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The Road to an American Independent Nation

By Sam Blumenfeld
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #84, 2008.

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Sam Blumenfeld

Before embarking on a series of articles on American Presidents, I thought it would be useful and important to give the young reader a sense of how much care and dedication to law were behind the actions of the framers of our American republic.

The long, difficult process actually began on September 5, 1774, when delegates from the colonies, the First Continental Congress, met in Philadelphia to draw up a Declaration of Rights and Resolves, in an effort to get the British government to grant these basic rights to which all British subjects were entitled.

However, on April 19, 1775, British forces, in an effort to disarm the colonists, killed eight Minute Men at Lexington, Massachusetts, thus galvanizing colonial resistance to British rule. By the time the Second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, the delegates were committed to common action. They created a Continental Army of 20,000 troops, under the command of George Washington, chosen unanimously by the delegates.

The Congress then set a course of military action. When they learned on November 9th that George III refused the Olive Branch Petition and was sending an army to crush them, there was no turning back.

Thus began the War for Independence. On July 4, 1776, the delegates of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, which gave the reasons for the colonies’ separation from Britain and spelled out a new philosophy of government based on unalienable rights derived from God, not from a king.

On November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation were passed by Congress and presented to the states for ratification. Meanwhile, a terrible bloody war was waged for the next four years until October 19, 1781, when the Americans, helped by their French allies, were able to force British General Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown. But it wasn’t until April 11, 1783, that Congress was able to proclaim the end of hostilities.

On September 3, 1783, the warring parties signed the Treaty of Paris, thus ending the conflict, with Britain recognizing the independent United States. The Treaty was ratified by Congress on January 14, 1784. Washington had resigned his commission a month earlier and retired to Mount Vernon.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the new republic was unable to effectively govern the country, and so on February 21, 1787, Congress adopted a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to meet on May 14 in Philadelphia. Deliberations began on May 25, when enough delegates from seven states met and created a quorum. Washington was chosen as Chairmen.

The delegates spent the long hot summer crafting the new Constitution, which involved much give and take, creating a Bicameral Legislature, an Executive Branch or Presidency, and a Judicial System. By September 17, 1787, the work was completed and 39 delegates from the twelve attending states voted to approve the new Constitution. (Rhode Island refused to attend.) It required the ratification of nine states before the new form of government could be implemented.

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, thus making it the law of the land. But both Virginia and New York had reservations about the new basic law. They obtained a promise from the Congress that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution. The ratifying votes were close: Virginia, 87 to 79. New York, 30 to 27.

On July 2, 1788, Congress declared the Constitution of the United States to be in effect and issued instructions for choosing members of the first bicameral Congress and electors for the first President. In September, New York City was declared the temporary capital of the United States, and on November 1, 1788, the central government of the United States under the Articles of Confederation ceased to exist.

On January 7, 1789, electors were chosen for the first Presidential election in our history, and on February 4, 1789, the electors cast 69 votes for Washington, and 34 for John Adams, who became Vice President. This method of choosing a Vice President was changed by the 12th amendment in 1804.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States. His cabinet included Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Gen. Henry Knox, Secretary of War; Edmund Randolph, Attorney General; and Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State. Thus began the First Administration.

On September 25, 1789, Congress submitted twelve amendments, including the Bill of Rights, to the states for ratification. From then on, the new representative republic was off and running. In the articles to follow, we shall learn how well the new system worked and how each new President left his mark on the process.

Education expert Sam Blumenfeld’s Alpha-Phonics reading program is available on www.samblumenfeld.net. His latest book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, is about the Shakespeare authorship mystery.

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