The Constitution

History essay

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.