Unit 2 Creating a Lasting Government What's Ahead in Unit 2

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Creating a Lasting Government

What's Ahead in Unit 2

Unit 2 will explore the origins of our government. You will see how colonists' beliefs about citizenship and government led to the creation of the Constitution that has guided our nation for more than 200 years.


America's Political Heritage


Creating the Constitution


The Bill of Rights


Our Enduring Constitution


Why Study Civics?

Why did the Americans fight for freedom from England in the Revolutionary War? What kind of government did they wish to establish? What is the Constitution of the United States? What is the Bill of Rights? How is the Constitution active in our lives today? These are all questions that can be addressed by the study of civics.


Watch the Civics: Government and Economics videos for an overview of creating the Constitution.

Video: Overview Video: Up Close

Standards for Civics and Government


The following National Standards are covered in this unit.

I. What are civic life, politics, and government?

II. What are the foundations of the American political system?

III. How does the government embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?

V. What are the roles of the citizen in American democracy?


Go Online


For: Your state's Civics standards

Visit: PHSchool.com

Web Code: mpe-2001



America's Political Heritage

What's Ahead in Chapter 4

In this chapter you will explore the origins of the American belief in government by the consent of the people—a rare form of government in the history of the world.


The Colonial Experience


Roots of American Government


Moving Toward Nationhood


Cause and Effect Recognizing the relationships between causes and effects can help you better understand what you read. Cause and effect includes recognizing multiple causes, identifying causes and effects, and understanding effects.

Nineteenth-century illustration of the Revolutionary War


National Standards for Civics and Government

The following National Standards for Civics and Government are covered in this chapter:

I. What are civic life, politics, and government?

A.What is civic life? What is politics? What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?

II. What are the foundations of the American political system?

A. What is the American idea of constitutional government?

Civics in the Real World

The date was November 11, 1620. A lone ship, the Mayflower, lay anchored off the rugged Massachusetts coast. Aboard the vessel were 102 passengers. Many of them were English Puritans seeking religious freedom. Other passengers had made the stormy two-month voyage from England in search of wealth and better lives.

Although they had come to America for different reasons, the travelers knew that they would all have to work together to survive the approaching winter. They would have to establish order and make laws. The men gathered in the ship's cabin and emerged with the Mayflower Compact—a signed agreement to make and obey "just and equal" laws for the "general good of the colony!'

In the 1600s, most people in the world had to obey laws made without their consent. The Mayflower Compact was a bold step toward self-government. The rights and responsibilities of citizens continued to expand as the colonies grew, leading to the founding of the United States of America—a nation governed by its citizens.

Citizen's Journal Suppose you were aboard the Mayflower in 1620. What is one law you would want the Mayflower Compact to establish for the colony? Write a paragraph explaining your choice.



The Colonial Experience

Reading Preview


In this section you will

• Learn how the colonists acquired a voice in their government.

• Understand the meaning of citizenship in the colonies.

• Explore some roots of individual freedom in America.

• Describe the colonists' signs of discontent with English rule.

Taking Notes

Make a diagram like the one below. As you read this section, fill in the diagram to show the rights associated with self-government.

Key Terms





Main Idea

During the colonial period, Americans established traditions of freedom and self-government.

Target Reading Skill

Recognize Multiple Causes

A cause may be an event that makes something else happen or a situation that leads to a new situation. As you study history, it is helpful to identify the many causes that contribute to one effect.

Many American traditions took root during the colonial period. The values and experiences of the settlers in the thirteen English colonies make up an important part of our heritage, the traditions passed down to us from generation to generation.

A Voice in Government

From the beginning, the colonists were used to having a voice in their government. It was one of their rights as citizens of England. In each colony, citizens could elect representatives to the legislature, a group of people chosen to make the laws. They had a degree of self-government that was rare in the world at that time.

Representative government in America began in the year 1619. In that year, the colonists of Virginia elected representatives called burgesses. Other colonial legislatures followed as more colonies were founded. But the colonists did not have complete control over their government. They were still subject to England.

