Lesson Objectives:- Jamestown
- The Mayflower and the Mayflower Compact
- More colonial governments
- British taxes and colonial resistance
- The First and Second Continental Congresses
- Thomas Paine's Common Sense
Jamestown, Virginia was settled in 1607 by a company that was chartered to establish trade in the Americas.
Those early settlers were given authority by the king of England to make their own laws.
They established a Representative Assembly, a legislature composed of individuals who represented the population.
A group of Separatists followed in 1620. They came on the Mayflower and they were determined to break free from England when they landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The Separatists knew they had to maintain civil obedience. So, they drew up a compact that 41 of the 44 men onboard signed.
Those who did not sign had been heard to have said that when they came ashore they would enjoy their own liberty; for none had power to command them.
The Mayflower Compact became a significant document in that, although it was not a constitution, it was a legitimate source of government.
The men who signed it freely followed it, which means it is a great example of popular sovereignty.
More trading posts were established throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, among others.
It took over a hundred years, but Georgia was finally established in 1732. It was the last of the 13 colonies.
Each colony made its own laws. The Massachusetts Body of Liberties in 1641 and the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges in 1701 are examples of important legislation that were passed throughout the colonies.
That experience gave colonists the ability to quickly write the Declaration of Independence in 1776 as well as a whole new constitution.
It all began in the 1760s when the British government wanted to impose taxes on the colonists to help pay for their own French and Indian War defense.
A few years later in 1764, British Parliament tried to tax the colonists again with what was called the Sugar Act. Another act to come was the Stamp Act, which led the colonists to decide they were fed up with "taxation without representation."
After boycotting English commodities, the colonists managed to get England to repeal the Stamp Act. The colonies started to feel a greater sense of unity. But, the British kept coming up with taxation in different forms.
It finally came to a head when colonists dumped British Tea into the Boston Harbor, an event known today as the Boston Tea Party. This act of rebellion would set off a series of events that would put the colonies at war with England.
A colonial gathering was called and all colonies were requested to send delegates as representatives to the First Continental Congress.
On September 5, 1774, the Congress convened at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. They met to pass a resolution in which they would petition the king with their grievances.
But, they also passed further resolutions to boycott British trade and to assemble their own troops.
The British saw these resolutions as open acts of rebellion and fighting started breaking out up and down the coast.
In May 1775, at the Second Continental Congress, all colonies were represented. Obviously, the colonies needed an Army and that was one purpose of this Congress.
George Washington was named commander-in-chief and thus, an army was formed. However, the Congress originally had no intentions of separating from Great Britain and declared that the army was not formed for the purpose of independence.
However, fighting was becoming more frequent and a peaceful return to the status quo was looking less and less likely.
Thomas Paine published Common Sense in 1776 and it resonated with the colonists. After all, they had been debating those same words in tavern debates throughout the colonies.
What resonated most may have been Paine's poetic words stating, "Nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined Declaration for Independence." Common Sense may have sparked a war.