Colonial America in the 1600s
Today America is one of the world’s strongest superpowers, but how exactly did it get there? Immigrants from Europe arrived in the New World, discovered by their country’s explorers, in hopes of a better life; free from religious persecution and political oppression, and in search of economic prosperity. This paper will discuss the life of colonists in Colonial America in the 1600s, and how life in the New World had evolved for these settlers. Different points being covered in this essay include: development of the first early settlement, Jamestown; establishment of the other colonies; and the expansion of these colonies leading up to the Revolutionary War, and thus the birth of the United States. This includes the formation of a government in the soon-to-be United States and different major events that played an important role leading up to the Revolutionary War. Evidence used in this paper includes use of academic sources covering the topic of life in early America and its evolution leading up to, and after the Revolutionary War.
Events that led to the development of North America preceding its discovery by European explorers go as far back as the stone ages, where the first “settlers” of North America were a band of stone age hunters roughly 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. This was possible due to a land bridge that connected Asia and North America. This land bridge, dubbed “Beringia” has been at the bottom of the sea for over 10,000 years (Conlin 2014: 1). Following this, the Paleo-Indians were a pre-historic people who are unable to be studied through written records, but rather by the passing down of folklore, language, and archaeology. Without folklore and language analysts, documented American history would not have begun until 1492 (Conlin 2014: 2). However before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, a Viking seaman named Leif Ericson became the first to discover the New World and founded Newfoundland, establishing a short-lived settlement there around 1000 A.D. It would not be until almost 500 years later when the next set of explorers came upon America. These explorers were the Spanish, and in 1492 Christopher Columbus led an expedition to find a new route to the Indies which is now known as
Asia. He discovered instead several tropical islands such as the Bahamas and Cuba. He believed that these islands were on the outskirts of the Indies. He dubbed the natives “Indians”. Columbus made four of these expeditions under the impression that he found a direct route to the riches of the Indies (Conlin 2014: 3).
In 1507, the credit for discovering the New World was given to Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer. Eight years prior he led a discovery voyage for Spain. The New World began to be published in geography books, named after Vespucci, America. Sometime later, in 1588, the English defeated the Spanish Armada, which lead to a diminishing Spanish influence in America, and the growth of English influence throughout the entire world, especially in America.
Following the turn of the century, the London Company, sponsored a colonizing expedition to Virginia in 1606. The London Company was a stock company chartered by King James I, who was hoping to profit from this venture. This led to the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America in 1607. Their intent for the establishment of the colony was to bring the Christian religion to the Indians, take possession of a new land for the English, and produce commodities that would be of value to the home country (Horn, 2011).
The Godspeed, the Discovery and the Susan Constant were the three ships that were sent out, under the command of Christopher Newport on December 6, 1606. The ships carried 105 settlers and 39 crew members; a total of 144 people with hopes of making their fortune in the New World (Berman, 2013). Many of the colonists were noblemen, unwilling and unable to raise their own food. They arrived at Chesapeake Bay in May of 1607 after a very difficult journey, during which one of the settlers died.
After arrival, the settlers encountered serious problems and hardships. The unskilled laborers and farmers were faced with an unfamiliar climate, lack of water supply, lack of food supply, and confrontations with the Algonquian Indians. The Natives were ruled by a powerful leader named Powhatan who lead an attack on them upon arrival. While facing these difficulties, the setters decided on a location and built a fort where they could defend themselves from the native’s attacks. Jamestown was the name chosen for the settlement in honor of King James I.
Research into how life was for the settlers of Jamestown has provided evidence of struggles with malnutrition and starvation, which was the leading cause of death. The lethargy that set in due to the malnutrition lead to pain, suffering and weakness. Many were so weak that colonists spoke of people dying of laziness and apathy. Writers of the story of Jamestown’s distress list laziness and idleness as the cause of their ruin. Many colonists were too weak and ill to work. The high mortality rate was caused by psychological and physical factors (Kupperman, 1979). Their environment was very difficult to endure as well. They dealt with swampy, hot and humid weather in the summer and harsh winters. They were overwhelmed and hungry. By December 1608, only one third of the 144 colonists were left, and supplies were depleted.
