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Identify the links between the political principles and practices developed in ancient Greece and such political institutions and practices as written constitutions and town meetings of the Puritans.
Focus Question: How did political principles and practices from Ancient Greece develop in the American colonies?
Topics on the Page
for more information on the political heritage of ancient Greece.
United States Government 2.3
for more on social contract theory and the rule of law.
United States Government 3.10
for more on town meetings
for more on the
for the background on the development of democratic government in ancient Athens.
Links between Puritans and Ancient Greece
A fair Puritan / E. Percy Moran. Print 1897
Ancient Greek Politicians
-Both had a system of social hierarchy.
-Only freemen (those were heads of families) could be part of church and town meetings and have any say in making laws.
-Political power was held within a council
-Puritan men in the council controlled taxes
-When a woman married, she gave all her property to her husband
-Puritans believed that a father’s more distant authority check on the mother’s tenderness once a male child reached the age of 6 or 7, similar to that of the Spartans; a child was taken away from its mother and put through a rigorous military training like his father.
-Puritans found it important to be able to read the Bible in its original form; Latin, Greek,
Hebrew and Aramaic.
on Puritans in New England
Here is a link to an article which discusses whether or not there may have been a
in Plymouth Plantation in 1627.
importance of a written constitution
from Brian Risman,
The Law Journal UK
The Mayflower Compact
was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. Note that all the signatories were male.
The first colonial constitution was the
, written in Connecticut in 1639.
Colonial Charters, Grants and Related Documents
from Avalon Project, Yale Law School.
Here is a lesson plan
for building a constitution for your classroom!
The Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy
Link to the
1994 Constitution of the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head
(Martha's Vineyard). In the constitutions of the 13 colonies Native American's rights were not included.
For more on town meeting as a democratic practice, see
United States Government 3.10.
Encyclopedia Britannica's definition of
The first town meeting was held, October 8, 1633 in Dorchester, Massachusetts by citizens who wanted to address issues that affected the "common good."
America's oldest town hall in continuous use for town meetings is in Pelham, MA. Read about it
See page 3 of the
Dorchester Town Records
from the "Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners" (1880) for a record of the meeting.
Citizen's Guide to Town Meetings
from the Massachusetts Office of Secretary of State gives information about the town meeting form of government.
According to the
New Rules Project (Institute for Local Self Reliance
), "the New England town meeting and the school district meeting are the only direct democracy institutions in the United States involving lawmaking by assembled voters."
Compare the Town Meeting to the Athenian Assembly by reading about the
from the movie
on what a colonial "town meeting" could have looked like.
Modern Town Hall Meeting in Connecticut
New England Town Scene
 Feldmeth, Greg D. "American Puritanism,"
> (Revised 21 June 2004).
Finley, Gavin (2003 September). Puritan History; Past, Present, and Future. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from Puritans Web site:
Massachusetts Bay Colony. In
[Web]. USA: Retrieved 04, 03, 2007, from
Image IDs from left to right
Wikimedia Commons, "Puritan Gallery".
Wikipedia, "Lower Mills MA".
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