For as long as I can remember, my father would read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. A hobby I myself took up while living abroad. A simple ritual that helped me feel like I was still participating in the celebrations back home.
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most essential pieces of political writing to ever be produced by mankind. Particularly because of this sentence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
And while the Declaration of Independence broke new ground, it was, we should remember, merely just one of the great documents produced during this time.
A fact made evident by Abraham Lincoln during his first Inaugural Address in 1861. Saddled with the secession of southern states, a looming civil war, and the self-destruction of the ‘perfect union’ created by his political forefathers, he said this:
Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was “to form a more perfect union.”
Lincoln’s brief summary here is, as I agree, a necessary exegesis of America’s story. Of the importance there is in knowing how those men in Philadelphia on July 2nd, 1776 came to resolve:
[t]hat these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
So sitting here on the Fourth of July, all the way up here in Vermont, I have once again continued the hobby of reading the Declaration of Independence. But there’s more to it this time.
I have likewise found myself devoted to this story in another way. It has become the necessary backstory to my ‘in-process’ book on the Supreme Court’s decisions dealing with American Atheism. So that, for the last few months, it has been the focus of my research and writing, particularly in regard to answering a number of rudimentary questions that I have asked on behalf of my readers:
How did the First Amendment take shape? How did the Bill of Rights come about? How did the Constitution get written? What inspired it? What form of Government did it replace? If the Constitution replaced a form of government, how did that government come to be after the American colonies, then states, declared themselves independent of Great Britain? Why did we do that? What were the causes? The catalysts that led from a perfect union between King George III and his colonies, to the creation of an American government?
Of course, on top of this, there’s more personal reasons for asking myself, and then answering, these questions. I have seen lately my fellow Americans sink deeper into a dangerous sense of political ignorance. Of a myopic view of their own origin. Of re-writing this story to suit their narratives. As if ignorance and bias are suddenly the new trend, like pet rocks or Furbies.
Which, honestly, isn’t surprising. Our President is an imbecile who doesn’t read history. And the President, as an elected official, is the representative of the people.
So I chose today to post here my notes on the birth of America, written as a simple timeline, with limited commentary and no bias or opinion. Notes that I used to design my chapter on the subject that I hope you might read alongside the Declaration of Independence today, so as to enjoy a bit more of the story. Because Independence Day isn’t just about the Declaration. It’s about the process, the catalysts, and the results. It’s about the story. And knowing the story, or at least knowing more of the story, is far better than not knowing it, and in that way suffering the fate of those who, during Lincoln’s time, preferred their own telling over the real one.
1754—1763 (1756—1763) The Seven Years War (French and Indian War)
October 25th, 1760 King George III crowned King
October 7th, 1763 Royal Proclamation of 1763 issued by George III: at the end of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), and via the Treaty of Paris (February 10th, 1763), France ceded all land east of the Mississippi river, as well as Canada, to Great Britain.
April 5th, 1764 Sugar Act passed by Parliament. In order to build revenue, as well as defray the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the colonies, the Molasses Act, which expired in 1763, was reframed as the Sugar Act, which halved the Molasses Act, but set stricter enforcement. This began the colonial resentment of being taxed, without representation, by Parliament.
September 1st, 1764 Currency Act passed by Parliament, restricting the colonies from issuing paper money.
March 22nd, 1765 Stamp Act passed by Parliament
August 1765 Sons of Liberty formed in Boston
October 7th –25th, 1765 Stamp Act Congress convened (City Hall, later called Federal Hall, New York City) made up of delegates from nine colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina). This was the first gathering of elected representatives of the American colonies gathered to protest the taxation of levied upon them, and the extra-legal nature of such a gathering caused alarm in Britain, and Parliament subsequently, and also due to protestations from both colonial and British merchants whose business was suffering, repealed the Stamp Act. As well, this first congress set a precedence for the First Continental Congress, and though the men who met for the Stamp Act Congress were not themselves, at the time, devoted to the notion of independence, their meeting and redressing the British Government nevertheless inspired such thoughts.
October 14th, 1765 Declaration of Rights and Grievances passed by Stamp Act Congress (no taxation without representation, et al.)
The members of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to his majesty’s person and government, inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the protestant succession, and with minds deeply impressed by a sense of the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent; having considered as maturely as time would permit, the circumstances of said colonies, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations, of our humble opinions, respecting the most essential rights and liberties of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labor, by reason of several late acts of parliament.
1st. That his majesty’s subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the parliament of Great Britain.
2d. That his majesty’s liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.
3d. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted rights of Englishmen, that no taxes should be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.
4th. That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the house of commons in Great Britain.
5th. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies are persons chosen therein, by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.
6th. That all supplies to the crown, being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant to his majesty the property of the colonists.
7th. That trial by jury is the inherent and invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.
8th. That the late act of parliament entitled, an act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, &c., by imposing taxes on the inhabitants of these colonies, and the said act, and several other acts, by extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty beyond its ancient limits, have a manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.
9th. That the duties imposed by several late acts of parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely buthensome and grievous, and, from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable.
