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American History - Colonial America

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The story of America is the story of democracy and authority. During the first 150 years, America struggled to find the proper balance between the two values to protect people's rights but still be able to run the country. During this time the country evolved from one ruled by an authoritative government to a more democratic society.

Democracy and authority are paired values. Each represents one end of the power continuum. Authority is when the power is concentrated in one person, a few people or a body like the church or aristocracy. Democracy is the opposite of authority. In a democracy power is spread out. Power is exercised through the citizens voting and participating in the decision making process.

In Colonial America, between 1600 to about 1770 the colonies belonged to Great Britain. The King of England used his authority to grant people land in the new world. The colonies that were started had to follow the laws set in Great Britain by Parliament. Even though the power at this time period was mainly based on the value of authority, the colonists had different ideas. Each group established societies based on different ideas of liberty, or Freedom Ways. (Albion's Seed Jigsaw Project). The Massachusetts Freedom Way was based on the Puritan's idea of Ordered Liberty. This was a democratic idea of government where everyone took part in the decision-making and running of the towns. The Virginia Freedom Way was based on the Anglican idea of Hegemonic Liberty. This had some authoritative ideas, like the social ranking where the richer land owners had more power. However, they also had democratic ideas like individual freedom and self-government. The Anglicans believed in dominance over one self, meaning that no one has a voice over you. The Backcountry Freedom way was based on the Border idea of Natural Liberty. They were anti-authority, and shared the libertarian view that people had lots of individual freedom. Finally there was the Delaware Freedom Way based on the Quaker's idea of Reciprocal Liberty. This community believed God was the primary ruler. You would go by what God told you to do, abide by the 'Golden Rule' which said you should treat everyone as you would want to be treated.

Even though the colonies belonged to Great Britain, the King was willing to let them run their cities and towns the way they wanted, as long as the colonies agreed to do all their trading with Great Britain. This was known as salutary neglect. (Albion's Seed Jigsaw Project) The colonies did have to get permission from the king on things they were going to do, and abide by laws set by parliament, but they were mainly free to do whatever they pleased. This system worked well for about 150 years.

Things changed in 1754 with the beginning of the French and Indian War. France and Great Britain had been enemies for centuries and fought many wars against each other. In this conflict the two nations were fighting for control of the colonies. Great Britain and the colonies defeated the French, but Great Britain went into debt. When the war ended in 1763 Great Britain needed to raise money to pay back the debt. This began the period of the American Revolution (1763 to 1783), one of the most important periods in world history.

The British decided to raise money by taxing the colonies. The colonists felt that they should not have to pay the taxes because they did not have a say in them. They did not have any part in the decision-making process,



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