Colonial And Revolutionary Religious And Political Experiences


Colonial And Revolutionary Religious And Political Experiences Essay, Research Paper

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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.

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