Democracy: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections



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  • Government:
  • a system of political and social representation and control:
  • Democracy:
  • A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Athens Democracy

  • Greece, Athens & Athens Law
  • Greece started about 2000 B.C. by establishing cities in valleys along Greece’s rocky coast
  • Each city-state had its own government due to their geographic locations
  • Athens was the largest & most powerful city state in Greece
  • Athens first had a monarchy (government controlled by one person)
  • Athens government developed into an aristocracy (State ruled by noble class)
  • Citizens - were all free adult males
  • Slaves - formed 1/3 of the Athens population
  • Maps of Ancient Greece
  • Democratic Greek Leaders
  • Solon
  • Cleisthenes
  • Pericles
  • Solon (SO-luhn)
  • A statesman who solved the economic & political crisis that Athens faced by passing a law outlawing slavery based on debt & he canceling the farmers debts.
  • Established four classes of citizenship based on wealth, rather than heredity.
  • Created a council of 400, which prepared business for the already existing council.
  • Introduced a code of laws, which gave citizens the right to bring charges against wrongdoers.
  • Encouraged the export of goods, which became a profitable overseas trade.
  • Elected chief Archon (statesman) in 594 B.C. to help solve the problems of Athens
  • With most of the land and political power in the hands of the nobles, the peasants were rapidly losing not only their land but their freedom as well. Solon annulled all mortgages and debts, limited the amount of land anyone might add to his holdings, and outlawed all borrowing in which a person’s liberty might be pledged.
  • Other economic reforms included a ban on the export of all agricultural products except olive oil. Although there was opposition to Solon’s reforms, they subsequently became the basis of the Athenian state. He also introduced a more humane law code to replace the code of Draco. - From later accounts in the writings of Aristotle and Plutarch it appears that in Athens the penalty of death was prescribed for the most trivial offense. The code adopted the principle that murder must be punished by the state and not by vendetta.
  • Cleisthenes
  • (Klice-then-eez)
  • In 508 B.C. he introduces new reforms
  • Wanted to break up the power of the nobility
  • He allowed all citizens to submit laws for debate & passage
  • He reorganized the assembly to make Athens a Full Democracy (Every Athenian man would have one vote, and they would all meet and vote on what to do. The big meeting was called the Assembly)
  • Created the council of Five Hundred, (a smaller council of 500 men, who were chosen by a lottery, and changed every year)
  • He arranged the voting so that his family, the Alcmaeonids (alk-MEE-oh-nids), would have more votes than anyone else.
  • Regarded as the Founder of Democracy in Athens
  • A rich and powerful aristocrat
  • Greek – Persian Wars 490 B.C. - 479 B.C.
  • Persia invades Greece causing the Greek city-states to unite. Greece defeats Persia & creates an alliance of 140 city-states called The Delian League, with Athens as its lead city-state.
  • Pericles
  • Led Athens for 32 years, from 461 to 429 B.C.
  • The Golden Age of Greece
  • “ Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.”
  • A statesman who increased the number of paid public officials & paid jurors
  • Under Pericles, Athens evolved into a Direct Democracy (a form of government where citizens rule directly & not thru representatives)
  • Under Pericles, more Athens citizens were actively involved in government than any other city-state
  • He is also responsible for the building of the Parthenon
  • Eventually, Greece is defeated by Sparta in what is known as The Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. – 404 B.C.)
  • After the Peloponnesian War was over, all the cities of Greece were worn out & poor. Many men went and fought for the Persians for money. But others tried to rebuild the cities. This was the time of Socrates and his student Plato, the great philosophers.
  • To the north of Greece, in a country called Macedon (MA-suh-donn), King Philip II had noticed that the Greeks were very weak. He attacked the Greek city-states and one by one he took them over. When Philip II was assassinated in 336 B.C., his son Alexander (Alexander The Great) became king, and he also ruled Greece. Alexander was only 20 when he became king. At first a lot of people thought he was too young. But he not only held onto Greece, he also took a big army of Greeks and Macedonians and attacked the Persian Empire!
  • In 334 BC, Alexander the Great of Macedonia left Pella, crown city of Macedonia, to attack the Persians that had been threatening the Greeks for more than a century. Eight years later, Alexander had put an end to the Egyptian and Persian Empire; he controlled the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, and Indus valleys. He was both pharaoh of Egypt, and The Great King of Persia. However ten years after leaving Pella, he was dead in Babylon, conquered by a fever. When asked on his death bed who was to succeed him he answered: "The strongest".
  • War Path of Alexander the Great The Conquest of Egypt and Persia
  • Greek Philosophers
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Ancient Greek philosophy is dominated by three very famous men: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. All three of these lived in Athens for most of their lives, and they knew each other. Socrates came first, and Plato was his student. Socrates was killed in 399 B.C., & Plato began his work by writing down what Socrates had taught, and then continued by writing down his own ideas and opening a school. Aristotle, who was younger, came to study at Plato's school, and ended up starting his own school as well.
