America: the offspring of English liberty and human enterprise
Understanding why America sought independence requires knowing a few interesting pieces of American history as they relate to how they shaped the beliefs and attitudes of Americans.
It is also instructive to touch on what we owe to England, its Common Law, and its constitution. Beginning in the Middle Ages, England was ahead of other European countries in the development of individual rights and representative government. The start of Common Law in the 12th century, Magna Charta's assertion that subjects had rights that transcended the power of king in the 13th, and the steady evolution of equality and liberty were English phenomena in the Middle Ages. England turned feudalism into a bridge between the barbarism of the Dark Ages and individual rights.
The English colonists brought English rights and expectations of liberty with them. Just as there were revolutions in England to strengthen and enforce the protection of individual rights (E.g.: England's Bill of Rights 1689--following their 'Glorious Revolution'--which stood as an example to colonial Americans), the same assertion of government of, for, and by the people was taking place in English America.
Articles in this category deal with these threads of history that culminated in the establishment of the United States.
American History / America's Heritage
Subjects and Articles for this Category
From the Vikings to the American emigration
- Common Law
- Magna Carta
1600 to 1763
- The factors that induced the colonists to move from civilization in England and Europe to America, wilderness and hardship at enormous personal cost.
- English colonists brought a set of political expectations with them. Their English heritage defined the colonists view of rights.
- Because of the relatively liberal degree of individual liberty that existed in England at the time, it meant something to be English. In the first Virginia Charter of 1606 the king declared that all Englishmen residing on English soil - wherever that may be - were to enjoy the same rights as Englishmen at home. This was something new in colonization and differed markedly from the approaches of other European colonizing powers such as Spain and France; and it set the political expectations of the colonists.
- The evolution of representative government in the colonies
- Few colonial charters initially called for local representative government, but representative government eventually happened--sometimes in spite of charter direction.
- Our Common Law Heritage
- Virginia and its charters
- New England and its charters
- The role of religion.
- It was a religious age. In Europe, England and America it was a Christian age. Religion was part of daily life and part of the language. Therefore, religion was also deeply embedded in government--in England and subsequently colonial America. Indeed, the concept of 'rule of law' can be traced to Christian origins.
- Interestingly, in America both government and society placed importance on uniformity of religion. But just as in England, there was very little actual uniformity to be found--the diversity of immigrants brought a diversity of religious practice(though almost all Christian). Even though religious intolerance was behind the decision of many settlers to emigrate, founding tolerant societies was not their intent. They sought a new land in which they could establish a society that conformed to their beliefs rather than being forced to conform their beliefs to others. So, as in England, religious intolerance characterized early colonial history. Tolerance did evolve; but almost every colony, when founded, sought to establish a church and form of worship that would be uniform among their settlers.
- But any disagreement was over which church should be the official church and not over the role of religion in society or government.
- The concept of inalienable rights has roots that go back to Aristotle who did not appeal to religion. But 18th century English, European, and American philosophers, jurists, and writers used Christian principles in their calls for liberty.
- The estrangement from England.
- The colonists liked being English subjects. It was the foundation of a degree of freedom unmatched by the subjects of other European countries and it associated them with the most successful commercial and military power in Europe.
- The failure of king and Parliament in the 18th century to understand the mood and attitudes of their American colonies was reflected in the laws they passed that sought to tax and regulate commerce and life in the colonies. These acts guaranteed that America would eventually seek independence. What is notable is that it was a lack of economic freedom that pushed America toward independence.
1763 to 1800
1763 was a turning point.
There is no limitation intended on the time period to which articles in this category should belong. However, articles about the time period from the end of hostilities between England and France in 1763 and the ratification of America's Constitution are likely better assigned to American Independence and Liberty and Constitution.
- The English no longer turn a blind eye, but seek to enforce former Acts as well as the more restrictive new ones.
- The key acts of Parliament that were repugnant to the colonists.
- The King and his advisors are over their head. They completely misjudge the colonists and their needs.
- For the majority of the colonists, independence was off the table until July 1776. They prefer to remain English, but with greater economic freedom.
- The founders were scholars - and America their fortunate beneficiary.
- Equality of Condition among Americans