The Articles of Confederation | Puritans | Plymouth Colony

EARLY DEMOCRATIC INITIATIVES

The first expedition was dispatched to the New World by Water Raleigh and consisted of 2 ships, a reconnaissance expedition, set out in 1584. Roanoke was reached in July 1585 and had on board John White a mapmaker and a painter who left a number of high-quality water color drawings representing Indians, their village, dances, and their way of life. Hariot, a scientific expert who was also on board, published in 1588 „A Brief and true report of Virginia”. On board there were many other specialists, including an apothecary, a surgeon, and skilled craftsmen built houses, and a fort and searched for gold. Soon however, they ran out of food, and frightened by the natives they left the small settlement and returned to England. A further expedition of three ships set out for Roanoke on May 8 1587 with 118 colonists, including some women and children and John White in charge as governor. His journal is a record of the expedition. White’s daughter gave birth to a girl who was named Virginia (the first Christian born in Virginia). They were left there as the captain and White returned to England to persuade Raleigh to send a back-up fleet quickly to help in the fight against the Indians. As the English were preparing to resist the Spanish invasion-armada they could not depart and take ships away as they stayed all in ports. So White managed to return to Roanoke in August 1590, on his return he didn’t find the colony he had left although he sent several parties to search for them. What he only could find was the word “Croaton” carved on a tree, a word which signified the home of a friendly Indian chief. Despite this inscription, no historian managed to find out what became of the Roanoke colony. Speculations were made regarding a possible retreat of the colonists in the mainland area where the Indians lived, other suppositions held the belief that they were carried off by the Spanish soldiers. However, never again were the Roanoke colonists heard of, or seen. Paul Johnson (1999, History of the American People) wrote the following about Raleigh: he was a “proto-American. He had certain strongly marked characteristics which were to be associated with the American archetype. He was energetic, brash, hugely ambitious, money conscious, not too scrupulous, far-sighted and ahead of his time, with a passion for the new and, not least, a streak of idealism which clashed violently with his overweening desire to get on and make a fortune.[…] What made her (the Queen) single him out from the crowd of smart-looking gallants was his sheer brain-power and his grasp of new, especially scientific, knowledge”. Raleigh however was not religious, on the contrary he was known to be “atheist” and his sea ventures had no religious dimension. The clergy did not hold a place in his plans so he did not attempt to recruit ”God-fearing, prayerful men” for his ventures. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why his colonizing attempts failed. Another reason could be a “blessing in disguise”. Had the colony taken root, the Spanish would have claimed it and thus it could have led to less peaceful events.

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However, the age was a religious one and after the Bible the next book to impress the people was Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” a compendium of the sufferings of English Protestants who resisted the Catholic restoration under “Bloody Mary” and died for her faith. As Johnson Paul puts it “it was not just a history of persecution: it also embodied the English national-religious myth, which had been growing in power in the later Middle Ages and came to maturity during the Reformation decades – the myth that the English had replaced the Jews as the Elect Nation, and were divinely appointed to do God’s will on earth”. The belief spread from England to the New World. At the very origin of the myth was the widely held belief that the Christian faith had been brought to Britain directly by Joseph of Arimathea, on the express instructions of the Apostles. Some thought the agent was St. Paul; others that Christ himself had paid a secret visit. However, they cherished the idea that was through Britain that the Roman Empire had also finally embraced the Christian faith. This belief grew stronger in the reign of Elisabeth, and it showed the people that the Elect Nation had imperative duties to perform which were both spiritual and geopolitical. Despite this strong belief which dominated the spiritual minds, it was made very little use of by the Englishmen who planned out the settlement of America. In the meantime, the English were engaged in struggles to subdue the “wild Irish”. The notion of using overseas colonies to get rid of “human offal” was gaining ground, especially as the population grew very fast (France established its first overseas penal colony). The intense trade and the growing commercial zeal of entire Europe, and finally the fact that James I also embraced the idea of colonization hoping that this would not cause conflict with Spain or France fuelled the colonialization process. In 1607 a new settlement was founded by using the name Jamestown after the sovereign. This marked a crucial point as it inaugurated the area of the continuous English presence in North America. The “Virginia Company” which accounted for the shipment and the settlement of colonizers in the New World asserted that its aim was to preach and baptize into the “Christian Religion” and by “propagation of the Gospel to recover out of the arms of the Divell, a number of pure and miserable soules, wrapt up into death, in most invincible ignorance”. The 105 settlers were brought to Jamestown by 3 vessels: the Godspeed, the Discovery, and the Sarah Constant. Captain John Smith had the great merit of having organized the colony and it was due to his efforts that the colony survived. He then published a “Description of New England”, which was the first book to push the term New England into common use. Subsequent settlements were organized and sent of which the most important was the one whose leadership was assigned to Lord De La Ware who was the titular governor of the Virginia Company. His merit lies in having established a system of law in 1611 which was completed by his successor Gates. This was the first “American legal code”, what Gates called his “Lawes Divine, Morale and Martial”, but which were known as “Dale’s Code” after Gates’s marshall, Thomas Dale, who enforced them. While Smith instituted a kind of military ordinances, these were civil not martial laws, but they had a distinctly Puritan tone. They enforced sabbath observance very strictly,

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immodest dress was forbidden and illness punished severely. This is the moment when John Rolfe comes into the scene disregarding the code by cultivating tobacco. The year 1619 represented a significant moment: first it sent to North America 90 young, unmarried women, second the company promised to give the colonists their “rights of Englishmen”, third, a new governor, Sir George Yeardly was sent out to introduce the new dispensation. On July 30, 1619 the first General Assembly of Virginia met in Jamestown Church for a week. Presided over by Yeardly, flanked by his six fellow councilors, constituting the government, it also included twenty-two elected burgesses. They set in separate ‘House’, like the Westminster Common, and their first task was to go over Dale’s Code and improve it in the light of experience and the popular will, which they did, “sweating and stewing and battling flies and mosquitoes”. The result of their deliberations was approved by Yeardly and his colleagues, constituting an Upper House, and both houses together, with the governor representing the King, made up a miniature parliament, as in England itself. Thus, within a decade of its foundation, the colony had acquired a representative institution on the Westminster model (Johnson, Paul, 1999). Three weeks later, another event befell upon the settlers, recorded by John Rolfe in his diary: “There came in a Dutch man-of-warre that sold us 20 negars”. These existed side by side with the indentured servants. Thus in 1619 the first English colony in America “embarked upon two roads which bifurcated and led in two totally different directions” representative institutions, leading to democratic freedoms and the use of slave labor. The latter eventually divided the society into 2 castes of human beings, the free and the unfree. The next event to have an important bearing on early American history was the landing at New Plymouth (in what later became Massachusetts) on Dec. 11, 1620 of the first settlers of the Mayflower. So far the new settlers had been gentlemen adventurers, landless men, indentured servants, all united by the common desire to better themselves socially and financially in the New World. They all were driven by the desire to apply to common law justly, govern sensibly in the common interest and according to the general needs of the community. They and their progeny were to form one principal element in American traditions, both public and private – a useful, moderate, creative element, good for all seasons.
William Bradford (1590-1657) Of Plymouth Plantation: IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken , for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, onto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11 th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

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But it reflected also early 17th century social-contract theory. but that it was between a group of like-minded individuals and each other. which was later to receive such notable expressions in Thomas Hobbes “Leviathan” (1655) and John Locke’s “Treatise of Civil Government” (1690). 1999). and then returning home to resume their daily life. the most extreme of them were fanatical. They and their offsprings were to build to other element in the American tradition. Because he thought it redeemable. but to create His kingdom on earth. Consequently. The most important event which also deserves attention occurred on board a ship. William Bradford later wrote a history. Amongst the most important or prominent figures of these early convoys was John Winthrop. the saints.). But they were not ordinary pilgrims. creative too. signed by all forty-one heads of households abroad the tiny vessel in the midst of the troubled Atlantic and it justified to the profound earnestness and high purpose with which they viewed their venture” (Johnson P. He believed that the previous colonies had failed because they were not undertaken in the name of a religion. They were rather perpetual pilgrims setting up a new sanctified country which was to be a permanent pilgrimage. “What was interesting about this particular covenant was that it did not bind a servant and a master. traveling to a sacred shrine. P. “It is an amazing document for these earnest men (and women) to have agreed and drawn up. It was as though this small community. who is regarded as the “first great American”. and they were conducting an exercise in exceptionalism” (Johnson. and the best of them.The settlers who embarked on the Mayflower were different. they were “carnall not religious” as he put it. but ideological and cerebral. These two elements were to produce the American people. persistent. They saw themselves as exceptions to the European betrayal of the Christian principles. the new colony was destined to become a pilot church and state which could create an ideal spiritual and secular community. fiercely unyielding on occasions to the point of self-destruction”.. or a people and a king. which resulted in the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Company under royal charter. called ‘Of Plymouth Plantation’ in which he refers to them as Pilgrims. he also admitted that the redemptive act would take place only in New England. the idealists. In effect. traveling ceseaslesly towards a millennium goal. or perhaps. Hence. in going to America pledged themselves to create a different kind of collective personality. he did not to separate from the Anglican Church. They were also “immensely energetic. the leaders of the future colony assembled and drew up a social compact. some dissensions emerged. which had the authority to transfer itself to America. though they accepted both from God with gratitude. the utopians. it created a “civil body politic to provide just and equal laws” founded upon church teaching. they came to America not “primarily for gain or even livelihood. a courageous. living a new life across the Atlantic. The success of this venture triggered another enterprise in 1628. on November 21. when after two months of voyage. prickly and unbending. 1999. the religious and secular governance of the colony to be in effect indistinguishable. “This contract was based upon the original Biblical covenant between God and the Israelites.. destined to secure unity and provide for future government. Fundamentally. with God as a witness and symbolic co-signatory. whose 4 . One of the leaders. uncompromising and overweening in their self-righteousness”. They were the zealots..