Captain John Smith became leader of the colony in September 1608 and helped them survive the harsh winter. Captain Smith was credited for beginning trade with the Powhatan Indians for food, and he organized expeditions to scavenge for food. He had previously established a friendly rapport with the local American Indian tribes. He made it the rule “that he that will not worke shall not eate (except by sicknesse he be disabled)” (Berman, 2013). Despite this, in December 1607 during one of the expeditions, he was taken as prisoner by the Algonquin Chief Powhatan. He was saved from death by the Chief’s favorite daughter, Pocahontas. Due to the relationship built with the Powhatan Indians, he was able to get a supply of corn for the settlers (Berman, 2013). Captain John Smith was particularly good at trading glass beads, copper and iron tools in exchange for food. However, his strict leadership also made enemies, and a mysterious gunpowder explosion badly injured him and sent him back to England in October 1609.
England still sought expansion and they continued to send more supplies and colonists. Jamestown was growing, but problems did not cease for the settlers. The colony’s second winter of 1609 was known as the “Starving Time”. During this time of war between the colonists and the Indians, as well as disease and starvation, many English men and women died. The colonists were afraid to leave the fort, fearful of being killed by the Indians. It is during this time of self-isolation that the settlers ate anything they could, even resorting to cannibalism after their fellow settlers died. The majority of deaths in Jamestown were due to starvation and disease (Kelso, 2017).
In 1610, just when the colonists were about to abandon Jamestown, a ship arrived from England with settlers and supplies. This was the second charter by King James I. This ship, sent by the Virginia Company, was headed for Jamestown carrying supplies and a new governor, Lord De La Warr. These settlers were eager to find wealth in Virginia. De La Warr was a harsh man, and he ruled the colony as if it were a military encampment. There were punishments for those who did not obey his ruling. He also did nothing to encourage good relations with the Native American Indians. He raided their villages, robbed them of their food, and burned their houses and fields (Nelson, 2014). Lord De La Warr set about rebuilding the colony. Despite his substantial progress, he experienced rebellion among his own men. He fell ill and decided to return to England in March of 1611.
The settlers tried numerous ventures to gain profit for the Virginia Company such as glassmaking, wood production, pitch and tar and potash manufacturing, but were unsuccessful in making huge profits. The first product to raise substantial profits in Virginia was tobacco. To meet the demand in England for tobacco, they had to give up production all other products. This eventually led to the colony’s land expansion and the need for additional laborers. Tobacco cultivation caused rapid growth of the Virginia colony, and it also provided colonists the opportunity to own land.
In 1618, the Virginia Company established policies for land ownership which granted settlers the rights to own land and control their own tobacco crops. The Virginia Company did this with the purpose of increasing the population of the colony. More settlers were arriving as hired workers, which helped successful tobacco farmers to meet their labor needs. The opportunity to own land and obtain a substantial profit completely changed the economic life of the colonists.
With the dramatic increase of plantations in Virginia, owners needed an abundance of laboring to be done in an efficient, and most importantly, cost effective way. Settlers who desired transportation to Virginia signed a contract agreeing to work a specific number of years. These indentured servants were utilized to work the tobacco crops. The plantation owners would provide them with shelter, food and clothing during their servitude. Although this helped, tobacco crops required a significant amount of labor, and the indentured servants could not completely meet this demand. In August of 1619, this led to Virginia’s adaptation of African American slavery. The first Africans that were brought to Virginia were from Ndongo which was located in Angola, West Central Africa. They had been captured during war with the Portuguese. The number of African slaves increased significantly over time, replacing indentured servants as the primary source of labor by the second half of the 17th century.
In addition, during 1619 the first legislative assembly in Jamestown was established; the Virginia House of Burgesses which consists of 22 burgesses, representing 11 plantations. This was the beginning of representative government structure in America. At the request of the settlers, there was a general assembly, allowing them to provide input in the laws governing them. In 1624, due to the impacts of the war and overwhelming financial problems, the Virginia Company’s charter was revoked by King James I. This caused Virginia to become a royal colony. They would be considered one up until the Revolutionary War in the 1700s.
