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Editors Note: The Government Class Book was designed for the instruction of youth in the Principle of Constitutional Government and the Rights and Duties of Citizens. This chapter discusses the causes of the American Revolution.

§1. The plan of government in this country is peculiar. To a person previously unacquainted with our political institutions, it might seem strange, after having read the foregoing description of the state governments, to be told that there is still another and a different government to which the people are subject. How the people of more than thirty states, all having complete and distinct governments, can at the same time be subject to another government, also complete in all its parts, he would not immediately understand. He would not know what is meant by the government of the United States. How the states, all having governments of their own, can be _united_ in one government, he would not readily perceive.

§2. We shall therefore proceed to a description of the government of the United States, from which will appear the relation between that government and the state governments. It will also appear that the state governments, each of which has in itself a great deal of machinery, all move in harmony with the great political machine--the government of the United States. It is easy to see that a knowledge of these governments is important to the people who live under them, as every freeman exercises a part of the governing power, both in the government of his own state, and in the general government.

§3. To assist the reader in understanding the constitution and government of the United States, we shall first give a sketch of the governments which preceded, and of the principal causes which led to the revolution in the government of this country. Most of the youth who are of sufficient age to study this work, probably know that our present forms of government were not established by the early settlers in this country. The first inhabitants were _colonists_. A _colony_ is a settlement of persons in a distant place or country, who remain subject to the government of the state or country from which they removed. The American colonies which have become the "United States," were chiefly settled from Great Britain, and were under her jurisdiction.

§4. The political rights and privileges enjoyed by the colonists as British subjects, were very limited, and were conferred by the charters of the king. The people had not then, as now, constitutions of their own choice. There were colonial governments; but they were such as the king was pleased to establish, and might be changed at his pleasure. These governments were in _form_ somewhat similar to that of our state governments. There was what might be called a legislature; also an executive or governor; and there were judges.

§5. But of the officers of these departments of the government, only the members of one branch of the law-making power were elected by the people. The other branch was composed of a small number of men, called a council; but they were appointed by the king and subject to his control, as was also the governor, who had the power of an absolute negative or veto to any proposed law. And laws after having received the assent of the governor, must be sent to England and approved by the king, before they could go into effect.

§6. Hence we see that the colonists had no security for the passage of such laws as they wanted. And the consequence was, that they were often denied good and wholesome laws, by the refusal of the king to sanction them. Not only so; many laws enacted by parliament were very unjust and oppressive. The object of these laws was to secure to Great Britain alone the trade of the colonies. One law declared that no goods should be imported by the colonists but in English vessels; if brought in other vessels, both the goods and vessels were to be forfeited to the British government.

§7. Another law required such articles as England wanted, to be transported to that country and other countries belonging to Great Britain. The colonists were permitted to ship to foreign markets such products only as English merchants did not want. They were prohibited from selling abroad any wool, yarn, or woolen manufactured goods. This was done to keep the markets open for British wool and manufactures. Another law declared that no iron wares of any kind should be manufactured here. Thus was it attempted to suppress manufactures in the colonies.

§8. Hence we see that it was the policy of the British government to compel the colonists to buy of England all the goods they wanted which they did not themselves produce, and to sell to England the surplus productions of the colonies. For this purpose, heavy duties were laid upon goods imported into the colonies from other countries than Great Britain and her possessions. These duties were taxes levied upon goods brought into the colonies from abroad, and were collected by officers here from the persons importing the goods.

§9. The following facts will explain to the young reader more clearly the nature and effects of these duties: The colonists traded with the West India islands, some of which belonged to Great Britain, some to France, and some to Spain. To secure the whole trade, the British government imposed high duties upon the molasses, sugar and other articles imported into the colonies from the French and Spanish islands. The people of the colonies could therefore avoid the payment of these duties only by importing the above mentioned goods from the British islands.

§10. Not satisfied with these acts, parliament claimed the right to tax the colonies, "in all cases whatsoever;" and an act was passed accordingly, laying duties upon all tea, glass, paper, &c., imported into the colonies; and the money thus collected was put into the British treasury. The colonists petitioned the king and parliament to repeal these obnoxious laws; but their petitions were denied. Having given up all hope of relief, congress, which was a body of delegates from the several colonies, declared the colonies to be free and independent states, no longer subject to the government of Great Britain. This declaration was maintained by a war which lasted about seven years, when Great Britain gave up the contest, and acknowledged the independence of the states; and the _revolution_ was accomplished.