10th. That as the profits of the trade of these colonies ultimately centre in Great Britain, to pay for the manufactures which they are obliged to take from thence, they eventually contribute very largely to all supplies granted there to the crown.
11th. That the restrictions imposed by several late acts of parliament, on the trade of these colonies, will render them unable to purchase the manufactures of Great Britain.
12th. That the increase, prosperity, and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an intercourse, with Great Britain, mutually affectionate and advantageous.
13th. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies, to petition the king or either house of parliament.
Lastly, That it is the indispensable duty of these colonies to the best of sovereigns, to the mother country, and to themselves, to endeavor, by a loyal and dutiful address to his majesty, and humble application to both houses of parliament, to procure the repeal of the act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, of all clauses of any other acts of parliament, whereby the jurisdiction of the admiralty is extended as aforesaid, and of the other late acts for the restriction of the American commerce.
November 1st, 1765 Stamp Act went into effect
March 18th, 1766 Stamp Act repealed
March 18th, 1766 Declaratory Act passed (Parliament had absolute power to make laws and changes to the colonial government in all case, whatsoever, even though colonists did not have representation in Parliament)
1767—1768 Townshend Acts (designed to build revenue to pay the debts accrued by the Seven Years War, and the growing Empire) named for Charles Townshend, who believed the Revenue Act, which represented an ‘external’ tax, would be accepted by the colonies as constitutional. It was not. The Townshend Acts represent five tax acts: the Revenue Act (1767), the Indemnity Act (1767), the Commissioners of Customs Act (1767), the Vice Admiralty Court Act (1768), and the New York Restraining Act (1767).
1) Revenue Act of 1767: in response to the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, and because Parliament had assumed the colonists rejected the Stamp Act because it was a direct or ‘internal’ tax, the Revenue Act put taxes on import items not produced in North America, but sent to the colonies from Britain, such as paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea. It represented the misunderstanding of the British Government in thinking that the colonies rejected the taxation of the Stamp Act because it was a direct ‘internal’ tax without representation. They failed to understand that all taxation without representation was the driving force behind the growing revolution.
2) Indemnity Act of 1767: The Indemnity Act repealed taxes on tea imported to England, allowing it to be re-exported more cheaply to the colonies.
3) Commissioners of Customs Act of 1767: in order to better collect the new taxes, an American Board of Customs Commissioners, made up of five commissioners, was formed. It was created to alleviate the difficulties found in enforcing trade regulations in the colonies from Great Britain. The commissioners were, of course, corrupt, which led to ‘customs racketeering,’ which many colonists saw as essentially legalized piracy. In addition, customs official could accuse anyone (ship owners) of being in possession of illegal items, and thus issued blanket warrants and seizures of property, that was then distributed to justices who oversaw juryless courts.
4) New York Restraining Act of 1767: a moot act, meant to punish New York for not complying with the Quartering Act of 1765, but not enacted because by the time the act had been passed, New York had appropriated funding to support the Quartering Act.
5) Vice Admiralty Court Act of 1768: because there was only one vice Admiralty Court in North America (Halifax, Nova Scotia), and because it could not oversee all of the colonies, this act created four District Courts (Halifax, Boston, Philadelphia, and Charlestown), that would prosecute smugglers, again, without a jury.
October 1st, 1768 4000 British Troops begin to occupy Boston (due to the growing civil unrest in Boston, which was the seat of the newly formed American Board of Customs Commissioners, put in place by the Commissioners of Customs Act of 1767).
March 5th, 1770 Boston Massacre (Five colonists killed)
May 10th, 1773 Tea Act passed by Parliament
December 16th, 1773 Boston Tea Party by Sons of Liberty
March 31st—June 2nd, 1774 Intolerable Acts passed by Parliament (March 31st, Boston Port Act: Port of Boston closed and until the colonists paid for the damage of the Tea Party, and the King felt order had been restored; May 20th, Massachusetts Government Act: removed Massachusetts’ Charter, placing it solely under Parliamentary control, and decreed that all government positions would be appointed by the Governor, Parliament, or the King, and limited the ability to hold a town meeting to once per year; May 20th, Administration of Justice Act: royal officials could seek a trial for transgressions outside of Massachusetts (in Great Britain, or the empire) if they believed they would not receive a fair trial there. Witnesses would be reimbursed for their travel, which they paid on their own, but not for earnings lost whilst in transit; June 2nd, The Quartering Act: the colonies were required to provide quarters for soldiers, which included feeding them, and this new act gave the governor the right of quartering soldiers in other buildings if their quarters were not suitable.
October 7th, 1774 Massachusetts Provincial Congress first organized in Concord. John Hancock was elected President. This extra-legal body became the de facto government of Massachusetts outside of Boston, in direct response of the dissolution of the provincial assembly by Governor Thomas Gage, by order of the Massachusetts Government Act, passed on May 20th, 1773. Ostensibly, it was the first autonomous government of the Thirteen Colonies, and called for the construction of militias to prepare for a military assault from Great Britain.