The relatively peaceful relationship between the Powhatan Indians and the English came to an end in 1622 with the start of a war. Powhatan leader, Chief Opechancanough planned an attack against the English settlements to drive out the English from the lands that they took over. The English retaliated, and for the next decade there was fighting between the two communities. The relatively “peaceful” relationship between the Powhatan Indians and the English was re-established by 1632.
Aside from Virginia, there were twelve other colonies being established and developed, starting with Plymouth Colony, later known as Massachusetts. It was founded in 1620 by a group of Puritans, who were fed up with religiously oppression by the Church of England. They heard of the new settlements in the “New World” and traveled there with the intention of gaining freedom of religion. After arrival in the New World, they named their settlement area, Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Colony was the second permanent British colony in America.
After given a grant for land, John Mason wanted to contribute to the colonization of the New World. In 1622 he named this colony after his home in Hampshire County, England. As a Puritan, Mason was also driven by the hope of religious freedom. However, his death in 1635 prevented him from seeing the success of this efforts and what his colony had become.
The development of Maryland was initiated by George Calvert who was known as Lord Baltimore, as apart of a royal charter for the Province of Maryland. However, after his death in 1632, his son, Cecil Calvert was granted the charter, and went on to found Maryland as a haven for Catholics in America.
Connecticut was first settled in 1633 by the Dutch, but was not actually considered a colony until 1636, when Thomas Hooker, a puritan mister delivered a very impactful speech. Hooker was given credit for founding Hartford, Connecticut, and eventually the English drove the Dutch out of Connecticut and it became an official colony.
Rhode Island was formed in 1636. It all began when a man named Rodger Williams attempted to change religion in Massachusetts. He was banished to England. However, Williams went to live with Native Americans instead, forming a group called Providence. Afterwards, three other individuals were also banished due to religious disputes. They each formed small communities, just like Williams. Eventually, these communities requested permission from the British to become a colony. Their request was granted, and Rhode Island was created.
In 1638, the colony of Delaware was founded. Originally this piece of land was a part of New Sweden until the King of England seized the eastern portion of the Delaware river. The seized land was named after this river and it became the colony of Delaware.
Carolina was found in 1653 by Virginians that were frustrated over economic hardships. These angered Virginians moved south of the border and started their own community. Later, the King gave the land to a group of noblemen as a gift. These noblemen sent to people to colonize the area. They joined the migrant Virginians becoming the Carolina Colony. After disputes within the Carolina Colony erupted, the land was eventually split into two becoming North Carolina and South Carolina.
In 1664, the Duke of York was gifted New Netherlands. In honor of the Duke, this land was renamed “New York”. He would soon split off two pieces of his newly acquired land and gift it to two of his friends. These two pieces of land would become the early foundation for New Jersey.
This new piece of land was named Jersey by the Duke’s friends. They wanted as many people as possible to populate their new settlements. To motivate settlers, they began to promise freedom and fortune to all that came. This proved to be successful, and many people began to move to the area. This was short lived, as Jersey was sold to Quakers in two separate parts. However, in 1704 they were brought back together to form New Jersey.
Pennsylvania was founded in 1682, when William Penn had received land from his late grandfather. Penn was a Quaker and wanted freedom of religion for himself, as well as for others, so he created his own country with the land given to him by his grandfather and named it Pennsylvania.
Finally, Georgia, the last of colonies to be founded, was formed in 1732 far after the others. It was formed after James Oglethorpe asked the King for land and was given an empty portion of land from Carolina’s charter named Georgia, after King George. Oglethorpe made this land to serve as both a military base to defend against the Spanish, and to redeem himself after serving time in jail.
During the turn of the century, the establishment of the thirteen colonies contributed to the rise and expansion of Great Britain. Records show population in Britain’s North American colonies saw extreme growth. By the early 1700s, the population in the colonies reached 250,000. Each of the colonies contributed to the already immense British Empire by supplying goods and raw materials. The establishment of these colonies has attributed to the rise in the English population of America, as thousands of Europeans colonized to the New World.
