Semester Project Instructions
The American Revolution began as an argument over the meaning of the unwritten British constitution as applied to British North America. Rooted in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France, this dispute pitted colonial politicians and legal thinkers against British authorities and their apologists. The Americans maintained that they were not represented in Parliament; therefore, Parliament could not act to bind free Englishmen residing in the American
colonies. Only legislatures elected by the colonists and responsible to them could make laws for them and impose taxes on them. In this period, nobody thought of or admitted thinking of Independence (capitalized to denote a political concept). The years of argument and drama, however, inculcated among the American colonists the idea that they had much in common — that they ought to see themselves as one people with a common identity and a set of common interests overshadowing specific concerns. The arguments and rituals of revolution also set in motion the practice of building a national political framework and a national political community.
A. Primary Source Readings
Instructions: Read the Documents and Answer the Questions. This is not a typical “term paper.” You may use any format/style you like. Don’t wait until the last minute to start this project!
I. Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence (1776)
1. What is the philosophical basis for declaring independence?
2. What are the political principles that the document establishes?
3. How would you characterize the specific grievances attributed to the King of England?
4. If the role of government is to establish order and the peaceful transference of power, would the principles established in this document support those goals?
5. The founders specifically identify “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as three of the unalienable rights. What do you think they meant by these terms? Write one paragraph per term that defines the terms.
II. Constitution of the United States
The Constitution of the United States (1788)
1. What specific powers are granted to each branch of government?
2. Why did the Founding Fathers arrange the government in such a fashion?
3. Which political actor—the federal government, the state governments or the people—controls the political life of the country?
4. Pick one of the reasons given in the preamble for establishing the Constitution and in 1-2 paragraphs explain what you think it means. Be specific!
III. The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights (1791)
1. Why was the Bill of Rights included?
2. Select one of the original ten amendments and in 1-2 paragraphs explain what the framers meant by it, and what meaning it has today.
B. Web Sites
Liberty! The American Revolution
Declaration of Independence
Bill of Rights
America’s Founding Fathers