September 5th, 1774—October 26th, 1774 First Continental Congress (twelve of the thirteen colonies attended) convened at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, to respond to the Intolerable Acts. 56 delegates were present, including John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Jay, Roger Sherman (created the Great Compromise and the 3/5s Compromise at the Continental Convention), Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Richard Henry Lee (submitted the call for Independence at the 2nd Continental Congress). The First Continental Congress passed three important documents: The Declarations and Resolves, The Continental Association, and a Petition to the King.
October 14th, 1774 the First Continental Congress adopted the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, otherwise known as the Declaration of Rights, which provided a detailed list of grievances and objections as the result of the Intolerable Acts. In many ways similar to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances passed by the Stamp Act Congress, this declaration presented a colonial bill of rights, and concluded with the actions the congress was willing to make in regard to the intolerable acts: to enact a boycott of British Trade (otherwise known as the Continental Association), to publish addresses to the people of Great Britain and British America, and to petition the King. Some of the most important or relevant passages from the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress are as follows:
That the inhabitants of the English Colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English Constitution, and the several Charters or Compacts, have the following Rights:
Resolved, N. C. D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever a right to dispose of either without their consent.
Resolved, N.C.D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural- born subjects, within the realm of England.
Resolved, N.C.D. 3. That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.
Resolved, 4. That the foundation of English Liberty, and of all free Government, is a right in the people to participate in their Legislative Council: and as the English Colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances cannot be properly represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several Provincial Legislatures, where their right of Representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their Sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed. But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both Countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such Acts of the British Parliament, as are, bona fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole Empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of Taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America, without their consent.
Resolved, N. C. D. 8. That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and Petition the King; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory Proclamations, and commitments for the same, are illegal.
To these grevious Acts and measures Americans cannot submit, but in hopes that their fellow-subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have for the present only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures: 1. To enter into a Non-Importation, Non-Consumption, and Non-Exportatation Agreement or Association. 2. To prepare an Address to the People of Great Britain, and a Memorial to the Inhabitants of British America; and 3. To prepare a loyal Address to his Majesty, agreeable to Resolutions already entered into.
October 20th, 1774 (Date effective, December 1st, 1774) The Continental Association. In all means but by name, the Continental Association was a boycott made by the 1st Continental Congress against Britain on behalf of what the colonists saw as unconstitutional taxation, particularly under the Intolerable Acts. By posing economic sanctions, the Congress had hoped to pressure Britain into repealing the Intolerable Acts. The Parliament’s response came in the form of two Restraining Acts in 1775, which limited, at first, the export and import of any goods to and from Great Britain, prohibiting as well the New England colonies from fishing in the waters of the American Atlantic coastline, without special permissions, which was then levied to the colonies south of New England after those territories adopted the Continental Association themselves. This document is important as it was signed by all delegates of the 1st Continental Congress, and acts as one of the four essential documents in the early formation of the United States, alongside the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. So much so that it was cited by Abraham Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address on March 4th, 1861 (“The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured … by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”) Important passages:
We, his Majesty’s most loyal subjects, the Delegates of the several Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three Lower Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, deputed to represent them in a Continental Congress, held in the City of Philadelphia, on the fifth day of September, 1774, avowing our allegiance to his Majesty; our affection and regard for our fellow-subjects in Great Britain and elsewhere; affected with the deepest anxiety and most alarming apprehensions at those grievances and distresses with which his Majesty’s American subjects are oppressed; and having taken under our most serious deliberation the state of the whole Continent, find that the present unhappy situation of our affairs is occasioned by a ruinous system of Colony Administration, adopted by the British Ministry about the year 1763, evidently calculated for enslaving these Colonies, and, with them, the British Empire. In prosecution of which system, various Acts of Parliament have been passed for raising a Revenue in America, for depriving the American subjects, in many instances, of the constitutional Trial by Jury, exposing their lives to danger by directing a new and illegal trial beyond the seas for crimes alleged to have been committed in America; and in prosecution of the same system, several late, cruel, and oppressive Acts have been passed respecting the Town of Boston and the Massachusetts Bay, and also an Act for extending the Province of Quebec, so as to border on the Western Frontiers of these Colonies, establishing an arbitrary Government therein, and discouraging the settlement of British subjects in that wide extended country; thus, by the influence of civil principles and ancient prejudices, to dispose the inhabitants to act with hostility against the free Protestant Colonies, whenever a wicked Ministry shall choose so to direct them.
To obtain redress of these Grievances, which threaten destruction to the Lives, Liberty, and Property of his Majesty’s subjects in North America, we are of opinion that a Non-Importation, Non-Consumption, and Non-Exportation Agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure[.]
The foregoing Association being determined upon by the Congress, was ordered to be subscribed by the several Members thereof; and thereupon, we have hereunto set our respective names accordingly.
In Congress, Philadelphia, October 20, 1774.
