For most of history, people have been governed by other people without QUESTION. Most societies had rulers who were KINGS or PRIESTS who could do as they pleased. How did that change?
In the 1600s and 1700s, people began to question sources of authority in society, particularly those of religion and government. They thought that using reason and logic would lead to improvements in society. These ideas then began to spread and this time period is called…..
In this time period, the use of reason guided people’s thoughts about society and politics. Discoveries in science and voyages to other areas of the world led scholars to re-think the world and their place in it. The main ideas of these scholars came from studying the ancient Greeks and Romans as well as the people of the Renaissance, Reformation and of course, the Scientific Revolution. Remember grade 7???
WHAT DID THE GREEKS AND ROMANS BELIEVE? They believed in natural law, the idea that laws governed how the world operated.
RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION ----artists and scholars start to focus on human value and achievement rather than only the glory of God. The power of the Church was decreased.
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION---through experiments scientists start to discover how the world works without the Church’s explanations. They started to question “God’s Law” which had not been questioned before.
PEOPLE STARTED TO DEVELOP NEW VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT
Prior to the 1700s, kings, queens and emperors ruled most of the world through DIVINE RIGHT. That is, they thought that God had given them the right to rule. The way these societies ran was something like this:
----the monarchy had all the power and paid no taxes. They could do as they pleased.
----the clergy (Church leaders) also paid no taxes and had many privileges.
----the majority of people were commoners were poor, paid high taxes, had few rights, and had no role in the government.
Some Enlightenment thinkers challenged the divine right system of government. Three of these thinkers tried to design a new system of government we know today as democracies:
JOHN LOCKE—he believed that a government’s power is limited and the all people have natural rights such as life, liberty and property.
CHARLES-LOUIS MONTESQUIEU---he believed that the powers of government should be separated into branches to protect people’s freedoms. Each branch of government has only certain powers and is limited in what it can do by the other branches.
JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU----he believed governments should express the will of the people. The government must give up its power the moment it stops serving the people.
These ideas started to spread, and in particular they spread to the North American colonists…..the first group of people to achieve a modern day democracy!!! But to get it they had to fight for it! This still has to happen today for some people to get freedom.