powers not given to the national government are reserved
the national nor state governments may act in violation of it.
power to keep order, protect, and defend, yet sets limits to avoid tyranny.
What are some examples of concurrent powers?
Notes provided by