Background and Emergence of Democracy in the British North American Colonies Beginning in the early 1600's, North America experienced a flood of emigrants from England who were searching for religious freedom, an escape from political oppression, and economic opportunity. Their emigration from England was not forced upon them by the government, but offered by private groups whose chief motive was profit. The emergence of Democracy in colonial America can be attributed to the coming about of several institutions and documents filled with new and "unconventional" ideas that were brought about by a people tired of bickering among themselves and being torn apart by strife. The Anglo-American political thought in the eighteenth century contained notions of right and freedom, which fueled their passion for a better way of life. .
Ironically, from this government, slavery and racism sprouted. In an attempt to make Virginia a more pleasant place to live, the governor was instructed to create an assembly with the power to make laws. The assembly included two members from each plantation to serve as burgesses, or representatives. Convening in 1619 it became the first colonial, representative body (p.13). This was a significant step in the formation of America.
The colonists also created their own democratic documents and ideas. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was the first written constitution in America, and contained many democratic ideas including elections. The Mayflower Compact also had fundamental democratic ideals such as government by mutual consent. Roger Williams also provided an argument for the separation of church and state. A big part of the democracy that developed in Colonial America was the social mobility the colonists had in the new nation.
Hammurabi’s Code was one of the earliest records of rules/laws and consequences and the first time that offenders knew what their punishment would be before they faced it. The Greeks and Romans contributed the idea of a separation of power. The first self-organized or semi-democratic government in America came in the form of the Mayflower Compact in 1620. The compact restricted those who had a voice in government and required allegiance to the King of England, but there were some elements of the Mayflower compact that would be carried over by the founding fathers in the creation of our American Government. 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”.
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.
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.
This implies that the new government that was being formed derived its sovereignty from the people, which would serve to prevent it from becoming corrupt and disinterested in the people, as the framers believed Britain's government had become. If the Bill of Rights is considered, more supporting ideas become evident. The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom could have been influenced by the colonial tradition of relative religious freedom. This tradition was clear even in the early colonies, like Plymouth, which was formed by Puritan dissenters from England seeking religious freedom. Roger Williams, the proprietor of Rhode Island, probably made an even larger contribution to this tradition by advocating and allowing complete religious freedom.
From the time they first settled in Virgin and Massachusetts, the American colonist relied upon the rights enjoyed by Englishmen. The struggle for independence, however, demonstrated to them that rights not specified and codified in constitutional documents were insecure. The result was a movement as soon as independence was declared, to adopt bindings constitutions that limited governmental power and protected individual rights. Seven of the thirteen states adopted constitutions that included specific bills of rights.
4). When individuals began colonizing North America, they were seeking religious freedom from England as well as wealth. As the colonies grew, so did the thought of freethinking. Many of the major cities already had newspapers, whose reach was now beyond publishing religious propaganda. The press was now publishing the writings of Locke and other philosophers at the time.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was one of the earliest colonies created, was started as a religious haven for the Puritans. This in turn led to other colonies in the north being formed for religious reasons as well. The Early Northern Colonies were founded exclusively for religious reasons. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was the first Northern Colony created, was created so that the Puritans could escape the religious turmoil in Britain at the time. As James A. Henretta, David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil point out in America a Concise History, the Puritans believed that religion should have more power over the government.