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Updated: 12/10/2019
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Storyboard Text

  • In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which was a formal statement of independence of the colonies from Great Britain.
  • The Second Continental Congress needed to have a new government, so they wrote the Articles of Confederation. It was 13 articles that described the functions and powers of the Federal and state governments.
  • The New Jersey Plan, proposed by William Paterson, proposed a single house congress where every state had an equal vote.
  • There was still the need to have a set government and to review the constitution so a Constitutional Convention was held in 1787 by representatives of most of the states to overview the constitution. One issue that came up was the issue of how states votes were to be counted.
  • The Virginia Plan, proposed by James Madison, gave more votes and power to states with large populations.
  • There ended up being two groups of people with different beliefs about how the new constitution should be written, or if one should be written at all. Federalists were people who liked the constitution the way it was.Anti-Federalists were people who didn’t like the constitution the way it was and wanted a bill of rights.
  • The participants at the Constitutional Convention ended up coming to a compromise, in fact, the Great Compromise. This plan was proposed by Roger Sherman, which offered a two house Congress, with one house having one vote per state and the other having votes per state based on population.Another issue that was debated was if slaves should be counted towards the states’ population. This debated ended in the “Three-fifths” Compromise. This compromise states that three-fifths of a state’s slaves were to be counted as population.
  • The Anti-Federalists ended up getting what they wanted and had a Bill of Rights added to the constitution. The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments of the constitution, which gave “basic human rights” and was ratified in 1791.
  • The new constitution also had Three Branches of Government: The Legislative Branch, which makes laws, the Executive branch, which carries out laws and the Judicial branch which interprets laws. These branches of government are still in place today.
  • With the coming of the new constitution, Americans didn’t want one person or branch to have all the power. This ended up creating the concept of Separation of Powers, where each branch of the government had different specific powers in order to not concentrate power in one place.With the concept of Separation of Powers in place, there also came to be the concept of Checks and Balances. This idea allowed each branch of government to check on the other branches of government to make sure no one was receiving too much power or getting away with anything.
  • Then came the ratification of the Constitution. The states signed the Constitution to make it valid in 1788, and that’s how our democratic government came to be today!
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