Last modified on 1 April 2014, at 17:56

United States Government/Colonial Government in America

Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch

Under the Kingdom of Great Britain, the American colonies experienced five situations which would guide them in creating a constitution. The British Parliament believed that it had the right to impose taxes on the colonists; it had virtual representation over the entire empire, while the colonists believed Parliament had no such right, as they had no direct representation in Parliament. By the 1720s all but two of the colonies had a locally elected legislature and a British appointed governor. Often, these two branches of government would clash, with the legislatures imposing their "power of the purse" to control the British governor. Thus, Americans viewed their legislative branch as a guardian of their liberty, while the executive branches was deemed tyrannical.

There were several examples of royal actions that upset the Americans. For example, taxes on the importation of lead, paint, tea, paper, spirits, rum, wine, molasses, sugar, and other products were imposed at various times. Also, the Parliament provided for a duty to be paid on court documents, certificates, licenses, deeds, other legal documents, playing cards, pamphlets, books, calendars, newspapers, and other papers, as well as dice. The variety of taxes imposed, as well as other causes, led to the Americans' disdain for the British system of government.

After the Boston Tea Party, the Parliament of Great Britain and the King passed Acts that outlawed the Massachusetts legislature. The Parliament also provided for special courts in which British judges, rather than American juries, would try colonists. The Quartering Act and the Intolerable Acts required Americans to provide room and board for British soldiers. Americans especially feared British actions in Canada, where civil law was once suspended in favor of British military rule.

American distaste for the system of British government would lead to revolution. Americans had formed their own local institutions which were not British at all, but American. The political ideas of the Americans actually had their root in the British radicals of the early 18th century. England had passed beyond those ideas by 1776 and the resulting conflict resulted in the first American attempts at a national government.


Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch