Roots of American Democracy


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Roots of American Democracy

  1. 1. Roots of American Democracy
  2. 2. Judeo-Christian Traditions• Justice stressed that people should create society based on respect for the law
  3. 3. Natural Law• Universal set of moral principles that supersedes human law• If human law violated natural law, it is unjust
  4. 4. Direct Democracy• Ancient Greece• Took root in New England town meetings
  5. 5. Representative Democracy• Ancient Rome• Decision making by officials elected from citizenry
  6. 6. English Tradition built on 3 main documents:• Magna Carta• Petition of Right• English Bill of Rights
  7. 7. Magna Carta• Charter: written grant of authority• Limited the king’s power• Rule of law – All people, including monarch, are subject to the law
  8. 8. Petition of Right• Limited government – King’s power not absolute• Prohibited arbitrary arrests and quartering of troops in private homes without owners consent
  9. 9. English Bill of Rights, 1689• Individual rights – Rights that are yours simply because you’re human• New rights included: – Right to petition king – Right to bear arms – Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment – Right to trial by jury
  10. 10. English Enlightenment• Thomas Hobbes – Social-contract theory • Hobbes believed man in natural state was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” • People willing to give up some freedom in exchange for peace and order – Groundwork for idea that government formed by consent of the people
  11. 11. • John Locke – Social-contract theory • Locke believed man in natural state was equal and enjoyed natural rights • Agreed with Hobbes that people willing to give up some freedoms in exchange for government’s protection • Argued that if government failed to protect natural rights that people had the right to overthrow the government and make a new one – Natural rights • Rights all people have simply because they’re human • Includes life, liberty and property
  12. 12. French Enlightenment• Baron de Montesquieu – Charles-Louis de Secondat – Separation of Powers • Government should be organized in a way that prevents any one person or group from dominating – Three Branches • Executive, Legislative, Judicial • Separate functions for each branch
  13. 13. • Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Popular sovereignty • General will of the people (people power) • In order for government to have legitimacy it must be based on popular sovereignty – If government acts against general will, it has broken social contract and should be dissolved
  14. 14. Mayflower Compact, 1620• Agreed to live in a “Civil Body Politic” and obey equal laws created by chosen representatives• First written framework for self- government
  15. 15. Massachusetts Body of Liberties• New England’s first code of laws• Guaranteed basic rights
  16. 16. Declaration of Independence• Government formed to protect “unalienable” (can’t be taken away) rights – Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness• Government gets its “powers from the consent of the governed” – Popular sovereignty