The Roots of American Democracy

January 12, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Political Science, Civics
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The Roots of American Democracy

Religious & Classical Roots • Christians believed in natural law, the idea that a universal set of moral principles existed. Many colonists believed that a human law that violated natural law was unjust and should be changed.

Religious & Classical Roots • Ancient Greeks introduced the idea of direct democracy, or decision making by all citizens. Direct Democracy took root in New England’s town meetings, where citizens gathered to solve local problems.

Religious & Classical Roots • From Ancient Romans came the idea of Representative government, or decision making by elected officials. This idea would be the basis of US government.

English Roots • The Magna Carta defined the rights and duties of English nobles, set limits on the monarch’s power, and established the principle of the rule of law. The colonists had great respect for the traditions of English government

English Roots • The Petition of Right demonstrated the idea of limited government by affirming that the king’s power was not absolute. The idea of limited government was one of the principles that colonists admired in English government.

English Roots • The English Bill of Rights reaffirmed the principle of individual rights established by earlier documents. One reason the colonists rebelled was to secure their individuals rights, which they believed had been denied to them.

English Enlightenment • Thomas Hobbes first introduced the idea that government was the result of a social contract between people and their rulers. His social-contract theory laid the groundwork for the idea that government was formed by the consent of the people.

English Roots

• John Locke wrote about the idea that all people were equal and enjoyed certain natural rights, such as the right to life, liberty, ad property. This idea exerted a powerful influence on colonial thinkers and would be used to justify the revolution.

French Enlightenment • Montesquieu introduced the idea of separation of powers, in which governments are organized to prevent any one person or group from dominating others. Americans applied this idea to their colonial governments.

French Enlightenment • Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed in the idea that a government formed by a social contract was legitimate if it was based on popular sovereignty. Some colonial leaders, including Thomas Paine, agreed with this idea that the government should be based on the will of the people

From Ideas to Independence • 1619, Virginia House of Burgesses • The legislative branch of the colony where elected officials made decisions • The House of Burgesses was the 1st elected assembly in the colonies

From Ideas to Independence

• 1620, Mayflower Compact • Before settlers from the Mayflower landed, they drew up this compact for governing their new colony. • They agreed to live in a civil body politic and obey just and equal laws enacted by representatives. • 1st written framework for self-government in the colonies.

From Ideas to Independence

• 1763 French and Indian War • After the war, Britain reversed its policy of “benign neglect” by imposing new taxes and restrictions on the colonies. • Before this time, colonies had been accustomed to managing their own affairs, with Britain rarely interfering in the day-to-day business of government.

From Ideas to Independence • 1765, Stamp Act • The British government required Americans to buy stamps to place on various documents. • Colonists felt that as British citizens, only their elected representatives could tax them; with no colonial representation in Parliament, the taxes were illegal.

From Ideas to Independence

• 1775, Battles at Lexington and Concord • Massachusetts militia troops clashed with British soldiers, marking the beginning of the American Revolution. • This event revealed that tensions between the colonies and the British government were so high that armed conflict was inevitable.

From Ideas to Independence

• 1776, Declaration of Independence • Called for a final break between the colonies and Britain. • It set a vision for a new kind of nation in which the government is formed to protect people’s unalienable rights and gets its powers from the consent of the governed.

Framing New Constitutions • State constitutions showed that lawmakers were committed to constitutionalism-the idea that government should be based on an established set of principles. • These principles included popular sovereignty, limited government, the rule of law, and majority rule. • State constitutions also created a government with 3 branches to separate powers, and most began with a statement of individual rights.

Framing New Constitutions Articles of Confederations • Main Weaknesses – Congress could not levy taxes to raise money to support an army or repay debts. – Congress could not control trade among the states; instead, states set up trade barriers and argued among themselves. – There was no executive to enforce laws and no court system to settle legal disputes. States could and did ignore laws passed by Congress.

Framing New Constitutions Articles of Confederations • These weaknesses meant that the national government did not have enough power to accomplish what it needed to do.

Major Challenges at the Constitutional Convention • 1st issue was how to determine representation in the new government. – Some delegates favored a unicameral legislature in which all states had equal representation. – Others favored a bicameral legislature with representation based on population. – The resolution was to have a bicameral legislature. In one house, representation was based on population. The other house had equal state representation.

Major Challenges at the Constitutional Convention • 2nd challenge was over slavery. The resolution was to count slaves as 3/5 of a free person for determining taxation and representation.

Major Challenges at the Constitutional Convention • 3rd Challenge – how to choose the president. Some delegates thought Congress should do it, while others favored popular elections. The resolution was to set up the Electoral College.

Ratifying the Constitution Federalists Favored the creations of a strong federal government that shared power with the states.

Anti-Federalists Preferred the loose association of states established under the Articles of Confederation

Ratifying the Constitution Federalists


Believed that because the national government represented so many people, it would be less likely to fall under the sway of factions

Feared that a strong national government would lead to tyranny. Believed that states are better able to represent people’s rights and preserve democracy.

Ratifying the Constitution Federalists


Believed that separation Were concerned that the of powers in the Constitution did not Constitution kept the contain a bill of rights. national government from becoming too powerful.

Ratifying the Constitution How was the debate resolved? • By an agreement that a bill of rights would be added to the document. • 1789,James Madison, father of the Constitution, introduced a series of proposed constitutional amendments in Congress. These amendments were a list of rights, found in various documents. • Congress eventually approved 12 amendments, 10 of which were ratified at that time.

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