Origins of American Government. Section 1: The Roots of American Democracy Section 2: American Independence Section 3: Articles of Confederation Section 4: The Constitutional Convention Section 5: Ratification and the Bill of Rights. Section 1 at a Glance. The Roots of American Democracy
Origins of American Government
Section 1:The Roots of American Democracy
Section 2:American Independence
Section 3:Articles of Confederation
Section 4:The Constitutional Convention
Section 5:Ratification and the Bill of Rights
American democracy was shaped by our English political heritage, colonial experiments in self-government, and a range of intellectual influences.
English Political Heritage
Colonial government would never be an exact copy of the British system. Colonial leaders adapted old ideas, based on English traditions, to a new environment.
Types of English Colonies
The English Colonies
English colonists began to settle parts of North America in the early 1600s, bringing English political theories and methods of governance.
In addition to English traditions, ideas were key to transforming loyal English colonists first into revolutionaries and then into founders of a new nation.
The British imposed new policies on their American colonies, sparking rebellion and, in time, the American Revolution.
The Road to Independence
The road that led the American colonies to unite with one another and break with Great Britain was long and fraught with conflict.
Separation of Powers
The State Constitutions
By 1780, each of the 13 newly independent states had adopted its own written constitution. Each tested ideas about how to design a republican government that protected individual rights.
The states’ first attempt to build a national government, the Articles of Confederation, proved too weak to last.
Dangers and Unrest
Pressures for Stronger Government
Its independence secured with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the United States faced a range of challenges that the national government was ill-equipped to meet. The shortcomings of the government created by the Articles of Confederation would lead to calls for a new plan of government.
Delegates at the Constitutional Convention compromised on key issues to create a plan for a strong national government.
Delegates gathered in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation, but ended up with an entirely new plan for government.
Compromise Over Slavery
Conflict and Compromise
For weeks after the rejection of the New Jersey Plan, the Convention was deadlocked. Tempers flared, and at times it seemed the Convention would fall apart. In the end, a series of compromises saved the Convention.
What compromises made the Constitution possible?
Answer(s):Compromises included the Three-fifths Compromise, the Great Compromise, compromises over the Atlantic slave trade, and the election of the president.
Before the Constitution could take effect, a heated debate between those in favor of the Constitution and those who opposed it took place in all the states.
Over what issues did Antifederalists and Federalists disagree?
Answer(s):strength of federal government; restructuring of Congress; power of executive branch; necessity of bill of rights
Why were the Federalist Papers written?
Answer(s):to win public support for ratification of the Constitution
Bill of Rights
The Fight for Ratification
Because they did not trust government, the Antifederalists wanted the basic rights of the people spelled out in the Constitution. The struggle over the Bill of Rights became a key focus in the fight over ratification.
How did the promise to add a bill of rights to the Constitution influence the ratification process?
Answer(s):Some states would not agree to ratification without the promise of a bill of rights.
Landmark Supreme Court CasesSchenck v. United States (1919)
Why It Matters:
Are the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights guaranteed absolutely? The Supreme Court’s decision in Schenck v. United States considered what limits, if any, could be set on free speech without violating the individual freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.