and fruitful relationship with the deity. the land. first by bringing over 1. and the first newspapers in the Americas. There came a wild pigeon into our ship. These convoys were soon followed by other convoys which brought over animals. and another small landbird”. not with the minister however. but their power ceased at the church yard gate. Winthrop was a stern. with each little town sending deputies who should assist in making laws. the first political coup in the history of North America was carried out in 1634. Consequently. “These were freemen and they were recruited in batches on account of their Godly behavior”. then by settling the place which became Boston. in general praised God and believed that knowledge of God comes direct to them through the study of Holy Writ. Church members did not on the whole enjoy a special status in law or anything else. exactly what it needed most. The soil. He summoned his General Court only once a year. generally speaking. daily. all the rights of Englishmen which Winthrop had diminished. And it was carried out not by force of swords and firearms but by 5 . publishing houses. that is was God’s gift to them. instead they sought to prosper locally. He summoned the General Court to an annual meeting instead of four and. This direct apprehension of God and his word made them feel in a close. he ruled the community as a dictator. He exhilarated with joy recognizing in the birds the heralds of a providential sign. People demanded that he showed them the charter. he was publicly deposed at a general meeting. nature.000 settlers. even a harsh government. therefore they all read the Bible assiduously. authoritarian governor who made some of the strong-minded spirits consider him “tyrannical”. they came to speak with authority only from their altars and pulpits. by the founding company of Massachusetts. not four times as the company charter stipulated. In his time everyone not only the freemen had to swear an oath of loyalty to his government. Americans. He condensed his vision in the following words which he addressed to the travelers: “We must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill.example should in turn convert and save the Old World too. The government was conducted by men chosen by all full members of the congregation. disposing of lands etc. These settlers did indeed not fail because they did not go in search for gold. so they found out that they had been promised. and in the last resort every man and woman decided in the light of which Almighty God gave them what the Bible meant. livestock of all kinds. flouted the charter. The authority of religion lay in the Bible. Winthrop’s venture marked a turning-point in the history of New England. and everything was so plentiful and magnificent that the settlers all came to believe that it was God who who arranged everything. Their cultivating skill and their devotion turned the Connecticut Valley into the richest and most fertile land. the capital. provisions. Winthrop became the first New England governor between 1630-4 and the colony had a firm. Although from time to time he added more men to the freemen ranks. Thus. when the colony was still in its infancy. the eyes of all people are upon us”. daily. In time to all these natural treasures it added colleges. He was so fully contaminated by his missionary dream that when they approached the shore he noted in his diary: “there came a smell of a garden. The freemen of the colony then set up what “was in effect a representative system of government.

then the people had the right to remove them. Thus he firmly separated church from state. i.. determined through institutions shorn of any religious context”. had had a continuous history since the 14th century as an institution which passed laws for all 6 . however. its parliaments. is the fact that somebody warned him about the decision of the council to punish him. Noteworthy. and their interference. common sense and fairness” (Johnson P. was enrolled as early as 1215. He was also saying that while every man had the right to own conscious guided by the inner light of his faith. People should also forgive magistrates their occasional errors of judgment. secular matters he must. man had liberty not to do what he liked – that was for the beasts – but had to distinguish between good and evil by studying God’s commands. The New World did not produce many noteworthy works of art in the 17th century nor did its inhabitants excel in literature. England had a national unity since the 9th century with forms of representation going back to that date and even beyond. Therefore. Much of the writings of this period were produced by amateurs too. 1999).e. Winthrop regarded himself as chosen by God. the English tradition was incomparable value.. Winthrop was elected 4 times and his merit dies in having implanted this system of government in America. Here. but if they continued. submit to the will of the majority. the logic outcome of his view is that each person was entitled to his own interpretation of the truth about religion. the magistrates had to be merciful and forgiving. with their knights of the shire and their burgesses of the towns. 1999). neither having much experience of representative government of a unified legal system. however. Therefore. so his colony became a refuge to diverse religions sects. He then founded the Rhode Island colony and was its governor. but went one step further by inaugurating the practice of religious competition. Baptists etc. 1999). This marked a turning point in the evolution of America. Yet America was abreast of the European world. but once chosen he must be obeyed. According to his political view. Contrary to what Winthrop represented. However. “It had a deep-rooted and increasingly experimental political culture. in civil. The freemen of the Massachusetts colony chose their rulers. It was rich and very ancient” (Johnson Paul. In this respect it could not be compared with Spain or France whose national institution emerged only in the 17th century. and then to do what was good. It not only acknowledged the separation of church and state. They also believed that man was sinful and struggling with his own nature. Its common law began to mature as early as the 12th century. the authoritarian-principle. Magna Carta. its statute of the realm. “By contrast. unlike Winthrop he held the view that God covenanted with each individual and not as Winthrop asserted that God covenanted with a congregation or an entire society. What the people awaited from their government was “firmness.arguments and speeches and in accordance with the rule of law” (Johnson P. energetic and public-spirited man. “the settlers discovered that to change a government by popular mandate does not necessarily mean to improve it”. Furthermore. Williams stood for the liberty-principle. Another significant figure which emerged in this age was Roger Williams (160383) a clever. Rhode Island became the first colony to declare complete freedom of religion and separate the church from state. This facilitated the absorption of Quakers. Eventually Williams became persecuted for his liberal views and had to flee.

run by one or more great landed estate-owners. in addition London was far and could not control what happened in the colonies. which often exceeded the governor’s power to put them into effect. Charles II explained in exasperation at governor Banklays disputes 7 . The growth of English America covered three decades (1630-60) and regarded both social and economic life. In the crown colonies the governors were appointed by the king on the advice of his ministers. They issued some vague. and often. But the actual power of the governors was less than it looked in theory just as they are now. Originally the colonies had been divided into two categories: trading or commercial companies “run like primitive joint-stock corporations. or getting themselves involved in Indian wars”.000 years of political history” (Johnson P. 1999). with such habits as those of thinking things out for themselves. In the charter colonies they were elected. uniform system. rather than a coherent. All had charters issued directly by the crown. the colonies would never have got going at all. not could or did its members set foot in America. the colonies in 18th century America were based on an empirical and practical political system. however. as it could not pay the governors.. opposed forces: on top of them was the crown which exercised its control via the Privy Council. ineffectual. 1999). which involved a high degree of self-government. Then the crown used to think about governors as weak. It is these early settlers who set the tone for the others who arrived afterwards. No two colonies were the same. inconsistent and insensible instructions to the governor. which again operated through a Commission variously called for trade or plantations. Basically. though again royal approval was needed. provoking rebellions. it resembled the way in which the British system evolved. Thus. The early settlers came from various intensely religious and political backgrounds. They were paid by the colonial assemblies some small stipends. Governors were appointed by the King or elected and every colony set up some kind of representative assembly shortly after their settlement. They were. many offices in America became elective from the start. “always quarreling with the planters. and which continued to function and respond for the Crown policy until the Revolutionary War. behind the settlers of America were 1. demanding and ‘expensive servants’. All in all. although most of them were independent-minded. it deserves considerable attention because of its bearing on the events while led to the American Revolution and because of its influence on the further evolution of the American Republic. The examination of the system is not only important for the historian. It was however weak. Furthermore. In each colony the governor constituted “the apex of the pyramid of power and it is a characteristic of the profound constitutional conservatorism America has inherited from England that the fifty members of the US are still run by governors. because the English state could not pour out the prodigious amounts of cash needed” (Johnson Paul. or proprietary companies. So for example.the people and raised revenues from all of them. “It is perhaps for the first time in history that the fundamentals of participatory and democratic politics were discussed (Johnson Paul. too. caught between 2 different. Without these two forms of ownership. 1999). The period was also characterized by strong political arguments and debates which cherished the political experiments witnessed. In the proprietary colonies they were chosen by the proprietors with the King’s approval.

America can be regarded as more advanced even than England and certainly. All the English had were precedents. Then there was yet another chamber. natural law and absolute things. like Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights were specific ad hoc remedies “for the occasional crises which occurred. almost sovereign”. Perhaps in this respect. They also performed judicial functions and served as courts of appeal. he was confronted with the assemblies’ resistance and was thus forced to concede their rights to them.e. 1999). using his council of members sitting in the upper chamber. these assemblies waged constitutional battles with governors. Nonetheless. which formed the executive or administrative body of the colony and constituted the upper chamber (like the House of Lords) of its assembly.with the Indians ‘that old fool has taken away more lives in that naked county than did here for the murder of my father’. It further shaped the peoples’ expectations and attitudes in terms of rights. though important cases were sometimes sent to the Privy Council in London. and whenever the case arose they cited from it to defend a certain cause. the governor had the power of veto over legislation and he was expected. but also in the world. and the crown. Massachusetts and Maryland and replaced it by popular rule. pointing to Independence. They were appointed by the crown (in royal colonies) and by the proprietors. Although. which the English did not consider worthwhile thinking about. In constitutional terms. councils. the English parliament also waged war against the crown in the 1640s. The first such chamber dated as far back as 1619. They did not act as guides for the present or the future. They imitated the House of Commons and kept track of all its history. the lower chamber of the assemblies. dismissing them as “abstract stuff”. When later on William III thought to reorganize the colonies on Continental lines. such as New York. Then the existence of a constitution stimulated and fuelled further far-reaching developments. the reverse happened. However. Through there was a great difference between the English parliament and the colonial assemblies. All these represented further milestones along the way to independence. the crown turned to side with the Indians on most of the occasions. Thus. to take the lead within the elected assemblies differentially subordinate. the first half of the 18th century American mainland colonies is dominated by the struggle of the lower elected houses to gain control. 8 . organically”(Johnson Paul. The sheer adoption of a constitution made a colony feel “self-contained. in general. and their number varied. The governors ruled with a council. The early establishment of assemblies and written constitutions was primarily the consequence of the “crown’s physical inability in the first half of the 17th century to exercise control”. more innovatory than many other advanced countries. and consequently acquired some powers. apart from Britain’s. Moreover. their constitutional law operated exactly like their common law. All the colonies were governed by such chambers and most of them were older than any parliaments in Europe. Written constitutions were then adopted in every colony. England was not ruled after a written constitution and all the written constitutional documents. and. the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639) was the first written constitution not only in America. blocked orders. mature. and the colonies hastened to benefit from this troubled atmosphere throwing away the royal government of some colonies. The uniqueness of the colonies lay in the adoption of constitutions and the existence of assemblies. The Americans inherited this common law and produced the constitutions as well. i.

the Duke of York. and Giorgia. which was granted to a group of trustees. So in 1770. and the colonies were in many respects a middle class democracy. This. Soon they increased their power and during the first half of the 18th century they were able to order their own business. Under the terms of the Virginia Company and the Massachusetts Bay charters complete governmental authority was vested in the companies involved. ie in their formative period. hold elections. too” (Johnson Paul. From that time on it became generally accepted that colonists had a right to participate in the government. on the other hand. Two colonies were exempted from this procedure of self-government.on the whole determined the political agenda”. It was the case of New York(granted to Charles II’s brother. British rule vs. to summon. his power actually diminished. In their first period of settlement. They controlled expenditure by specific allocations. The lower houses eventually set the lead or the upper hand at various speeds in different colonies. In fact unlike the House of Commons they disposed of executive responsibilities and began to think themselves as government. This was by no means a one-way struggle. These were the Houses of Representatives. The first step was that of granting by the London Virginia Company to Virginia colonists representation in the government. By 1760 “the Americans were already predominantly middle-class. In 1618 the Company issued instructions to its appointed governor providing that “free colonists should determine representatives to join with the governor and an appointive council in passing laws for colonies” (Outline of American History). including the appointment of money commissioners and tax-collectors. They had the sole right to frame and amend money Bills. The king has inserted special provisions in charters granting to the freemen of the colonies power to represenet colonies in legislation that concerned them. as the people would not let themselves ruled against their will. the colonies were to a large extent free to develop “as circumstances dictated”(Outline of American History). on the whole indicated one “single direction – towards representative democracy and the rule by the many”. direct their agents in London. Gradually. Instead of holding grip over power and dominating the scene. The Crown was. it did not simply mean that the colonies were forced to govern themselves and hat they were free of English control. not directly involved in the founding of the colonies. self-rule As a general feature of all stages of colonial development one can note the lack of controlling influence of the English government. the governor also tried to cling to his prerogative powers – to appoint judges and regulate the courts. The provisions were 9 . it was expected that these companies would reside in England”. 1999). exclusive rule from England was broken down. control the release of news to the press. but transferred its sovereignity over the New World to stock companies and proprietors. and so to raise or lower taxes. regulated the fees of the administration and subjected all officials to annual salary regulations. as on the other side. however. they all did so and the movement. who later on became King James II. to dissolve or extend assemblies.

