Forming States and national government

The idea of forming a government began with the First Continental Congress in 1774. While they created some basic plans, the real details happened on July 4, 1776, with the Second Continental Congress. At this time, the representatives decided that they wanted to declare their independence from the British Empire. While Thomas Jefferson was the main writer, he had help from other members that are considered to be founders, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, in writing the Declaration of Independence. This was just the first step in creating a national government and setting laws and guidelines to form the states.

One of the many important lines in the Declaration of Independence is that all people have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To detail that information, they wrote the Bill of Rights, and these are the first ten Constitutional amendments. In time, other amendments have been added to improve life, including getting rid of slavery and the right for all to have the ability to vote.

Creating an agreed upon Constitution was a long process, and unlike today, many of the members lived long distances, and they all couldn’t be at the meetings at the same time. By 1788 they finally ratified or approved the United States’ Constitution. It was crafted to be the highest form of law in the country, and it continues to be so today. The Constitution is the platform for the formation of all governments in the United States and for the federal government itself.

The founders were fearful of any area of government having too much power. They, therefore, created three branches of the government:

  • The Executive Branch: The President of the United States and the Cabinet.
  • The Congress: the House and the Senate
  • The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court


To try to create a sense of balance in government, the founders allowed the President to have veto power over the other two branches and to be allowed to appoint judges to the Supreme Court.

Congress can create laws and, in certain circumstances, can remove the President from office.

The Supreme Court can make declarations for laws to be listed as unconstitutional, and they have the final verdict on court cases sent before them.

Timeline of creating a government:

  • 1774: The meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Carpenter’s Hall.
  • 1775: The meeting of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia’s State House.
  • 1776: The Second Continental Congress signs the Declaration of Independence, which declares the independence of the United States.
  • 1777: The Second Continental Congress writes and approves the Articles of Confederation.
  • 1781: The original thirteen states ratified the Articles of Confederation.
  • 1781: The official first meeting of the Confederation Congress.
  • 1783: The United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Paris, which recognizes the United States as an independent country and government and is the official end of the Revolutionary War.
  • 1787: The meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (May 25-Sept. 17), where they write the U.S. Constitution to form an improved government.
  • 1787: The first state to ratify the Constitution is Delaware on 12/7/87
  • 1788: The 9thstate to ratify the Constitution in New Hampshire (6/21/88), and the Constitution officially becomes law with the formation of a new government.
  • 1789: The first meeting of Congress is held in New York. George Washington is voted as the first President of the United States.
  • 1790: The last state to ratify the Constitution is Rhode Island.
  • 1791: The ratification of the Bill of Rights, making it an official part of the Constitution.
  • 1800: The capital city of the United States is relocated from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
  • 1803: The landmark case of Marbury v. Madison gives the Supreme Court the power to declare a law as unconstitutional.
  • 1823: The creation of the Monroe Doctrine establishes a warning to European countries that they are not to interfere with the U.S.



What are the three branches of the U.S. government?
Executive Branch, The Congress, the Judicial Branch

Why did the founders create three branches of government?
To keep a state of balance/keep from any group having too much power

What year did the Second Continental Congress sign the Declaration of Independence?

What does “ratify” mean?

What was the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States?

What does the Monroe Doctrine say?
Warns European countries not to interfere with the United States