Many people frm Europe, especiall from England, migrated to North America during the 1600s. The government formed in their small colonies were mostly shaped by Judeo-Christian values and ideas.
Old ideals were challenged, such as the idea of divine right. Many began to believe in the social contract and natural rights given to people, which the government should protect. The ideas formed during the Enlightenment served to be the basis of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
One of the first written constitutions that showed the colonies ideals of self-government.
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Adopted the first system of laws in the English colonies
Many Puritans migrated to America to gain freedom of religion from the British King. In 1636, Puritans in Massachusetts forced their leaders to allow each town to elect two members of the General Court, a colonial legislature.
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was America's first formal constitution. It gave the people the right to elect the governor, judges, and representatives to make laws. Other English colonies began creating their own charters soon after.
English Bill of Rights
In 1688, Parliament removed King James II from the throne and William III and Mary II came into throne. An English Bill of Rights was passed in 1689 by the Parliament, setting clear limits on monarchy. This greatly influenced the ideals of the American colonies, believeing that they have the same rights as people living in Britain. However, this was not the case.
French and Indian War
A struggle between the French and British over lands in America. Great Britain eventually won in 1763, but ended up with a huge debt, thus they decided to begin taxing the colonies.
To help pay for the war debt, Geroge III, who just came into throne, decided to levy taxes on tea, sugar, glass, paper, and other products on the colonies.
Great Britain won the French and Indian War
Nine colonies sent delegates to a meeting organized to protest the Stamp Act and King George’s actions. They sent a petition to the king, arguing that only colonial legislatures could impose direct taxes like the Stamp Tax.
Stamp Act of 1765
First direct tax on the colonists.
"Commentaries on the Laws of England", written by Sir William Blackstone, hekped codify English common law and the laws in the colonies. Blackstone believed that human laws were derived from “the law of nature and the law of revelation [the Bible]”.
By 1773, many organizations were formed to encourage resistance against the British rule on the colonies.
Tea Act of 1773
Launched the final spark to the revolutionary movement in Boston and led to the Boston Tea Party.
Boston Tea Party
Tension and resentment rose in the colonies as the British passed more and more tax laws and regulations. Finally, in 1773, a group of colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, dumped 342 chests of British tea into Boston Harbor.
Coercive Acts/Intolerable Acts
Passed by the British Parliament in retaliation to the Boston Tea Party. They took the rights of the Massachusetts colny to govern itself and also closed the Boston Harbor.
First Continental Congress
Delegates from every colony except Georgia met in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. Their purpose was to decide what to do about the relationship with Great Britain. They decided to impose an embargo on Britain and agreed to boycott British goods. They proposed a second meeting the following year if Britain did not change its policies.
Second Continental Congress
Delegates from all thirteen colonies gathered in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress. John Hancock of Massachusetts was chosen as president and the Congress immediately assumed the powers of a central government.. The Congress organized an army and navy, made plans to issue money, and appointed George Washington as commander of the Continental Army.
Lexington and Concord
King George tightened his rule in response to the embargo imposed by the colonists. On April 19, 1775, British soldiers clashed with colonial minutemen at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. This skirmish became the first battle of the Revolutionary War.
By 1776, representative governments, a government in which people elect delegates to make laws and conduct government, was a well-established tradition in America. Colonies were well used to the idea of self-goverment.
A pamphlet written by Thomas Paine that inspired the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia told the Continental Congress that they should become "free and independent states". The Congress agreed and thus, offically broke from Britain on July 2, and began to prepare a written Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Independence
The final draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed by all 56 delegates. The Declaration of Independence consists of 4 parts: the Preamble, a statement of purpose and basic human rights, a list of complaints against George III, and the Conclusion that states the colonists’ determination to separate from Great Britain.
By the end of 1776, 10 states had adopted written constitutions, with most containing a bill of rights. The states saw themselves as independent and sovereign, but a formal government uniting all the states has not been created yet.