Massachusetts. Rhode Island and Connecticut maintained their autonomy. Beginning in 1651. was brought again under royal authority. In New England the self-government form was more complete than in other colonies. Because the colonists objected and because the Revolution of 1688 in England resulted in the overthrow of James II. and others not. The self-governing process did not go smoothly.broken soon as the colonists claimed representation in government. as they agreed from the outset to govern themselves. but this time the people were granted a “share” in the government. moved to America with its charter. Control had to do first with administrative control and later on with financial control. Despite the fact that the Pilgrims were not entitled to self-government. so. and thus full authority rested in the hands of residents. 10 . The British drove out the royal governor from the colonies. unchallenged by the British. the Plymouth colony adaopted the Mayflower Compact. The Massachusetts Bay Company which had been given the right to govern. nobody contested the system established by the Mayflower Compact. The British took court action against the Massachusetts charter and it was annulled in 1684. which gradually grew until future virtual dominance was reached. some favoring American colonies. Rhode Island and Connecticut alike asserted their authority modeling their governmental authority after the Plymouth Colony. by contrast. Then all the New England colonies were brought under royal control with full authority vested in an appointive governor. the English government passed laws regulating certain aspects of colonial economic life. New Haven.

philosophy and to everything that centered around man. This change of emphasis further helped humankind focus on man and his own achievements. to argue everything. which provided people with a new approach to life. The crucial and most influential event in this respect was the publication of “On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres” (1543) by Copernicus. Going out from the Greek maxim “Man is the measure of all things” the painters sought their inspiration in the outside world portraying the human face and forms more realistically. the telescope (1606). and reproduced such prominent figures as: Erasmus. The Renaissance emerged in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries and spread over Europe. books helped people question. the invention of windmill. and angels. The age favored a renewed interest in Greek and Hebrew literature. It mainly brought about the break with the old heavenly world and approached earthly man and this earthly environment. This is the age which gave birth to drama and poetry. Shakespeare. even doubt and eventually weaken the established authority of kings and priests by enabling people to shape their own thoughts and principles. Cervantes etc. a religious revolution 11 . and dedicated their lives to the study of what was new and modern. to fight the old traditions. Nevertheless. It also moved the emphasis from the inside of the church to the outside world. which received considerable attention and thereby contributed closely to a closer and more critical scrutiny pf the Bible text. This attitude towards man. science. Their new attitude was very much stimulated by the discoveries and the new technological achievements of the age. The Renaissance turned to arts. The religious thought underwent similar changes challenged by the new circumstances. waterwheel. On the other hand. Against this background the advancement of writings was very much enhanced by the introduction of (the) printing press.PILGRIMS COLONIAL AMERICA THE LITERATURE OFAND PURITANS The Puritans and Pilgrims were products of Renaissance Reformation. and his earthly problems alongside the critical spirit of the Renaissance contributed to the growth of Reformation. It has the great merit of having hastened the end of the Middle Ages thereby heralding the beginning of modern civilization. heaven. The list of these achievements includes: the microscope (1590). his destiny. that is it learned people to question life. abandoning the paintings which reproduced eternity. They all helped man not only better understand his own life and control the environment he inhabited but they ultimately determined his destiny. knitting machine made man’s life easier. apart from providing mere entertainment. at that time valued as most important piece of written literature (of referential literature). Thinkers and philosophers moved away from the old religious concerns and from the firm beliefs of the Middle Ages. achievements which inspired the inquisitive mind of the people.

However. According to their point of view the Church of England’s break from Rome had not gone far enough. Unlike the Pilgrims they thought that Church of England could be saved or purified of its errors. they were not even financially or spiritually supported by their homeland. The Puritans and Pilgrims who settled in the New England territories were extreme Reformers. Because of their strong protest against the power of priests and their corruption. Henry intended to create a religious unity and religious independence but. 12 . nevertheless. against church doctrines and the policies of popes and bishops. and third. worldly and corrupt. that it had become more relaxed and. Those who called themselves Reformers were just like other Christian dissidents. So they attracted upon themselves the name Separatists from their strong desire to separate from the Church of England. it revolutionized several major aspects of history: first. so they decided once again to flee this time to America. they acquired the name of Protestants. The Protestant Reformation had a great significance because of the after-effects it had generated. First of all. As they did not remark themselves as strong. it broke the unity of Christendom in Western Europe. the Plymouth colony absorbed by the prosperous and large Massachusetts Bay Colony established at Boston. where they fancied creating their desired world of God. hard-working people. and most importantly. it changed the social class system by propelling (pushing forward) new social classes (to power). by changing the old religious patterns and favoring the emergence of new forces of worship. with hunting or agriculture. who sought to repair the flagrant abuses which had been done to Christian Church. on their migration they came to the new world as members of the Church of England and not as Separatists. the Puritans held the major role in shaping the future America. and were therefore supported by it. Second. the Massachusetts Bay Puritans thought that the Church of England was to Romanized (had too many Roman Catholic creeds and rituals). Although they were well received and appreciated by the Dutch they soon feared that the dominant Dutch culture would swallow them up. thus they wanted to “purify” their English church still further The Pilgrims were Separatists.(movement) which swept over Europe during the 16th century and which gave rise to Protestantism. Like the Separatists at Plymouth. they were severely exposed to famine and sickness In addition to their weakness in all respects. they thought that the church had moved away from “the true path”. and as were completely unfamiliar with the hardships of life in the wilderness. the colony they set up at Plymouth was small and weak. On the other had. Basically. the Church of England was torn by diverse tendencies caused by radical reformers. it contributed to the growth of new political forces. Consequently. as they separated themselves from their home church. The Puritans and Pilgrims who came to America were former members of the Protestant Church of England (established as a national church by King Henry VIII). who first fled from England to Holland in 1608. and thus. and that the priests and bishops had too much power. They wanted to break away the Church of England which they believed to be fatally corrupted.

burning. The Concise Anthology of 13 . hanging. And that Puritan dedication to self determination helped establish the independence and freedom that Americans have long cherished as their greatest possessions. Both theologians declared that all men have the right and obligation to read and study the Bible. the Puritans did not create new ideas or beliefs. They also objected to the practices and organization of the church. for it alone is the word of God. They gained their reputation of being gloomy and solemn not because of their behavior or clothing. Furthermore. the presence of an omniscient God and his intrusions into the course of human lives. to the veneration of images and relics. as Christians had long before them emphasized their dependence upon one another.” As Massachusetts was the first prosperous colony with a growing population. to the choirs. The Puritans played a major role in profiling the future America. and all true believers are equally endowed with grace. and bishops. of men and women free to choose their own ministers and set their own doctrines. Furthermore. Therefore. John Winthrop. in this respect. mutilation. “We should be like a city on a hill”. who lived and taught at Geneva. the Puritans were worldly people seeking to remove religion from the church and bring it into real life. their devotion to preaching. a French theologian. but because of their literal application of the Bible to all aspects of life. to the adorned vestments. Moreover. However. they were not innovators. the ideas cherished by the Puritans had a long-lasting effect on American society.From the religious point of view. One of their first leaders. As mentioned by The Concise Anthology of American Literature (1993) the Puritans “underwent torture. a German monk who was a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg and John Calvin (1509-1564). bells and ornamented churches. Thus. Their church buildings influenced the church architecture for years to come. their contribution to religion came from the example of their absolute dedication to their religion. they did not consider the priests a privileged class and held the view that ministers are no more divine than any other man or woman. to its original simplicity. in rejecting the authority of popes. In withstanding persecution. said that they should build an ideal community for the rest of the mankind to learn from. for the strength of their faith. to hearing the word of God. the Puritans fostered a tradition of independent congregators. they objected to the forms of prayer. their religious thoughts had been strongly influenced by the teachings of the two leaders of Reformation: Martin Luther (1489-1546). Apart from their firm belief. of their quest for religious independence. kings. arguing that this control had no sanction in the bible and deprived the people from their right to practice their own religion. their duties to one another. on the contrary. On the other hand. and because of their strict piety. They mainly disagreed to the control of the English monarchs and priests over the Church of England. and they kept their faith indeed their suffering only made their faith more strong. They considered the Church of England’s beliefs and its rituals to elaborate and cultivated a simple way of worshipping God. “the eyes of all people are upon us”. they were profoundly conservative ad all they desired was to return the church to its original forms. they sought to restore church worship to the “pure and unspotted” condition of its earliest days. their sermons represented by far the most popular literary form of the time. Even to these days Americans continue to see their country as a model for other nations. he said.

such as William Bradford’s biography. This pushed the Massachusetts Bay colony in the foreground of cultural life. The American literature grew out the simple . the Puritanical period was prolific in sermons and biographies of real men. It later received the name Bay Psalm Book. In it he claims that “art must be simple and pure. and as such they placed great emphasis on learning and education. unadorned as God expects from people. The poems of the time composed by early poets such as Michael Wigglesworth. which also had the specific function of emphasizing the importance on the individual’s spiritual health and the need for permanent self-examination.” The Massachusetts Bay Puritans were also learned people. words spoken from heart and not otherwise. Its preface introduction was composed by John Cotton which is remembered as the first such piece of writing. The words and the language should be simple so as to pour the divine truth into the peoples’ hearts. The first colonial press was published in 1638. sermons were a public forum. the fist colonial newspaper appeared in Boston in 1690. Writing had to be as simple and unadorned as fine glass. Consequently. hymns and rhyming alphabets. The main features of the style were: simplicity of thought and style. unadorned written expression of the Puritans’ religious ideas. The Puritans’ religious ideas were expressed in the biblical style of writing which was adopted. However. at the same time. One year later. unadored language. The Puritans role in the American literature is equally important.” The Anthology further remarks: “The sermons were fundamental religious exercises and much more. a source of news and informed opinions.American Literature notices: “Of all the books published in the entire history of colonial New England. The tales written in this period are also filled with morality and were intended to serve as moral lessons to the readers. 1940 The Whole Book of Psalms Faithfully translated into English Metre was printed again by Stephen Daye. the first college in North America. The New England Primer was a small textbook filled with short verses. a learned congregation which could easily understand their sermons and the Bible. turning it into the most remarkable bookish and literature centre in the New World. Anne Bradsreet. Harvard was founded at Cambridge (Newe Towne. These biographies were written with the specific aim of serving as moral lessons and of encouraging piety and holiness. published y Stephen Daye. the book’s title was An Almanac for New England for the year 1639. This devotion and concern for simplicity and clarity is made conspicuous in the stark lessons of the New England Primer. and most of them were collections of sermons.” Similarly. and a plain. nearly half dealt with religion. They acted in this respect out of their desire to maintain a learned clergy and. where the first American book was published in 1639. The very simplicity and profoundness of the now well-cemented American “style” is derived from the American forefathers’ Puritanical principles. It received the name Harvard after John Harvard who left half of his fortune to the college. It was destined to provide “Spiritual Milk for American Babes” and to 14 . clarity. also at Cambridge. Another form of early literature was represented by diaries. Edward Taylor exuded the spirit of devotion and faith. In that day before newspapers and the electronic news media. Massachusetts in 1636).

