Essay/Term paper: Us constitution

Essay, term paper, research paper:  American History

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A case for the connection of America"s

colonial and revolutionary religious and political

experiences to the basic principles of the Constitution can

be readily made. One point in favor of this conclusion is the

fact that most Americans at that time had little beside their

experiences on which to base their political ideas. This is

due to the lack of advanced schooling among common

Americans at that time. Other points also concur with the

main idea and make the theory of the connection plausible.

Much evidence to support this claim can be found in the

wording of the Constitution itself. Even the Preamble has an

important idea that arose from the Revolutionary period.

The first line of the Preamble states, "We the People of the

United States..." This implies that the new government that

was being formed derived its sovereignty from the people,

which would serve to prevent it from becoming corrupt and

disinterested in the people, as the framers believed Britain"s

government had become. If the Bill of Rights is considered,

more supporting ideas become evident. The First

Amendment"s guarantee of religious freedom could have

been influenced by the colonial tradition of relative religious

freedom. This tradition was clear even in the early colonies,

like Plymouth, which was formed by Puritan dissenters

from England seeking religious freedom. Roger Williams,

the proprietor of Rhode Island, probably made an even

larger contribution to this tradition by advocating and

allowing complete religious freedom. William Penn also

contributed to this idea in Pennsylvania, where the Quakers

were tolerant of other denominations. In addition to the

tradition of religious tolerance in the colonies, there was a

tradition of self-government and popular involvement in

government. Nearly every colony had a government with

elected representatives in a legislature, which usually made

laws largely without interference from Parliament or the

king. Jamestown, the earliest of the colonies, had an

assembly, the House of Burgesses, which was elected by

the property owners of the colony. Maryland developed a

system of government much like Britain"s, with a

representative assembly, the House of Delegates, and the

governor sharing power. The Puritan colony in

Massachusetts originally had a government similar to a

corporate board of directors with the first eight

stockholders, called "freemen" holding power. Later, the

definition of "freemen" grew to include all male citizens, and

the people were given a strong voice in their own

government. This tradition of religious and political

autonomy continued into the revolutionary period. In 1765,

the colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress, which

formed partly because the colonists believed that the

government was interfering too greatly with the colonies"

right to self-government. Nine colonies were represented in

this assembly. The Sons of Liberty also protested what

they perceived to be excessive interference in local affairs

by Parliament, terrorizing British officials in charge of selling

the hated stamps. Events like these served to strengthen the

tradition of self-government that had become so deeply

embedded in American society. The from of government

specified by the Constitution seems to be a continuation of

this tradition. First, the Constitution specifies a federal

system of government, which gives each individual state the

right to a government. Second, it specifies that each state

shall be represented in both houses of Congress. The lower

house, the House of Representative, furthermore, is to be

directly elected by the people. If the Bill of Rights is

considered, the religious aspect of the tradition becomes

apparent. The First Amendment states, "Congress may

make no law respecting an establishment of religion or

prohibiting the free exercise thereof...," showing that, unlike

the British government, the new US government had no

intention of naming or supporting a state church or

suppressing any religious denominations. In conclusion, the

Constitution"s basic principles are directly related to the

long tradition of self-rule and religious tolerance in colonial

and revolutionary America.  

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