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WTP Lessons1-3
Historical and Philosophical
Foundations of American
Characteristics of Colonies
• US is independent after Treaty of Paris
• Colonies are diverse, so enacting a
common gov’t was not an easy task
– Religions, urban/ rural, social structures,
reliance on slaves, relationship w/ Native
– Each colony had its own written constitution
and colonists were loyal to state, not National.
Founding fathers were well read
• Greeks and Romans: Socrates,Aristotle, Plato,
Marcus Tullis Cicero’, Polybius
• Enlightenment philosophers: John Locke,
Thomas Hobbes, William Blackstone,
• Protestant Theology, Judeo-Christian Thinking
• VA Declaration of Ind, Declaration of Ind, Various
pamphlets, essays, letters, other counties
governments as examples.
Some lesson they learned from the
• Human beings are naturally social creatures w/
obligations to each other and their community
• Those who govern must be wise – Plato
• One purpose of Gov’t is to help people learn
about + to perform civic and moral duties.
• Democracies begin well, but tend to end in
tyranny when the poor attack the rich.
• Mixed gov’t is best -Aristotle
Natural Rights Philosophy
• People have natural rights that gov’t must
respect; these rights are inalienable.
• These rights can be summarized as “life, liberty,
and estate” – J. Locke
• People must agree to government in order to
protect these rights. Popular Sovereignty.
• When people feel the central gov’t is abusing
power, social and political unrest will occur.
Lessons all said and done
• Government should be the servant, not the
master of the people.
• A fundamental higher law, or constitution,
should limit the power of this government.
So, what FORM of government to
Aristotle – Government must perform
three functions:
– Legislate- deliberate and decide on what
should be done / public policy
– Execute- Carry out public policy
– Judicial functions- settle disputes about the
interpretation of public policy.
More Aristotle
• Types of
Polity (mixed
ECONOMICS Middle class
Money dominated
by rich
Polybuis and Cicero
• Classical Republicanism
• Mixed constitutions were a combination of
monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic
• Republic: thing of the people
• Montesquieu cites British governemnt as
example of this :House of Lords and
House of commons in Parliament.
Page 10
• At tables:
• Do “Critical thinking” and “What do you
think” orally and be prepared to report
back to the class. (random students will be
chosen to do reporting, so everyone needs
to be on their game!!!)
Balance is difficult
• How did Rome do so well?
• Classical Republicanism- places th needs
of the people as a community above
individual liberty and self-determination.
Citizens are taught tp promote the
common good, not just work for private or
selfish interests.
Roman ideas con’t
• Three aspects that made this possible
– Small, uniform communities
– Citizenship and civic virtue (Cato the Elder
and Cincinnatus)
– Moral education
– Page 15 – “What do you think” orally
– Page 16- “Cit Thinking” written
Natural rights philosophy
• Hobbes – people would agree to leave state of
nature out of fear because it “gives rise to war”.
People would leave this chaos and enter into a
social contract.
• Locke- in state of nature, all humans are free,
rational, and equal. People enter into a social
contract only to protect these inalienable rights.
• Individual rights, popular sovereignty, limited
government, human equality.
Separation of church and state:
• Judeo-Christian religious traditions emphasized
a sense of private morality, rather than just a
public morality (Civic virtue)
• During age of feudalism, church was the unifying
“form of gov’t”
• Feudal ideas included classes, hierarchical,
social relationships and social rank are
permanent and inherited, rights and duties were
tied to land and this social rank.
Renaissance and Reformation
• During renaissance the printing press was
invented- giving individuals opportunity to learn
different ways of thinking
• Gives rise to importance of individual over
common good
• Reformation- leads to challenging ideals that
were taken for granted.
• A new emphasis on individual thought emerges
and people try to free themselves for “tyranny” of
feudal states and Catholic Church
• Another affront to Medieval feudalism is more
emphasis on commercial trade – capitalism.
• The means of production are privately owned
and operated for profit– social classes were not
inherited and fixed.
• A middle class emerges
• Natural rights Philo and Protestantism
supported this trend.
• John Calvin: Wealth is a sign of God’s grace
• Page 24 – “Critical thinking” prepare a
formal statement to turn in that
encompasses both questions.
• Scientific thought crashes into philosphical
thinking – BANG
• Francis Bacon- human power of reason
and observations will eventually lead
humans o control nature. – all things are
possible through reason.
• Hobbes, Locke, Descartes’, Galileo,
Montesquieu, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton
The summative assessment
• 1. Create a timeline of Philosophical and
social history that the founding fathers
would have been aware of.
• 2. Make an argument as to what
philosophical thoughts / trends had the
greatest impact on our form of