but it evidently reproduces the Puritanical belief and creed. ”mutilation. later on. Thus. 15 . the Puritans fostered a tradition of independent congregations. the virtues of literacy to the infants and make the “Pious” and “devoted” adults. It gave them a sense of duty to their God. The Concise Anthology of American Literature notices: “Of all the books published in the entire history of colonial New England. and each other. In addition. hanging. to the growth of new sects. As mentioned by The Concise Anthology of American Literature (1993) the Puritans “underwent torture. and they kept their faith – indeed their suffering made their faith more strong. the Puritans grew weaker and weaker in front of the growing number if dissenters who attacked them. It taught people judge their fellow citizens by their lives and not by their birth. burning. they all failed. It helped them stand up for their ideals and principles.” However. And that Puritan dedication of self-determination helped establish the independence and freedom that Americans have long cherished as their greatest possessions. It was Puritanic spirit that later produced the revolutionary glories of the American Enlightenment and the Age of the American Romanticism. Noteworthy in this respect in the attempt of the preacher-writer Jonathan Edwards to re-vitalize and regenerate the Puritanic faith. their world. Although great efforts were made to preserve the religious unity of the Americans. Second. nearly half dealt with religion. and bishops. and their attempt to transmit further the faith. It was first published in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The book as well as the entire early Puritanic literary product established a national tradition which celebrated both literacy and the Protestant dogma in teaching “millions to read and not to sin.teach them how to read in order to understand the Bible. kings. In withstanding persecution. Puritanism served as the dominant force in the creation of literature. It taught the Americans to closer examine their lives. and speak them out. diversity. Neither its author nor the exact date when it was publish are known. Even if Puritanism waned as a religious and social force. it still remained encarved in the American mind for several reasons: first because Puritanism had stood for the preeminence of the individual for freedom from oppressive governments. and most of them were collections of sermons”. in rejecting the authority of popes. and for the value of learning and education. their nation. and their fellow men. of men and women free to choose their own ministers and set their own doctrines. towards the end of the colonial era the Puritans’ influence faded gradually as the old Puritans “died off” and so did their strong faith and devotion. Their descendants were unwilling to adhere to their forefathers’ principles as they were less satisfied with a divine mission and the old faith. the old steady unity gave way to disrupture.

And his faith shines clearly in his story of the Pilgrims. Many original church members died or moved away. Basically it is a story of capture and rescue. sermons were a public forum. a source of news and informed opinions”. a book that has become part of the nation’s heritage and stands as one of the great works of colonial America”. In that day before newspapers and the electronic news media. But Bradford held fast to his faith in the divine mission of people. which has become a national legend. It has the merit of having set out the model for the literary genre which was s wellreceived and appreciated by the early colonists because of the vivid accounts of savage life.The Anthology further remarks: “The sermons were fundamental religious exercises and much more. and newcomers began to question the divine authority of Plymouth’s religious leaders. The story appeared in A True Relation in 1608 and represents the first American narrative. Apart from the valuable descriptions and the vivid narrative. his being captured by the Indians under Powhatan. Furthermore his books also established the form of exploration reports which also inspired the explorers to come. (Concise Anthology of American Literature) JOHN SMITH He is remembered for the famous story of adventure. his writings stand out as the chief source of information on the New England territory and its inhabitants. 16 .

Then he embarked upon the task of “organizing the Massachusetts Bay Company to establish Christian colony in New England”.JOHN WINTHROP (1588-1649) He was the leader of the 2 000 men. where he studied law. it has the virtue of being written by someone at the centre of events. He became a justice of the peace and a lawyer in London. during his voyage to America. but like Bradford’s Plymouth Plantation. It shows the Puritan’s need to find divine sanction for their acts and shows their craving for evidence of a divine purpose in even the trivial events of their daily lives. even against himself. and children who were brought by a fleet os ships to the New World and which heralded the beginning of the Great Migration of Puritans to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was born in a rich family and educated at Cambridge University. Consequently he was elected governor of the colony and set to sail to America on Arabella. women. “The Journal’s measured and judicial style reflects the ordered mind of its author and his desire to tell the plain truth. He started writing his Journal in 1630. It reveals Puritan attitude towards women and the world of commerce. The Journal is an unpolished chronicle rather than a finished history. where he continued to record events until his death in 1649.” “His political creed was based on the Calvinist axiom that all mankind was corrupted by the original sin of Adam” (Concise Anthology) 17 .

. They came to think that their survival depended on the elimination of the other. 1744-8) each of which was continued in America. Jean Colbert. King George’s rather than their own. Nevertheless. The second of these wars ended in one of the greatest and most far-reaching international settlements of modern history. Aided by his finance minister and economic planner.. The French erected a number of fortifications and claimed the region. Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain who intended to establish a base for finding a water way to the Orient. George Washington (then only 21) on his first mission to protest to the commanders of the forts newly built. They were driven away by a band of Canadians who 18 . They regarded the wars as foreign wars (maybe King William’s. the Treaty of Utrecht. In 1682 René Robert Cavelier reached the delta of Mississippi and took possession of the surrounding country naming it Louisiana after the king of France. It was actually renamed the “Great War” for the Empire. when Luis XVI took the government into his hands. There the French built several possessions. posts along the African coast to assist the slave trade. Her West Indian Islands (Martinique and Sudeloupe) as supplies of exotic products and sugar. it did not lead to a warfare until the two homelands have been involved into a war. 1701-13. New Orleans was founded in 1718 and soon become a city comparable to those on the Atlantic coast. Both England and France were awarded some territorial gains. However he was refused but a band of Virginians constructed a lot of their own at the strategic key to the Ohio Valley. the French empire was supposed consist of four parts: Fr. It regarded the ownership of the Ohio Valley. However the next war that broke out originated in the interior of North America and was known as 1756 the French and Indian War. Itself as the centre and the source of capital. and the settlements in Canada as a market for experts from France. Queen Anne’s. England and France fought 3 wars (1689-97. carrying on the far trade and converting the natives to Christianity. It was only later. a little after the English had founded Jamestown as their first settlement. Preliminaries to the War of Independence The animosities between the French and the English (between Protestants and Roman Catholics) rested on the conflict between fishermen and traders.The WAR OF INDEPENDENCE Preliminaries to the War of Independence The French in America It was in 1608 that the French founded their first permanent settlement at Quebec. At the same time the governor of Virginia sa. These wars started in Europe and only a small part of the people inhabiting the colonies took part in them. that expansion abroad was encouraged.

The treaty following this war was signed at Paris in 1763. After two years of fighting in America. who kept the French busy in Europe. therefore England did not attempt to tax the colonists directly but drew upon assemblies to provide quotas for soldiers and supplies. This high lightened the self-importance of the assemblies and many of them asserted their autonomy. which often tried to show more threat. They also transferred Canada and other French territory east of Mississippi to Great Britain and New Orleans and the French claims west of the Mississippi. and E. King George III made George Grenville prime minister in 1763 who was an ardent supporter of the opinion that the colonist should be compelled to obey the laws and to pay apart of the east of defending and administering the empire. Although in America the people of the English colonies outnumbered these of the French colonies by approximately 15 to 1. The war brought forth relevant aspects regarding the ruling policy. they could resort to the old colonial system with the enforcement of the mercantilist program. and a world war. This strategy was closely related to the theory of new territorial imperialism. on the other hand. the French government kept its colonist in a fairly good state of military discipline and readiness. they were not so strong militarily. Yet peace came after the ascension of George III and the resignation of Pitt. the governments declared war. joined France’s for me-ally Prussia. battles were fought not only for an American territory but extended also to the West Indies. advocated also by William Pitt and Benjamin Franklin. (thus the French gave up practically all their title to the mainland of North America). On the other hand. He then undertook to impose a 19 . According to it the French gave the Great Britain some of their West Indian islands and all their colonies in India except two. Franklin emphasized the need for vast spaces to accommodate the rapid and limitless growth of the American people. Therefore. One of the ministers sued his vestrymen for his full pay. which again would lead to revolt and absolute independence. which in Europe was known as the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763) began. Thereby a young lawyer Patrick Henry who defended the vestryman denounced the Privy Crown Council (Consiliul de coroană) for its tyranny and advised the Virginians to ignore the action. He reformed the army and had Frederick the Great as his ally. The subsequent battles were lost by the English who were commanded by General Edward Braddoc.completed the construction and named it fort Duquesne. The colonists attitude towards English government changed. France allied herself with her former enemy. On the one hand. They were autonomous. As the war came to an end. This was the beginning of the French and Indian War. Atrocities were committed by the French and their allies. In Virginia this lead to an inflation which raised the price of tobacco. which would mean virtual independence for the calories. Some of them did not accept to pay taxes to Parliament and issued paper money instead. Nevertheless. Austria. the Virginians passed a law by which they depraved the Anglican clergy (who were paid in tobacco) of the benefits of the price rise. in Europe. the London policy makes here confronted with a new dilemma. whereas the British government exercised less control over its colonies. The English won a number of battles in America and took hold of Fort Duquesque in 1758 and during the next year took Quebec. In 1757 William Pitt was appointed Prime Minister and was allowed to act as a wartime dictator. man in London could renew their efforts to reform the empire.