Royal Authority The English monarch established each colony through a charter, a document giving permission to create a government. Any colony that challenged England's authority might be stripped of its charter. It would then become a royal colony under the control of the monarch, who appointed a royal governor.


In theory, England had final authority over the colonies. However, throughout the 1600s and early 1700s, England was busy fighting wars and had little time to pay attention to colonial laws. Thus the colonists largely governed themselves.

Preserving Rights Used to having a voice in government, colonial citizens resisted any efforts to ignore their rights or to weaken their legislatures. Typically those efforts were made by colonial governors. The governors were usually appointed to their posts rather than elected. Moreover, they usually represented England's interests rather than those of the colonists.

From time to time, the legislatures became involved in power struggles with colonial governors. For instance, the Virginia House of Burgesses declared that the governor could not tax citizens without the legislature's consent.

Reading Check Why did the American colonists have such an unusual degree of self-government?

Target Reading Skill

Recognize Multiple Causes Reread the first paragraph on this page. Notice that the last sentence tells you that colonists already enjoyed a degree of self- rule. As you continue reading this section, look for other reasons why colonists wanted full independence.

Patrick Henry (left, in blue vest), gives a speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses.


Citizenship in the Colonies

Being an English citizen in the colonies in the 1600s and 1700s differed in some important ways from being an American citizen today. First of all, only white men who owned a certain amount of land were allowed to vote or to hold office. The Africans brought to the colonies as slaves were not only denied the vote, but they were legally considered property rather than people.

It is important to recognize that relatively few people in the colonies were allowed to vote. But during the 1600s and early 1700s, citizens in most nations and colonies did not have any rights. The English colonies in America were one of the few places in the world where citizens participated in their government.

Analyze Maps

World Empires Circa 1770

This map shows the land claimed and colonized by major world empires in 1770.

a. On what continent did Great Britain have most of its colonies?

b. Look at the size and location of the European countries. What made it possible for these countries to claim and colonize the lands that they did?,


Colonial citizens, like citizens today, had a responsibility to work for the common good. They helped their communities in various ways, such as serving on juries and becoming members of the local militia, or volunteer army.

Citizens also served their communities by supporting education. For instance, the Puritans in New England set up a public school system to make sure that people could read and understand the Bible. In the middle and southern colonies, where there were few public schools, parents usually sent their children to private schools or taught them at home.

Reading Check What did it mean to be a citizen in the American colonies?


Some Roots of Freedom

Individual freedoms, such as freedom of religion or freedom of speech, were unknown for most of human history. They became part of our heritage mainly through the efforts of the colonists.

Greater Religious Freedom The colonists lived at a time when religion was closely tied to government in most parts of the world. All English citizens, for instance, had to pay taxes to support the official Church of England. Many colonists, including the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, had left England because they were persecuted for disagreeing with the Church of England.

Although the Puritans had fled persecution in England, they in turn denied religious freedom to those who disagreed with them. They forced a minister named Roger Williams to leave their colony after he criticized church leaders. In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island, whose charter promised that no colonist would be punished "for any differences in opinions in matters of religion." Before long, other colonies were also allowing religious freedom.

Actually, the colonists' definition of "religious freedom" differed from our definition today. They usually meant that a person could belong to any Christian church, such as the Presbyterian or Anglican churches. They did not mean freedom for members of non-Christian religions. Nevertheless, considering the world in which they lived, the colonists were taking an important step one that would eventually lead to freedom of religion for all Americans.

A Call for Freedom of the Press When colonial newspapers appeared in the early 1700s, they became an important source of information. However, under English law, a publisher was not allowed to criticize the government.

One of the earliest arguments for freedom of the press was made in 1735. On trial was John Peter Zenger, the publisher of a New York newspaper. Zenger had printed articles accusing the New York governor of abusing his power by accepting bribes and interfering with elections. Furious, the governor accused Zenger of trying to stir up rebellion against the government, and he had Zenger jailed.

Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that Zenger was innocent if what he had written was true. Hamilton declared that freedom of the press was a basic right.

Civics and Economics

The Press Colonists of John Peter Zenger's day might have read any of 48 different newspapers. Today, Americans have access to a much larger number of newspapers, both in print and on the Internet. The first daily paper in the United States, the Pennsylvania Evening Post, was published in 1783.

Newspapers today are relatively inexpensive. The New York Times, for example, charges only one dollar. Newspapers get most of their profits not from sales to their readers but from the advertisements they print. By 2000, advertising revenue from newspapers was well over $48 billion.

Analyzing Economics

What influence do you think advertisers might have on the content of newspapers and on freedom of the press?


The Outcome The jury found Zenger not guilty. Zenger was released from jail and went back to publishing his newspaper.

The Zenger case did not change English law or guarantee freedom of the press. However, it did inspire other colonists to light for freedom of the press and to criticize abuses of power.

Reading Check Why were freedom of religion and freedom of the press important to the colonists?

Signs of Discontent

By the mid-1700s, England had tightened its control over the colonies. Many colonists were angry with royal governors who used power without regard for citizens' rights.

As people complained about royal governors, the word tyranny was increasingly used throughout the colonies. Tyranny meant the abuse of power. A growing number of colonists began to wonder whether England might eventually try to strip them of their rights and silence their voice in government.

Reading Check Why do you think England tightened its control over the colonies?

Andrew Hamilton's defense of John Peter Zenger helped establish freedom of the press in the United States.

Section 1 Assessment

Key Terms

Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: heritage, legislature, charter, tyranny

Target Reading Skill

1. Recognize Multiple Causes List three different causes that contributed to the colonists' discontent with England.

Comprehension and Critical Thinking


a. Recall Why were the American colonies largely left to govern themselves?

b. Predict What effect might this experience of self-government have on the colonists when England tried to exercise more control over them?


a. Describe What were the basic responsibilities of a colonial citizen?

b. Draw Inferences What do these responsibilities suggest about citizens' attitudes toward their communities?


a. Explain Why did the jury find John Peter Zenger innocent of the charges made against him?

b. Determine Relevance Why did the colonists believe in freedom of the press?


a. Describe Why did the royal governors' activities anger the colonists?

b. Identify Cause and Effect How were the colonists likely to respond to the governors' actions?

Writing Activity

Write an essay describing why freedom of the press is as important in our society today as it was in the 1700s. Use current events to illustrate your point.

Go Online


For: An activity on freedom of the press

Visit: PHSchool.com

Web Code: mpd-2041


Skills for Life

Analyzing Political Cartoons

One of our rights as citizens is the freedom to express our political views, even when we disagree with government policies. Political cartoons use humor and exaggeration to comment on issues, and often to criticize the government. The political cartoon below was drawn by Benjamin Franklin; it appeared in his newspaper in 1754.

Learn the Skill

Follow these steps to analyze a political cartoon:

1. Identify the symbols. A political cartoon often uses symbols to convey its message. Symbols are drawings of people, animals, or objects that stand for something else. What do the symbols in the cartoon represent?

2. Study the words and images. Political cartoons use few words, so the words that are used are important to understand. Labels help identify symbols and captions help explain a cartoon's meaning.

3. Analyze the meaning. What is the point of view of the cartoonist?

4. Interpret the cartoon. Draw conclusions about the cartoon. What is the cartoonist saying about the issue?

Practice the Skill

Read the passage above, and answer the following questions:

1. What does the snake represent?

2. (a) What do the labels on each piece of the snake's body mean? (b) What does the caption mean?

3. (a) How did Franklin feel about the political issue of independence from Great Britain? (b) How can you tell?

Apply the Skill

Find a political cartoon in a newspaper and analyze it. Describe how the cartoonist uses symbols and words to convey his or her opinion about the issue.



Roots of American Government

Reading Preview


In this section you will

• Discuss why the colonists looked to ancient Greece and Rome for models of government.

