Colonial history is important to the evolution of the United States because it gave birth to the first forms of government. The first colony was established in 1607 and it was called Jamestown. Jamestown was an English colony that established laws and guidelines. In 1620 the first New England colony was formed, and the Mayflower Compact was signed. This colony was called Plymouth. The Mayflower Compact was an agreement signed by 43 of the 43 separatists that stated the laws and guidelines that should be followed. Our original 13 colonies were established by 1732. The colonial period gave birth to multiple laws like the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut and the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges. The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges was the “original” Constitution and Bill of Rights. Lastly, the colonial period gave us our independence from Great Britain. Thanks to Great Britain pushing the colonists to their breaking points, the Declaration of Independence was signed. It also started the Revolutionary War. The Common Sense was written by Thomas Paine during this period.
The confederacy period is important in understanding the creation of the US Constitution in many ways. During the Second Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation were brought to life. On November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation were finalized, but they were not put into action until March 1, 1781. The Articles of Confederation made the 13 colonies into states and gave them a form of government. This form of government consisted of one chamber of legislature and each state had one vote. The Articles of Confederation lacked funding and enforcement of laws. During the Confederacy period, western land debates were settled, and the Northwest Ordinance was put into play in 1787. The confederacy period only lasted 8 years. There were many faults with the Articles of Confederation. Some of these faults are as follows: 9 states’ consent was needed for changes, revenues could not be demanded from the states for war, and there was no funding for the militia. After the Revolutionary War, our militias had to be relieved of their duties.
During this time period, the central government had little authority and could not prevent the states from fighting with each other. This led to Shays’ Rebellion and the talk of the Constitution of the United States. Two plans for a new system of government were brought forward and they were the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. The Virginia Plan called for 2 chambers of legislature, federal law to be supreme, state representation by population, and the creation of the 3 branches of government. The New Jersey Plan called for a single chamber of legislature that called for each state to have one vote, Congress would have the power to tax, federal law would be supreme, people would be elected to represent their state, and a Supreme Court would be made by the executive office. Neither of these plans were put into action, but they created the Great Compromise. The Great Compromise was a bicameral legislature that gave the states equal representation in the Senate and it gave us the checks and balances system (for the Senate and the House of Representatives). This plan resolved slavery issues and gave a base for the Constitution of the United States. A rough draft of the Constitution was finished on August 6th. The final touches were put on the Constitution, including the following: the 3 branches of government, the checks and balances system, and the electoral college.
The most interesting thing that I have learned would be all the steps we took to get to our Constitution. I remembered bits and pieces from previous classes, but I never paid attention. I now realize that we have come a long way from Jamestown, and we have overcome many obstacles. I think that we are still progressing as a country and we are still abiding our Constitution. Our founding fathers gave us a starting point and it was up to us to figure out the right solution.
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