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Discover_our_World_Yellow / Lesson 12: American Independence and The Constitution

American Independence & The Constitution

American Spies

  • During the war; there were many spies on both sides

  • James Armistead was an American spy

  • The British Commander, Cornwallis, asked James to spy for them; without realizing that he already was an American spy

  • James Armistead gave Cornwallis, the British commander, false information about the Americans

  • The Spies helped Americans to win the war

  • Cornwallis surrendered to Washington on October 19, 1781

France helps the Americans

  • France wanted to help the American patriots

  • In 1778-France entered an alliance with the 13 colonies

  • France helped fight the British on the seas at first

  • The French brought new guns, weapons and training to the Americans


  • The war dragged on until 1783

  • Britain began to fear that they would lose other parts of their empire if they continued to fight the Americans

  • Peace talks between the British and the Americans began in 1782; the American representatives who went to Britain to negotiate were-John Jay, Ben Franklin, and John Adams

  • On September 3, 1783 The American Revolution ended when the Treaty of Paris in 1783 was signed----American Independence was recognized by other countries on this day, including BritainThe French brought new guns, weapons and training to the Americans

The Second Continental Congress

  • In 1777-The Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation-which left the government weak because it gave most of the power to the states to avoid a new monarchy

  • The currency or money was weak

  • The laws were weak and not enforced

  • The states or colonies were not united

Problems After the War

  • Many soldiers came home from the war to become farmers

  • They did not make any money during the war and as farmers they were taxed heavily by the states

  • In 1786 Daniel Shays, a Massachusetts farmer, organized 1000 farmers to protest against the taxes

  • The militia was called in and fighting broke out

  • This event was called Shays Rebellion

  • This event called attention to the weak government and change began to happen.

African Americans

  • After the war---the African Americans who had fought as American soldiers were granted freedom on their return home

  • Richard Allen a former slave and soldier in 1787 decided to form
    "The Free African Society"---this was the first movement for African Americans in North America-this helped African Americans deal with living in America as free men


  • The 13 colonies had become individual states after the war-as they each ruled themselves and made their own laws

  • At that time other countries were called states-so the states acted like they were individual countries at the time

  • New territories that were forming with populations over 60,000 could apply for statehood to become states.

  • Statehood-this is simply to become a state

  • When the Constitution is written-the states become united and therefore our country becomes the United States of America instead of just America or instead of just states in America

  • Instead of being Virginians or Pennsylvanians the colonists would say they were Americans

The Constitution of the United States of America

The Constitution

  • On May 25, 1787---55 delegates from the states met to reform the Articles of Confederation

  • The meeting became known as the Constitutional Convention

  • James Madison came to the convention 11 days early

  • He read a trunk load of books, given to him by Thomas Jefferson, on the governments of other countries

  James Madison

  • On the day that the Convention began-James had already worked out a plan for the revised government

  • Madison's plan became known as the Virginia plan and that his plan was the first one discussed

  • Other plans were also discussed; but because Madison's plan was adopted-James Madison became the "Father or "Godfather" of the Constitution

The Preamble to the Constitution

  • There is an introduction to the Constitution of the United States-it is called the Preamble to the Constitution

  • The Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The Amendments to the Constitution

  • There are 26+ Amendments currently added to the Constitutional document

  • Amendments are "Additions" to the original constitution---they are extra laws that needed to be added to our constitutional laws

The Bill of Rights

  • The Bill of Rights are the first 10 Amendments that were added to the Constitution by the founders

The New Government

  • The Constitution outlines our new American Government system-it was different than the old government outlined in the Articles of Confederation

  • We adopted our Constitutional outlined government system from Rome & Greece

  • The government system that we adopted is called a Democratic Republic---it is both a democracy and a Republic---so the people make the laws and choose the representatives

The Constitution

  • Three branches of Government were created in the Constitution:

  • 1. The Executive Branch-President-enforces laws

  • 2. The Judicial Branch-Courts-explain laws

  • 3. The Legislative Branch-Senate & House of Representatives-which make laws

The Federal System of Government

  • The Constitution divides the power of the government between the states and the central government-this is called the Federal System of Government

  • The Federal Government's jobs are:

  • 1. to declare war 2. to coin money

  • 3. to make treaties 4. to run the post office

  • 5. to settle disputes between states

The States

  • The states have their own governments also

  • The states jobs are:

  • 1. To set up public schools

  • 2. to run state and local elections

  • 3. to collect taxes

  • 4. to pass laws

Checks And Balances

  • The three branches of Government are created to be a system of checks and balances; this means that the powers of one branch are balanced by the powers of another branch.

  • Each branch can check or stop another branch if it tried to use it's powers wrongly-it would be kept under control

The President of the United States

  • The President can veto or stop laws that are made if he or she believes the law is not good for the people

  • The first President who was elected to this new government system that is outlined in the constitution was George Washington