Landmark Events Leading to the Constitution

Landmark Events Leading to the Constitution

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While in hindsight the American
Revolutionary War and eventual Constitution seem like a sequence of
neat, well planned events, in reality the Constitution was the product of many
years of effort on the part of an incalculable number of individuals. Today we will study a sampling of these events and people by taking a look at a time line spanning the course of one hundred and seventy-one years. In 1620, the male pilgrims wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact. It was the first document of its
kind because it was created by the people and gave them a direct say in
their government – introducing the revolutionary idea that
people could govern themselves. Fast forward. It wasn’t until 100 years
later that each of the thirteen colonies had been settled. By 1760 the east coast
was embroiled in the French and Indian War; a fight for interior territory
between the British and the French. The French and their native American allies fought for seven years before the British claimed victory giving the conflict its other name, the
Seven Years war. Not long after peace was reached in the
French and Indian War, the crown issued the proclamation of 1763, making the
Appalachian Mountains the boundary line for colonial settlement. The resources of the colonial government were already overstretched and this measure was an
effort to stop westward expansion. However many colonists already lived
beyond the Appalachian Mountains western boundary and this is one of the many
British policies that went ignored. In effort to raise funds from the colonies
to pay for the British soldiers stationed there, in 1764 the British
Monarchy and Parliament handed down the Sugar Act which imposed taxes on sugar,
wine, and coffee. Followed the next year by the Stamp Act, which required colonists to pay a tax and buy a stamp for newspapers, legal documents, business agreements, playing cards, and dice. This act triggered the creation of the Sons
of Liberty – a secret society united against unfair policies of the British
government. In response to massive public protests in 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed and the Sugar Act was reformed. The conflict between the British government and the colonists was just
getting started. The next year the Townshend Acts were
handed down placing taxes on goods shipped into the colonies. Before
imported goods could be unloaded from ships taxes had to be paid at the port.
In response, many colonists began boycotting tea. By 1770 tensions between
British officials and the colonists had escalated to the point of no return resulting in the Boston Massacre; a
dispute between protesting colonists and British troops on the steps of the
custom house in Boston; ended with five colonists dead. Over the next few years Committees of
Correspondence were set up in various colonies as a means of communication for colonists opposed to British policies. These committees kept citizens organized and aware of how their colony was boycotting British policies. The colonists protests over British
policies culminated in 1773 with the passage of the Tea Act. The Tea Act didn’t actually impose new taxes, but it gave the financially struggling British East
India Company monopoly over tea imports to the colonies. The Sons of Liberty
responded by staging the Boston Tea Party in which they boarded British
merchant ships and tossed over 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. The very next year in 1774, the Intolerable Acts were passed also known as the Coercive Acts, this series of laws were meant to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. The Intolerable Acts were the final straw for the colonists, who sent representatives to the first continental congress to discuss what to
do about their quickly deteriorating relationship with Great Britain. In 1775 the shot heard round the world was fired at Lexington, and the Revolutionary War
officially began. A few weeks later the second continental congress convened to organize an army and a navy, and they select George Washington as their
commander in chief of the military. At the same time work was begun on the articles of the
Confederation which would serve as the first constitution of the young country. In 1776 Thomas Paine’s best-selling pamphlet “Common Sense” was published. The document was written in the everyday English commoners could understand and made the ideas of independence and self
governance popular amongst the people. A few months later Thomas Jefferson and a few others penned the Declaration of Independence, making the colonies
independent of Britain and giving them a new name – the United States of America. By 1781 the fighting portion of the Revolutionary war was over when the British lost a key
battle, the siege at Yorktown. Not long after, the Articles of
Confederation were finally ratified by all 13 States; six years after they were proposed. In the years after the Revolution the individual states were suffering
financially and in terms of keeping order. In 1787, the Articles of
Confederation had all but failed to unite the states and the Constitutional
Convention was called to amend them and make them stronger. However once convened the founding
fathers decided to start over from scratch and several months of hard work
on our second and current constitution began. For the next two years the
Federalists and anti federalists debated over the power of the central government
and the rights of the individuals. By 1788, 11 of the 13 states voted in favor of the Constitution and it was signed; making it the supreme law of the land. Our current system of government had gone into effect and has remained in
place to this day. The very next year our first president of the United States George Washington was inaugurated into office. And finally, in 1791 the Bill of
Rights was completed by James Madison and was formerly added to the
Constitution; guaranteeing American citizens basic protections and freedoms
from the government that many had worked so hard and long to create.

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