History essay

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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

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

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.