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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Founding Documents of the United States

By Douglas V. Gibbs

Roger Sherman of Connecticut impresses me.  Of all of the Founding Fathers, he was the only one to sign each of the four founding documents of the United States.  Those documents are the Articles of Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution.

Articles of Association: October 2, 1774, was the first time the colonies had united to stand firm together against the British Empire.  The articles were adopted by the First Continental Congress.  The agreement formed the Continental Association, which was designed to be a united stance by the colonies against the British Empire as a result of the Crown's unfair taxing practices, brought on by the Coercive Acts of 1774, which were enacted to be punishment against The Colonies for the Boston Tea Party.  The Articles of Association imposed a ban on British tea, and a ban on importing or consuming any goods from Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies.  The ban took effect on December 1, 1774.  The Articles of Association also threatened an export ban.  The British Empire responded in 1775 with The New England Restraining Act.  During this time Massachusetts was also organizing militia units independent of British control, and doing so at the behest of an unlawfully created Massachusetts Provincial Congress.  On February 9, 1775 the British Parliament declared that Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion.  By doing so, the Boston Port Act, one of the Coercive Acts, was extended to all of Massachusetts.  Then, Britain passed The New England Restraining Act to respond to the Colonies' decision to boycott British goods.  The new act provided that New England's trade be limited to Britain and the British West Indies.  Trade with other nations would then be considered unlawful.

Declaration of Independence: British Troops in the Colonies had increased in numbers, largely to monitor illegal smuggling of non-British goods, and secondly because the King believed that insurrection was being plotted.  Sometimes, colonists were required to quarter British troops.  The conflict with Britain, which officially began with Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, was encouraged by Thomas Paine's pamphlet, Common Sense.  At first, the protests had been staged by the colonists as appeals by British Citizens to the English Crown, but it was becoming apparent that the only answer to the conflict was independence.  Penned by Thomas Jefferson, and written through input by four others, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, the committee presented the draft for the Declaration of Independence originally to Congress on June 28, 1776.  It was adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776.  It was edited on July 3, 1776.  The Declaration of Independence was completely edited and accepted on July 4, 1776, and was presented to the public on July 5, 1776.  Despite the declaration by the document for the independence of the "united States of America", at the time, only about a third of the population in the colonies supported the concept of independence.  One might note that George Washington was not one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  He was unable to be in Philadelphia for the event because he was occupied in the field of battle during the American Revolution.

Articles of Confederation: Created in November of 1777, the Articles of Confederation was ratified and adopted in 1781.  The document acted as the first constitution for the United States.  Under the Articles of Confederation served a number of Presidents with a one year term.  John Hanson was the first President under the Articles of Confederation, following its ratification.  Seven Presidents of the Continental Congress served before Mr. Hanson.  The Articles were written during wartime, and did not give much power to the central government.  The States retained nearly all authorities.  Though, through the Articles of Confederation, the militias were organized under a single Continental Army, the troops remained a part of their State militias, and none of the States could be compelled to give troops to the Continental Army under the leadership of General George Washington.  The weakness of the Articles of Confederation, especially realized after Shays' Rebellion in 1786, forced the Founding Fathers to write a new constitution in 1787.

United States Constitution: The Law of the Land was written during the Summer of 1787.  It was officially signed on September 17, 1787, and was ratified by the States by the following year.  The Constitution established a federal government with more power than had been given to the government under the Articles of Confederation, but still limited the government's powers through a series of checks and balances.  Some States were reluctant to ratify the Constitution unless a Bill of Rights was promised.  The Bill or Rights, or the first ten amendments, was ratified in 1791.  The basis of the American System can be found on the pages of the United States Constitution.

Read more at  The page is a work in progress, and will ultimately be an interactive online Constitution.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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