The Birth of a Democratic Nation

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When Great Britain attempted to exert tighter control over the American colonies, the colonists, who were used to running their own affairs, resisted and eventually declared independence.

Key Terms mercantilism, boycott, repeal, delegate, Independence

Reading Strategy

Cause and Effect As you read, complete a chart like the one below by explaining how the colonists responded to British actions.

British Ac: lions

Colonists' Responses

♦ How did the British government try to tighten control over Its American colonies?

« How did American colonists resist and reject the British crackdown?

Read to Learn

♦ How did the British government try to tighten control over Its American colonies?

« How did American colonists resist and reject the British crackdown?

The i/irsc Continental Congress assembled because Americans began to demand more rights. Why did Americans demand more rights/ Separated from Great Britain by more than 3,000 miles (5,556 km) of vast ocean and left largely to their own devices, the American colonists gained valuable experience in seli-govcrnmcnt,They took on more power and responsibility. They learned how to manage their own affairs, and they liked having local control. By the mid-1700s, however, the British government began to tighten its grasp on the American colonies.

After 1760, when George III took the throne, the British adopted a policy called mercantilism in which they tried to squeeze as much wealth as possible out of the British colonies in America and from other colonies around the world. Mercantilism is the theory that a country should sell more goods to other countries than it buys. For mercantilism to be successful, Great Britain needed the colonics to be a source of cheap, raw materials. Parliament required the American colonies to sell raw materials, such as cotton and lumber, to Great Britain at low prices.The colonists also had to buy British products at high prices. As a result, colonial businesses suffered.

Chapter 2 Roots of American Democracy 33

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Charles Thomson

Qmaricans in Action

Some people in Pennsylvania did not want Charles Thomson to be a delegate to the First Continental Congress. Thomson had actively and publicly resisted Britain's attempts to control the North American colonies. On the first day of assembly, however, the Congress unanimously elected Thomson as secretary. He served in that post through the duration of the Continental Congresses—from 1774 through 1789. Thomson is the little-known designer of the Great Seal of the United States.

Charles Thomson

Colonial Resistance

New England Colonies Economy

ATLANTIC ocr.,4 A'

The locations of the different English colonies influenced the way of life in each colony. Whereas the economy of the New England Colonies depended on fishing and shipbuilding, the Southern Colonies grew rice and tobacco. What were the 13 English colonies and what were their main products?










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ATLANTIC ocr.,4 A'

The locations of the different English colonies influenced the way of life in each colony. Whereas the economy of the New England Colonies depended on fishing and shipbuilding, the Southern Colonies grew rice and tobacco. What were the 13 English colonies and what were their main products?

Interpreting Ma ps

The situación worsened after 1763. Great Britain had fought a long, costly war against France—the French and Indian War winning French territory in North America. To cover the coscs of ruling these new lands and to pay off its heavy war debts, Britain placed steep taxes on the American colonies. In 1765* for example, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which required, colonists to attach expensive tax stamps to all newspapers and legal documents.

The colonists resented the British taxes. Because they had no representatives in Parliament, as people living in Great Britain did, the colonists believed that Parliament had no right to tax them. They summed up their feelings with the slogan "No taxation without representation!"

In protest, many colonists decided to boycott, or refuse to buy, British goods. Rebellious colonists began using homespun cloth and drinking coffee instead of British tea. The boycott had its intended effect; Parliament agreed to repeal» or cancel, the Stamp Act and other taxes.

Parliament, however, soon passed new tax laws to replace the Stamp Act. The same day it repealed the Stamp Act, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act of

1766, which stated that Parliament had the right co cax and make decisions for the American colonies "in all cases/' Then, in

1767, Parliament passed a set of laws that came to be known as thcTownshcnd Acts. These laws levied new taxes on goods imported to the colonies. The taxed goods included basic items, like glass, tea, paper, and lead, that the colonists needed bccausc they did not produce them. These new laws further angered the colonists. The colonists responded by bringing back the boycott that they had used againsc the Stamp Act.

Relations between Great Britain and the colonists worsened. In 1773 Parliament passed another measure. The Tea Act gave the British East India Company the right to ship tea to the colonies without paying most of the taxes usually placed on tea. The act also allowed the company to bypass colonial merchants and sell tea direccly to shopkeepers at low prices. This made the East India Company tea cheaper than any other tea in the colonics, giving the British company a very favorable advantage over colonial merchants.

34 Chapter 2 Roots of American Democracy


independence Day

Although we celebrate American independence on July 4th, lhe official vote actually took place on July 2, 1 776. After much discussion, on July 4, the Congress voted to accept the final version of the Declaration. Not every representative signed the document. Many didn't sign until August 2, and some never signed the document at all.

Colonists immediately condemned the act as just another attempt to crush their liberty. Colonists blocked all East India Company ships from colonial ports, with the exception of the ships that arrived at the Boston port.

In 1773 a group of colonists dressed as Native Americans dumped 342 chests of British tea into Boston Harbor. The colonists did this to protest further taxes on tea. In reaction to this protest* known as the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, which Americans called the Intolerable Acts. These laws restricted the colonists' rights, including the right to trial by jury. 'l"hc Intolerable Acts also allowed British soldiers to search, and even move into, colonists' homes.

Movement Toward Independence

The colonial governments banded together to fight the Intolerable Acts. In September 1774, 12 of the colonies sent delegatesj or representatives, to Philadelphia to discuss their concerns. These representatives—from every colony except Georgia—wanted to establish a political body to represent American interests and challenge British control.

The First Continental Congress

The meeting in Philadelphia, knowTn as the First Continental Congress, lasted sewn weeks. During that time, the delegates sent a document to King George HI demanding

Chapter 2 Roots of American Democracy 35

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Boston Tea

Party Protestors in Boston destroy a ship's cargo of East Indian tea.