October 25th, 1774 Petition to the King. After discussing and drafting an address to the King, Congress drafted and approved the Petition to the King as a document sent directly to George III, rather than to Parliament, outlining the grievances it had previous brought forth in both the Declaration and Resolves and the Continental Association. The King did not respond to the Petition, and, due to the high number of documentation being presented to Parliament at the time, it likely did not receive the attention hoped. Important passages:
Filled with sentiments of duty to your Majesty, and of affection to our parent state, deeply impressed by our education, and strongly confirmed by our reason, and anxious to evince the sincerity of these dispositions, we present this Petition only to obtain redress of Grievances, and relief from fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system of Statutes and Regulations adopted since the close of the late war, for raising a Revenue in America—extending the powers of Courts of Admiralty and Vice Admiralty—trying persons in Great Britain for offences alleged to be committed in America—affecting the Province of Massachusetts Bay—and altering the Government and extending the limits of Quebec; by the abolition of which system the harmony between Great Britain and these Colonies, so necessary to the happiness of both, and so ardently desired by the latter, and the usual intercourses will be immediately restored. In the magnanimity and justice of your Majesty and Parliament we confide for a redress of our other grievances, trusting, that, when the causes of our apprehensions are removed, our future conduct will prove us not unworthy of the regard we have been accustomed in our happier days to enjoy. For, appealing to that Being, who searches thoroughly the hearts of his creatures, we solemnly profess, that our Councils have been influenced by no other motive than a dread of impending destruction.
Permit us then, most gracious Sovereign, in the name of all your faithful People in America, with the utmost humility, to implore you, for the honour of Almighty God, whose pure Religion our enemies are undermining; for your glory, which can be advanced only by rendering your subjects happy, and keeping them united; for the interests of your family depending on an adherence to the principles that enthroned it; for the safety and welfare of your Kingdoms and Dominions, threatened with almost unavoidable dangers and distresses, that your Majesty, as the loving Father of your whole People, connected by the same bands of Law, Loyalty, Faith, and Blood, though dwelling in various countries, will not suffer the transcendent relation formed by these ties to be farther violated, in uncertain expectation of effects, that, if attained, never can compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained.
We therefore most earnestly beseech your Majesty, that your Royal authority and interposition may be used for our relief, and that a gracious Answer may be given to this Petition.
That your Majesty may enjoy every felicity through a long and glorious Reign, over loyal and happy subjects, and that your descendants may inherit your prosperity and Dominions till time shall be no more, is, and always will be, our sincere and fervent prayer.
In response to the Declaration of Resolves, Continental Association, and Petition to the King drafted and submitted by the 1st Continental Congress, George III chose neither to waiver nor to give in to the colonists demands, but instead insisted on maintaining political unity between Great Britain and British America, even if it meant the colonists were unhappy. He reportedly stated: “The die is now cast, the colonies must either submit or triumph.” They chose the latter, and in fact, the reaction of the colonies to the publication of the Declarations and Resolves of the First Continental Congress was a further inspiration toward independence, turning the focus from achieving recognition from the King (representation) to fully severing ties with him and becoming independent self-governors. As well, this first Continental Congress called for the convening of a Second Continental Congress to meet if their demands were not met, which they did, the following year.
February 1775 Britain declares Massachusetts as being in a state of rebellion. British military expeditions are sent into the surrounding countryside in search of militia artillery and contraband. Such an expedition was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, leader of the 10th Regiment of Foot, into the town of Concord on April 19th, 1775.
April 18th, 1775 Paul Revere’s Ride
April 19th, 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord
April 19, 1775—March 17, 1776 The Siege of Boston
April 23rd, 1775 The Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized the creation of a colonial army consisting of 26 company regiments.
May 10th, 1775—March 1st, 1781 Second Continental Congress convened on May 10th, 1775 at the Pennsylvania State House, but also met elsewhere on these dates and in these locations:
May 10th, 1775—December 12th, 1776, Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 20th, 1776—February 27th, 1777, Henry Fite House, Baltimore, Maryland
March 5th, 1777—September 18th, 1777, Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia
September 27th, 1777 (one day only), Court House, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
September 30th, 1777—June 27th, 1778, Court House, York, Pennsylvania
July 2nd, 1778—July 20th, 1778, College Hall, Philadelphia
July 23rd, 1778—March 1st, 1781, Pennsylvania State House, Philadelphia
In essence, the 2nd Continental Congress was a re-convening of the first, and many of the 56 delegates who attended the first attended the second, with notable new additions, such as Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, John Hancock of Massachusetts, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Hancock would be elected President of the Congress (hence the large signature) on May 24th, 1775. These colonies sent elected representatives: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Georgia, which had not participated in the 1st Continental Congress, eventually set a delegation who arrived on July 20th, 1775. While initially this second congress was to meet if Britain did not adhere to their requests concerning the Intolerable Acts, and thus decide their next moves, by the time this congress convened, America had entered into a Revolutionary War (Battles of Lexington and Concord). Instead, this congress met in order to address the war effort. While it had no legal right to do so, it acted as a national government. It established an army (Continental Army), appointed generals (Washington), appointed ambassadors (Silas Deane, who was sent to France), and printed money (‘Continentals’). It eventually came to draft, ratify, and adopt a Declaration of Independence, and establish the First American Government under the Articles of Confederation.
