Topic 2

The Development of the United States Government

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Snapshot of Topic 2

Supporting Question

How did the framers of the Constitution attempt to address issues of power and freedom in the design of a new political system?

Massachusetts Standards [8.T2.1-5]

  1. The Revolutionary Era and the Declaration of Independence
  2. The Articles of Confederation
  3. The Constitutional Convention
  4. Debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists
  5. The Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

Advanced Placement Standards for U.S. Government and U.S. History

Modules in this Topic can also be used to address the following Advanced Placement (AP) Standards:

Topic 2: The Development of the United States Government

Topic 2 examines the development of the United States government during the time period of the American Revolution. It focuses on the founding documents of our democracy—the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—as well as the contentious political debates that surrounded the meaning of those texts. The issues raised in those debates continue to be part of our lives today, demonstrated by the struggles of people of color, women, and LGBTQIA individuals for equal rights as well as efforts by people and courts to balance states rights and federal power in the pursuit of social and economic policies.

The writing of a constitution for a democratic form of government, as historian Linda Colley (2021) reminds us, was a momentously revolutionary development in global history. For most of human history, rulers (kings, emperors, warlords) ruled without any written limits on their powers. The American Revolution, the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and framework of government established at the Constitutional Convention set forth a era of constitution-writing across the globe. Three forces, in Colley's view, propelled the process: 1) the Gun where as led to the breakdown of existing regimes; 2) the Ship which made possible he sharing of democratic ideas across the world; and 3) the Pen which along with a rise in literacy, enabled writers to share new ways of thinking with larger and larger numbers of people.