How the American Government Was Different

More of This Feature

The Declaration of Independence: Cry for Freedom
The Revolutionary War: Keeping Independence
The Articles of Confederation
The Making of the Constitution

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Part 2: How It Stacked Up

When the shooting stopped and the American people had secured their freedom, they had a new government, based on the Articles of Confederation. As has been seen before, the Articles gave too much power to the states for any sort of national voice to emerge, so the American people created the Constitution, which officially came into existence in 1789.

This document was as radical a change in government as had been seen in a very long time. It set forth the idea that the leaders of the government would be held accountable by the people, who elected those leaders for a fixed period of time.

Other powerful countries at this time had kings or queens as the head of their government:

  • King Louis XVI was head of the French government. His power was tremendous and touched almost all parts of the French people's lives.
  • King George III was still the head of the British government, although Parliament had a large role in passing laws and governing the English people.
  • Catherine the Great was ruler of Russia. She was a very strong ruler who controlled most of the Russian people's lives.
  • Charles IV was King of Spain at this time. He, too, had a great deal of control over the lives of his subjects.
  • Large parts of Germany, Austria, and other Central European countries were still under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by Francis II.
  • The Manchu Dynasty, the latest in a long line of groups of emperors, still ruled China with an iron fist.
  • The Tokugawa family still ruled Japan, having done so for almost 200 years.

The basic idea was this: All these other governments had powerful leaders who ruled for life and cared more for themselves and their high-powered friends than they did for their subjects.

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