and refused the imperial guidance and protection of England. new desires. • northern merchants suffered from the various restraints imposed on their trade and the increased taxation • southern planters were burdened with debts to English merchants and had to pay additional taxes • professional men-preachers. 20 . The age was governed by discount and ended up in a real revolt. New soil had produced new wants. economic and political between the groups dominant in England and those dominant in the colonies: and outstanding historian. As advantages we can mention: • access to markets of the empire. the colonists had gained more selfconfidence in their own military powers and decisions. or pamphlet Thus the new imperial program become more efficient in that it collected more money but it was not a lasting program. On the other hand. The illegal trade between the continental colonies and the foreign West India and imposed new duties on a number of items • the Currency Act forbade de colonies to issue more paper money • the Stamp Act imposed a tax to be paid on every legal document in the colonies.taxation system on the colonies. they were obedient subjects. • the pride of belonging to that empire. War was the ultimate result of a real clash of interests. Greenville instituted a series of measures: • permanent troops were stationed in the provinces (by the Mutiny Act) • the colonists had to assist in provisioning and maintaining the army • ships were assigned to patrol American waters and to look out for smugglers • royal officials were ordered to take up their posts and not send at substitute) • the sugar-act (1764) aimed at eliminating. In order to further defend the colonies and raise revenue – also to enforce imperial law within them. lawyers and professors considered that they had the same interests as the merchants and planters • small farmers were deprived of some markets and affected by a reduction of prices for their crops and an increase in their taxes and other-costs • town workers faced narrower opportunities because of restraints on manufacturing paper money. After 1763 Americans grew aware of the disadvantages brought about by the empire and they concluded that the policies of the empire rather threatened the well-being of nearly all classes in America. that is. Until 1763 the advantages that the colonists had from the imperial policy dictated their attitude. almanac. new points of view and the colonists were demanding the right to live their own lives in their own way. every newspaper. Charles M. • protection afforded by British naval and military forces. Andrews has said.

and thus diminish their authority. Consequently. Americans were determined to preserve their rights and liberties. giving thus the impression that the people of Virginia were better organized and daring than others. the right to be taxed only by their own representatives. that would most probably affect the assemblies’ control over the public finance. They declared that the English Constitution granted individual liberty and colonial self-rule. 1770 citizens and other “liberty boys” fell upon the sentry at the customs house. Samuel Adams assumed the role of leader of the rioters and after having spread several stories of rapes and atrocities committed by the troops. he also spread the rumour about an attack of the soldiers. This ended up in violence because the presence of such troops represented a permanent invitation to violence. Americans 21 . The most antagonizing and stirring act became the Stamp Act. on the night of March 5. It encouraged a lot of riots and revolts in various places. As a reply to the Sugar Act many Americans refused to buy English goods. These events eventually called for a general meeting of the colonies’ representatives to take steps against the new tax. and above all. This event is remembered as the Boston Massacre. Hence. If British authorities would increase their revenues coming from America. All Henry’s resolutions managed to be printed and disseminated throughout the colonies. followed by New York (where the army headquarters were trooped). Thus the Stamp Act Congress was held in October 1765 with delegates from nine colonies. culminating with the one in Boston. thus affecting practically all Americans possessed all the rights of Englishmen. The next act to affect the Americans was the Mutiny Act of 1765. Basically. As a further step towards the conservation of liberties. This confrontation caused several shots to be fired and some soldiers fell. Massachusetts was the first colony to defy the Mutiny Act. and that the laws of nature and of God justified them in resisting the violation of their rights. This urged the English Parliament to issue the Declaratory Act by which it asserted parliamentary authority over the colonies in “all cases whatsoever” and repealed the Stamp Act. Whereas Englishmen regarded the Constitution as rather elastic and vague. the Americans responded with economic pressure. which imposed a tax on any legal document. Thus. This reaction was generalized by The Sons of Liberty (a new group of Bostonians dedicated to the preservation of rights). Political power was placed in the hand of provincial assemblies were people were able to assert themselves because the assemblies had established the right to give or withhold appropriations for the costs of the government within their colonies. the English Parliament imposed other duties and suspended the New York assembly. all that Americans demanded was autonomy from the British Empire. In order to regulate commerce the Parliament established a board of customs commissioners which were quartered in Boston. Colonists seemed to take an active interest in public affairs.Towards Independence As a consequence of the war and of the new economic policy the colonists became remarkably proud of their self-government. which required that colonists should provide quotas and supplies for the British troops stationed in America.

which provided a civil French government for the French Communities between Ohio and Mississippi. 5. In other words this meant that the colonies reaffirmed their autonomous status within the empire and declared economic war to maintain that position. agreed to non-importation and non-consumption as means of shopping the trade with Great Britain. He wrote: “If anyone shall claim a power to lay and levy the taxes on the people by his own authority. For several centuries the preachers of the colonies Lock’s theory came to support the Americans’ principle. The Boston Tea Party The Act Tea was the next measure meant to provoke the Americans. in September 1774 a group of colonial leaders came to Philadelphia to forma the first Continental Congress to oppose what they considered the British King. The Parliament passed some laws against the rebels. The English officials hoped that the colonists would accept the tea and together with it also the tax. who thought that the English government could well subject them to the authority of the Pope. The East India Cmpany with a large amount of unsaleable tea was supported by the Parliament which produced the Tea Act. and without such consent of the people. he thereby invades the fundamental law of property and subverts the end of government”. Therefore. However. This scared the Americans. but on the other hand it called upon all Americans to take a stand against the British ‘acts’. they did not accept the idea of a colonial union under British authority. The reaction of the colonists was surprising and diverse. the Americans understood very closely that the British government was flouting the law of nature and the will of God. the Americans’ resistance to tyrannical laws relied basically upon the Bible and the writing of John Lock. approved to preparations concerning a possible defense against the British troops in Boston. 2. According to this act any company could retail its products in America directly to consumers at a very low price. Other ports followed the example. 3. that the Congress be held once a year. The “measurea” taken by the British crown angered the ‘local’ spirits so consequently. 4. a mob of Bostonians led by Samuel Adams threw the tea into the sea. they recognized the right of the Parliament to regulate colonial trade and required the elimination of all acts passed since 1763. to support the people of Massachusetts by refusing to buy British goods.considered it a fixed and definite body of principles written down only to avoid disagreements. Thus. The measures were followed by the Quebec Act. 22 . The Congress agreed on five major decisions: 1. one of which closed the port of Boston.

These were the first shots fired in what became the Revolutionary War. or “militias” and began to gather together weapons and ammunition. the colonists went even further in that they organized themselves into groups of part-time soldiers. against violence actually offered. This was the fatal shot which “was heard round the world” as Emerson put it. and not before…” The Second Continental Congress began to act as an American national government in that it set up an army of 17. we have taken up arms. The fight was then fought at Concord with serious casualties for both sides. or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease the part of the aggressors. we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsided between us. who jumped into their saddles and galloped to Concord to warn the colonists.000 men under the command of George Washington and sent our messengers to European countries to seek aid for future hostile encounters. Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure. and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed. They were either Patriots or Loyalists. If It had not been for the courage of two brave men. The Revolutionary War The Second Continenatl Congress assembled in July 1775and adopted the Declaration of the Causes and Necessiy of Tking up Arms announcing that the Britih government had left the Americans with only two alternatives : “unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers resistance by force”. 23 . someone shot a fire. and which we sincerely wish to see restored. and the signal lights hang from the spire of Boston’s tallest church. Nevertheless. and which we ver enoyed till the late violation in it – for the protection of our property. In this conflict no American could afford to remain neutral. who barred their way in the village of Lexington. which killed eight minutemen. 700 British soldiers marched out of Boston with the intention to surprise the colonists and capture the weapons they kept stored in the nearby town of Concord. acquired solely by the honest industry of our forefathers and ourselves. followed by other shots. the outcomes of these first shots shot at Concord may have been different. The British were welcome by a group of seventy militiamen.However. Declaration of the Causes and Necessiy of Tking up Arms “Lest this declaration should disquiet the mind of our friends and fellow subjects any part of the empire. and establishing independent states… “In our native land. 1775. called “Minutemen”. On the nightof April 18. indefence of the freedom that is our birthright. Paul Revere and William Dawes. As the latter refused to obey the British commander’s order to retreat. We have not raised armies with the ambitious design of separating from Great Britain.

Common Sense made Paine famous as it was widely circulated and practically read by almost every American. on 24 . Among the Loyalists (or Tories) were the rich families and poor ones. whom he met for negotiations: submission with royal pardon. During the summer of 1776 in the weeks immediately after the Declaration of Independence the British sent their most fierceful military forces to America commanded by Sir William Howe. thus laying the foundations of English speaking Canada. Howe proposed two alternatives to the representatives of the Congress. During the war years some of these subjects conspired against him and tried to replace him as commander in chief. Still. Although General Washington captured a thousand Hessians. free and independent states”. He took command in June 1775. followed by the Declaration of Independence. enlisted and fought for the British cause. The most fierceful battle was fought at Bunker Hill between the British troops and the force of volunteers. on July 4. The role of inflaming the masses and urging them to action came to Thomas Paine. Liberty an the Pursuit of Happiness. The Declaration was drawn up by Jefferson. took their right of citizenship. the Continental Congress cut off all political ties with Britain and declared that “these United Colonists are. he succeed in building and holding together the Continental Army. and other places. Nevertheless. 1776. withdrew them from certain occupations etc. the states confiscated the Loyalists’ lands. or war. He had his shortcomings as a military commander. Its democratic principle that “all men are created equal” stimulated various humanitarian movements in the States and abroad. In the period to come. but he was a great leader and let the army to ultimate victory. His conviction expressed in Common Sense “Everything that is right or reasonable cries for separation”. townspeople. It brought about an increased foreign help and the French intervention on the Americans’ side. on the other hand were men like Thomas Jefferson who sought democratic and humanitarian reforms along with independence. were men like John Adams and like George Washington who wished no major social change in America. there were people who did not agree to the war and others who had been willing to support it only so long as its aims did not conflict with their basic loyalty to the king. well remembered for his persuasive voice in call for American independence and braking up with England. and proclaimed that all men were created equal with a right to Life. and of right ought to be. It further brought cheer and health. On the one hand. Indeed. it inspired the French revolution and its Declaration of the Right of Man. The Loyalists left the country and fled to Quebec. whereas only a small number of Patriots volunteered for the American armies. the pamphlet. and unanimously appointed George Washington (then 43 years old) as commander in chief. the Congress called upon the States to raise troops for a Continental Army. thousands of Tories. Trying to avoid the disadvantages caused by separate militias. Divisions occurred within the remaining patriots. Church bells were rung in Philadelphia and Boston. with the collaboration of Washington and Franklin. The continentals choose war. The losses and casualties they brought to the British increased the Americans’ confidence. The declaration influenced history to a great extent. wealthy merchants and planters. On July 2. ”This time to part” moved the Americans and called for quick action.By the following year the fighting had spread beyond Massachusetts and became a full-scale war. Aided by foreign military experts such as the Marquis de Lafayette and the Baron von.

