Politics and Citizenship

  • The House of Burgesses

    The House of Burgesses
    The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first legislative body created in the the colonies. It marked the start of a legacy of democracy in America.
  • The Mayflower Compact

    The Mayflower Compact
    The Mayfower Compact, written by the Separatists (a.k.a. the Pilgrims), was an agreement that established a basic legal system for the new Plymouth colony and that the government's power was derived from God. It set a precedent for future governing texts, such as the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Massachusetts Bay Colony

    The Massachusetts Bay Colony
    The democracy of the Congregational Church government led to political democracy: all Puritan and property-holding men could vote on affairs and decisions. The Bay Colony also supported the idea of separation of church and state by keeping the clergy from holding absolute political power.
  • The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

    The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
    The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut were considered to be the first written constitution in the New World. It contained key individual rights that laid the foundations for the definition of American citizenship as well as the beginnings of democracy.
  • Stamp Act Congress

    Stamp Act Congress
    The Stamp Act Congress was created in retaliaton to the Stamp Act. The colonists demanded "no taxation without representation," while the British argued that the colonists were "virtuallly represented," since they were Englishmen with the rights of Englishmen. The colonists wanted the rights of citizenship without the responsibilties.
  • Colonial Legislatures by 1775

    Colonial Legislatures by 1775
    All of the colonies (with the exception of Pennsylvania) had bicameral legislatures, establishing the political institution of having two houses of elected members. There was a variety of government forms, and self-taxation was an important privilege to American citizens. Although true democracy was not yet present, there was more democracy in America than anywhere in Europe.
  • Thomas Paine and Republicanism

    Thomas Paine and Republicanism
    Thomas Paine was a champion of republicanism, where a government and all its officials receive its power from the people. Republicanism was also based on the ideal of "citizen virtue," which requires the individuals of a republic to act in interest of the public (rather than personal) good.
  • The Declaration of Independence

    The Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence asserted that the colonists were citizens of their own "independent" entity and claimed democracy and freedom ideals that represent the fundamentals of American democracy. Two political mindsets emerged: those in favor of independence (Patriots) and those not in favor (Loyalists). However, many people were apathetic to the cause of independence.
  • Constitutional Convention

    Constitutional Convention
    The Constitutional Convention was originally intended to revise the Articles of Confederation after Shay's Rebellion. However, the delegates ended up writing an entirely new document: a Constitution that became the foundation for the United States. It was ratified in 1788 with the addition of a Bill of Rights in 1791.
  • George Washington Elected President

    George Washington Elected President
    As the first President of the United States, George Washington became the precedent for the political tradition of the presidency. He also established the presidential cabinet, which was a power not expressed in the Constitution, but nonetheless an important aspect of the U.S. government.
  • Emergence of Political Parties

    Emergence of Political Parties
    Ironically, the Founding Fathers did not anticipate the emergence of political parties. Beginning with the rivalry between Hamilton and Jefferson, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans formed and began the tradition of political parties in American politics.
  • Election of 1800

    Election of 1800
    Thomas Jefferson's election to the presidency in 1800 was remarkable because it was a smooth transition of power, despite the major differences between the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.
  • Missouri Compromise

    Missouri Compromise
    The Missouri Compromise was crucial in maintaining a temporary peace between the North and South. It represented the growing sectional tensions and highlighted the slavery issue. The Compromise was intended to keep a balance of power between the North and South.
  • Election of 1828

    Election of 1828
    Andrew Jackson was elected to the presidency in 1828. The election ushered in the era of Jacksonian Democracy, where the government acted according to what the people wanted, as well as new party names: the National Republicans (John Quincy Adams), which replaced the Federalists, and the Democratic Republicans (Andrew Jackson).
  • Election of 1840

    Election of 1840
    The election of 1840 was important because it represented the major political changes since the Era of Good Feelings. For one, the average man was coming to the forefront of the political stage. For another, the two-party system was firmly established, a critical part of keeping the balance of power in government.
  • Election of 1852

    Election of 1852
    With the demise of the Whig Party in the election of 1852, national political parties seemed to have given way to sectional political parties, especially following the Compromise of 1850, where the North had benefited much more than the South.
  • Election of 1860

    Election of 1860
    Extremely strained tensions between the North and South reaached a tipping point when Abraham Lincoln was elected into office in 1860. This led to the secession of seven states, the formation of the Confederacy, and the Civil War.
  • Fourteenth Amendment Ratified

    Fourteenth Amendment Ratified
    The Fourteenth Amendment granted African-Americans U.S. citizenship and also clarified the definition of a citizen. It also addressed citizenship rights and equal protection under the law.
  • Election of 1896

    Election of 1896
    The election of 1896 marked a long succession of Republican presidents, with the exception of President Wilson, a Democrat. As a result, politics began to take a more business-minded approach.
  • Nineteenth Amendment Ratified

    Nineteenth Amendment Ratified
    The Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote. This was an extension of citizenship rights protected by the Constitution to include women as well.
  • The New Deal

    The New Deal
    When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. The general political goal was to find ways to fix the problems. FDR's New Deal and the subsequent policies sought to provide relief, recovery, and reform.
  • HUAC

    HUAC
    The House Un-American Affairs Committee was established with the intention of rooting out all Communist influences from the United States. In order to protect democracy and respond to the Red Scare, the HUAC infringed upon the privacy rights of many American citizens.
  • Civil Rights Movement

    Civil Rights Movement
    The Civil Rights movement gained ground during the 1960s. Key events included Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington in 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
  • Election of 1980

    Election of 1980
    Ronald Reagan was elected to office in a landslide victory. The vast majority of the United States was Republican (in electoral votes), and Reagan's administration symbolized a renewed sense of political conservatism.
  • 2000 Presidential Election

    2000 Presidential Election
    In the 2000 election, Republican candidate George Bush won the presidency over Democratic candidate Al Gore because he had more votes in the electoral college. However, Gore won the popular vote. The 2000 election was a modern example of the checks and balances system of the electoral college.