US Constitution

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.

Category: History