Important dates and actions of the Second Continental Congress:
May 24th, 1775 John Hancock elected President of 2ndCC
June 14th, 1775 A Continental Army is formed in order to help coordinate the military efforts during the Revolutionary War. It was made up of militia from each of the 13 colonies (later states after independence),
June 15th, 1775 The Congress unanimously elected George Washington Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army
June 17th, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston. Though a victory for Great Britain, not only did the British Army accrue more casualties than the colonial militia, the battle heartily challenged their belief that a militia could stand up to royal troops. As such, the British re-defined their tactics, which inevitably helped the newly formed Continental Army.
July 5th, 1775 Olive Branch Petition. Authored by John Dickinson, the Olive Branch Petition was the last attempt by Congress to negotiate a peace with Great Britain. In it, Dickinson argued that they did not want independence, but instead wished to negotiate trade and tax regulation, and in essence be treated as equal to those people in Great Britain.
July 6th, 1775 Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. Written by John Dickinson, though likely based on a work by Jefferson, this declaration served as a justification as to why the colonists had taken up arms against Britain, citing the issues of taxation without representation, the intolerable acts, etc., alongside a reassurance that they, again, did not wish to dissolve the union, but merely felt they had the right to defend themselves. Important passages:
Our forefathers, inhabitants of the Island of Great Britain, left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expense of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least charge to the Country from which they removed, by unceasing labour, and an unconquerable spirit, they effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds of America, then filled with numerous and warlike nations of barbarians. Societies or Governments, vested with perfect Legislatures, were formed under Charters from the Crown, and a harmonious intercourse was established between the Colonies and the Kingdom from which they derived their origin. The mutual benefits of this union became in a short time so extraordinary, as to excite astonishment. It is universally confessed, that the amazing increase of the wealth, strength, and navigation of the Realm, arose from this source; and the Minister who so wisely and successfully directed the measures of Great Britain in the late war, publickly declared, that these Colonies enabled her to triumph over her enemies. Towards the conclusion of that war, it pleased our Sovereign to make a change in his Councils. From that fatal moment, the affairs of the British Empire began to fall into confusion, and gradually sliding from the summit of glorious prosperity, to which they had been advanced by the virtues and abilities of one man, are at length distracted by the convulsions that now shake it to its deepest foundations. The new Ministry finding the brave foes of Britain, though frequently defeated, yet still contending, took up the unfortunate idea of granting them a hasty peace, and of then subduing her faithful friends.
Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that His providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operations, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being, with one mind, resolved to die freemen rather than live slaves.
Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow-subjects in any part of the Empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them. We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence. They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.
August 23rd, 1775 A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition. King George III responds to the Battle of Bunker Hill with a proclamation that declared elements of the colonies were in open and avowed rebellion against Great Britain (traitors), and charged officials, as well as subjects, to withstand, suppress, and report any and all acts of rebellion.
October 27th, 1775 King George III gives an address to Parliament (speech from the throne) concerning the colonists, using terminology such as, ‘revolt,’ ‘hostility,’ ‘rebellion,’ ‘torrent of violence,’ ‘desperate conspiracy,’ ‘general revolt,’ ‘traiterous views of their leaders,’ and ‘I have received the most friendly offers of foreign assistance.’ Important passages:
Those who have long too successfully laboured to inflame my people in America by gross misrepresentations, and to infuse into their minds a system of opinions, repugnant to the true constitution of the colonies, and to their subordinate relation to Great-Britain, now openly avow their revolt, hostility and rebellion. They have raised troops, and are collecting a naval force; they have seized the public revenue, and assumed to themselves legislative, executive and judicial powers, which they already exercise in the most arbitrary manner, over the persons and property of their fellow-subjects: And altho’ many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty, and may be too wise not to see the fatal consequence of this usurpation, and wish to resist it, yet the torrent of violence has been strong enough to compel their acquiescence, till a sufficient force shall appear to support them.
The rebellious war now levied is become more general, and is manifestly carried on for the purpose of establishing an independent empire. I need not dwell upon the fatal effects of the success of such a plan. The object is too important, the spirit of the British nation too high, the resources with which God hath blessed her too numerous, to give up so many colonies which she has planted with great industry, nursed with great tenderness, encouraged with many commercial advantages, and protected and defended at much expence of blood and treasure.
When the unhappy and deluded multitude, against whom this force will be directed, shall become sensible of their error, I shall be ready to receive the misled with tenderness and mercy ! and in order to prevent the inconveniencies which may arise from the great distance of their situation, and to remove as soon as possible the calamities which they suffer, I shall give authority to certain persons upon the spot to grant general or particular pardons and indemnities, in such manner, and to such persons as they shall think fit; and to receive the submission of any Province or Colony which shall be disposed to return to its allegiance. It may be also proper to authorise the persons so commissioned to restore such Province or Colony, so returning to its allegiance, to the free exercise of its trade and commerce, and to the same protection and security as if such Province or Colony had never revolted.
December 6th, 1775 The Congress responds to King George III’s Proclamation of Rebellion by once again arguing that they do not wish to separate, and reiterate that they are not ‘rebelling.’ The end of the response:
We mean not, however, by this declaration, to occasion or to multiply punishments; Our sole view is to prevent them. In this unhappy and unnatural controversy, in which Britons fight against Britons, and the descendants of Britons, let the calamities immediately incident to a civil war suffice. We hope additions will not from wantonness be made to them on one side: We shall regret the necessity, if laid under the necessity, of making them on the other.
December 22nd, 1775 Prohibitory Act. In one last attempt at controlling what they saw as the American rebellion, Great Britain passed the Prohibitory Act, which prohibited all trade between Britain and the Colonies, and declared all American ships as enemy ships subject to seizure. John Adams saw this as Britain forcing the colonies into an independence, as well as an act of war. In response, the Congress then begin issuing letters of marque, permitting American ships to seize British ones in acts of privateering.
January 1776, New Hampshire passes its own, independent, Constitution, forming it’s own government.
January 10th, 1776 Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is published anonymously in America. Paine argued for Republicanism and complete independence, and though his pamphlet did not affect or inspire the congress to act in that direction, it did serve to foster discussions and turn the public discourse toward accepting and promoting independence.
May 15th, 1776 John Adams drafts, and Congress passed, a preamble to support the notion of Independence:
Whereas his Britannic Majesty, in conjunction with the lords and commons of Great Britain, has, by a late act of Parliament, excluded the inhabitants of these United Colonies from the protection of his crown; And whereas, no answer, whatever, to the humble petitions of the colonies for redress of grievances and reconciliation with Great Britain, has been or is likely to be given; but, the whole force of that kingdom, aided by foreign mercenaries, is to be exerted for the destruction of the good people of these colonies; And whereas, it appears absolutely irreconcileable to reason and good Conscience, for the people of these colonies now to take the oaths and affirmations necessary for the support of any government under the crown of Great Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed, and all the powers of government exerted, under the authority of the people of the colonies, for the preservation of internal peace, virtue, and good order, as well as for the defence of their lives, liberties, and properties, against the hostile invasions and cruel depredations of their enemies; therefore, resolved, &c.
June 7th, 1776 Lee Resolution put forward during the Second Continental Congress by Richard Henry Lee, and seconded by John Adams. The text, in full:
Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.
That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.
June 11th, 1776 Three committees formed: one for drafting a Declaration of Independence, one for drafting the Articles of Confederation, and one for drafting a Model Treaty to be used to guide foreign relations.
June 28th, 1776 Jefferson delivers his draft of the Declaration of Independence for their approval, titled: Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.
July 2nd, 1776 Lee Resolution (Calling for Independence) passed. Twelve colonies voted in favor, with New York abstaining, as the delegation did not, at that time, have permission to vote on the measure.
July 4th, 1776 Declaration of Independence. Committee of Five (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston) met to draft a ‘declaration’ if the Lee Resolution were to pass, and between June 11th and July 5th did so. This document was meant to ‘explain’ why the congress had chosen to vote for independence, and was designed as such. Jefferson was chosen to write the document with edits and suggestions made by the other members of the Committee. The declaration was ratified on the 4th of July, 1776, and submitted to the public the next day. After the New York delegation was given the ability to vote in favor of Independence, the text itself was changed with a resolution passed on July 19th, 1776 to begin: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”
[Introduction] When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
[Preamble] We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
[Conclusion] We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
July 5th, 1776 Declaration published publically (Dunlap Broadside)
September 24th, 1776 Model Treaty accepted by Congress. A committee of five was chosen (John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison, and Robert Morris) to draft a ‘model treaty’ to henceforth be used in aiding foreign relations. It was used as a template to dictate how the ‘new nation’ would propose relations with foreign nations.
July 8th, 1777 Vermont establishes itself as its own Republic and presents its own Constitution, which abolishes slavery.
November 15th, 1777 Articles of Confederation approved by Congress for ratification.
June 12th, 1776—March 1st, 1781 Articles of Confederation. On June 12th, 1776 a committee of 13 was put together to discuss drafting an Articles of Confederation that would unite the 13 colonies under one constitution. Overseen by John Dickinson, the committee presented a draft to the Congress on July 12th, 1776. A final draft was compiled from debates and discussions concerning what the constitution would state, and a final draft was submitted to congress, and approved for ratification on November 15th, 1777. Though not ratified by each state until March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation served as the de facto system of government for the United States. It is important to note, that while the Articles of Confederation served as a constitutional government, they functioned merely as a basic rubric to ensure the new government functioned, and thus the government’s central power was quite limited. While they gave the government (after March 1st, 1781, the Congress of the Confederation) the ability to make war and peace, negotiate with foreign nations over issues of diplomacy and commercial trade, and settled disputes between each state, there was no president, no judiciary, and most importantly, no tax base, meaning there was no way the government could pay for debts accrued by the states during the war. Since the Congress of the Confederation did not have the power to levy taxes, nothing could be paid for, and the money it printed (continentals) devalued to almost nothing. In order to try and remedy, the Congress requested money from the states, which happened rarely. In all, the Congress, as well as the Articles of Confederation, did not work. A better Constitution was needed. What’s more, the Articles could not be fully effective until ratified by each state, which took four years.