• Examine the ways the English tradition influenced American government.

• Understand how relying on reason helped shape American government.

Key Terms

direct democracy


natural rights

separation of powers

Main Idea

American colonists began to think about what they wanted from their government. They looked to models from ancient Greece and Rome, English history, and European philosophers.

Target Reading Skill

Identify Causes and Effects A cause makes something happen. An effect is what happens. By identifying causes and effects, you can better understand relationships among situations or events.

Taking Notes

Make a diagram like the one below. As you read this section, complete the diagram with information comparing a monarchy to a representative system of government.

The American colonists had the benefit of other people's experiences and ideas about government. John Adams, one of our nation's founders, urged his fellow colonists to look to the past for inspiration:

"Let us study the law of nature; search into the spirit of the British constitution; ... [think about' the great examples of Greece and Rome; set before us the conduct of our own British ancestors."

Looking to Ancient Greece and Rome

What did John Adams mean by "the great examples of Greece and Rome"? The Athenians created the world's first direct democracy, a form of government in which laws are made directly by the citizens. The citizens of Athens met regularly to discuss ways to make life better for their community. Centuries later some American colonists practiced direct democracy by holding town meetings to vote on local issues.

In 509 B.C., the Romans founded a republic, a government in which representatives were elected to make laws. Colonial legislatures resembled the Roman form of government.

Reading Check What did the colonial government have in common with the government of ancient Athens?

Coin minted by the Roman government


The Signing of the Magna Carta

King John is surrounded by nobles who force him to sign the Magna Carta.

Analyzing Why was limiting the monarch's power a necessary first step to a representative government?

Target Reading Skill

Identify Causes and Effects Look for the causes of the Magna Carta and the effects of this charter.

The English Tradition

The people in the English colonies saw the democracy of Athens and the republic (a government in which representatives were elected to make laws) of Rome as noble examples of governments designed to prevent tyranny. Unfortunately, those governments eventually gave way to government by force.

After the end of the Roman republic, government by the people disappeared for hundreds of years. Then, in the year A.D. 1215, a dramatic conflict took place in England. It was a conflict that changed the course of English history and laid the groundwork for the type of government we have today.

The Magna Carta For centuries, monarchs had ruled with complete authority over the English people. The people were not citizens. Instead, they were subjects—they were subject to the monarch's command. Some monarchs used their powers wisely and justly. But others were tyrants who stirred resentment among many of their subjects.

By the early 1200s, English nobles had become strong enough to challenge royal power. In 1215 they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, or Great Charter. This document listed rights that even the English monarch would not have the power to take away. Among these rights were the right to a fair trial.

The rights in the Magna Carta applied only to nobles. But the Magna Carta was an important step in gaining basic rights for all English people. For the first time the monarch's power had been limited. Eventually, the rights it listed were given to all English citizens—including the colonists.


The English Bill of Rights Once the monarch's power had been limited, a representative government soon followed. By the late 1200s, a legislature called Parliament was well established in England. Over the centuries, Parliament gradually became more powerful than the monarch.

In 1689, Parliament passed the English Bill of Rights, which further limited the power of the monarch. For example, the king or queen would no longer be able to limit free speech in Parliament or to collect taxes without Parliament's approval.

The English Bill of Rights listed the rights of all English citizens, not just nobles. It proclaimed that everyone, even government leaders, must obey the law. It declared that all people have the right to a trial by jury and the right to make a formal petition, or request, to the government.

By stating the rights of English citizens, the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights provided protections against tyranny. The colonists in America treasured these protections of their rights.

Reading Check What does English history suggest about how the English people felt about government?

Analyze Charts

Influences on American Government

One influence on American government was the English Bill of Rights, passed during the reign of King William Ill and Queen Mary II.

1. Analyze Which of John Locke's ideas had an influence on American government?

2. Apply Why do you think so many of the influences on American government were British?


The writings of John Locke had so much influence that he has sometimes been called "the intellectual ruler of the eighteenth century."

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