  • Socrates was ultimately arrested for his philosophical teachings & sentenced to death. He was poisoned by being made to drink Hemlock, (a plant). He never wrote down his teachings.
  • Plato was born in Athens, to a very wealthy & aristocratic family. Many of his relatives were involved with Athenian politics, though Plato himself was not. When Plato was a young man, he went to listen to Socrates, & learned from Socrates how to think, and what sort of questions to think about. When Socrates was killed, Plato was very upset (He was 30 years old when Socrates died). Practically everything we know about Socrates comes from what Plato wrote down. One of his earlier works is the Republic, which describes what Plato thought would be a better form of government than the government of Athens.
  • Plato also thought a lot about the natural world and how it works. He thought that everything had a sort of ideal form. The ideal form of a man is his soul, according to Plato. The soul is made of three parts: our natural desires, our will, which lets us resist our natural desires, and our reason, which tells us when to resist our natural desires and when to obey them. For instance, when you are hungry, and you want to eat, that's a natural desire. If you are in the cafeteria at lunchtime, that's a good time to obey your natural desire and go ahead and eat. But if you are hungry in the middle of class, your reason will tell you to wait until lunch, and your will lets you control yourself.
  • Plato started a school for philosophers, called the Academy. The Academy was a big success, and Plato stayed there for the rest of his life. One of Plato's students at the Academy was Aristotle. Plato spent a lot of the last part of his life writing another political piece called the Laws, which talks about how corrupt politicians are, and how they have to be watched every minute. Plato died at 82, in 347 B.C.
  • Aristotle was not originally from Athens. He lived near Macedon, in the north of Greece. He was not from a rich family like Plato. When Aristotle was a young man, about 350 B.C., he went to study at Plato's Academy. Plato was old then. Aristotle did very well at the Academy, but he never got to be among its leaders, & when Plato died, he was not chosen to lead the Academy after him. Soon afterwards, Aristotle left Athens and went to Macedon to be the tutor of the young prince Alexander, who grew up to be Alexander The Great. When Alexander grew up and became King, Aristotle went back to Athens and opened his own school, the Lyceum (lie-SAY-um). The school was successful for hundreds of years. Aristotle & Alexander remained friends for the remainder of Alexander’s life.
  • Aristotle was more interested in science than Socrates or Plato. He wanted to use Socrates' logical methods to figure out how the real world worked; therefore Aristotle is really the father of today's scientific method. Aristotle was especially interested in biology, in classifying plants & animals in a way that would make sense. This is part of the Greek impulse to make order out of chaos: to take the chaotic natural world and impose a man-made order on it. He created a classification system of monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies, democracies & republics which we still use today.
  • When Alexander died in 323 B.C., there were revolts against Macedonian rule in Athens. People accused Aristotle of being secretly on the side of the Macedonians. He left town quickly, and spent the last years of his life back in the north again where he had been born.
  • The first Olympic games at Olympia were held in Ancient Greece in the city state of Athens 776 B.C. There was a flame burning in the honor of Zeus, lord of all the gods. They were a constant in ancient Greece. The games were even held in 480 B.C. during the Persian Wars, and they coincided with the Battle of Thermopylae.
  • The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I.
  • Greek Games
  • The very first Olympic games only held one event - the marathon.
  • The games were greatly expanded from a one-day festival of athletics and wrestling to, in 472 BC, five days with many events:
  • wrestling, boxing, horse racing, long jumping, javelin, and chariot races.
  • Early Olympic victors became national heroes and celebrated in music and poetry.
  • In early Olympic Games - women were not allowed to watch the games.
  • The Olympic Games were held to help unite many different countries in a peaceful manner. Each participating country is limited to three entries.
  • The Greek competitors marked the first modern event of the Olympics with cross country runners bringing a torch from the valley of Olympia to light a much larger torch in the stadium where the games are held.
  • The Olympic Games were banned in AD 394 but were revived and made international in 1896.
  • The Legacy of Greece
  • Greece set lasting standards in politics & Philosophy.
  • Greeks did not rely on superstition or traditional explanations of the world. Instead, they used reason & intelligence to discover predictable patterns that they called “Natural Laws”.
  • The Greeks developed direct democracy in order that citizens could actively participate in political decisions.
  • They were the first to think of 3 branches of government
    • Legislative branch – to pass laws
    • Executive branch – to carry out the laws
    • Judicial branch – to settle disputes about the laws

