Creating a New Government

by Gordon S. Wood

When on July 4, 1776, Americans declared independence from the monarchy of Great Britain, they were faced with the formidable task of creating new republican governments. Their immediate focus was not on any central authority but on their individual state governments. Today we are apt to forget that the federal government under which we now live was a decade away in 1776. Indeed, the strong national government that was created in 1787 was beyond anyone’s imagination at the time of the Declaration of Independence. Having just thrown off a far-removed and powerful central government, Americans in 1776 were in no mood to even consider the kind of strong central government framed by the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. More »

Featured Primary Sources

Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck, Unknown artist, 1787 (National Portrait Gallery)

George Washington discusses Shays’ Rebellion and the upcoming Constitutional Convention, 1787

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
"Life of George Washington--The farmer,"  by Jumius Brutus Stearns (LOC)

George Washington on the abolition of slavery, 1786

Creator: George Washington Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9
US Constitution printed in Albany, New York, 1788. (GLC07866)

Ratification of the US Constitution in New York, 1788

Creator: George Washington and the Constitutional Convention Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
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Teaching Resources

Analyzing the Great Compromise, 1787

Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Articles of Confederation

Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
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Multimedia

American Legal History: Colonial Era to 1800

Speaker(s): Larry Kramer Duration: 51 minutes 24 seconds

Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character

Speaker(s): Roger G. Kennedy Duration: 38 minutes 45 seconds

Calling the Constitutional Convention

Speaker(s): Carol Berkin Duration: 3 minutes 13 seconds
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