Download Origins of American Democracy

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Early influences, philosophers, and
governmental ideas
Athenian Democracy
• Democracy
– Greek “Dêmos” = People
– Greek “Krátos” = Power or Force
• Direct Democracy = a political system in which
the people do not elect representatives to
vote on their behalf but vote on legislation
and executive bills in their own right.
• “In a democracy, there is, first, that most
splendid of virtues, equality before the law.”
-Greek historian Herodotus
• However the Greek “equality” was limited to
about 20% of the population
– Men
– Must have served in the military
– Excluded women, slaves, children, and metics
(foreign workers)
• No property requirement to vote
City-State Rule
• Born in Athens in 428 B.C.
• Student of Socrates
• He opened the first “college” the Academy in
387 B.C.
Plato’s Questions
• Why do men behave justly?
– Do they fear societal punishment, divine
retribution, or are they scared of the law?
• How do we define justice?
Three Types of Justice
• Political
– Harmony in a structured political body
• Societal
– Society is just when relations between the three
classes are right (next slide)
– The entire community aims at fulfilling whatever the
rulers will
• Individual
– The rational part of the soul rules, the spirited part of
the soul supports this rule, and the appetitive part
submits to reason
Plato’s Republic
• Concept of the ‘just state’
– Society and government is ruled
through hierarchies
– Every individual has a purpose to
– Anarchy is the supreme vice
– When everyone in society is
fulfilling their purpose there is
justice and peace
Three Desires/Castes
• Desire for Wisdom and Truth – Philosophers
• Desire for Honor/Courage – Soldiers
• Desire for Gains – Workers
Philosopher Kings
• Rulers should be philosophers
– Their soul is ‘rational’
– Desire for truth and wisdom
• Democracy is not ideal (Plato)
– Not all members of society are capable of making
wise decisions
Justification for Tyranny
• Rise of totalitarianism
in the 20th century
– Joseph Stalin
– Adolf Hitler
– Ayatollah Khomeini
• Ideas of social
engineering, idealism,
and utopia
Magna Carta (1215)
• First document forced onto a King of England
– Attempt to limit powers under law
– Protect the rights of subjects under law
– King does not have full arbitrary power
• Beginning of process which led to constitutional
law in Britain
• Model legal system for first American colonies
• In future no official shall place a man on trial
upon his own unsupported statement, without
producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.
• No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or
stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed
or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other
way, nor will we proceed with force against him,
or send others to do so, except by the lawful
judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.
• To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay
right or justice.
The Enlightenment
• A cultural movement of
intellectuals in the 17th and
18th centuries
• Reform society using reason
• Challenge ideas grounded in
tradition and faith
• Promote scientific thought
• Oppose superstition
Change in Politics
• Challenges to established rule
– Rule should be based on reason
• Diminishing authority of the Catholic Church
and monarchs
• Louis XIV (14) or the Sun King (r. 1643-1715)
– Divine Right of Kings
• Divine (God) origin of monarchical rule
– Palace of Versailles
• Consolidated power and nobles
End of Divine Right
• Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
– Beheaded in 1793 during the French Revolution
• Divine Right was questioned
– Mandate from God?
– Reason should be supreme not religion
• Rulers should not have unquestioned power
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