As the Europeans settled into the land, they brought hunting and trade to America. Ideas like the concept of private land ownership greatly influenced life in America during this period as well. During the seventeenth century, American Indians grew to be dependent on European trade items, and diseases from the Europeans spread and killed many Indians. The Colonies continued to expand until the Colonists grew tired of the abuse of power from the British, and a revolution brewed in the late eighteenth century, a war to decide the fate of America.
In summary, the evolution of America from an uncharted and mysterious land, to one of the worlds strongest superpowers was only possible because of the people who inhabited it. From the stone age, where primitive humans traveled across a long-since collapsed land bridge, to the Vikings, the first explorers of the land, these events led to the initial development of America when the Spanish first came across the land in search of the Indies. Following this, the English became leagues more prominent in America than the Spanish ever were. They began to send settlers to colonize the land and form the settlements that would become the pillars for the foundation on which America would stand on.
The small, initial settlements of America eventually expanded to become the great states that are known today. These settlements all developed from the very first colony, Jamestown, a small group of settlers holding on by a thread, having to adapt to the new land. These settlers had to learn how to trade with the Native Americans that had already resided there. These first settlers had to change their entire lifestyle and learn new skills just to survive in this new land. Eventually, though not without many hardships and loss, they persevered and grew to the top to become the first permanent English colony in America. In time, many more settlers sought to colonize this new and promising land, whether it be seeking religious freedom from the church of England or wanting to have a fresh start. It was these settlers that banded together to create settlements that would see their own hardships, but too would expand and develop into the great colonies that people from all over would flock to in hopes of greater opportunities.
These thirteen colonies will eventually lead in the fight for their independence from Great Britain, and fight for their future, leading to the birth of the United States of America.
Following the expansion of the thirteen colonies, a rather large divide began to form between the colonies and Great Britain due to unfair taxes being placed upon the colonies, all because of the French and Indian War.
The French and Indian War began in 1754 and was a hugely influential war on events for decades to come, and came to be when the British, French, and Native Americans all had conflicting interests in North American land, specifically considering the new frontier.
In 1754, British forces led by George Washington attempted to push back the French and gain influence over the land at the Upper Ohio River Valley. This attack, however, failed and after their defeat, the British planned a second strike against the French, but the plans for this attack went public, and the French were alerted preemptively.
After years of fighting, the French signed a compact in 1761 stating that if the war lasted beyond May 1, 1762, that the Spanish would join in the conflict against Britain. This was offered as a peace agreement at first, however this motivated the French to continue the fight, and on January 4, 1762 Britain declared war on Spain anyway. Following Britain’s declaration, Spain was defeated, and Britain took control of the French Caribbean Islands, Spanish Cuba, and the Philippines. To top off Britain’s seize of power over this war, fighting in Europe ended shortly after Spain failed to invade British allied Portugal. The series of defeats drained France of their motivation to continue fighting, and in 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, allotting the British a massive amount of land in North America, including French territory that was east of the Mississippi River, and Spanish Florida. This treaty also saw to the end of the Seven Years War.
Though the British had won the victors spoils, the worst for them was yet to come. Following the Seven Years War, Britain was in need of money due to expensive war efforts, so they decided the best course of action would be to tax the British colonists in America. This, as it turns out, was a very poor decision on Britain’s behalf.
The first of these taxes employed on the Colonists following the French and Indian War was the Proclamation of 1763, which was put into effect after the British victory over France. This Proclamation drew a frontier line between the American colonies and Native American lands (). The Proclamation also banned the colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, and those who were already settled in this region were required to move to the eastern side of the Appalachians. Of course, this angered the colonists. It was put in place because Britain feared more conflict between the Native Americans and the Colonists, thus affecting the trade of the region, causing Britain to spend more money in order to defend the Colonies, something Britain was not willing to do. Some Colonists reacted by ignoring the Proclamation altogether. It was widely viewed as “beneficial to the Native Americans and Great Britain but was detrimental to the thirteen colonies” ().
