310px washington constitutional convention 1787

U.S. Government Timeline LF

  • 1215

    King John signed the magna carta

    King John signed the magna carta
    Magna Carta was issued in June 1215 and was the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government was not above the law.
  • Nov 3, 1493

    voyage of Christopher Columbus

    voyage of Christopher Columbus
    On his second voyage in 1493, he sailed with seventeen ships and about 1200 men, arriving in Hispaniola in late November to find the fort of La Navidad destroyed with no survivors.
  • Jamestowne's House of Burgesses

    Jamestowne's House of Burgesses
    the first democratically-elected legislative body in the British American colonies.
  • the mayflower compact

    the mayflower compact
    the Mayflower Compact was an agreement that bound the signers to obey the government and legal system established in Plymouth Colony.
  • petition of right

    petition of right
    king Charles required to sign petition of right. no taxation without the consent of Parliament, no imprisonment without cause, no quartering of soldiers on subjects, and no martial law in peacetime
  • pilgrim code of law

    pilgrim code of law
    The Pilgrim Code of Law was the first covenant with many basic elements of a constitution. It built upon earlier covenants, including charters and the Mayflower Compact, and was based on popular sovereignty with annual elections.
  • the convection and bill of right

    the convection and bill of right
    The Whigs and Tories in the Convention argued for days over whether James II had abdicated and had thereby made the throne vacant or whether he had temporarily deserted the throne, by which a regency in his name should be established.
  • The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges

    The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges
    The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, granted by William Penn in 1701, gave many powers to the colonial government of Pennsylvania.
  • Period: to

    first U.S. currency issued

    The Continental Congress issued paper money, known as “continentals.”
  • declaration of independence

    declaration of independence
    On June 10, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman to draft a document expressing the intent of the 13 colonies to declare independence as states.
  • Articles of Confederation

     Articles of Confederation
    On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress established a committee of representatives from each colony to establish a confederated government for the United States. The Articles of Confederation established a weak government (lacking a military and unable to levy taxes) tasked with facilitating a firm league of friendship between the states rather than a centralized federal government.
  • The Treasury System was reorganized

    The Treasury System was reorganized
    On September 26, the Continental Congress created an Auditor, Office of Comptroller, Office of Treasurer and two Chambers of Accounts. A committee was also selected to design the Seal of the Treasury.
  • Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom

    Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom
    First introduced in the Virginia state legislature in 1777, the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom barred the establishment of religious tests for public office as well as any compelled participation in, or subsidization of, religious enterprises.
  • Constitution of the United States

    Constitution of the United States
    The Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, was originally tasked with amending the Articles of Confederation to make them workable, since the existing confederation was too weak to protect members from foreign invaders and too ineffectual to preserve the union.
  • Northwest Ordinance

      Northwest Ordinance
    Originally titled “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio,” the Northwest Ordinance established several key policies for the unsettled northwestern frontier.
  • Federalist paper

    Federalist paper gazette of the united states published
  • Federal Judiciary act

    Federal Judiciary act
    Signed into law on September 24, 1789, the Federal Judiciary Act established the structure and jurisdiction of federal courts, matters that Article III of the United States Constitution left unaddressed
  • Period: to

    Bill of right

    Pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution, Congress proposed and the states ratified the first 10 amendments now known as the Bill of Rights. The passage of the Bill of Rights placated opponents of the Constitution who feared that the unamended version gave too much leeway to the federal government to encroach on the rights of states and individual citizens.
  • Whigs

    Whigs countered with national gazette

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  • Whiskey Rebellion

     Whiskey Rebellion
    As the new country began finding its feet, U.S. President George Washington sent troops to western Pennsylvania in 1794 to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising by citizens who refused to pay a liquor tax that had been imposed by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton to raise money for the national debt and to assert the power of the national government.
  • Marbury v. Madison

    Marbury v. Madison
    This decision gave the Court the ability to strike down laws on the grounds that they are unconstitutional
  • Louisiana Purchase

     Louisiana Purchase
    The Louisiana Territory, the huge swath of land (more than 800,000 square miles) that made up the western Mississippi River basin, passed from French colonial rule to Spanish colonial rule and then back to the French before U.S. President Thomas Jefferson pried it away from Napoleon in 1803 for a final price of some $27 million.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland

    McCulloch v. Maryland
    The Court held that Congress had implied powers to establish a national bank under the "necessary and proper" clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Court also determined that United States laws trump state laws and consequently, a state could not tax the national bank.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden

    Gibbons v. Ogden
    The impact of Gibbons is still felt today as it gives the federal government a much-broader base to regulate economic transactions.
  • worcester v. georgia

    worcester v. georgia
    The Supreme Court held that Georgia did not have the power to regulate relations with the Cherokee nation, because the Cherokee nation was a sovereign nation and under the Commerce Clause (Article I, Sec. 8, cl. 3) in the Constitution, Congress holds the power to regulate commerce with with foreign Nations, Indian Tribes, and among the states
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford

    Dred Scott v. Sandford
    The 1857 Court answered no on both accounts: Congress could not prohibit slavery in territories, and African Americans also had no right to sue in federal court. In reaching these answers, the Court, interpreting the Constitution as it existed before the Civil War Amendments (Constitutional Amendments 13, 14, and 15) abolished slavery, concluded that people of African descent had none of the rights of citizens.
  • the emancipation proclamation

    the emancipation proclamation
    President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
  • Battle of Gettysburg

    Battle of Gettysburg
    In July 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation, in the small Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s invading Army of Northern Virginia sustained a defeat so devastating that it sealed the fate of the Confederacy and its “peculiar institution.” Within two years the war was over, and before the end of the decade the South was temporarily transformed by Reconstruction
  • The Gettysburg Address

    The Gettysburg Address
    Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
  • the pledge of allegiance

    the pledge of allegiance
    The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson

    Plessy v. Ferguson
    With the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s, the enactment of Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation in the South. In its 7–1 decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson case in May 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court gave constitutional sanction to laws designed to achieve racial segregation by means of separate and supposedly equal public facilities and services for African Americans and whites, thus providing a controlling judicial precedent that would endure until the 1950s.
  • Sinking of the Lusitania

    Sinking of the Lusitania
    As World War I raged in Europe, most Americans, including U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, remained determined to avoid involvement and committed to neutrality, though the U.S. economy had benefited greatly from supplying food, raw material, and guns and ammunition to the Allies.
  • Schenck v. United States

    Schenck v. United States
    Although the defendant would have been able to state his views during ordinary times, the Court held that in certain circumstances, like this case the nation being at war, justify such limits on the First Amendment.
  • Monroe Doctrine

     Monroe Doctrine
    The Era of Good Feelings (roughly 1815–25), a period of American prosperity and isolationism, was in full swing when U.S. President James Monroe articulated a set of principles in 1823 that decades later would be called the Monroe Doctrine.
  • Stock Market Crash

    Stock Market Crash
    The chief business of the American people is business,” U.S. President Calvin Coolidge said in 1925. And with the American economy humming during the “Roaring Twenties” (the Jazz Age), peace and prosperity reigned in the United States…until it didn’t. The era came to a close in October 1929 when the stock market crashed, setting the stage for years of economic deprivation and calamity during the Great Depression.
  • The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    Having again stayed out of the initial stages of a worldwide conflict, the U.S. entered World War II on the side of the Allies following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 1941). In August 1945, with the war in Europe over and U.S. forces advancing on Japan, U.S. President Harry S. Truman ushered in the nuclear era by choosing to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan,
  • Marshall plan

    Marshall plan
    On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a program of massive aid to help Europe rebuild after World War II. The European Recovery Act of April 3, 1948, provided large-scale aid to rebuild Europe and protect it from communism, 1948–52.
  • The Truman Doctrine

    The Truman Doctrine
    President Truman requested $400 million in aid from Congress on March 12 to combat Communism, emphasizing Greece and Turkey.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    Do racially segregated public schools violate the Equal Protection Clause?
  • National Defense Education Act

    National Defense Education Act
    The National Defense Education Act of 1958 became one of the most successful legislative initiatives in higher education. It established the legitimacy of federal funding of higher education and made substantial funds available for low-cost student loans, boosting public and private colleges and universities.
  • civil right Act

    civil right Act
    In 1964, Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as, race in hiring, promoting, and firing.
  • Voting Rights Act

    Voting Rights Act
    Prohibits racial discrimination in voting
  • Medicare and medical acts

    Medicare and medical acts
    On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid Act, also known as the Social Security Amendments of 1965, into law. It established Medicare, a health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, a health insurance program for people with limited income.
  • Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr

    Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr
    At the center of the widespread social and political upheaval of the 1960s were the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam War, the emergence of a youth-oriented counterculture, and the establishment and reactionary elements that pushed back against change. The April 4, 1968, assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the most prominent civil rights leader, revealed the tragic, violent consequences that could result from a country’s political polarization.
  • Roe v. Wade

    Roe v. Wade
    The Court concluded that such laws violate the Constitution's right to privacy
  • Economic Recovery Tax Act

    Economic Recovery Tax Act
    The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (ERTA) was the largest tax cut in U.S. history. Signed by President Ronald Reagan about six months after he took office, ERTA slashed the top income tax rate and allowed for faster expensing of depreciable assets.
  • Tear Down this Wall

    Tear Down this Wall
    The speech is commonly known by a key line from the middle part: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Reagan called for the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to open the Berlin Wall, which had encircled West Berlin since 1961
  • 9/11 attack

    9/11 attack
    Terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, September 11. A third highjacked plane was downed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic

    COVID-19 Pandemic
    In early 2020, life in the United States and around the world was turned upside down by the arrival of the COVID-19 global pandemic. For more than two years, preventive measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, mask wearing, and vaccine passports became the “new normal,”