Beginning in the early 1600’s, America received a flood of emigrants seeking religious freedom, an escape from political oppression and economic gains. The emergence of Democracy in colonial America can be attributed to the coming about of several institutions and documents. During this time there were governing bodies, which presided over certain colonies, but no unified system. Many of the laws and freedoms that we possess in America today were established based on the trials and the statutes that were created because of them. The John Peter Zenger trial is a prime example of how a trial established a well-known statute of freedom of the press.
Democracy developed in Colonial America from 1607, at the founding of Jamestown, up to 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Democracy is defined as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. Ideas from documents created in England, such as the Bill of Rights, were brought over to the colonies. These ideas were implemented into the society of the colonists. The colonists also created their own democratic documents and ideas.
America as we know it includes a vast network of representative governments. During the colonial period of early America, Virginia was the first to introduce a representative assembly. This first glimpse of democracy influenced the shape of America today. It eventually caused the colonies to drift away from monarchial England, and to establish a democratic government. Ironically, from this government, slavery and racism sprouted.
At first the war was not about obtaining freedom from Great Britain but protecting the liberties of the colonial people. Such rights as free trade and freedom from unfair taxation were being violated by a distant government in order to protect its subjects and enterprise at home. The first continental congress met in 1774 only to prepare a list of grievances for the British Parliament. By the time the second continental congress met in 1775, conflict had already broken out between the colonist and the British army. (pg.
America and more specifically, the Framers of the Constitution, recognized that they were in a unique position. They had the opportunity to write history by drafting a document that would create a system of government and a country that had never been conceived before. With this responsibility in mind, they drafted the Constitution, which unified the Colonies into one single country and created a federalist governmental system (Cummings 2015, 85). Despite these advances, the Constitution remained grounded in the values of the Declaration and had provisions embedded within it that the Framers hoped would safeguard against the injustices and tyranny suffered under Britain from being repeated again in their new republic (Cummings 2015, 85). This paper will explore this relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the unamended Constitution of 1787 by examining the texts of both documents, along with ideas of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Americans started "governing themselves" as a nation on July 4th, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia by representatives of the thirteen British colonies in North America. These states joined together formally in 1781 under a first "constitution," the Articles of Confederation. That loose union of the states was replaced by the Constitution of the U.S. in 1789. This document (amended 26 times) is still the political foundation of the U.S. Being based on a written constitution, the U.S. government is committed in principle to the rule of law.
However, they still relied on Great Britain to back them up in the Monroe Doctrine. That was until the U.S. built up their army in the late 1820s early 30s and were able to turn dependence on Europe to a partnership and alliance. Another thing that made America independent from European politics is that America set up a democratic government and not a monarchy. Americans believed that monarchies take money from their people in order to run their country (Doc C). People came to America in search of freedom and independence, so America developed a political system founded on these ideals instead of wealth and power.
Why did the Americans select the constitutional order they did in 1787-1789, and why did they reject a more democratic and confederal form not more than a decade old? In 1787, twenty-nine delegates convened in Philadelphia to tweak the Articles of Confederation. Some delegates, however, arrived with the intention of creating a completely new constitution. James Madison proposed the Virginia Plan, a plan which advocated a balanced, three-branch method of government with a bicameral, or two-house, Congress. In contrast, William Paterson submitted the New Jersey Plan which merely amended the Articles by giving the federal government more power.
All of these ideas would be drawn upon to become the premise for the founding fathers of the United States to create a limited and lasting government: A government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people”. In 1754, Benjamin Franklin called for a union of the colonies under the Albany Plan but was not successful. The earliest form of independent government in America came as a result of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 which established a single chamber national congress in which each state was represented by one vote. The Articles of Confederation unified the colonies for the Revolutionary War against the British and taxation without representation. They also established states rights.
The spirit of freedom, self-reliance, the common law, and an understanding of representation, were brought by the settlers from their home. Though many of our ideas about representative government developed from the English model of Parliament, the American tradition of representative government actually began in Jamestown with the “great charter of 1618”and the First Representative Assembly of 1619 and continued on with the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut and so on all of the way to the drafting and signing of the US Constitution. Representative government, today and in my opinion, is by no means as strong as it was when the Constitution was formed. Why or why not? With the idea of capitalism and greed, there are a few at the top that are indeed supposed to “represent” the rest at the bottom.