His foreign minister. Another extremely urgent issue was that of finding a suitable legal document that could guide the colonies in ruling. The surrender of Yorktown signaled the end of the world. Franklin and his colleagues achieved the greatest diplomatic success in the history of the US. which declared hostilities to Britain. into a single united nation. a navy and an expedittionary force. It was in 1777 that the young Lafayette sailed from France to help America. From the very beginning of the conflict France sent out observers to America to report on the course of events. sometimes quarrelsome countries. By playing off the powers of Europe against one another. contributed to the ultimate victory of the American colonies. Their loyalty was primarily devoted to their own state and only then to their new country. soon realized the importance of the colonies’ independence and its impact on other foreign affairs. especially as the central government grew weaker and did not have the power to enforce laws and make them effective. that his ill equipped army had to endure. each state was self-governed and acted as a separate. Richard Henry Lee moved that ”a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their 25 . ruled at that time by King Luis XVI (who came to the throne in 1774). providing most of the money and munitions. Thus. The American Arthur Lee met the French diplomat and musical composer Canon de Beaumarchais with whom he discussed the possibility of a secret help. Besides. This issue became an urgent concern. The treaty of Paris became effective on January 20. THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION In the early days of independence the Americans did not cherish the same feelings of pride and loyalty to the newly acknowledged United States as they have learned to do later on. America’s most reliable ally was France. Hence. At this point all the countries. so they regarded themselves first as Virginians or Bostonians rather than Americans. 1782. that only after the Americans had won their victory at Saratoga. the piece granted to the US a clear-cut recognition of independence and a delimitation of territory – from the southern boundary of Canada to the northern boundary of Florida and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. independent country showing little willingness and compliance to submit itself to an all-unifying authority.Christmas night in 1776. self-assertive and therefore. In addition to the resolution for independence. the members of the Congress were involved in developing a new form of government for the ‘confederated colonies’. The document that acted as a constitution during the War of Independence was the Articles of Confederation. he had to retreat and spend the winter at Valley Forge now famous for the heroic sufferings. Count Vergeules. most of them with their own laws and statutes. Netherlands provided loans and Spain gave an official subsidies while France remained the basic ally. the first troublesome issue of the policy makers of the new country was how to bring together the independent. On the whole. such as the weakening of Great Britain and the corresponding growth of the power of France. While Jefferson busied himself drafting the Declaration.

John Dickinson was appointed to draft the document which should represent a political and administrative plan for the confederation.consideration and approbation”. Dickinson was appointed as a draftsman because of his profound knowledge of the institutions of government. who shall deliver one copy to each member”. Dickinson used a large part of his plan. In spite of the fact that Franklin’s plan was rejected. Dickinson’s draft was first read before Congress on 12 July. From among the members. Rober R. The committee members were far-reaching and brilliant minds like: Samuel Adams. on 12 June 1776. as he drew on Benjamin Franklin’s ‘sketch of a plan for a permanent union of the colonies’. one delegate from each colony was chosen to sit on a committee “to prepare and digest the form of confederation”. The Articles were then discussed in the Committee of the Whole. and deposited with the secretary. Livingston. Dickinson’s plan was not entirely his work. Edward Rutledge. John Dickinson. as brought in by the committee. Roger Sherman etc. 26 . Stephen Hopkins. Furthermore. During the next twenty days the Articles were discussed and debated and finally endorsed. of the confederation. and no more. Dickinson’s draft was read 12 July 1776 it was resolved that “eighty copies. be immediately printed. Joseph Hewes.

Madison was a frail man and as his psychological frailness prevented him from developing a great career in the army. but their efforts failed. Before engaging in the constitution-making process. Alexander Hamilton built on Madison’s scheme of reform a broader plan inviting state delegates to Philadelphia in May 1787 “to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union”.250 letters. any attempt to understand the Constitution cannot disregard the constitution-making process. His innovative idea was that the national government. and that it ought to receive authority directly from the people (rather than from the states). an improvement with several consequences. While Madison was a cautious and deliberative man. third it must be looked at from the point of view of its impact on the evolution of the past and present human rights movement. so consequently he dedicated his intellectual vigour to the more heated matters of the day. it must be understood against the background of the historical events which caused it. a friendship which lasted for all his life. where he made his first remarkable contribution to the vernacular of the American constitutional law by suggesting that the phrase “toleration of religion” be given a positive turn by being changed to “the free exercise of religion”. who he formed a long-lasting friendship with. Their friendship resulted in an exchange of 1. ought to operate directly on the people (rather than through the mediating agency of the states). which were printed in three volumes. the ratification process. the two major parties involved. First. In that same year Madison met Jefferson. thereby giving it the power to act independently in its own sphere. both Madison and Hamilton made great efforts to reform the existing Confederation. the Constitutional Convention. especially in finance. However. Alexander Hamilton was an audacious adventurer. delegated authority both to the national government and to the states. Madison worked out a three-point reform plan. he said. the most important one in the US.The CONSTITUTION THE CONSTITUTION This legal document integrates a few critical elements. the prominent figures who participated in the events. In other words. as well as imposing restrictions on the actions of the states. it was Madison who determined the Convention’s agenda by subjecting to it the Virginia Plan. the people. the general enthusiastic intellectual and emotional atmosphere which wrapped up the event. whom he proudly called “We the people”. In this respect. In 1776 he was elected to the Virginia state convention. Two of the most important participants in the constitution-making process were James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. If Hamilton gave a strong push to the constitutional reform. which practically represented the wide-scale national adoption of the Constitution. The Americans consider 27 . Hamilton set no limits to the Convention’s agenda. and finally. second it must be regarded as a legal document. in which he introduced the concept of popular elections for the first time.

The constitutionmakers’ task was much facilitated by the fact that by that time all states had been writing or improving their constitutions over the past decades and many of the participants were experts in drawing up constitutions.this innovation as the second great innovation from the Declaration of Independence. or in those held under the Articles. They were all practical men. who looked back on the old European political inheritance. but it was right for the lawyers to decide in Congress on state affaires. but he further admitted that there was a group of people. merchants. These revolts showed the people that the Confederation. At that time. no more than a drop in the ocean”. they represented a ‘disinterested’ ruling elite. also pointed out in one of the issues of the Federalist that while the states represented local interests. is to look for what never did and I fear never will happen…The few. This made the Constitutionmakers well determined to urge the drafting and the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton concluded that it was most natural for the planters or merchants or other interest groups to decide over the state legislatures. The Constitution-making process generated heated debates and gave rise to two opposing parties: the federalists on the one hand who wanted a centralised power almost on the lines of European monarchies. Despite the debates generated and the two opposed parties. 28 . and especially Congress-makers distinguished between private interests and an autonomous public interest representing republican ideals. career officers. who knew very well why they met. Hamilton pointed out the significance and the contribution of the lawyers in the Constitution-making process and in running the state affaires and proclaimed his opinions on the matter in the 35th issue of the Federalist. Hence. and could hence command all state affaires. Hamilton agreed to this. the res publica. 1787 when their task was successfully accomplished. who act upon Principles of Disinterestedness are. claiming that a strong government would soon fall into the hands of interest-groups who would eventually oppress the people. unable to protect the people or the states. adjourning on September 17. The principle was. and the anti-federalists on the other. admitted that to be “influenced by any other principles but those of interest. Most of them were farmers. and would thus mediate between them. on the old traditions. therefore. who were well aware of the urgency of drawing up the Constitution and installing a strong federal government as soon as possible. was very weak. Daniel Shays made the Constitution-makers aware of the necessity of speeding up the drafting of the Constitution by instigating the debt-ridden farmers to revolt. Hamilton. all the participants of the Constitutional Convention were serious. forty-two had participated in the previous Continental Congresses. Of those attending. Washington. The Convention met in Philadelphia again and sat for four months. who as a “learned profession” were disinterested. positive. and about twenty-six were college graduates. constructive men. As they had no assets to protect. and these were the lawyers. however. prepared to decide what was most needed and practical for the American people. accepted and limitations on the power of the states imposed by the federal Constitution have been accepted as a fundamental principle of the federal system. Most importantly. people. comparatively speaking. the federal government and Congress represented the national or public interest. Madison further proposed that the limiting power should be exercised by a federal power of veto on state laws. who presided over the Convention but confined himself to the task of ensuring order and decorum. unbiased. or from domestic violence. many of them were lawyers. as it stood.

Each state was given the right to decide how to choose its Electoral College. second. particularly charged with foreign policy and other matters. Moreover. At the same time the audacious Hamilton could not pull through his plan of building up a strong central government on European lines. But it left open the possibility of popular participation. The first referred to the legislature. 29 . and ‘slavery’ were omitted from the document. and very wide executive powers. or perhaps an office. directly elected by popular votes in localities. this action was speeded up by the existence of so many well-worked out state constitutions. which happened on September 25. compromising on the election procedure –if no candidate got a majority of the popular vote. the House elected one from among the top three. First. Indeed. This appeared to be a gesture to the states. chosen by the individual legislatures. they won a significant battle over the presidency. some of them were less successful. Furthermore. Once the drafting process has been successfully completed. so that the Constitutional Convention was practically called to choose from the extent state constitutions the one which could best respond to all political and administrative needs posed by such a large Confederation. voting by states. This compromise gave the House of Representatives. The legal procedure was laid down in Article VII of the Constitution. as broadly speaking. but the European Constitution-makers are too proud to look back at the successful American precedent and draw their inspiration from it. which stipulated the four-stage process of ratification. to represent the states. the disputes between the two opposing parties were settled in many compromises. but all in all. and a Senate. then. followed after three days of heated debates by both the federalists’ and the anti-federalists’ agreement to send the Constitution to the individual states. without requesting their endorsement or rejection. which any particular president could make strong if he chose. and it was only George Washington’s common sense and restraint that prevented an aggressive and overwhelming display of power giving thus a great example of a president. Although Hamilton and his federalists lost the battle over a strong federal state. Hamilton won the battle by tactical skill. balancing the fact that the president was directly elected by the people. the control of money Bills. Almost by accident. according to which each slave would count as three-fifths of a freeman. they were too proud to admit how good an example of federacy did the US provide to the rest of the world. with two senators for each state. as such a legal document could not encourage the idea of property in men.As pointed out previously. amongst which three were of particular relevance. which remained rather decentralised than centralised. Although many other nations attempted in various ways to build a similar federacy. Madison is remembered as the father of the American Constitution. The third compromise was that over the office of presidency and its election. However. America got a very strong presidency. he was given a veto over congressional legislation. He was much stronger than most kings. The second compromise regarded the knotty problem of slavery. It thus stated that the first stage was the submission of the document to the Congress of the Old Confederation. the slave states were given the extra power of counting the slaves as voters on the basis of the threefifths rule. slavery was not condemned. the words ‘slave’. the Virginia Plan proposed by him was finally adopted. what the EU is seeking to accomplish is a federal structure very much like that of the US. not as individuals. Thus in practice the president was elected independently of the legislature. the next very important step to be taken was that of ratifying the new Constitution. more than 200 years ago.

executive. and the degree to which the constitutive elements of government. The third stage was the election of delegates in each state to consider the constitution. a series of eighty-five newspaper essays. Besides. between government and people. which made Paul Johnson admit that their writings represent “the first major work of political theory ever produced in America. at meetings. Furthermore. A History of the American People. and the fourth was ratification by these conventions of at least nine of the Thirteen States. thus representing the biggest exercise of political thought ever conducted. The introduction of the rule of majority. Ratification by convention also had the effect of inviting a grand nation-scale public debate on the issue. in public squares. the Constitution became the basic law of the country. in the streets etc. The printed media had the great merit of having disseminated the heated issues and the debates of the day. and Pennsylvania) would ratify it. ‘A Farmer’ etc. ‘Brutus’. The federalists supported the brisky ratification process hoping that the Big Four (Virginia. which the federalists took. as opposed to unanimity. discussing with great clarity and force such fundamental questions of government as the distribution of authority between the centre and the periphery. Hamilton’s contribution to the dissemination of the advanced political ideas. on accident and force”. The French ignored this “at the cost of countless lives and ideological bitterness which reverberates to this day”(Paul Johnson. in Congress. that the process under discussion was that of determining “whether societies of men are really capable or not. showing the federalists’ determination to create a forceful government. Next to these outstanding contributions. and weeklies had proliferated widely. or whether they are forever destined to depend. The ratification process was carried out as a war of words every where. ‘Publius’. 1999). so they offered the people cheap entertainment and education all together. or indeed wrote pamphlets as a distinctive and purposefully chosen means to circulate advanced ideas. of establishing good government by reflection and choice. By that time newspapers. their plans were all fulfilled. This meant that once the ninth state signified its acceptance. for their political constitutions. Massachusetts. Hamilton who signed his writings with the pseudonym ‘Publius’ knew as most Americans did that the issue at stake went far beyond the boundary of a constitution. legislature. an active and vital one. James Wilson is also remembered for his unequalled speech made on November 24. An equally great risk was that of insisting on popular ratification. to win the masses. 1787 to the Pennsylvania convention. Public debate became in those days a form of education. the system permitted a speedy action. ought to be separate”. one that replaced perhaps an armed conflict. New York. It was an enormous risk. in 30 . Furthermore. Madison’s contribution and that of John Jay rest primarily on their jointly publishing the Federalist. and judiciary. both printing and paper were completely untaxed. The prominent political writers employed pseudonyms like ‘Cato’. every prominent political figure of the time either tried his hand at writing pamphlets. irrespective of what other states did. Article VII declared that “the ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same”. Eventually. In this respect the Americans learned a useful lesson and were determined to give words their full credit. Above all it was carried on in the press.This represented the second stage. dailies. represented another step forward. ‘Cicero’. and instigate them to action.

New Hampshire and Virginia in June. were eleven. John Dickinson. Pennsylvania. Sam Adams. and Connecticut. and New York in July. and after Hamilton’ s voice his voice urged the Constitution to be accepted. the first thing was to draw up and pass a Bill of Rights. The point which the anti-federalists built their case on was that of stressing that the new Constitution said little or nothing about rights. as what they proposed was a Small Government on the lines of the Swiss cantons. and Roger Sherman were the elite representatives of the federalists. James Wilson. Maryland ratified the Constitution in April. particularly about individual rights. like the great Leviathan”.which he strongly emphasised the role played by elections and representation as the core of a solid constitution. John Jay. and men of learning. and gloss over matters so smoothly. etc. persuaded both states to later ratify the Constitution. George Mason. nevertheless. In Massachusetts. again showing their rejection. All the other states adopted this attitude and made clear their condition. a completely non-functional counterproposal. Such enlightened ideas brought Wilson the great merit of being the second great hand in shaping the Constitution. They said: “these lawyers. Sir. in November 1789.e. The states. and promised that once the Constitution was ratified. Richard Henry Lee. The anti-federalists were led by prominent figures such as Patrick Henry. Georgia. However. the anti-federalists distrusted them. They all voiced their fear of a strong government and shared the belief that a new federal congress and government would quickly fall into the hands of special interest groups who would eventually oppress the people. and they already ensured the adoption of the Constitution. eventually. He pointed out that what really differentiated the new American form of constitution from the ancient Greek and Roman models was the curious way of voting and the inherited right which made up the British Constitution. However. that talk so finely. which ratified the Constitution so far. all states ratified the Constitution unanimously. North Carolina’s convention adjourned without ratifying the Constitution and Rhode Island refused to summon a convention on the occasion. James Madison. Thus. Still. South Carolina in May. or as they claimed “would reduce us to a federal domination”. the two prominent anti-federalists Sam Adams and John Hancock opposed it. and monied men. This historical event 31 . expect to get into Congress themselves: expect to be managers of this Constitution. and get all the power and the money into their own hands. an issue very close to the Americans’ hearts. Despite Hamilton’s conviction that the class of disinterested “learned professional” lawyers could well conduct the nation’s affairs. New Jersey. the federalists admitted their fault.January 1788 and expressed the legal consent of Delaware. Thus the first ratifications took place December 1787. to make us poor illiterate people swallow down the pills. i. and then they will swallow up us little folks. is the true chain between the people and those to whom they entrust the administration of the government”. The promise of additional amendments to it. He further wrote “The world has left to America the glory and happiness of forming a government where representation shall at once supply the basis and the cement of the superstructure. and eventually agreed to accept it on condition that an amended Bill of Rights was added to it. With this promise in mind the participants in the ratification process began the ratification procedure. Alexander Hamilton. they were unable to counter the federalists’ proposal of a strong government. For representation.

none having the monopoly or overshadowing the others. The division of power. by separation of powers they sought to restrain the power of 32 . providing instead for structural arrangements such as the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. The principle of separation of powers was also inspired by the political theorists Locke and Montesquieu. composed by the anti-federalist George Mason. James Madison who had previously argued against the tyranny of interests or of the majority. Consequently. The basic principles included in the Constitution are: limited government. check and balances. given their first hand experience of the abuses of King George and his royal governors. finally set out to examine all rights comprised in state constitutions and came forth with a synthesis. ensured both policy conflicts and effective cooperation.provoked Benjamin Franklin’s notable remark: “Our Constitution is an actual operation. LEGISLATIVE. Separation of powers. IN THE SAME HANDS…MAY JUSTLY BE PRONOUNCED THE VERY DEFINITION OF TYRANNY” and that was exactly what they feared most. 1791. and between the nation and the states. they thought that by dividing the power among three branches of national government. He also drew his inspiration from the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776). The Constitutional Context The Founders of the Constitution established the role of Congress in policy making. then. and everything appears to promise that it will last: but in this world nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes". the national government could not acquire too much power so as to violate personal and property rights. Thus the Framers suggested that the “ACCUMULATION OF ALL POWERS. in 1789. AND JUDICIARY. and federalism. EXECUTIVE. The Framers established three independent branches of national government. It has been pointed out at an earlier date that the Framers of the Constitution wanted to create a strong and effective national government which. responsibilities and perceptions of the public welfare. who pointed out the importance of these principles (separation of powers. on the other hand. Their objective was twofold. nevertheless. The ratification procedure went smoothly and on December 15. Virginia was the last state to ratify the Bills that became part of the American Constitution. Madison produced drafts of ten amendments. and the officials were made responsive to different constituencies. separation of powers. Despite the 200 years which have passed since the creation of the Constitution the aforementioned principles continue to govern the lawmaking process. checks and balances and popular control of government). The Founders also established its relationship with the other branches of government and with the people. Quite early. should not threaten personal or property rights. Limited government. First.

Essentially it is a further system added to that of separation of powers. powers not granted to Congress remained with the states. Treaties and high. According to the first article of the Constitution Congress is the first branch of government and has “all legislative power”. Although both systems were sought to ensure a smooth and fluent activity of Congress. in order to be effective it had to ensure adequate collaboration and co-operation of the branches. and second. Federalism. the laws passed by Congress must be vetoed by the president. especially as Congress legislators’ tenure depends on the continued support of their constituents. Federalism has infused “localism” into congressional proceedings. the state and federal governments are also countervailing forces. Each branch depends on the other and this is what really makes them function together in unison.level presidential appointments require the approval of the Senate and many decisions and actions of Congress and the president are subject to review by the federal judiciary. describe briefly the framework and the duties involved. However. explicit and implicit responsibilities. The establishment of the checks and balances system has a twofold effect: first it encourages co-operation and subsequent adjustment of the branches. second. It is granted. at the same time. Article II and III which refer to the executive and judicial branches. This represents a system designed by the authors to impose limits to the three branches and to prevent any branch from overriding the other. since 1789 Congress and the President have co-operated with each other and protected their power. On the other hand. In particular. and popular opinion and interest are reflected differently in each. they inevitably gave rise to conflicts. however.any of the branches. Although separation of powers implies that Congress “enacts” the laws. Article I further enumerates the specific powers of Congress. and the Supreme Court “interprets” them. Just as the branches were designed to check each other. it may generate conflict. both 33 . This division of power is another means to control governing power. however. Congress is a representative institution and hence its members need to respond to the needs and interests of states and congressional districts. Furthermore. Thus it gives expression to the vast national diversity. the President “executes” them. as was for example that of separation of powers or checks and balances. the Constitution even provides an open invitation to struggle for power by Congress and the President. but the Founders realised that federalism was a form of government acceptable to all 13 original states. the Constitution has devised a sound and strong political system in which the power is divided among the branches and between the levels of government. To restrain Congress’s own legislative power the system was contrived to be effectively “checked” by establishing a bicameral body consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The term “federalism” was not included in the Constitution. The “supremacy” clause of the Constitution prevented the states from passing unconstitutional laws. the distinction between them is not so sharp. Nevertheless. Checks and balances.

