American Government - Native American, Colonial, and United States Government answers questions

Government of North America

May 2016 - Throughout the 1500s, the governments of North America were a lot like they had been before 1500. But two important things changed. One was that the Spanish settlers in the south-west began to set up a government there. This was headed by a governor, who was responsible to Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, so it was a monarchy. The governor ruled the Spanish settlers, and also the Pueblo people.

The other thing was that five different groups of the Iroquois got together and formed the Iroquois Confederacy, where they all agreed not to fight with each other, and to defend their land all together as allies. This made the Iroquois much stronger than they had been before, and they were able to push the Algonquin further north into Canada, and the Cherokee further south.

Mayflower Compact
Mayflower compact

During the 1600s, the first English settlers began to arrive on the East Coast. These groups set up their own governments, under governors who were responsible to King Charles in England, so they were also part of a monarchy. One example of a written agreement to set up a government is the Mayflower Compact.

Further north, the French settlers who arrived at this time remained under the rule of the French king too - Louis XIV. The Iroquois continued their confederacy, and all over the rest of North America each group of people continued their own system of government. But in the end of the 1600s the Pueblo people threw out the Spanish settlers in the Pueblo Revolt, and they went back to their old system of government. And to fight the English and Spanish settlers, the Cherokee started the Cherokee Nation.

In the 1700s, there was a lot more change in systems of government. On the Great Plains, people like the Ute, the Blackfoot, the Sioux and the Cree got horses from Spanish settlers, and they left their farms or their hunting and gathering and became horse-riding nomads, hunting the buffalo. In order to succeed, these nomads began to form chiefdoms and even complex chiefdoms, instead of living in small family bands.

On the East Coast, the English settlers decided to break free of the English king and fought the Revolutionary War to set up their own country, the United States of America. They wrote the Declaration of Independence to explain why they were fighting, and the Constitution to explain how their new republic would work. One main idea was that the President would be weaker than Congress, and both of them would be under the Constitution and balanced by the Supreme Court, so that there wouldn't be any one man with very much power. Another important idea was that individual people - both men and women - had legal rights that could not be taken away by the government. Some of these ideas came from the government of ancient Rome, which had also had a powerful Senate and less powerful consuls.

After the American Revolution, though, the United States killed or threw out most of the Iroquois and the Cherokee, breaking up the Iroquois Confederacy and the Cherokee Nation.

Hidalgo, who started the
Mexican independence movement

In 1821, the Mexicans threw out the governors of the Spanish king, and instead they set up their own republic. But by 1848, the United States had taken away most of Mexico and made it part of the United States. And in 1867, Canada asked the governors of the English king to leave, and Canada also became a republic.

American Government - 1800s AD

Bibliography and further reading about American government:

North American History
The Constitution
The Iroquois
The Pueblo people
The Revolutionary War
American History home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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