United States Constitution - Timeline

Discussion in 'Constitution & Bill of Rights' started by Ken Anderson, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Jan 21, 2015
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    1215 -- The Magna Carta is signed by King John. The original is on display in the British Museum while a 1291 copy is in the U.S. National Archives. The Magna Carta include two major promises:
    1. The king won't be the law, or above the law, but will obey the law like everyone else.
    2. A governing body, rather than the king, will determine taxes.
    1620 -- The Mayflower Compact is signed by "Separatists and Strangers" who agree to follow all of the laws of the new government they will create.

    1639 -- The Connecticut Council adopts the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut.

    1641 -- The Massachusetts Body of Liberties is passed, which contained 23 rights that later make it into the U.S. Bill of Rights.

    1689 -- The English Bill of Rights is signed.

    1690s -- John Locke, an English philosopher, writes his essays on social contract theory.

    1754 -- The French and Indian War begins, placing England and the American Colonies at war against the French. By 1756, it has spread to Europe, where it becomes known as the Seven Years War.

    1760 -- George III becomes King of England.

    1761 -- The British Parliament passes Writs of Assistance, which allow British government officials to search anyone at any time on the pretense of looking for smuggled goods.

    1763 -- The French and Indian War ends, and England expects the American Colonies to pay the costs through increased taxes.

    1764 -- Three major events take place.
    1. In April, the British Parliament passes the Sugar Act, further taxing sugar, coffee, wines, and other items coming into the colonies.
    2. In May, James Otis of Massachusetts complains of "taxation without representation" and recommends boycotting British goods in response to the Sugar Act.
    3. In September, the Currency Act is passed by the British Parliament, prohibiting the colonists from printing their own paper money.
    1765 -- Several events take place in 1765.
    1. William Blackstone writes his Commentaries on the Laws of England, which will become a foundation for law in America.
    2. The Quartering Act is passed by the British Parliament in March, requiring colonists to house and feed British troops who are said to be protecting them.
    3. The Stamp Act is also passed that month, becoming the first direct tax on the colonists. It taxes legal documents, newspapers, dice, playing cards, and many other products.
    4. In April, the colonists learn of the Stamp Act, and are outraged at the idea that the British Parliament is taxing them rather then letting them tax themselves. Riots occur throughout the colonies in response.
    5. In May, Patrick Henry gives a speech to the Virginia Burgesses, and responds to cries of "treason" with "If this be treason, make the most of it."
    6. In July, Samuel Adams assembles a secret organization of colonists known as the Sons of Liberty in order to protest the Stamp Act and other recent acts of the British Parliament. Similar groups soon form in other colonies.
    7. In October, the Stamp Act Congress meets in New York to discuss the actions that the colonies should take in reaction to the Stamp Act. Nine of the thirteen colonies are represented. They write up a "declaration of rights" to petition the British king and Parliament.
    8. In November, the Stamp Act goes into effect, and is viewed as a day of mourning throughout the colonies. Most businesses are closed, and the colonists are nearly united in opposition to it, and in favor of resisting the tax.
    1766 -- The Stamp Act is repealed by King George in March, and the colonial boycott of British imports is lifted after more than a year. Bostonians celebrate on the Boston Commons.

    1767 -- In June of 1767, Parliament passes the Townshend Acts, largely in order to establish that they still have the right and the willingness to tax the colonists. It taxes glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea.

    1768 - Two major events take place.
    1. In August of 1768, in response to the Townshend Acts, New York and Boston merchants agree to boycott British goods again.
    2. Between September and October of 1768, when riots and protests begin, and the harassment of British government officials become large problems in Boston, more than a thousand British troops are landed there, supposedly to "keep the peace."
    1769 -- George Mason and George Washington present the Virginia Resolves to the Virginia House of Burgesses, opposing taxation without representation. Virginia agrees to join the boycott of British goods.
  2. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    1770 -- Boston Massacre and a change to the Townshend Acts.
    1. British soldiers in Boston opened fire on a group of about fifty colonists in March of 1770, killing three and wounding eight others, two of whom died later. The evidence is that the soldiers were defending themselves against people who were throwing packed snow and ice, stones, and sticks at them. Interestingly, in the trial of the soldiers, they were represented by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, and were acquitted. Nevertheless, this act was successfully used as a rallying point by speechwriters and others urging action against the British, and was known as the Boston Massacre.
    2. In April of 1770, the British Parliament cut back the taxes imposed by the Townshend Acts to just a tax on tea, as an attempt to appease the colonists.
    1773 -- Tea becomes a problem.
    1. In May of 1773, Britain's new Tea Act reduces the tax on British tea, giving the East India Company a monopoly on tea sold in the colonies. As a result, while taxes were reduced, the East India Company raised the price on tea, given their monopoly. In response, colonists boycott tea.
    2. In November of 1773, the problem comes to a head in Massachusetts when three British ships carrying tea arrive in Boston Harbor. Angry colonists refuse to allow it to be unloaded, and Governor Hutchinson won't allow the ships to leave until they are unloaded.
    3. In December, more than a hundred Boston citizens thinly disguised as Indians dump more than three hundred cases of tea into the Boston Harbor. This became known as the Boston Tea Party.
    1774 -- The British act to clamp down on dissent in the colonies.
    1. In March of 1774, the king responded to news of the Boston Tea Party by passing the Coercive, known in the colonies as the Intolerable Act, which closes Boston ports, and put into place stronger Quartering Acts. In response, Massachusetts patriots begin to form "Minute Men" militias.
    2. In May, General Gage replaced Thomas Hutchinson as governor of the colony of Massachusetts, and places the colony under military law. Four regiments of British troops arrive in Massachusetts in order to enforce this dictate. The Quebec Act extends the border of Canada into areas claimed by American colonies.
    3. In June, the newest Quartering Act again requires Americans to house British troops in their homes.
    4. In July, George Mason and George Washington, both from Fairfax County, Virginia, write The Fairfax Resolves, which protest the British treatment of the colonists, call for a general boycott of British goods, and support for Boston. They also request a meeting of a Continental Congress.
    5. Between September and October of 1774, the First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia, with representatives from each of the colonies with the exception of Georgia. They agree to boycott British imports, to form committees in each colony to enforce the boycotts, and to raise militia units. Each colony was given one vote at the First Continental Congress.
    1775 -- Things are heating up.
    1. In March of 1775, Patrick Henry delivered one of his famous speeches to the Virginia Burgesses: "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." Later that month, the British Parliament passes the New England Restraining Act, which orders colonists to trade exclusively with Great Britain.
    2. In April, the first fighting of the Revolutionary War begins with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, known as the shot heard around the world.
    3. In May, the Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia. John Hancock is elected President of the Congress.
    4. In July, the Continental Congress petitions King George with the Olive Branch Petition, drafted by John Dickinson, which blames the British Parliament rather than the king for injuries against the colonies. King George refuses to receive the petition, as he does not recognize the validity of the Continental Congress. Later that month, the Continental Congress sends the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms to Great Britain, written by John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson.
    5. In August, King George declares the colonies to be in open rebellion.
    6. In December, the British Parliament issues the Prohibitory Act, which declares the colonies to no longer be under the protection of the Crown, orders a blockade of colonial ports, and orders colonial ships to be seized.
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    1776 -- The official declaration of independence from England.
    1. In January of 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, which is distributed throughout the colonies. The 50-page pamphlet criticized the king and argued for American independence. It sold 500,000 copies, and that was to a population of only two million. Paine advocates an immediate declaration of independence, so that they can seize the property of loyalists and be more likely to receive foreign aid.
    2. In February, North Carolina patriots wins a decisive victory against Scottish loyalists at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge.
    3. In April, North Carolina delegates to the Second Continental Congress are instructed to vote for independence. They were the first delegates so instructed.
    4. In May, the Virginia Convention instructs its delegates in Congress to declare the United Colonies free and independent states.
    5. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presents a resolution to the Continental Congress calling for America's declaration of independence. This resolution sparks much debate in Congress. In response to Lee's resolution, a committee of five is formed by Congress on June 11, for the purpose of drafting a formal declaration of independence. On June 12, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason, is adopted by the Virginia Constitutional Convention of Delegates. On June 28, Thomas Jefferson presents his draft of the Declaration, with slight modifications by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, to the Continental Congress. On June 29, the Constitution of Virginia, drafted by George Mason and Thomas Jefferson, is approved.
    6. On July 2, 1776, after heated debate, and some delegates showing up just in time to vote, the Continental Congress unanimously passes Lee's resolution for independence. By unanimous, each colony voted for the resolution, although some individual delegates did not. After two more days of debate, and some minor changes to Thomas Jefferson's work, the Continental Congress voted unanimously to pass the Declaration of Independence.
    7. In August of 1776, the Declaration of Independence is formally signed by most of the delegates of the Continental Congress, formally establishing the Continental Congress as the acting government of the colonies or states.
    1777 -- Work on The Articles of Confederation (the first constitution of the United States) is long and slow, the greatest area of dispute being over how strong the central government should be. Delegates do not want to exchange one tyrant for another. It must now be ratified by all thirteen states. The idea of E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One - doesn't catch on until the Second Constitution.

    1778 -- The French sign on and the British offer a deal.
    1. In February of 1778, France signs a treaty with the Americans, agreeing to aid them in their war against the British.
    2. In April, a British Commission is sent to America to offer the colonies home rule. Congress ratifies the treaty with the French and ignores Britain's offer as it still does not recognize independence for the Americas.
    1781 -- The Articles are ratified and America wins a large military victory.
    1. In March, Americans adopt their first constitution, The Articles of Confederation, after it is ratified by all of the states, Maryland being the last to ratify, as they were hesitant to give up their western lands.
    2. On October 19 of 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrenders the British Army at Yorktown, Virginia to General George Washington. Although the war is pretty much over, it isn't formalized yet.
    1783 -- In September of 1783, the Americans, represented by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and others, witness the signing of the peace treaty with England. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration, states, "The American war is over, but the American Revolution is far from over."

    1783-1784 -- All but two states write new constitutions during this period, with most containing a Bill of Rights. This is known as the beginning of the Critical Period.
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    1784 -- Spain blocks the Mississippi River, endangering trade for the newly formed United States.