ROME

  • History of Republican Government
  •  A Republic means the people rule themselves through votes and their consent, not one single person (For the People, By the People).  The Roman Republic took much of the Greek government's principles and incorporated them into their own.  The Republic's governing body was called the Senate, made up of Patricians who ran for elections.  In America, a senator is elected into office for six years, while in Rome, a senator, unless proclaimed Senator For Life, had one year in office.  The Senate elected two wealthy men to become the Consuls of Rome.  These men would be the ones to execute laws and whatever the Senate thought up, each with the power to check the other because the Romans swore they'd never bow to a king again.  If a war should come up, one Consul would lead the armies, called Legions, while the other minded the civil businesses.  If the now greatly expanded Republic should be in a situation most dire, the Senate would elect one man Dictator of Rome.  This meant that the Senate agreed to have one man have total power of 6 months, after that, he was no longer in power.
  • This Republic, however, wasn't much of a Republic to poor people called Plebeians.  Slaves had no say at all in anything.  The lack of Plebeian representation led to uprisings or civil wars, so the Senate put in a position for two men to represent the Plebeians and they had the power to call veto (I oppose) and thereby nullifying anything the Senate passed which was not in the best interests of the common people.
  • In 451 B.C. a group of 10 officials began writing down Rome’s laws. They had the laws carved on 12 tables, or tablets & publicly displayed. The 12 tables established the idea that all free citizens had the right to protection of the law & that laws would be fairly administered.
  • An important victory for the plebeians was forcing creation of a written law code. With laws unwritten, patrician officials often interpreted the law to suit themselves
  • Magistrates - is a judicial officer with limited authority to administer and enforce the law.
  • 2 *consuls—chief magistrates who convened and presided over the Senate and assemblies, initiated and administered legislation, served as generals in military campaigns, and represented Rome in foreign affairs.
  • 8 *praetors—served primarily as judges in law courts, but could convene the Senate and assemblies; they assumed administrative duties of consuls when these were absent from Rome. 2 censors—elected every 5 years for terms of 1½ years; revised lists of senators and equestrians; conducted census of citizens and property assessments for tax purposes; granted state contracts.
  • 4 aediles—supervised public places, public games, and the grain supply in the city of Rome; 2 were required to be plebeians, and the other two (who had more status) could come from either order; the latter 2 were called curule aediles.
  • 10 tribunes—had to be plebeian, because the office was established to protect the plebeians from arbitrary actions of magistrates. Hence the primary power of tribunes was negative; they could veto the act of any magistrate and stop any official act of administration.
  • 20 quaestors—administered finances of state treasury and served in various capacities in the provinces; when elected quaestor, a man automatically became eligible for membership in the Senate, though censors had to appoint him to fill a vacancy
  • Senate:
  • composed of 600 magistrates and ex-magistrates (minimum qualification was election as quaestor) who served for life unless expelled by the censors
  • normally met in a building called the Curia located in the Roman Forum
  • although technically an advisory body, in effect the Senate was the chief governmental body because it controlled public finances and foreign affairs, assigned military commands and provinces, and debated and passed decrees that would be submitted to the assemblies for final ratification
  • the Republican government was symbolized by the letters SPQR (senatus populusque Romanus), meaning “the Senate and the Roman people”
  • Assemblies:
  • These were theoretically composed of all males who were full Roman citizens, though individuals had to attend in person in order to vote. No debate from the floor was possible, and votes were counted in groups, not individually (the vote of each group was determined by the vote of the majority of individuals in that group).
  • For hundreds of years after the founding of the republic, Rome expanded its territories through conquest & trade. By about 70 B.C. Rome’s Mediterranean possessions stretched from Anatolia in the east to Spain in the west. But expansion created problems for the republic.
  • For decades, Rome alternated between the chaos of civil war & the authoritarian rule of a series of dictators. Eventually the republic collapsed and Augustus became emperor in 27 B.C.
  • Roman Expansion
  • Roman Legacy
  • Rome gave the world the idea of a republic
  • Rome’s written legal code – a collection of Roman laws called the 12 Tables that assured that all citizens had a right to the protection of the law. This is important because once laws are written down & agreed upon, the laws cannot be simply made up at the whim of a dictator.
  • Roman Law – The Romans tried to create a system of laws that could be universally applied throughout the Roman Empire. They believed that laws should be based on principles of reason & justice & should protect citizens & their property.
    • All citizens had the right to equal treatment under the law
    • A person was considered innocent until proven guilty
    • The burden of proof rested with the accuser rather than the accused

