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6. The 13 Colonies which won their independence from Great Britain were:

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Some more new words which the student should understand:

admiration-great liking for.
agricultural-connected with farming.
alliance-agreement of groups to cooperate.
assemblies—the meetings of a group; a word often used in con-

nection with lawmaking groups. binding-serving to connect persons or things closely together. British-people of England, Scotland, and Wales. burdens—things heavy or hard to carry. celebrated-made an important or a happy occasion of. Colonies-newly settled communities or countries which belong

to an older national group. colonists—persons living in a colony. Continental Congress—a group of delegates from all the colonies

which met first in 1774 to make plans to protect the rights

of the colonists. created-made new. Creator-God, the Supreme One. decisive—deciding, having final influence on the result. Declaration of Independence—the public statement by which the

Continental Congress declared the 13 North American Colonies

to be free from Great Britain. delegates-persons to whom other persons give authority to rep

resent them, usually for a meeting.

demand-ask or call for with authority. document—a written or printed paper that often is used as a

guide for action. endowed-given valuable gifts or rights. establishedset up or created. fleet-a number of ships under one command. forbidden-ordered by someone in authority not to be done. founding-starting or setting up. independence-freedom from being ruled by someone else. independent—not needing the support, or subject to the control,

of someone else. inhabitants-people who live in a place. interfere-act in a way to hamper the actions or freedom of

another person. occupations—ways of earning a living. Parliament, the-name for the British lawmaking group. persecuted—treated with repeated acts of cruelty. persuade-win over by argument. Pilgrims-persons who left England and Holland to find re

ligious freedom. proclaimedmade a public statement about an important thing. profit-gain, sale of an article for more than you paid for it. pursuit-search for. recognizedaccepted. self-evident—so clear that nobody can misunderstand. surrender give up. territories-separate tracts of land belonging to a nation. traitors-persons who go against their allegiance. treaty-an important agreement between two or more nations. unalienable that which cannot be taken away. weapons—things to fight with, as guns.


How a New Constitution Was Planned and Adopted

“We the people of the United States, . . . establish this Constitution for the United States of America." -First words of the Federal Constitution.

* After the colonists won their independence from Great Britain they faced the problem of choosing a form of government for themselves. What kind of government would about 4 million people in a new country choose? To what kind of a government would they give power to make laws which they themselves must obey?

To answer these questions, the wise leaders of the 13 States wrote the Constitution which is today the supreme law of the United States. Let us read about the planning of the Constitution.

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The War of Independence freed the American Colonies from Great Britain. They became independent States. But they still had the problem of setting up a government on which they could all agree. Here were 13 States, free

. but in an unfriendly world. They did not know how closely they must get together for safety, nor how independent of each other they could afford to be. They had not paid all the expenses of the war. They had no money with which to pay their debts. No general plan had been worked out to guide them in their relationship with foreign countries. They no longer had a mother country to protect them from other nations. They had no real central government. What were they to do? What good or bad things could they see ahead of them?

Some of the people in the States wanted to set up a strong central government. Others were fearful that in so doing

they would lose some of the freedom for which they had fought.

THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION For 8 years (1781-89) the people of the 13 States tried to work out their problems through a plan of government known as Articles of Confederation. In this plan a central government was set up, but it had so little power that it could not do much to help the States or their people. It had no chief executive to enforce its laws. It had no power to collect taxes, and so could not work out a general tax system for all 13 States. It could ask the States for money but could not force them to give it. The people of each State felt that their State could withdraw from the Union whenever they wanted to. The Confederation could not really protect their property. It could not settle disputes among the States. They could not even feel sure that it could defend them from their enemies.


The 8 years from 1781 to 1789 are known as the Critical Period of our country's history (a period when difficult decisions were being reached). During those years it was often thought that the people of each of the 13 States were too much interested in their own State to join in forming a strong union. Many thoughtful people began to fear that the States would stand idly by and let their chance of becoming a nation slip away from them. It was hard to get able persons to take leading positions in such a weak confederation. Slowly the States began to drift apart and to distrust one another. And so, little by little, some of the leading men of the States began to argue that there must be a strong central government, with enough authority to force the States to obey its laws. It was difficult to get such a plan started. But finally the Congress, which was the only central group for the representatives of the 13 States, decided to suggest to the States that they arrange for a convention to change and strengthen the Articles of Confederation,

THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1787 The Convention began its meetings in Independence Hall in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This was the same hall in which the Declaration of Independence had been signed almost 11 years before.

The State governments had named more than 70 delegates to attend the Convention, but only 55 came. The State of Rhode Island did not send anyone. Only 39 delegates finally signed the Constitution. The signers and the other delegates who worked faithfully to draw up the new plan of government are now known as the “Fathers of the Constitution."

What kind of men represented the States in this convention? If each community in your State were asked to send a representative to your State capital to help improve your State government, you and your neighbors would certainly try to select someone who knew the needs of the community and was able and vigorous. Just so, in 1787, the States sent to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia some of their most experienced leaders. The best known among them were George Washington, who patiently acted as president through the long sessions, and by his wisdom and influence did his country a fine service in guiding and holding together his fellow delegates; Benjamin Franklin, the 81-year-old Pennsylvanian who had for so many years represented his country in England and France; James Madison, of Virginia, who did more than any other member of the group in actually writing the new Constitution, ably helped by Gouverneur Morris and James Wilson, of Pennsylvania; and Alexander Hamilton, of New York, the fiery young advocate of a strong central government.

The Convention was made up of men who came from different groups in their communities. Each was loyal to his own State. Some came from small and some from large States. Their opinions differed widely on the question of how the small and the large States should be represented in the new government. Some of the deputies

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