|TRADITIONS INFLUENCING ENGLISH COLONIAL SELF-GOVERNMENT|
|Jewish and Christian traditions emphasized the value of the individual, the importance of social responsibility, and the idea of free will, or the freedom of humans to make choices for themselves|
|Ancient Greek democracy and Roman republicanism served as ancient models of limited self-government and influenced ideas about equality before the law and individual liberty|
|ENGLISH TRADITION OF GUARANTEED RIGHTS|
|The Magna Carta (1215) and the English Bill of Rights (1689) guaranteed certain rights to citizens, including the right to trial by jury and individual liberty|
|ENGLISH PARLIAMENTARY TRADITION|
|Beginning with the Magna Carta, the two houses of Parliament played an increasing role in representing the English people and making English laws|
The ideas of democracy and representative government have a long history. They are based on traditions that are far older than the English colonies that gave birth to the United States.
Each colony had its own representative assembly, elected by men who owned property, that advised the governor and made decisions on local issues.
The tradition of consulting representative assemblies grew out of the English experience. Beginning in the 1200s, Parliament had begun to play an important role in English affairs. Slowly, too, English citizens had gained certain legal and political rights. England's American colonists expected to enjoy the same rights. When colonists later protested British policies in North America, they viewed themselves as “freeborn Englishmen” who were defending their traditional rights.
Why did the English colonies have a large degree of self-government?
By the 1600s, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands all had colonies in North America. They began to fight—both in the colonies and around the world—to protect and expand their interests.
By the late 1600s, French claims included present-day Canada as well as much of the present-day central United States. The Spanish had moved north, making claims to present-day Texas and Florida. Meanwhile, the English and Dutch maintained colonies along the East Coast. Native Americans throughout the colonies entered the conflict, hoping to play the Europeans against one another.
Competition was also fierce in the Caribbean, as European nations fought to acquire the profitable sugar-producing colonies. By the 1700s, the French and English Caribbean islands, worked by enslaved Africans, had surpassed the whole of North America in exports to Europe.
By the 1700s, Britain and France emerged as bitter rivals for power around the globe. Their clashes in Europe often ignited conflicts in the Caribbean, North America, India, and Africa.
In 1754, fighting broke out between the French and British in North America. In the British colonies, it marked the beginning of the French and Indian War. By 1756, that regional conflict was linked to the Seven Years' War in Europe. The war soon spread to India and other parts of the globe.
Although France held more territory in North America, the British colonies had more people. Trappers, traders, and farmers from the British colonies were pushing west into the Ohio Valley, a region claimed by France.