    1785 -- Money issues.
    1. The United States war debt has risen to $10 million, and the new government is unable even to keep up with the interest on it. Continental dollars become worthless. With the Land Ordinance of 1785, the United States announces how it will deal with the western territories.
    2. In March of 1785, delegates from Maryland and Virginia meet in Alexandria to discuss commerce, particularly the Potomac River development. After moving the meeting to Mount Vernon, they sign the Mount Vernon Compact.
    1786 -- More money issues.
    1. Between August 1786 and February 1787, many in western Massachusetts were losing their land or going to jail because they couldn't afford to pay taxes. Citizens stormed several courthouses in protest against the seizure of homes for nonpayment of taxes. Daniel Shays, a former Revolutionary War veteran, was one of the leaders. Six hundred armed men, mostly farmers, forced the Supreme Court to close. The Massachusetts governor tried to call out the militia but, without a standing army, he found it difficult to put down what had become to be called "Shay's Rebellion." Eventually, the governor formed an army of four thousand mercenaries, defeating the rebels with only a few deaths. The difficulty in dealing with Shay's Rebellion led to calls for a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation.
    2. In September of 1786, the Annapolis Convention convenes to discuss commerce, and to consider amending the Articles of Confederation. All states are invited but only five send delegates (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia).
    1787 -- Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, which legislated how new states were to be added to the country, and how they will be governed.
    1. In February of 1787, Congress approves a second convention to amend the Articles of Confederation, to be held in Philadelphia.
    2. In May, James Madison shows up in Philadelphia with the Virginia Plan for making a new constitution. He will keep the best notes throughout the Constitutional Convention.
    3. The Constitutional Convention begins in Philadelphia, with every state except Rhode Island sending delegates. It soon becomes obvious that they won't be able to fix the Articles of Confederation, so they scrapped them and started over.
    4. In September of 1787, the final draft of the Constitution is signed by thirty-nine delegates at the Constitutional Convention. It would still need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (9) in order to take effect.
    5. In October, the first anti-Federalist letter is published, attempting to persuade people not to ratify the new Constitution. The first Federalist paper is published soon after.
    6. Between 1787 and 1788, James Madison, John Jay and Alexander Hamilton write the Federalist Papers, giving strong arguments in favor of ratifying the Constitution.
    1788 -- Constitution ratified.
    1. In June of 1788, the new United States Constitution was ratified by the ninth state, New Hampshire being the last to do so. The Constitution becomes the law of the land.
    2. In July, although unnecessary for the purpose of it taking effect, New York ratifies the Constitution.
    3. In August, North Carolina rejects ratification of the Constitution because it contains no Bill of Rights.
    1789 -- The Constitution takes effect.
    1. In March of 1789, the United States Constitution takes effect.
    2. In April, George Washington takes office in New York City as the first President of the United States. There are currently eleven states in the Union.
    3. In June, as he had promised, James Madison proposes amendments to the Constitution.
    1790 -- In May of 1790, Rhode Island ratifies the Constitution, becoming the last of the original thirteen states.

    1791 -- In November of 1791, the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, is ratified by the states. It will only be amended seventeen more times in more than two centuries.

    1863 -- After the death of James Madison, his extensive notes from the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention finally become available.
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Ratification of the United States Constitution
    1. Delaware: Ratified on 12/7/1787 (100%)
    2. Pennsylvania: Ratified on 12/12/1787 (46 for, 23 against)
    3. New Jersey: Ratifies on 12/18/1787 (100%)
    4. Georgia: Ratified on 1/2/1788 (100%)
    5. Connecticut: Ratified on 1/9/1788 (128 for, 40 against)
    6. Massachusetts: Ratified on 2/6/1788 (187 for, 168 against) *
    7. Maryland: Ratified on 2/6/1788 (63 for, 11 against)
    8. South Carolina: Ratified on 5/23/1788 (149 for, 73 against)
    9. New Hampshire: Ratified on 6/21/1788 (57 for, 46 against) **
    10. Virginia: Ratified on 6/26/1788 (89 for, 79 against)
    11. New York: Ratified on 7/26/1788 (30 for, 27 against) ***
    12. North Carolina: Ratified on 11/21/1789 (197 for, 77 against)
    13. Rhode Island: Ratified on 5/29/1790 (34 for, 32 against) ****
    * In Massachusetts, people like Samuel Adams were against ratifying the Constitution because it included an executive branch, and too strong of a central government.
    ** With ratification by nine states, the Constitution goes into effect.
    *** When George Washington was elected president, only eleven states have joined the Union.
    **** Rhode Island was holding out for the promise of a Bill of Rights.
  6. Diane Lane

    Diane Lane Veteran Member

    Apr 10, 2015
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    Thanks for posting this information, @Ken Anderson. I've skimmed it, but will read it at length when I can. Before I forget, I wanted to see what you thought of the calls for a Constitutional Convention? Here's an article from Forbes on the subject. It probably won't happen, but I think it's important to let Washington (DC) know how unhappy the people are with how things are going, and they don't seem to be listening to anything else.
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