Judaism

  • The religious beliefs and practices and the way of life of the Jews.
  • Originally called Hebrews
  • Abraham is considered the “Father of the Hebrews.”
  • Jews written laws: First five books of Hebrew scripture are called The Torah: Unlike the laws of the Greeks & Romans, the Jewish laws focused more on morality & ethics. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (first 5 books of modern day Bible) – Written by Moses
  • Jewish religion was/is monotheistic – Belief in only one God. All other religions before this were polytheistic – Belief in many Gods.
  • Significance to Democracy: Jews believed that each human being was created in the image of God, therefore, each human being has a unique, individuality. Greeks & Romans believed this not because of God, but rather because of man’s ability to reason.
  • The Jews also believed that God had given man moral freedom, or the capacity to choose between good & evil, meaning that each person was responsible for his or her choices.
  • The Jews believed that it is the responsibility of every person to oppose injustice & oppression & that the community should help the unfortunate.
  • The code included rules of social & religious behavior to which even rulers were subject. While the Hebrew code of justice was strict, it was softened by expressions of God’s mercy.
  • Moses: A closer look:
  • Moses was revered as a prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • Moses’ wife was Zipporah, daughter of Hobab (Jethro), Priest of Midian. There has been much debate over the skin color of Zipporah.
  • Moses is considered by many to be the greatest figure in Jewish history.
  • He was a diplomat, a lawmaker, a political organizer, a military leader, a judge and a religious leader.
  • Moses also had a speech impediment (many believed that he stuttered, other believed that he would just get overly nervous)
  • Moses presented the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people.
  • According to biblical scripture, Moses witnessed God incarnate (he saw the backside of God).