Virginia—December 16, 1777
South Carolina—February 5, 1778
New York—February 6, 1778
Rhode Island—February 9, 1778
Connecticut—February 12, 1778
Georgia—February 26, 1778
New Hampshire—March 4, 1778
Pennsylvania—March 5, 1778
Massachusetts—March 10, 1778
North Carolina—April 5, 1778
New Jersey—November 19, 1778
Delaware—February 1, 1779
Maryland—February 2, 1781
Once the Articles of Confederation were ratified by each state, the Continental Congress became the Congress of the Confederation. The document itself contains a preamble, thirteen articles, a conclusion, and a signatory section. Essential passages:
[Preamble] To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.
Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
[Article I] The Stile of this Confederacy shall be “The United States of America”.
[Article II] Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
[Article III] The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
[Article IV] The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.
March 1st, 1781—March 4th, 1789 Congress of the Confederation. The government that existed from 1781-1789 functioned under the Articles of Confederation. Though eventually too limited to actually function as the United States Government, most specifically because it had no authority to levy taxes, and thus could neither pay debts accrued during the Revolution, or establish a currency that actually had value, the Articles of the Confederation was ultimately replaced by the Constitution, and the Congress of the Confederation then became the 1st United States Congress.
Important events that took place during this time, and that eventually led to the drafting, adoption, and ratification of the Constitution:
September 3rd, 1783 Treaty of Paris—End of the Revolutionary War: As part of the Peace of Paris that ended the global conflicts between Great Britain and the US, France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic, the Treaty of Paris did two important things: first, it acknowledged that the US was made up of free sovereign and independent states:
His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety, and Territorial Rights of the same and every Part thereof.
And two, it demarcated the boundaries of the United States, effectively growing the boundaries by a great deal. This was considered to be the British government’s way of ‘buying’ peace, in the hope that the new nation would become a trading partner.
May 20th, 1785 The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the Congress, a survey system designed to expedite the process of selling land west of the Appalachian Mountains, north of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River, in order to build revenue.
August 31st, 1786 – June 1787 Shays’ Rebellion. At the end of the War, European business partners began to demand payment from merchants on the coast of Massachusetts with hard currency, which did not exist. This demand these merchants also made of individuals supplying them with good on the interior of the state, which eventually led back to the rural farmers in the west, who could not pay such debts. They began losing their land and falling deeper into debt they could not pay back. Soon, there grew a resentment of tax collectors and the courts demanding these payments. On top of this, veterans who had left the Continental Army at the end of the war, like Daniel Shays, received little to no pay for their services in the army, so when they returned home to debt, they grew ever-more dissatisfied with the government still functioning on the limited Articles of Confederation. Protests broke out, some forcibly stopping tax collectors from collecting taxes, and after Governor John Hancock resigned and was replaced by James Bowdoin, the taxing issue increased to the point that people simply could not pay their debts. Courts in Northampton, Worcester, Great Barrington, Concord, and Taunton were shut down by protestors. In response, political leaders such as Sam Adams and John Adams considered measures to put in end to these rebellions, considering measures as drastic as suspending habeas corpus (to keep protestors in prison) and punishing rebellion with execution. When rebellion leaders began to be arrested, such as Job Shattuck, the protestors turned their efforts to shutting down the government itself, rather than just the courts. The rebellion gathered into a militia, and their first target was the Springfield Armory. Their attempt at attacking it from three fronts inevitably failed and the militias fled. Shays himself fled and hid in Vermont, but later returned after being pardoned in 1788. Governor Bowdoin lost his re-election (to John Hancock, humorously), and eventually tax laws were re-drafted and debts forgiven. Vermont, because it harbored fleeing rebels, moved closer toward statehood, as it became an issue for neighboring states as a location of refuge for enemies. While Thomas Jefferson thought the rebellion a good thing (tree of liberty), George Washington used it as a means to further argue for a more complete Constitution, and thus, government. Federalists argued for a stronger centralized government, whilst anti-federalists argued against it. In the end, the rebellion helped further the argument for a new Constitution and a stronger central government, including a single executive.
September 11th–14th, 1786 Annapolis Convention. Held at Mann’s Tavern in Annapolis, the Annapolis Convention brought together twelve delegates (including Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson, and James Madison) from five states (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia) to discuss limiting or removing trade barriers between the states, which at the time, were wholly independent under the limited control of the Articles of Confederation. Though the convention was not a success in achieving its goals, it did call on Congress to support the implementation of a broader constitutional convention to consider amending the Articles of Confederation.
July 13th, 1787 The Northwest Ordinance was adopted, expanding the Land Ordinance of 1785, and establishing the Northwest Territory (which would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Two important things: the first was that this land ordinance required a stronger central government than the Articles of Confederation could offer, and thus further led the Congress of the Confederation toward drafting a more broadly designed Constitution. Secondly, these states would be established as non-slave (abolitionist) states, drawing a boundary line between slave and non-slave states.