and the views of pressure groups and influential persons. each with different constituencies. The debate turned out intense and heated. The Framers agreed to Madison’s plan. James Madison developed a compromise plan. and times of election. and John Joy stepped in writing a series of articles in favor of the ratification. the Framers sought only the approval of nine states. the intricate mix of formal and informal relationships. Hence. or a legal agreement among the people to create a government. Basically. Madison’s plan centered on the idea exposed in the Preamble to the Constitution. therefore. THE BILL OF RIGHTS What is the Bill of Rights? The Bill of Rights is a constitutional act. which comprises amendments to the Constitution intended to restrict the federal government’s power and to prevent it from interfering with certain basic rights of the people. the anti-federalists put up a strong opposition which deterred the ratification for ten months. However. He was convinced that if he presented it to Congress or to state legislatures. Given each branch’s independent and formidable powers. a playwright. Alexander Hamilton. The anti-federalist leaders were George Mason. Richard Henry Lee (a revolutionary and signer of the Declaration of Independence). the federalists (the supporters of the Constitution and therewith of the federal government) had worked at the Constitution for almost four months and knew the arguments both for and against. These articles or pamphlets are now known as The Federalist and bring accurate evidence about the disputes over the Bill of Rights. a social contract. etc. As Article VII of the Constitution stated that the Constitution would go into effect after it had been ratified by nine of the thirteen states. This is the point when. By contrast. Despite the federalists’ strategy. all the arguments for and against brought into prominence three issues: 1. can claim to represent majority sentiment on national issues. Would the federal government have too much power? 34 . it is apparent that important national policies reflect the judgement of both the legislative and executive branches. he thought that the best way to get the Constitution ratified was to submit it to special ratifying conventions held separately in each state. Would the new Constitution maintain a republican form of government? 2. who at the time opposed the idea of a strong national government. different perspectives on many issues. James Madison. and became a leading anti-federalist. they geared all their activity towards a speedy ratification. in order to support the federalists’ cause.Congress and the president. To ensure the success of his ideals and therewith the ratification of the Constitution. Mercy Otis Warren. they hastened the states to organize and elect delegates to the states ratifying conventions in order not to give the opponents (the anti-federalists) time to prepare arguments against it. terms of office. Patrick Henry. The conventions would be elected by popular vote of the people for the sole purpose of approving the Constitution. which says “We the People…do ordain and establish this Constitution…” and is. it would be rejected. Furthermore.

they would need more protection from the somewhat more powerful federal government. This event marked the beginning of the new government. petition. It was for the first time in history that the people of a nation held the ultimate power of government by selecting the person they wanted to lead their government. assembly. in several states the question of a bill of rights was used effectively to organize opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. such as freedom of speech. press. which eventually deprived the anti-federalists of their strongest weapon. George Washington became the first president of the US on April 30. The other states were in consensus over the recommended amendments. Massachusetts for example. Was the bill of rights. indeed. the federalists also used their strategy to convince different states to ratify the Constitution. Most of these either placed additional limitations on the powers of the federal government or protected individual rights. In some states. his pledge entitled him to the other title he had acquired that of “father of the Constitution”. Nonetheless. consciousness. What is further worthwhile noting is that the powers that the person was entitled to be limited by the new Constitution. and trial by jury.3. the agreement to add a bill of rights was enough to win ratification. although the anti-federalists lost their cause (that of defeating the Constitution or calling for its revision). Besides. 35 . during the ratification debates he promised to add one. a task that he devoted his full attention to. This idea was rooted in the assumption that if people needed to be protected from their relatively weak state governments. Although. religion. So. and neglected or dismissed all the suggestions. Madison focused his attention on the amendments. they made their point by adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. the concern for freedom vowed in Washington’s inaugural address urged Congress to fulfill the promise to add a bill of rights to the Constitution. The issue acquired an emotional connotation from the men and women who had just fought a revolution to secure their rights. The task of drawing up the bill of rights befell upon James Madison. the anti-federalists highlighted the lack of a bill of rights. he set out on his task by revising the amendments whish were recommended by the individual states during the ratification debates. necessary to be added to the Constitution? Soon the anti-federalists realized that the best way to resist the ratification was by using the issue of the bill of rights. which promoted individual rights. which limited severely the power of the federal government. in the beginning he had opposed the idea of a bill of rights and often referred to it calling it a “parchment barrier”. Thus. There was a wide spread fear of a strong and powerful government combined with the belief that a bill of rights was necessary to protect people from government. The last state (the ninth out of twelve) to be determined to ratify the Constitution was New Hampshire and it voted for ratification in exchange for the inclusion of a list of twelve amendments suggested as a bill of rights for the new nation. Furthermore. One of these was to give in to the anti-federalists’ demand for a bill of rights. 1789 when he was sworn into office. which the president was sworn to uphold. However. Consequently.

while they were added as a separate list at the end of the Constitution. and almost 48 years before the American Bill of Rights. On December 15. Congress passed only 12 amendments of which 2 were not subsequently ratified by the states. he informed them of the ratification of the Bill of Rights: “the ratification by three fourths of the…states. which clearly states that the Bill of Rights is only a partial list of the people’s rights: “The enumeration [listing] in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed [interpreted] to deny or disparage [make less important] others retained by the people. Thus. but from groups who could use their state governments to serve their selfish interests at the expense of others. He further suggested that an introductory statement be added to the Constitution containing some basic ideas about government included in the Declaration of Independence. even before the English Bill of Rights. almost as a post script. that the greatest danger to individual rights came not from the federal government.In drafting the Bills he relied on the colonial bills of rights and charters of liberty. press. Then the Bill underwent three subsequent stages. and postal roads”. First. along with the people at large. nevertheless. Thomas Jefferson was serving as the first state secretary and was thus responsible for notifying the state governors of the actions of Congress. for example. when it was ratified by Virginia. or the freedom of the press. In 1792 Jefferson informed the governor that Congress “had taken action concerning fisheries. In September 1789 Congress approved the Bill of Rights and sent it to the states for ratification.” Madison also included an amendment to respond for the possible omissions. This amendment was added 150 years later. Madison argued that the amendments he had drafted should be introduced in the Constitution itself. of certain articles in addition and amendment of the Constitution”. the last state to ratify it. These dealt with reapportionment of the House of Representatives and the effective days of raises for members of Congress. Second. the post office. the Massachusetts Body of Liberties was adopted in 1641.” Finally. speech. he included what he considered “the most valuable amendment in the whole list” and which read: “No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience. This is the Ninth Amendment. a joint committee of the House and Senate altered a few sections. Madison introduced his amendments on the floor of the House of Representatives on June 8. As Madison was convinced. 1789. or the trial by jury in criminal causes. At the end of his letter. 36 . and trial in criminal causes. the jury sent it to the Senate where the anti-federalists dismissed the amendment that prohibited the state governments from violating freedom of conscience. This statement should refer to the idea that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people and that the people are the ultimate source of its authority. It comprised 23 of the 27 rights enumerated in the Bill. 1791 the Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights – an Overview From the amendments which were contrived as the Bill of Rights the First Amendment declares that the Congress cannot establish an official religion. In this 37 . This further made judges independent of both. and to ensure the establishment of the Church of England. The Bill includes the trial by jury right. Government by contract and consent. Parliamentary supremacy which made parliament the highest authority superior to the king. By contrast. the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. it was primarily intended to limit the power of the king and increase that of the Parliament. On the whole. While the British Bill of Rights set out to justify the Glorious Revolution by explicating the political and religious crimes of the king and.A Comparison between the English Bill of Rights and the American Bill of Rights A comparison of the two documents will shed light on the advantages brought about by the American Bill of Rights. place the dominant power of the government on Parliament. It is primarily aimed at prohibiting the government from violating the individual rights of all people and protecting the rights of minorities from majorities. and the right to keep arms for personal defense. hence to establish a government in which the power of the king was checked and balanced. influenced the American Bill of Rights. closed down or muzzled by government. particularly for press. By far the greatest concerns of the English Bill were to limit the power of the king. and to petition. however. and that it has encouraged a particular style of populist politics. the English Bill of Rights taught the Americans how to protect rights by limiting the power of government. later on taken up and developed in the American Constitution. which cannot be censored. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is an organization purposefully set up to ensure that these rights are fully preserved. It sought to prohibit the monarch from violating the right of Parliament. Besides. and that it cannot pass laws preventing people from assembling peacefully or from petitioning the government. Some ideas expressed in it. The English Bill of Rights was a law passed by Parliament and it could be changed by Parliament. a principle that seeks to establish a balance between the legislative and executive branches of government. according to which all people must obey the laws of the land. The first amendment in fact means that the Americans have always had the right to march. to protest. Balance of Powers. that it can not prohibit free speech or freedom of the press. Such were the following: Rule of Law. a rule by which Government is based on a contract between the rulers and the ruled. The amendment ensures freedom for the media. and also represented the first step towards the ideas of separation of powers and checks and balances. the American Bill of Rights was adopted by Congress and ratified by the people and can only be changed by the people.

Though in movies this amendment seems to be permanently broken. The Fifth Amendment states that no one may be tried for a serious offence without previously being indicted by a Grand Jury. 38 . providing rules that already in 1790 gave greater legal protection to Americans than Europeans enjoy today. and the right to have a lawyer by his side during any questioning. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a speedy and public trial by jury and gives the accused the right to confront witnesses against him. today it is very difficult to pass gun control laws. and the right to a lawyer. as the British had tried to prevent the colonists from having weapons. persons. are reserved to the states respectively. and a large number of people were killed by handguns. Equally. they may not hold a person for prisoner for more than two days without charging him or her with a crime. while the Tenth Amendment reads “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution. and that no one may be forced to be a witness against himself. evidence gathered without a warrant cannot be used in a criminal court case. unless the police have first told him that he has the right to remain silent. nor prohibited by it to the States. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments deal with matters which regard the arrest of suspects and the conduct of criminal trials. The Eighth Amendment protects the guilty against excessive fines or “cruel and unusual punishments”. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the illegal search of people’s homes. This provision was fully justified in those early days of the new nation. in real life this is hardly possible. The Third Amendment also was a reaction against the old colonial British practices. or papers by the police unless they have a warrant that describes what is being sought. around 1789 the Americans were farmers and hunters. Then. and any confession elicited during such a confinement is not recognized by any American court of law. including those of both the extreme left and right. During a trial the accused has the right to remain silent. as the right to carry a gun was ensured by the Constitution. and cannot be coerced to answer questions. an American prisoner may walk free if he confesses to a crime. As a consequence of the Miranda decision of the Supreme Court (1966). Although things have changed dramatically over the last centuries. the police may not under any circumstances torture a prisoner to extract a confessions. or to the people”. In addition. the right to consult a lawyer before making any statement. The Seventh Amendment guarantees that facts established during a trial cannot be re-examined during appeals to a higher court. as it forbade the government from quartering soldiers in private homes during peacetime without the consent of the owners. or prohibiting laws. the right to compel witnesses to appear on his behalf. The Ninth Amendment states that the rights not discussed or defined in the Constitution are “retained by the people”. Hence prolonged imprisonment before a trial is illegal. ACLU lawyers have many times protected the rights of political minorities. The Second Amendment guarantees to every citizen the right to bear arms.respect.

and Alexei Ugrinsky. Greewook Press. Harper Collin Publishers. A History of the American People. Harper Perennial.Bibliography Walter J. Washington. Paul Johnson. NY. Oleszek. NY. Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process. CQ Press. Government Structure in the USAR the Sovereign States of the Former USSR. London. The Democracy Reader. DC. 1999. 1984. 1989. Jr. Siane Racitch and Abigail Thernstrom. Balantice Bodes. 1996. Rediscovering America’s Values. NY. James E Mickery. 39 . 1992. Frances Moore Lappé.

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