What do you think was the purpose of the Boston Tea Party?

Chapter 2 Roots of American Democracy 35

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that the rights of the colonists be restored. They also made plans to extend the boycott of British goods. When the Congress ended, the delegates vowed to hold another meeting if their demands were not met by the following year.

King George responded with force. In April 1775, two batdes between British and colonial soldiers took place in Massachusetts at Lexington and Concord. These became the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Until this time, most colonists still thought of themselves as loyal subjects of Great Britain. Now, with British soldiers shooting at Americans, many colonists began to question their attachment to Britain. People began talking about tndcpcndcncc, or self-reliance and freedom from outside control.

Colonists Support For Independence

Thinking About Independence Thomas Paine's Common Sense persuaded many colonists to break away from Great Britain.

How did Paine refer to King George III in his pamphlet? Why do you think he did this?

The Second Continental Congress

In May 1775, colonial leaders convened the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Not every member of the Congress favored independence. Some believed the colonists could never win a war against Great Britain. Others were still loyal to their home country. The Congress spent many months debating over the bese course of action.

Mean while, support for independence grew. In January of 1776, an American colonist named Thomas Paine inspired many other colonists by publishing a pamphlet tided Common Sense. JLn it Paine called for complete independence from Britain. He argued that it was simply "common sense1' to stop following the "royal brute/' King George 111. Paine called the colonists' actions a struggle for freedom.

See the American HJstory Primary Source Document Library CD-ROM for the complete document.

By 1776 more than half of the delegates of the Second Continental Congress agreed with Paine that the colonies must break away from Britain.

Explaining Why did colonists gather at the Second Continental Congress?

The Declaration of Independence

The Congress, acting now as a government for the colonies> appointed a committee to write a document chat would officially announce the independence of the United States. Thomas Jefferson, however, did almost all the work. His draft of the Declaration of Independence explained why the United States of America should be a free nation.

'ITic Declaration argued that the British government did not look after the interests of the colonists,'llic authors included a long list

of abuses by King George HI and called him a "Tyrant . . . unfit to be the Ruler of a Jxee People." The document was much more than a list of complaints, though.

Democratic Ideals

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence set forth the colonists' beliefs about the rights of individuals. It said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. 99

The paragraph went on to say:

That to secure these rights, Governments are Instituted among Men. deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these endsT It Is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . .. J

See the American History Primary Source Document Library CD-ROM for the complete document.

In other words, the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. Moreover, government is based on the consent of the people. The people are entitled to change or overthrow a government if it disregards their rights or their will.

These ideas were not new. The thinking of Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Americans was particularly influenced by John Locke, a sevcntccnth-ccntury English philosopher. In his Second Treatise of



Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Thomas Jefferson disliked public life. "I had rather bo shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family and a few old friends." he once wrote.

Jefferson had the wealth and social standing to live as lie wished. His mother. Jane Randolph Jefferson, ho longed to one of Virginia's leading families. His father. Peter Jefferson, was a successful surveyor, explorer, and Lobacco planter. However, abuses of power hy tho British pulled Jefferson from his beloved home al MonLicello. Virginia, and launched him inlo a lifelong political career.

Jefferson held a variety of public offices. They included representative to the Virginia House of Burgesses, governor of Virginia, member of the Continental Congress, U.S. minister to France, secretary of state, vice president, and president of Lhe United Slales. Yet, when writing the words for his Lombslone. Jefferson mentioned none of these offices. Instead he wrote simply:

Were was Buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia fur Religious Freedom end Father of lhe University of Virginia.

GtToernmenty published in 1690, Locke wrote that good government is based on a social contract between the people and the rulers.The people agree to give up some of their freedom and abide by the decisions of their government. In return, the government promises to protect the lives, property, and liberty of the people. If the government misuses its power, the people

Political Cartoons

Intolerable Acts 1774 Cartoon

Analyzing Visual» This lma¿e was created In the 1750s by Benjamin Franklin, who is considered the father of political cartooning In America. Why do you think Franklin chose to depict the snake In several pieces instead of as a connected whole?

should rebel. Locke also wrote that all people should equally enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and property.

An Uncertain Future

The Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, with a few changes, on July 4, 1776. The American colonies wTere now independent states—at least in theory. True freedom, though, would not come until the war ended and Great Britain officially recognized the United States as a rightfully independent nation.

Summarizing According to the Declaration of Independence, what is the purpose of government?



Checking for Understanding

1. Key Terms Write complete son Lences LhaL include each pair of terms below.

boycott, repeal: delegates., independence

Reviewing Main lefeas

2. Explain Why did Great Britain raise taxes on the American co Ion is Us afLer 1763? What effect did this have on the colonists?

3. Identify What British legislation prom pled colonists Lo hold Lhe First Continental Congress?

Critical Thinking

4. Making Inferences Assume tho role of a BriLish govern men I official in 1774, and write a press release explaining why tho Coercive Ac Is were necessary.

5. Categorizing Information In a web diagram like the one below, list the ideas of government found in Lhe Declaration of Independence.

Ideas in Decla-ation of Indcpcndcnco ^--

Analyzing visuals

6. Interpret Reexamino the political carLoon on this page. WhaL do the labels or initials represent?


7. Use Primary Sources Read Lhe Declaration of Natural Rights in the Declaration ot Independence (second, third, and fourlh paragraphs on page 44], Select what you think is the single most irnporLanL idea and explain how that idea affects your life today.


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  • naomi
    How did American colonists resist and reject the british crackdown?
    8 years ago
  • everard
    How did the colonies resist attempts to tighten british control?
    8 years ago
  • kaarle
    What does intolerable act mean?
    7 years ago

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