Christianity

  • The word Christianity was derived from the name Christ.
  • Yahshua (Jesus in English) was his name. Christ was his title. Christos is a Greek word meaning Savior or Messiah.
  • Christianity’s Significance to Democracy:
  • Jesus stressed the importance of people’s love for God, their neighbors, their enemies and themselves.
  • Ultimately Jesus was persecuted because he was referred to as “The King of The Jews.” He was considered as a political threat to the Roman Empire.
  • After the death of Jesus, his message was preached all throughout the eastern Mediterranean by Saul Of Tarsus (Paul). He stressed the essential equality of all human beings, which is a belief that is central to democracy.
  • Although Christianity was a threat to the Roman Empire, by 380 A.D. it became the official religion of Rome. Eventually, it took root in Europe, The Near East and Northern Africa.
  • Islam - Another monotheistic religion that taught equality of all persons & individual worth which developed in southwest Asia in the early 600’s. Islam was based on the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, which are found in the book called the Qur’an.
  • He emphasized the dignity of all human beings & the brotherhood of all people. A belief in the bond of community & the unity of all people led to a tolerance of different groups within the community.
  • Followers of Islam are called Muslims & they are required by their religion to offer charity & help those in need.
  • The Legacy of Monotheistic Religions
  • Several ideas crucial to the shaping of a democratic outlook emerged from the early monotheistic religions of southwest Asia.
  • The duty of the individual & the community to combat oppression
  • The worth of the individual
  • The equality of people before God
  • The Roman Catholic Church
  • During the Middle Ages it was the Most Dominant institution in Western Europe
  • Leader – Pope
    • His Bishops – Parish Priests
    • It influenced all aspects of life: Religious, Social & Political. It was strongly authoritarian in structure.
  • Renaissance & Reformation
  • Renaissance
  • "Renaissance," French for "rebirth," describes the intellectual and economic changes that occurred in Europe from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries.
  • During the era known by this name, Europe emerged from the economic stagnation of the Middle Ages and experienced a time of financial growth. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the Renaissance was an age in which artistic, social, scientific, and political thought turned in new directions.
  • When Gutenberg of Germany invented the printing press in 1445, he forever changed the lives of people in Europe and, eventually, all over the world. Previously, bookmaking entailed copying all the words and illustrations by hand. Often the copying had been done onto parchment, animal skin that had been scraped until it was clean, smooth, and thin. The labor that went into creating them made each book very expensive. Because Gutenberg's press could produce books quickly and with relatively little effort, bookmaking became much less expensive, allowing more people to buy reading material.
  • Humanism Emerges - Books also helped to spread awareness of a new philosophy that emerged when Renaissance scholars known as humanists returned to the works of ancient writers. Previously, during the Middle Ages, scholars had been guided by the teachings of the church, and people had concerned themselves with actions leading to heavenly rewards. The writings of ancient, pagan Greece and Rome, called the "classics," had been greatly ignored. To study the classics, humanists learned to read Greek and ancient Latin, and they sought out manuscripts that had lain undisturbed for nearly 2,000 years.
  • The humanists rediscovered writings on scientific matters, government, rhetoric, philosophy, and art. They were influenced by the knowledge of these ancient civilizations and by the emphasis placed on man, his intellect, and his life on Earth.
  • THE REFORMATION AGE (1500-1600 AD)
  • Martin Luther, one of a few men who significantly altered the course of world history, was born in Eisleben, Germany on November 10, 1483. Throughout his early life Luther had been burdened by a heavy sense of sinfulness. He became more and more convinced that the works of Roman Catholicism were not the means of salvation. Finally, focusing on Paul's statement, "The just shall live by faith," Luther came to a climax in his convictions. Men were saved by the grace of God manifested in the forgiveness of their sins and the imputation of Christ's righteousness. God's grace was given, not on the basis of good works, but on the basis of absolute faith in God's promises. However, this faith, Luther asserted, was wholly the gift of God.
  • On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses, (95 points of criticism of the church’s practices) to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. This was the customary manner of calling for a debate, but this act was the spark which exploded the powder keg of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Those who wanted to reform the Catholic Church were called Protestants, because they protested against the power & abuses of the church. It was significant to democracy because it encouraged people to make their own religious judgments, or read & interpret the Bible for themselves, which in turn caused new churches to be established. It also introduced people to reading & it exposed them to more than just religious ideas.
  • Martin Luther

Democratic Developments in England

  • England began developing democratic institutions that limited the power of the monarchy/king.
  • Democratic traditions developed in England have influenced many countries, including the U.S.
  • In 1066, William, the Duke of Normandy in France, invaded England & defeated the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings. William then claimed the English throne. This set in motion events that led to:
  • The end of feudalism – the political & economic system of the middle ages
  • The beginnings of centralized government in England
  • The development of democracy in England.
  • William, the Duke of Normandy
  • One of William’s descendants was Henry II, who ruled from 1154 to 1189. He controlled most of the western half of France, as well as all of England. Henry is considered one of the most gifted statesmen of the 12th century.
  • Henry II
  • One of Henry’s greatest achievements was the development of the jury trial as a means of administering royal justice. Before then in France & England people were tried in courts of feudal lords. In such courts, the accused would usually have to survive a duel or some physically painful or dangerous ordeal to be set free.
  • Trial by ordeal is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by subjecting them to a painful task. If either the task is completed without injury, or the injuries sustained are healed quickly, the accused is considered innocent.
  • In this trial by ordeal, a person's innocence is tested by his ability to withstand poison
  • Trial by fire - the suspect had to carry a bar of red-hot iron in his hands while he walked nine marked paces. In the unlikely event of no burns appearing on his hand, he was judged innocent. Otherwise, he was promptly hanged. A variation was licking red-hot iron with the tongue or, sometimes, the suspect had to run barefoot over nine red-hot ploughshares.
  • Ordeal by water
  • the guilty would be cast into a river with a millstone tied to his neck, if he sank, he was guilty. If he floated, he was supported on the surface by a divine miracle, & he was considered innocent.
  • With King Henry, a royal judge would visit each shire, or county, at least once a year. First, the judge would review the crime that had been committed. Then he would ask 12 men, often neighbors of the accused, to answer questions about the facts of the case. These people were known as a jury. Unlike modern juries, they did not decide guilt or innocence. People came to prefer the jury trial to the feudal-court trial because they found it more just.
  • Gradually, England was unified under a single legal system. This was called “Common Law” because it was common to the whole kingdom.
  • Common law reflected customs & principles established over time. Common law became the basis of the legal systems in many English-speaking countries, including the U.S.
  • When Henry II died, his son Richard the Lion Hearted assumed the throne. After him, Richard’s brother John, who was very unpopular, became king.
  • John fought a costly war with France where England lost many of their land holdings in France. John also tried to raise taxes to help pay for the war.
  • This led to conflict between the English nobles & the King. In 1215 the angry nobles rebelled & forced John to grant guarantees of certain traditional political rights. They presented their demands to him in written form as the MAGNA CARTA (Great Charter)
  • Richard
  • John
  • The Magna Carta was a contract between the king & nobles of England. It contained certain important principles that limited the power of the king over all his subjects. It implied the idea that kings had no right to rule in any way they pleased. They had to govern according to the law.
  • The Magna Carta had 63 clauses. 2 Established basic legal rights for individuals. Clause 12 declared that taxes “shall be levied in our kingdom only by the common consent of our kingdom”, which meant that the king had to ask for popular consent before he could tax. Clause 39 declared, “No man shall be arrested or imprisoned…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This meant that a person had the right to a jury trial & to the protection of the law.
  • The right to have the law work in known, orderly ways – is called “Due Process of The Law”. In other words, the king could not willfully, or arbitrarily, punish his subjects.
  • In 1295, King John’s grandson, Edward I, needed money to pay for another war in France. He wanted wide support for the war, so he called together not only lords but also lesser knights & some burgesses, or leading citizens of the towns. Historians refer to this famous gathering as the Model Parliament, because it established a standard for later parliaments. They voted on taxes & helped Edward make reforms & consolidate laws.
  • PARLIAMENT – England’s national legislature
  • Over the next few centuries, Parliament’s “power of the purse”, or its right to approve certain expenses gave it strong influence in governing. The House of Commons (an assembly formed by knights & burgesses, which was the lower house of Parliament) was gradually becoming the equal of the House of Lords. Parliament increasingly viewed itself as a partner with the king in governing. It voted on taxes, passed laws & advised on royal policies.

The Enlightenment & Democratic Revolutions

  • Enlightenment Ideas help bring about the American & French Revolutions
  • Before 1500, scholars generally decided what was true or false by referring to an ancient Greek or Roman author or to the Bible. Few European scholars challenged the scientific ideas of the ancient thinkers or the church by carefully observing nature for themselves.
  • The Medieval ViewDuring the Middle Ages, most scholars believed that the earth was an immovable object located at the center of the universe. According to that belief, the moon, the sun, and the planets all moved in perfectly circular paths around the earth. Common sense seemed to support this view. After all, the sun appeared to be moving around the earth as it rose in the morning and set in the evening.
  • This earth centered view of the universe was called the geocentric theory. The idea came from Aristotle, the Greek philosopher of the 4th century B.C. The Greek astronomer Ptolemy (TOL a mee) expanded the theory in the 2nd century A.D. In addition, Christianity taught that God had deliberately placed the earth at the center of the universe. Earth was thus a special place on which the great drama of life unfolded.
  • Aristotle
  • Ptolemy
  • In the 17th & 18th centuries, an intellectual movement called “The Enlightenment” developed. During this period, thinkers attempted to apply the principles of reason & the methods of science to all aspects of society.
  • The Scientific Revolution of the 1500’s & 1600’s was an even more immediate source of Enlightenment thought. New ideas about society & government developed out of it.
  • The Scientific Revolution caused thinkers to rely on their own reasoning instead of merely accepting traditional beliefs.
  • They wanted to apply the scientific method, which relied on observation & testing of theories, to human affairs. Methods used by individuals such as Isaac Newton, who discovered mechanical laws that govern the universe & the methods that go along with discovery.
  • Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws (Laws of Inertia, Action & Reaction, Gravity, Laws of Lunar motion & tides)
  • Newton Studied mathematics & physics at Cambridge University. By the time he was 26, Newton was certain that all physical objects were affected equally by the same forces. Newton’s great discovery was that the same force ruled motion of the planets & all matter on earth & in space. They key idea that linked motion in the heavens with motion on the earth was the law of universal gravitation. According to this law, every object in the universe attracts every other object. The degree of attraction depends on the mass of the objects and the distance between them.
  • In 1687, Newton published his ideas in a work called the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. It was one of the most important scientific books ever written. The universe he described was like a giant clock. Its parts all worked together perfectly in ways that could be expressed mathematically. Newton believed that God was the creator of this orderly universe, the clockmaker who had set everything in motion.
  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Hobbs, the English philosopher who was influenced by the Scientific Revolution wrote a book entitled “Leviathan”, in which he gives his views on human nature. The horrors of the English Civil War convinced him that all people were by nature selfish & wicked & ambitious & the most appropriate kind of government for people was a monarchy. Without governments to keep order, he said there would be “war…of every man against every man,” & life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish & short.” He argued that to escape such a bleak life, people had to hand over their rights to a strong ruler.
  • In exchange , they gained law & order. Hobbes called this agreement by which people created a government the SOCIAL CONTRACT. Because people acted in their own self-interest, Hobbes said, the ruler needed total power to keep citizens under control. The best government was one that had the awesome power of a leviathan (sea monster). In Hobbes’s view, such a government was an absolute monarchy, which could impose order & demand obedience.
  • John Locke
  • Another early Enlightenment thinker, John Locke, had a more positive view on human nature. He believed that a governments most fundamental duty is to protect the rights of the people & that all human beings had, by nature, the right to life, liberty & property known as “Natural Rights”. He also said that people had an absolute right to rebel against a government that violated or failed to protect these rights. He believed that a government’s power comes from the people, not from God, therefore Kings did not have a “Divine Right”.
  • His ideas inspired people & became cornerstones of modern democratic thought. Including the Declaration of Independence.
  • The Enlightenment reached its height in France in the mid-1700s. Paris became the meeting place for people who wanted to discuss politics & ideas. The social critics of this period in France were know as Philosophes (FIHL uh sahfs). The French word for philosophers. The philosophes believed that people could apply reason to all aspects of life, just as Isaac Newton had applied reason to science. Five concepts formed the core of their beliefs:
  • 1. Reason – truth could be discovered through reason of logical thinking.
  • 2. Nature – what is natural is also good & reasonable.
  • 3. Happiness – they rejected the medieval nothion that people shold find joy in the hereafter & urged people to seek well-being on earth.
  • 4. Progress – they stressed that society & humankind could improve.
  • 5. Liberty – They called for the liberties that the English people had won in their Glorious Revolution and Bill of rights.
  • Other famous thinkers of the Enlightenment were Voltaire & Rousseau
  • Voltaire
  • Probably the most brilliant & influential of the philosophes was Francois Marie Arouet. Using the pen name Voltaire, he published more than 70 books of political essays, philosophy & drama. Voltaire argued in favor of tolerance, freedom of religion & free speech. He often targeted the French government & Christianity.
  • Rousseau (roo SOH) was perhaps the most freethinker of the Enlightenment philosophers. His most famous work was The Social Contract(1762). In it, Rousseau advocated democracy. He called the social contract an agreement among free individuals to create a government that would respond to the people’s will. He argued that legitimate government came from the consent of the governed. He argued that all people were equal & that titles of nobility should be abolished. His ideas inspired many of the leaders of the French Revolution who overthrew the monarchy in 1789
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Baron De Montesquieu
  • Another French philosopher Montesquieu, also recognized liberty as a natural right. In The Spirit of Laws (1748), he points out that any person or group in power will try to increase its power.
  • Like Aristotle, he searched for ways to control government. He concluded that liberty could best be safeguarded by a separation of powers, that is, by dividing government into 3 separate branches.
  • Legislative – to make laws
  • Executive – to enforce them
  • Judicial – courts interpret the laws

The beginnings of Democracy in America

  • Enlightenment ideas helped to shape the U.S. Constitution.
  • By 1700’s, there were 13 British colonies in North America & they were ruled from Britain
  • France has colonies to the north & West of of the 13 colonies
  • 1754, Britain & France go to war for control of North America. Called The French & Indian War
  • The American colonists helped Britain defeat France in the French & Indian War, which ended in 1763. The war was costly & the British believed that the colonists should help pay for the war, so they taxed the colonists more than they were already taxing them. This was called the Stamp Act in 1765. The colonists protested that this was a violation of their rights as British citizens because
  • they were not represented in Parliament. Eventually, the colonists united & began to arm themselves against what they called British oppression. They fought for independence against Britain called the American Revolution.
  • For several years, the new nation existed as a loose federation, or union, of states under a plan of government called the Articles of Confederation. Americans had wanted a weak central government. They feared that a strong government would lead to the kind of tyranny they had rebelled against. They established one body, the Congress, which was weak because it did not have the power to collect taxes to pay war debts or to finance the government.
  • In the summer of 1787, a group of American leaders met in Philadelphia. They had been chosen by their state legislatures to frame, or work out a better plan of government. The result of their efforts was the Constitution of the United States.
  • First, they agreed to set up a Representative Government – one in which citizens elect representatives to make laws & policies for them.
  • Second, they created a Federal System. The powers of government were divided between the federal government & the states.
  • Third, within the federal government, they set up a Separation of Powers. Power was divided among the executive, legislative & judicial branches. This was to provide a system of checks & balances to prevent any branch from having too much power.


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