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You Say You Want a Revolution? These Guys Started It All

Between 1774 and 1789, 13 colonies became a nation -- the United States of America. In 1774, Great Britain's North American colonies first came together to defend themselves against wrongs committed by their "mother country." By 1789, these colonies had become independent states, joined by a new federal constitution into a single nation.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence, Painting by John Trumbull

Assembling representatives from every colony, the Continental Congress (1774-1789) provided a platform to those colonists dedicated to resisting the British. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Congress became the central institution for managing the struggle for American independence.

The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789) represented America's first attempt to govern itself as an independent nation. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 proposed a new constitution establishing a much stronger national government. Although this controversial new Constitution provoked a great deal of resistance, it was eventually ratified by the necessary number of states, replacing the Articles of Confederation as the framework of the U.S. government.

Want to know what the new Congress is doing now? Visit THOMAS -- U.S. Congress on the Internet, a Web site devoted to the workings of the nation's lawmakers. The site is updated daily and provides free information about current legislation, votes, the Congressional Record and other documents relating to federal law. Continental Congress & Constitutional Convention: To Form a More Perfect Union offers a brief history of the fascinating times that led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Other related resources include The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, and Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789.

A. "U.S. Capitol paintings. Signing of the Declaration of Independence, Painting by John Trumbull in U.S. Capitol, detail II." Photographed by Theodor Horydczak, ca. 1920-1950. Reproduction No.: LC-H8-CT-C01-063 DLC (color corrected film copy slide); LC-H8-CN-C01-063 DLC (col. neg. made from color corrected film copy slide)