The colonial period (the period during which people form many lands came to explore and settle in what became the U.S.) of American history lasted for more than 160 years. The English came in the largest numbers and controlled 13 colonies. The English gov’t was thought to be highly advanced because its citizens had rights unheard of in other countries at the time.
The early English settlers brought with them three ideas that helped shape our government: limited gov’t, representative gov’t, and bicameralism.
A. limited government: idea that government is not all powerful, and that it may do only those things the people have given it power to do.
1. Also means that people have certain rights that gov’t cannot take away.
2. The Magna Carta (Great Charter) had first established this idea in England in 1215.
Barons had forced King John to sign this document in order to gain protection against arbitrary acts by the king.
It gave certain fundamental rights to the privileged classes that later became the rights of all English people.
3. John Locke reinforced the idea of limited gov’t with the social contract theory that argues that the people of a state only give it as much power as needed to promote the safety and well-being of all.
He said that “all people were born free, equal, and independent.” Therefore, they cannot be subjected to political power without their consent.
4. popular sovereignty – the idea that the gov’t should exist and function only with the consent of the governed.
B. representative government: system of government in which public policies are made by officials who are selected by the voters
It is based on the English idea that gov’t should serve the people and that the people should have a voice in deciding what gov’t should and should not do.
The English Parliament was a representative assembly that had gained control over the monarch’s power to tax and that had the right to pass laws on its own.
C. bicameralism: having a legislative body composed of two houses
The English Parliament was divided into an upper and lower house.
This is the opposite of unicameralism – having a legislative body composed of one house.
1. separation of powers – principle that powers of gov’t are separated among three distinct branches of gov’t: executive, legislative, and judicial. the colonies already had colonial gov’ts with different branches
2. “power of the purse” – the power to tax and to spend is given to the legislative branch the English Parliament had this power
II. Articles of Confederation
The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Written by Thomas Jefferson, it included the following Lockean principles:
government should be established with the consent of the governed people have certain inalienable rights (those that they are born with that cannot be taken away) people have the right to alter or abolish their government
The Articles of Confederation were approved on November 15, 1777. They became the first national constitution of the United States. They became effective on March 1, 1781. The Articles established a “firm league of friendship” among the states. However, the national government was too weak under this constitution and it was eventually replaced.
A. Structure of the First Government
1. The national government had only one branch – the legislative branch the Congress was unicameral – only one chamber each state had one vote in Congress
Congress chose one of its members as president, but he only presided over its meetings – he was not the president of the United States.
2. Powers of Congress
Congress had only those powers given it by the Articles.
a. power to make war and peace
b. power to send and receive ambassadors
c. power to make treaties
d. power to borrow money
e. power to set up a monetary system
f. power to build a navy and raise an army by asking the