GED Social Studies Practice Test: Background Of The US Government

In order to understand the various information related to United States Civics and Government, it’s best to first review some of the historical context leading to the development of the United States government as we know it.

The United States that we know today did not always exist. It used to be a set of thirteen colonies controlled by England. England/Britain founded its first colony in North America in 1607 in what is now the state of Virginia. This first settlement was named Jamestown. The people who went to Jamestown were known as colonists. They were still British citizens, but just did not live in England. They lived in Jamestown. As time progressed England added more colonies due to North America becoming more populated with those seeking fortune and toleration for their beliefs. What is now the United States has deep roots in toleration for minority groups as many colonies were actually founded to be safe havens for those fleeing persecution. For instance, the Massachusetts Bay colony was founded by the puritans to escape religious persecution in England. Georgia was made up of debtors fleeing their responsibilities, while Pennsylvania was founded as a religious refuge by the Quakers. Although the undeveloped lands of North America could be an unfavorable destination for most, for others it offered a fresh start. Therefore, even before it was the United States, North America was becoming the land of opportunity and freedom.

By 1776, England had increased its holdings to thirteen American colonies. During this time England was a monarchy headed by a King (King George III), with a parliamentary system in which the citizens had representatives in government. The thirteen colonies, however, did not receive any of this representation which angered them and made them want to rebel against England. They wanted their voices to be heard. They, in fact, did rebel in an attempt to form their own independent country. First, the colonies issued the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and then fought the Revolutionary War against England. In 1783, these efforts resulted in victory and official independence.

13 Colonies

The thirteen colonies had won their freedom, becoming their own country with its own government and set of laws. In this new government, each of the thirteen individual colonies would become a state in what is now known as the United States. At first, there were only thirteen states, derived from the thirteen colonies. As time progressed, so did the size of the country. Today, the United States is made up of fifty states. Initially, the United States wrote a document called the Articles of Confederation (1777 – 1789), which stated how the government would be organized and what laws the country would follow. This document, however, proved to be a failure from which the United States needed to write a new, more effective one to replace it. The new document was called the United States Constitution (1789 – present).

US Constitution Union Flag

The United States Constitution became the official law of the United States in 1789. It organized the United States government based on various democratic principles and established a set of laws for everyone to follow. In order to understand United States Civics and Government, it’s important to first understand these democratic principles and the impact(s) they had.

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