U. S. Government: Democracy In Action

Chapter 2: Origins of American Government

Chapter Overviews

Chapter 2 outlines the colonial period and the life of a colonist as it related to changing government control. During this time period, some of the founding principles were formulated that still govern us today.

Section 1 deals with the colonists' thoughts on government and the relationship they had with Great Britain. When the first colonists arrived in North America, the idea of limited government was not unheard of. The colonists drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact, which stood as an example of colonial plans for self-government. Principles such as separation of powers were created during this time period and were later incorporated in the Constitution.

Section 2 deals with the tightening British control over the colonies and the subsequent reaction of the colonists. Two events drastically changed the relationship between the British and the colonists—the French and Indian War and George III taking the throne. Following the French and Indian war, the British had a large wartime debt to contend with, and King George III made the decision to pay the debt by taxing the colonies. The British decision to tax the colonies led to colonial union and to the first and second Continental Congress.

Section 3 reveals the hardships the new nation faced because of the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation. Although the Articles gave Congress powers, these powers were mainly lawmaking and usually unenforceable. These weaknesses in the Articles led to widespread financial issues that eventually forced amendments to the Articles in order to provide economic stability.

Section 4 deals with the Constitutional Convention and the decisions and compromises that were made. Key agreements among the delegates, such as limited and representative government, propelled the convention ahead. The delegates soon focused their efforts on developing a plan for a strong national government. Various compromises for a strong national government were presented, with a variety of suggestions on how it should be structured. The Connecticut Compromise became the chosen plan for government.

US Government: Democracy In Action
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