School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 2. Analyze the effects of the American Revolution

Objective b. Describe individual freedoms that resulted from the formation of an independent nation

Clarification

Having just won their independence from what they believed was a tyrannical king and Parliament who squashed individual liberties, the founding fathers were determined that the government of the United States of America would protect individual freedoms. The founding fathers conceived of the relationship between government and citizens in a totally new and groundbreaking way that protected these freedoms. Traditionally, Europeans believed that power rested in the hands of the government, who gave certain rights to citizens. Americans believed the opposite. They believed that God had given all rights and power to the people, who gave some limited powers to their government to preserve order.

Following the Declaration of Independence, new state constitutions limited the power of the governor and put the most authority in the hands of a popularly elected legislature. Because the people elected those that governed, political power ultimately rested in the hands of the people, who could protect their own rights. Americans used the same principle when creating their first national government under the Articles of Confederation. The nation was to be ruled by a popularly elected legislature, and a weak one at that.

When the shortcomings of the government under the Articles became apparent, Americans created a new stronger national government under the Constitution. To prevent this stronger government from abusing its power, a Bill of Rights was added that protects individual liberties. The Bill of Rights protects the freedom of religion, speech, the press, and assembly. Many of the liberties covered by the Bill of Rights are direct reactions to abuses of power that American colonists had suffered under British rule. For example, it guarantees the rights of the people to form a militia and own firearms and protects them from having to provide living accommodations in their home to a soldier during peacetime and from having their person or property searched or taken without probable cause and a warrant. The Bill of Rights also protects the rights of those accused of crimes. Suspected criminals are promised due process (which means that constitutional procedures must be followed during their prosecution), a speedy public trial, access to an attorney, the right to hear the charges against him, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The Bill of Rights ultimately protects individual liberties by saying that the people have other rights not expressly laid out in the Constitution, and that any rights the Constitution does not give to the federal government belong either to the states or to the people themselves.

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Resources for Objective 5.C.2.b:
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