Civic Literacy Curriculum
Section 4 | Colonial Period and Independence
In adopting the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, the American Founding Fathers built on and expanded traditions of liberty they had learned from their experience as English colonists and settlers. The Articles of Confederation, their first attempt at a post-British government, proved incapable of successfully structuring the United States, which required replacement of the Articles by the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The Framers of the Constitution sought to preserve the liberties and limited government ideals of the American Revolution while creating a more effective government that could effectively govern. Of course, these ideals were not always extended to everyone living in America, for example, the slaves and the Native Americans remained outside the American political community.
Section 4.1: Arriving in North America
Q73: Why did colonists come to America?
British colonists came to America for a variety of reasons—often more than one.
Question 73 Guide
Q74: Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
When Europeans began arriving in North America, they encountered a variety of different communities, nations, tribes, and political confederations of people who already lived here.
Q75: What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
The arrival in Jamestown, Virginia of a ship carrying African slaves initially captured by a coalition of Portuguese and local Africans from Angola marked the beginning of African slavery in mainland North American English colonies in 1619.
Question 75 Guide
Section 4.2: The American Revolution
Q76, Q77, + Q80: The American Revolution
Over the course of the 1760s and 1770s, many colonial Americans came to believe that the British government had violated many of the traditional liberties and rights of Englishmen that the colonists believed they were entitled to.
Q78: Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
As the Second Continental Congress debated separation from England, it assigned a committee to draft the document that would publicly declare the American colonies’ independence from Great Britain, as well as explain why.
Q79: When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
Although the Second Continental Congress voted to leave the British empire on July 2, 1776, Americans celebrate the nation’s establishment on July 4, 1776, when Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence explaining why America needed to be a separate nation.
Question 79 Guide
Q81: There were 13 original states. Name five.
Politics, like geography, shaped the development of the colonies that became states. Although we tend to think of the first 13 colonies as permanent parts of America, at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, the borders of some of them were not the same as they are today.
Question 81 Guide
Section 4.3: From the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution
Q82: The Constitutional Convention
The assembly of the Founding Fathers, which came to be called the Constitutional Convention, met in Philadelphia and wrote the Constitution in 1787. The Framers of the Constitution sought to preserve the liberties and limited government ideals of the American Revolution while creating a more effective government.
Question 82 Guide
Q83 + Q84: The Federalist Papers
Defenders of the Constitution writing in support of its ratification argued that the Constitution created a stronger central government but still one carefully limited by federalism and the separation of powers—The most important and famous of these writings were the Federalist Papers.
Questions 83 & 84 Guide
Section 4.4: The Founding Fathers
Q85: What is one thing that Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most famous American of his day, achieving success in a variety of fields. He was a scientist, writer (most famously of Poor Richard’s Almanac), organizer of the first free libraries in the colonies, and a U.S. diplomat during and after the Revolution.
Question 85 Guide
Q86: Which of the following is not something George Washington is famous for?
George Washington is celebrated as the “Father of our Country.” Not only was he the commanding general of the American armies during the Revolution, but he presided over the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously chosen as our first president.
Question 86 Guide
Q87: Which of the following is not something Thomas Jefferson did?
Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments were such that the famous epitaph on his tombstone omits achievements that would be highlights of most lives. Jefferson believed his three most important accomplishments were writing the Declaration of Independence, founding the University of Virginia, and authoring the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which disestablished an official state church in his home state, guaranteeing religious freedom and eliminating mandatory individual support of a church one did not wish to.
Question 87 Guide
Q88: Which of the following is not something James Madison did?
James Madison (1751-1836) was one of the many Virginians who played a central role in the founding of America. After studies at Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) with the Presbyterian minister and Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon, Madison returned to the family plantation at Montpelier.
Question 88 Guide
Q89: Which of the following is not something Alexander Hamilton did?
A young Alexander Hamilton quickly became a trusted aide to General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Hamilton later participated in the Constitutional Convention, as a delegate from New York, but he won few debates there, as most delegates preferred a more decentralized government than Hamilton sought.
Question 89 Guide