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Guided Reading Activity 2-1
The Colonial Period

Two Ideas About Government from America's English Heritage

Answers may vary somewhat. Possible answers are given.

Limited Government

  • Definition: The power of the ruler or government is limited, not all-powerful.
  • How Idea Was Put Into Practice: The people or their representatives in Parliament had to approve taxes; the ruler could not interfere with Parliament; accused people had the right to a trial by jury; the people could not be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment.

Representative Government

  • Definition: The people elect delegates to make laws and conduct government.
  • How Idea Was Put Into Practice: Based on John Locke's ideas that the people possessed natural rights, that they could form a government to protect their rights, that they were not born with an obligation to obey rulers, and that government was legitimate only as long as the people continued to consent to it, the people formed a government with a Parliament that could make and pass laws the ruler had to recognize.

Political Documents Affecting Life in the American Colonies

1215: The Magna Carta: power of king limited

1620: The Mayflower Compact: colonists chose leaders and wrote rules to govern themselves

1628: The Petition of Right: Monarch could not collect taxes without Parliament's consent

1636: The Great Fundamentals (Massachusetts constitution): established comprehensive system of laws for colony

1639: Fundamental Orders (Connecticut): People had the right to elect the governor, judges, and representatives to make laws

1688: English Bill of Rights: Monarch has no "divine right" to rule; document set limits on what a ruler could and could not do

1690: Two Treatises on Government (John Locke): all people born free, equal, and independent; had right to life, liberty, and property; could form governments to protect their rights