Politics 1400's to Mid 1800's

American Political Development

America's political system evolved greatly from its original days as

a continent inhabited by Native Americans. It witnessed incredible growth

politically that worked to separate it from either a wilderness, a colony,

or a new nation to become a political power that suffered some struggles

and underwent many changes, but ultimately kept growing. America's

political development in its early years can largely be attributed to the

forces that led to its creation- the European powers that invested their

resources into colonization. Most important was England, to whom the

colonies owed their early allegiance and the organization of the colonies.

The colonies developed, however, separate of England, and egalitarian ideas

were prominent and after the Revolution, although the colonies owed much of

their political development from England, they adopted ideas about freedom

and equality to differentiate themselves from their former colonizer. The

result was a new nation and America's political develop then became aimed

towards how the new nation would grow and expand and to the extent of the

power of the federal government. The culmination of these differences

between the ideologies in America resulted in the Civil War, and increased

pluralism after it. The system however was very much the same as was

established in the early days of the Republic, but there were a lot more

players in the system as America had grown considerably in the 100 years

since its formation. The result was a much more complex political

landscape which seems to be less pure in its function and formation in the

early days after the Revolution. America thus evolved from nothing, to a

very complex political democracy from the 1400s until 1900.

The earliest days of the political system in America was that the

continent was dominated by Native Americans. This would change as North

America would come to be discovered by Europe. Thus, the politics of the

United States began, in the very early days as a place being discovered by

the European powers. Columbus discovered the continent in the 1492 and the

Spanish began exploration attempts in the early 1500s. This brought

drastic changes to the American continent that would shape the evolution of

the American system, as America did not just pop up from nothing in 1776,

but rather evolved through the process of years of forces acting on it.

The arrival of Europeans brought about great change to the Native

continent, and diseases lead to political collapse and advanced technology

allowed for the Europeans to impose their will on America. This resulted

in a shift towards Western European political notions. The Spanish were

the first to impose this shift settling in Florida and setting up missions

in the southwest and along the California coast in the 1500s. They began

to impose their religious and political notions on the continent which were

fervently Catholic and looked down upon the Native Americans and their

lifestyle. These early days of American political development were marked

by new changes to what would one day become the United Sates.

These first changes to the American political landscape would take

place in the early 17th century as the English began to arrive and settle

the continent. The first successful English settlements were made in the

early 1600s in what would be in the future states of Virginia and

Massachusetts. This early political development was characterized by

different factors, one being potential conflict between the Native

Americans and colonists in which the American political trend of taking

over from the Natives was established. Furthermore, an important

development for America's politics was the fact that many of the colonists,

such as those in Plymouth, settled in the New World for religious reasons.

The Puritans were prosecuted in England, yet were able to go to settle

freely without religious persecution in their own colony. Similarly,

Pennsylvania because a refuge of religious freedom, and consequently many

different people settled there. This set up America's place as a land of

freedom, as in the 17th century religion was very important, however

freedom of religion was practiced in America but not in England for

instance. While the King had sway over the colonies, the King's religion

was not enforced and this initial freedom would influence American

political development and be a cornerstone of America for years to come.

The many groups in what would become the United States got along peacefully

which would become a characteristic of American political development. The

escape to America allowed colonists from persecution and other bad

conditions in their homeland contributed to the American political


As America developed with this ideology, it also developed politically

as colonies. These colonies were founded as a variety of different

political entities from royal, to corporate, among others. These early

colonies were founded under the King, but the ocean separating the King

from his colonies which he gave the power helped to keep the American

political landscape differentiated from parliament or the King. Charters

which founded the colonies could and did change often, though loyalty was

maintained to the king. Also, colonies had different forms of government.

As the 17th century turned into the 18th, colonial governments became more

developed and new colonies were formed until there were thirteen. These

colonies were governed by a governor who was often not even living in the

colonies but just a governor to get revenue, the governor did have power

over legislative law. The governors also appointed judges and controlled

the military. These colonies as English entities also functioned under the

English framework and did have legislatures. This meant English notions

were transferred to the American political system, however in America they

were extended. The Council of America's colonial governments, for example,

were patterned much like the House of Lords. Assemblies existed in the

colonies with representatives that dealt with local issues much like the

Parliament dealt with issues for British citizens. The colonies though

were not political independent in regards to major international decisions

that effected things as a whole, and thus while the early political

development marked a reflection of the British model, it was still under

British control.

The biggest development in American politics took place later in the

18th century as the American Revolution drew near. Conflicts arose between

the colonists and the British Government across the Atlantic who wanted

more authority, and between legislatures and governors locally. The

Americans considered themselves subject to the British government, but this

would soon change as a series of legislative decisions by the British such

as the Stamp Act led to great alarm among the colonists. The result was

increased conflict with the British and inciting events like the Boston Tea

Party and the Boston Massacre that spurred the colonists to not only oppose

the crown, but the revolt and form their own government. The colonies

became states and threw out the British agents and wrote their own

Constitutions. The Americans were very liberal and believers of John

Locke's social contract, which gave them theoretical background to make the

political statements that they made against the British rulers. The

colonists adopted the notion to become a Republic and in the 1770s major

strides were made in American political development thus to be different

than the British, or rather to correct areas that they felt were oppressors

under the British system. The Founding Fathers worked to create a

Constitution and a Confederation of the colonies as a Republic, and

therefore the groundwork was set for the American system of government.

The aftermath of the Revolutionary War was ultimately American

independence and a sense of freedom and equality that differentiated the

young United States from Great Britain and other European nations. George

Washington became the first President and a new Constitution was drafted

and this was a major event in the political development America as there

were contrasting viewpoints on what the states should become. While free

was definitely accepted, the next notion was what kind of power the federal

government should have over the states and how representation should be

established within the legislature. The great compromise established a

representative House, and a Senate in which all states were equal to

protect small states and give fair representation to big states. This was

a major event and the Convention established the United States system of

government and how it would be to this day.

America after independence then got to work securing itself as a new

government. The Bill of Rights was written by Congress, and America went

out to secure its independence as a world entity separate from Britain and

Europe. The Supreme Court was established, the executive was put into

place, and America began to view itself as a sovereign power in the world.

The expansionist tendencies led to the Louisiana Purchase and War with

Mexico as American politics took on the notion of Manifest Destiny.

Immediately after independence Washington and the federalists established a

federal notion of government, but this changed with the Jefferson's

agrarian notion and Presidency. Democracy…