Major Events for Early American Government

  • Jun 15, 1215

    Magna Carta

    Magna Carta
    Magna Carta (Latin word for "Great Charter") originated as a potential peace treaty between royalist and rebel factions in 1215, shortly before the outbreak of the First Barons' War. Barons (group of rich men) and Catholic bishops wrote the Magna Carta. England was ruled by King John, the third of the Angevin kings. Magna Carta was the first document to limit the power of the king.
  • Jamestown settled

    Jamestown settled
    Jamestown, founded in 1607, was the first successful permanent English settlement in what would become the United States. It was located on Jamestown Island, in Virginia, about 30 miles (47 kilometers) up the James River from the Atlantic coast. The original fort site was surrounded by a triangular palisade with three bulwarks.
  • Mayflower Compact written

    Mayflower Compact written
    The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 English colonists on the ship Mayflower on November 11, 1620, was the first written framework of government established in what is now the United States. The compact was drafted to prevent dissent amongst Puritans and non-separatist Pilgrims who had landed at Plymouth a few days earlier.
  • Petition of Right

    Petition of Right
    As a precondition to granting any future taxes, in 1628 Parliament forced the King to assent to the Petition of Right. This asked for a settlement of Parliament's complaints against the King's non-parliamentary taxation and imprisonments without trial, plus the unlawfulness of martial law and forced billets.
  • English Bill of Rights

    English Bill of Rights
    The English Bill of Rights, which was an act of Parliament, guaranteed certain rights of the citizens of England from the power of the crown. The Bill of Rights was later added on by the Act of Settlement in 1701. Both of these contributed to the establishment of parliamentary sovereignty, which gives the legislative body of Parliament absolute sovereignty and makes it supreme over all other government institutions.
  • Albany Plan of Union

    Albany Plan of Union
    The Albany Plan of Union was a plan to place the British North American colonies under a more centralized government. On July 10, 1754, representatives from seven of the British North American colonies adopted the plan. Although never carried out, the Albany Plan was the first important proposal to conceive of the colonies as a collective whole united under one government.
  • Stamp Act

    Stamp Act
    On March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act (London printed materials tax) was passed by Parliament without debate and was to become effective November 1 of that year. The apparent purpose was to raise £60,000 yearly in the colonies in order to help support the cost of maintaining British troops there, a cost totaling £350,000 annually. In fairness to the colonies, the money collected would remain in America, and Americans would be appointed stamp agents.
  • Boston Massacre

    Boston Massacre
    The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770 when British soldiers in Boston opened fire on a group of American colonists killing five men. Prior to the Boston Massacre the British had instituted a number of new taxes on the American colonies including taxes on tea, glass, paper, paint, and lead. These taxes were part of a group of laws called the Townsend Acts. The Boston Massacre was one of the events that led to the American Revolution.
  • Boston Tea Party

    Boston Tea Party
    On the night of December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty boarded three ships in the Boston harbor and threw 342 chests of tea overboard. This resulted in the passage of the punitive Coercive Acts in 1774 and pushed the two sides closer to war. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.
  • Intolerable Acts

    Intolerable Acts
    The Intolerable Acts was the American Patriots' name for a series of punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 after the Boston Tea party. They were meant to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in throwing a large tea shipment into Boston harbor.
  • First Continental Congress

    First Continental Congress
    The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies that met on September 5 to October 26, 1774 at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to "The passage of the Coercive Acts" (also known as Intolerable Acts by the Colonial Americans) by the British Parliament. The Intolerable Acts had punished Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party.
  • American Revolution begins

    American Revolution begins
    The Revolutionary War was seeded in April 1775 when General Thomas Gage, the British commander in chief in America, decided to make a surprise march from his headquarters in Boston to nearby Concord. General Gage hoped to seize a storehouse of rebel guns and ammunition and possibly arrest some of the rebels’ leaders. Riders were alerted about this, and with this the Battles of Lexington and Concord occurred, eventually leading to the American Revolution.
  • Second Continental Congress

    Second Continental Congress
    The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting in the summer of 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. The second Congress managed the colonial war effort, and moved incrementally towards independence, adopting the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. By raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and making formal treaties.
  • Declaration of Independence

    Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the American political tradition. It articulates the fundamental ideas that form the American nation: All men are created free and equal and possess the same inherent, natural rights. As a practical matter, the Declaration of Independence announced to the world the unanimous decision of the thirteen American colonies to separate themselves from Great Britain.
    Declared - July 2, 1776
    Approved - July 4, 1776
    Signed - August 2, 1776
  • Articles of Confederation

    Articles of Confederation
    The Articles of Confederation was a document signed amongst the thirteen original colonies that established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution. Even when not yet ratified (March 1, 1781), the Articles provided domestic and international legitimacy for the Continental Congress to direct the American Revolutionary War, diplomacy with Europe and deal with territorial issues and Native American relations.
  • Shay's Rebellion

    Shay's Rebellion
    Shays’ Rebellion is the name given to a series of protests in 1786 and 1787 by American farmers against state and local enforcement of tax collections and judgments for debt. Although farmers took up arms in states from New Hampshire to South Carolina, the rebellion was most serious in Massachusetts, where bad harvests, economic depression, and high taxes threatened farmers with the loss of their farms. The rebellion took its name from its symbolic leader, Daniel Shays of Massachusetts.
  • Philadelphia Convention

    Philadelphia Convention
    The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia met between May and September of 1787 to address the problems of the weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The United States Constitution that emerged from the convention established a federal government with more specific powers, including those related to conducting relations with foreign governments.
  • Constitution Convention

    Constitution Convention
    Constitutional Convention, (1787), in U.S. history, convention that drew up the Constitution of the United States. Stimulated by severe economic troubles, which produced radical political movements such as Shays’s Rebellion, and urged on by a demand for a stronger central government, the convention met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (May 25–September 17, 1787), ostensibly to amend the Articles of Confederation.
  • Connecticut Compromise

    Connecticut Compromise
    The Connecticut Compromise was an agreement that large and small states reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that in part defined the legislative structure and representation that each state would have under the United States Constitution. It retained the bicameral legislature, along with proportional representation in the lower house, but required the upper house to be weighted equally between the states. Each state would have two representatives in the upper house.
  • Connecticut Convention (Center)

    Connecticut Convention (Center)
    The facility was designed by Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates and features more than 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2) of exhibition space, a 40,000-square-foot (4,000 m2) ballroom and 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) of flexible meeting space. It is the largest convention facility between New York and Boston. The Connecticut Convention Center’s 110-foot (34 m) glass atrium rises ten stories above a grand public plaza and a tree-lined riverfront esplanade.