The second of these taxations was the Currency Act of 1764, which was put in place in order to regulate paper money and control the currency in the colonies. This act also banned the colonists from producing their own currency. As a result, this caused a shortage in currency used for trade. This was parliaments way of controlling the colonies.
Next was the Sugar Act of 1764, this taxed all sugar and molasses products imported into the colonies. Each of these products was taxed by a sixpence per gallon on non-British sugar and molasses items imported into the American Colonies.
One of the taxations that contributed the most towards the Revolutionary War was the Stamp Act of 1765. It was a British law employed on the colonists to gain money off of a stamp that was placed on legal documents, newspapers, commercial documents, and more. Each of the stamped goods had a tax on it, and all proceeds would go to Britain. This was the first direct tax on the thirteen colonies as a result of the French and Indian War and was designed as such. This Act marks the first time the colonies had to pay directly to England as opposed to their own legislatures. The Act was also heavily resented amongst the Americans.
The Quartering Act took effect the same year as the Stamp Act of 1765. However, this Act did not serve as a direct tax, unlike the Stamp Act. The Quartering Act saved the British money by requiring all colonists to provide living space in their houses for British soldiers, and if they refused, their colonial assemblies (those who would decide how tax money would be spent, and also make and pass laws) would be canceled. This was undesirable for the colonists, as it would mean they would have no representation.
Another Act enforced upon the colonists, the Townshend Act of 1765 (placed by Charles Townshend), formed a new way to collect taxes from the colonies by means of imposed duties on all goods imported to the American colonies (paper, paint, lead, glass and tea). Through the Townshend Act, the British were also given the right to search the colonists’ businesses and homes. These taxes on imports received once again, protests by the colonists. They were responsible for taxes, without the ability to be represented in the British Parliament (taxation without representation).
The final major Act employed by the British before the Revolutionary War was the Tea Act in 1773. The Tea Act required that all tea sold in the colonies have a tax, and that of course meant that all proceeds to this tax would go directly to the British to pay off expenses left behind by the Seven Years War. However, the colonists at this point have had enough, and on December 16, 1773 in Boston, Massachusetts, the patriotic group known as the Sons of Liberty, got onto a British ship and tossed large shipments of British imported teas into the Boston Harbor while dressed in Native American costumes. The Sons of Liberty (originally known as the Loyal Nine) was a secret organization formed by elite gentlemen (mainly law men and artisans) who met to organize ways to effectively oppose the actions of the British. The original group formed in 1765, and their members were: John Avery, Henry Bass, Thomas Chase, Stephen Cleverly, Thomas Crafts, Benjamin Edes, Joseph Field, John Smith and George Trott. As the group grew, it came to be known as the Sons of Liberty, including members such as Samuel and John Adams and Paul Revere.
The American colonists threw 342 trunks of cargo into the Boston Harbor as an act of protest against the British for the Tea Act. This point in history, known as the Boston Tea Party would become one of the key events that led to the American Revolutionary War.
Following the employment of these acts, protest spread throughout the colonies rapidly, however this protest gradually shifted into something more. America was steadily gearing towards war. A repercussion of these acts glared its head on March 5, 1770, when, after the British had been occupying Boston, a group of colonists harassed a group of British soldiers and are fired upon. Three of the colonists fired upon died instantly, two others were mortally wounded, and six others were injured. Following the incident, all British troops were pulled out of Boston and the soldiers responsible for the massacre were charged with murder. After this egregious act of murder, the Townshend Acts are repealed by the British and the Quartering Act is not renewed. The men who perpetrated the killing were successfully defended by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, and are acquitted, however two soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter, and were sub sequentially branded. Also put into effect following the massacre, all duties on imports that were to be sent to the colonies were halted, excluding tea ().
In 1774, in response to the rebellion in Massachusetts, Britain created The Boston Port Act which closed the Boston Port down until the damage from The Boston Tea Party was repaid. The port being closed was an intentional punishment to all residents of Massachusetts, rather than just the perpetrators of the Tea Party. This Act, including four others four others, were parts of the Intolerable Acts, a series of punitive measures placed on the colonists by the British in reaction to the acts of rebellion by the Colonists such as The Boston Tea Party.
