Trends and Themes of the Era
- Increased British taxation of the colonies
after the French and Indian war led to tension. Colonists felt they
were being taxed without representation in government. The British
felt the colonists were getting the benefits of English citizenship
without paying the taxes required.
- The colonies resisted British taxation and other legislation.
The British responded by implementing stricter taxes and reprisals,
which the colonists opposed more fiercely and violently. During
this period, colonial resistance efforts became increasingly unified.
- Colonists felt the British were denying them their natural
rights, as described by John Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers.
As revolution became more likely, many colonists hoped to implement
a government independent of the British crown and based on Enlightenment
- After the Revolution, the states reacted against their
experience with the strong central government of Parliament by creating
a loose federation under the Articles of Confederation. When this
loose federation proved too weak, the colonists wrote the Constitution,
which outlined a strong central government that, through
the system of checks and balances, was still limited in scope. The Constitution
represented a desire for a strong but limited government that was dedicated
to preserving individual and state freedoms.
- Two debates during the writing and ratification of the
Constitution highlighted issues that would generate conflicts in
the newly formed United States: (1) the separate interests of northern
and southern states, and the role of slavery; (2) the proper balance
between states’ rights and federal power.