The Constitution of the United States was written to provide a guideline for government. After the Revolutionary War, the settlers felt an immense sense of victory, but they also recognized the need to establish a structure for the new country. The Constitution established a central government and distribution of powers between the federal government and the states. However, the founders did not want a monarchy.
Escaping King George
The patriots, formerly known as colonists, suffered long under the reign of King George III of England. George was notorious for over-taxing the colonies to pay for his lavish lifestyle. His Stamp Act imposed outlandish taxes on the colonies, and was repealed in 1766, only to be replaced by the Townshend Acts, which levied new taxes. His favors and governmental appointments for friends appeared as corruption, and these indiscretions led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. George's reaction was anger toward the rebels, and he declared to Lord North, "The colonists must either submit or triumph," leading to the Revolutionary War. Because of George's horrid abuse of power, the founding fathers were vehemently opposed to establishing a monarchy in the new country.
The Articles of Confederation
Colonists initially accepted the role of the king in the 1700s, including several of the forefathers, such as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. However, certain events changed their thinking, as the United States moved toward forming a new, independent nation. The Articles of Confederation were written in 1781, and they established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states. This document served as the country's first constitution, but it had some major flaws. There was no cohesion, and although the forefathers did not want a monarchy to establish rule, rules were certainly needed, which led to the meetings in Philadelphia to draft a document that would establish the skeleton for American democracy.
The Philadelphia Convention
The need to adopt a working constitution was obvious, but drafting the document was a difficult task. In 1787, delegates were called to Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation and construct a political blueprint for the new country. George Washington was elected leader of the convention, and delegates included Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and Edmund Randolph. Debates centered on the power given to the central government, and federalist versus anti-federalist discussions about self-government ensued. The anti-federalists were especially concerned about establishing a powerful executive; in fact, Patrick Henry, who refused to attend the Constitutional Convention, and George Mason compared federalism to the tyranny of George III.
'We the People'
During the formation of the United States, certain aspects of royal rule permeated America. Thomas Jefferson noted to James Madison that, "We were educated in royalism; no wonder, if some of us retain that idolatry still," referring to Washington's early attitudes. Jefferson feared that America could slip into tyrannical rule. The forefathers drafted the Constitution with the aim of protecting the citizens from the potential for abuse of power, designing the distribution of powers among three branches of government. The first three words of the Constitution, "We the People," identify its central theme -- a government by the people and for the people, the most basic political principle that we hold dear.
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