The second of these Intolerable Acts was the Massachussetts Government Act and was put in place for the purpose of taking control of the local governments and the defilement of British laws. Also an effect of the Massachussetts Government Act, counselors and assistants that were to be annually elected by the general population were now appointed by governors. This restricted the authority of colonial assemblies, as well as out-right ban committees of correspondence.
Released at the same time as The Massachussetts Government Act, The Administration of Justice Act prevented colonial courts to try British officials, this was put in place as a preventative measure by the British, ensuring that there would not be an ‘unfair trial’ of a British official in the colonies. This power enabled the governor to move court trials to Britain, where they could ensure a trial would be fair in their eyes.
On June 2, 1774, The Quartering Act was reintroduced, with the same purpose as it originally had, however now, the governor had the power to mandate the colonists to house British soldiers. This Act, along with the others, cemented the power of Britain in the colonies and gave a majority of power held previously by Colonial Assemblies, to the governor.
Finally, The Quebec Act, though not entirely an Intolerable Act, was released alongside the previous acts and focused on expanding the boundaries of Quebec, while simultaneously establishing a new administration for Quebec following The French and Indian war.
Following the Intolerable Acts, the First Continental Congress was created as a means to discuss the issues regarding Great Britain. It took place between September 5, 1774 to October 26, 1774 and was attended by delegates from each of the thirteen colonies (excluding Georgia). Its main purpose was to discuss their issues with The Intolerable Acts and solutions to their issues with Britain. The Congress took two major actions; They sent a letter to the King of England, King George III, requesting The Intolerable Acts be repealed or the colonists would boycott all English goods in protest. Although the Congress agreed to boycott English imported goods, the Northern and Southern colonies greatly disagreed over banning all of Britain’s exports. This was because the southern colonies were economically dependent on revenues from the exporting of cotton and rice to Britain. In the end, a comprise was reached, the colonists would ban all exports after a year, starting in September of 1775. Ultimately, after sending the letter detailing their proposal, it was ignored by the King, and the Colonists began their boycott. However, this was not the end for the Continental Congress, as they planned to meet again in 1775 if their demands were not yet met by the British.
The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was written by the First Continental Congress on October 19, 1765 to state that British imposed taxes forced upon the colonists without their consent was unconstitutional, and that only the colonial assemblies had the right to tax colonists (taxation without representation). Included in this declaration was that all colonists had the right of trial by jury.
Throughout the time period of 1765 to 1775 there was much conflict between Parliament, King George III and colonists over regulations of trade, representation and taxation. Tensions were high, and both sides prepared for war. In 1775, fighting began in Boston (Lexington and Concord). Though these battles were not large campaigns, the battles of Lexington and Concord are extremely important, as they are the very first battles of the Revolutionary War. The battle of Lexington was the first of these battles, and the one that kicked off the Revolutionary War. It began when, after years of tension, the governor of Massachusetts found out that the Colonists were getting ready for conflict, and sent 700 British troops to disarm the Colonists, as word of a militia sprung as well, and capture the leaders of the rebellion for imprisonment; Samuel Adams and John Hancock. On April 14,1775, the Redcoats (British soldiers) arrived at Lexington and met around 80 American Minutemen (Colonist Militia) led by Captain John Parker. Though none of the two armies expected a fight, somewhere in the confusion a shot went off, “The shot heard round the world” had been fired, causing gunfire to erupt from both sides, killing eight Minutemen and wounding a single British soldier.
Directly following The Battle of Lexington, the Colonists retreated while British troops were on their way to Concord. They were already on their way preceding the Battle of Lexington, their mission was to capture Colonist arms and munitions. When the British arrived, the Minutemen had already regrouped, and defeated Britain at the North Bridge, casing them to flee. Though they had retreated, the Americans continued to assault them on their march back to Boston, when the British finally reached Boston, seventy-three British troops had died, while 174 were wounded. On the other hand, only 49 Colonists lost their lives, and 41 were wounded. Though the Battles of Lexington and Concord had ended, the war was just beginning, this conflict was just the push both sides needed to turn protest into a full-blown revolution.
