The Constitution And Its Roots

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The Constitution And Its Roots Essay, Research Paper

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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