May 25th—September 17th, 1787 Constitutional Convention. Originally held to revise the Articles of Confederation, the Convention quickly turned toward creating a new government, at the urging of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the latter being the author of the ‘Virginia Plan’ that would eventually become the Constitution. Certain issues before the convention: how the executive would be structured, how the President would be elected, the length of the president’s term, what issues would be impeachable, how the senate would be structured, and whether the slave trade would be abolished. On May 25th, once a quorum of state representatives had arrived (7 states), the convention proceeded. Only twelve of the states were represented (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina—Rhode Island did not send delegates, and was the last to ratify in 1790), with 74 delegates named, 55 who attended, and 39 signatories. Essential details:
George Washington was unanimously elected President of the Convention.
Two major ‘plans’ were considered: the ‘Virginia Plan’ (arguing for a bicameral congress in which both chambers represented the population of the elected official’s state) and the ‘New Jersey Plan’ (a unicameral body that reflected one vote per state).
May 30th—June 13th, Committee of the Whole. The Convention collectively discussed ‘as a whole’ the Virginia Plan, at which point the New Jersey Plan was put forward.
July 2nd—July 16th, Committee of Eleven. One delegate from each state represented (New Hampshire arrived later) met to discuss a compromise concerning the issue of representation, eventually putting forward the ‘Great Compromise (or Connecticut Compromise) that argued for proportional representation in the House of Representatives based on state population, and equal representation for each state in the Senate.
July 24th, Committee of Detail. John Rutledge (South Carolina), Edmund Randolph (Virginia), Nathaniel Gorham (Massachusetts), Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut), and James Wilson (Pennsylvania) were elected to draft a constitution that reflected the proposals so far agreed upon by the Convention, and the convention itself recessed from July 26th—August 6th. The constitution they presented consisted of a preamble and twenty-three articles.
August 6th—September 10th, the constitution drafted by the Committee of Detail was discussed in detail.
September 8th, Committee of Style and Arrangement. Alexander Hamilton (New York), William Samuel Johnson (Connecticut), Rufus King (Massachusetts), James Madison (Virginia), and Gouverneur Morris (Pennsylvania) appointed as the Committee of Style and Arrangement to draft a final constitution made from the discussions concerning the draft presented by the Committee of Detail and discussed between August 6th—September 10th.
September 12th, a final draft was presented, which consisted of a preamble and seven articles.
September 17th, the final draft was presented to the Convention for signing. Not all the delegates were satisfied, and only eleven of the state represented approved it (Alexander Hamilton being the only delegate from New York who remained, and thus unable to vote).
The Constitution was then sent to the States for ratification.
September 28th, 1787 Congress of the Confederation sent the Constitution to the States for ratification.
December 7th, 1787—May 29th, 1790 The Constitution is ratified by the states.
December 7th, 1787, Delaware
December 11th, 1787, Pennsylvania
December 18th, 1787, New Jersey
January 2nd, 1788, Georgia
January 9th, 1788, Connecticut
February 6th, 1788, Massachusetts
April 26th, 1788, Maryland
May 23rd, 1788, South Carolina
June 21st, 1788, New Hampshire (last vote needed to ratify—nine needed in total)
June 25th, 1788, Virginia
July 26th, 1788, New York
November 21st, 1789, North Carolina
May 29th, 1790, Rhode Island
March 4th, 1789 The Constitution of the United States becomes effective. Throughout the ratification process there were numerous debates about the creation of an American federal government, leading to the rise of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist factions. Though not ‘political parties’ during the First U.S. Congress, these two sides led to the divided political system. As true to their respective titles, the Federalists were in favor of a strong, Central government, while the Anti-Federalists, fearing the presidency would become a monarchy, preferred the power given to the states by the Articles of Confederation.
The Constitution itself consisted of a Preamble, Seven Articles, and a Concluding Endorsement.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Article I, Section I
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Article II, Section I
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
Article III, Section I
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
March 4th, 1789—March 4th, 1791 1st United States Congress
Three sessions were held, the first two at Federal Hall in New York City, and the third in Congress Hall in Philadelphia:
1st: March 4, 1789 – September 29, 1789
2nd: January 4, 1790 – August 12, 1790
3rd: December 6, 1790 – March 3, 1791
April 6th, 1789 George Washington unanimously elected President by the Electoral College vote, John Adams (having received 34 of the 69 votes) is elected Vice President and President of the Senate.
April 30th, 1789 George Washington inaugurated as the nation’s first president at Federal Hall in New York City.
September 24th, 1789 (First Session) Judiciary Act of 1789 established the federal judiciary of the United States, and created the court system, including the Supreme Court, as determined by Article III of the US Constitution.
September 25th, 1789 (First Session) Bill of Rights approved by congress, and later ratified on December 15th, 1791.
Article V of the US Constitution concerning amendments:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
January 8th, 1790 President Washington gave the first State of the Union Address.
December 15th, 1791 Bill of Rights ratified.
First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.