While the Revolutionary War was being fought, America was finding it’s footing as a nation apart from Great Britain, and in the year following the battles that kicked off the Revolutionary War, began the birth of American government.
In the summer of 1776, with war raging, there was a push for independence from Britain greater than ever, and so the Continental Congress was faced with the dilemma of creating a formal list of America’s intentions following the war and announcing their independence from Great Britain. This was done in June of 1776, when a committee of five men; Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingstone, and Roger Sherman; drafted The Declaration of Independence, which was adopted the following month on July 4, 1776, now a national holiday. This Declaration contained three sections: Their issues with the King and British rule as a whole, a statement of the natural rights theory, and the Colonies declaration of independence from British rule and tyranny, where the document got it’s namesake. The Declaration of Independence is considered by many to be the foundation for which this country lays upon and was incredibly influential to many nations at the time, mainly France during their own revolution. Though the Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents to come out of the Revolution, it wasn’t the only one.
While the war was still raging, The Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781, it was formed after the colonies declared their independence from Britain in response to a need for a national government, however it was flawed. The government had no means to attain any money, and this led to a slew or issues. The army was not being paid, and therefore had soldiers deserting. On top of this, debts couldn’t be paid to foreign countries. In May of 1787, it was very apparent that a new constitution was necessary, so the Constitutional Convention met to arrange changes to the Articles. One of the main goals of this new constitution was to reform the government into a stronger one, while not imposing on individual’s or state’s rights. Their solution was to create the Balance of Power, which kept the three branches of the government, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, in check. Though there was debate surrounding other plans for the constitution, an agreement was reached, the Great Comprise. This compromise stated that the numbers of representatives on the House would now be based on the size of that state’s population, while each state would have two representatives in senate. Though the new Constitution was finished, nine of the thirteen states had to ratify it in order for the plan to go into effect. Finally, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth of the thirteen states to ratify this new constitution, and so it was put in place March of the following year.
Some years later after the war had ended, the newly found United States of America had an adopted Constitution, and their Independence from Britain’s tyranny. Now they had to worry about strengthening their own government, rather than separate from Britain’s. From this need sprung the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights were the first ten amendments in The Constitution, their idea was simple, yet essential, to ensure that all American citizens are allotted certain basic rights that protected citizens freedom and put checks in place to limit the government. This Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, giving the United States its first ten amendments. The first amendment focuses on protecting our ‘natural rights’ or, any basic freedom that a citizen should have. This includes freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the Government for the purpose of solving grievances. The second of these amendments protects all citizens rights to bear arms (be in possession of firearms). The third amendment prevents the placing of troops in a citizen’s home, this is a direct answer to the Quartering Act, which was a problem during the Revolutionary War. Next, the fourth amendment prevents the Government from unreasonable search or seizure of the property of a citizen. The fifth amendment gives all citizens the right to choose not to testify in court if they feel their testimony would incriminate themselves. The sixth amendment garentees a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers, another benefit of this amendment allows the accused to confront witnesses brought forth by the Government. The seventh amendment states that all civil cases must be tried by jury. Following this, the eighth amendment prevents excessive charges for bail and fines, but also prevents cruel and unusual punishment of a citizen. The ninth amendment states that even rights not listed in the Constitution is not exhaustive, and people still have rights that are not listed. Finally, the tenth, and last, amendment in the Bill of Rights states that the Government only hold the powers granted to it by the Constitution, and that all other powers go to the citizens of the United States of America. These amendments, placed in the Bill of Rights, formed a foundation for which the rest of our amendments lay upon today.
In summary, this paper discussed how the great country we know today rose from years of evolution, and rose from an undiscovered geographical wonder, full of natives from pre-historic origins, to a band of colonies, fighting for their independence. Through the adaption of several, revolutionary governmental documents that inspired nations around the world, as the United States of America grew, and continues to grow, as a world-wide super-power.
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