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Roots of american democracy


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Ancient athens: Birth of Democracy
-athenians believed that all citizens had a right to be heard. SO they created a direct democracy, where all citizens had the right to vote in matters pertaining to the governing the city-state.
-They created this gov. b/c Athenians were afraid that one person or group of people would have to much power.
-* only 10% of the people living in athens were actually considered citizens**NO WOMEN,CHILDREN, or SERVENTS
They created institutions and ideas that form the basis for the american ideas about democracy.
-The assembly (legislative body): Gathering of citizens who met 10 times a year to make major decisions by voting.

-Council of 500 (executive body and could only serve 2 terms): 500 members of the assembly were chosen by lottery and would serve 1 year terms.

-The generals: A group of 10 men elected to run the military and make forgien policy decisions( the only elected officals)

-The courts(Judical body):There were no judges or lawyers. only juries usally of 200-600 people chosen by lottery. Individuals would speak for themsleves and the juries would decide guilt and penalty. (No appeals were allowed)
-studied as many different forms of governments as he could, but he found that gov. can become corrupt and tyrannical if unconstrained by law.
-this concept is known as constitutionalism (remember that consitution is a set of laws that define and limit the powers of a government.

-Aristotle believed that a direct democracy like that one in athens is unlawful since the assembly was not bound by laws.
Socrates and Plato
-rejected democracy b/c most people are not trained in reason ans logic and therefore have no knowledge of absolute truth, good and evil.

-Without knowledge. there is no virtue, therefore, the ideal government wpould be a specially trained philosopher-king. he would rule and the people would obey.
Ancient Rome: The Great Innovators
-The romans developed a form of democracy shortly after the greeks, They called their government a republic.
They created new institutions to support the ides of a repesentitive Democracy
The senate: composed of 300 members, appointed for life and were drawn from the patrican class. They determined forgien policy, approved building and managed all roman financial matters.

-The assembly of Tribes: Elected from the plebian class, They could participate in law making and could veto unjust acts of the senate.

-Consuls:two executives selected by the senate for two year terms. in addition to executive functions, they also served as military leaders. If they did not agree, one cuold veto the other. In times of crisis, teh senate could choose a dictator for a period of 6 months.

-Praetors: Judges in roman courts

-Censors: Kept a census of citizens, monitored the moral behavior of citizens and kept a list of citizens judged worthy of consideration for the senate.
The romans developed a sophisticated system of legal principals, many of which we still honor. they were first written down as "The 12 tables" and included
-The interpretations of laws made by judges will serve as precedents for future judges(today we call this "case law", we use it b/c it provides consistancy and to sheild the legal system from politics.

-Law applies equally to everyone.

-Laws ar just b/c they are reasonable, not just b/c they are enforced with power.

-A person is considered innocent until proven guilty

-No one suffers a penalty for what they think only for there actions.

-Penalties should account for age and experience of the guilty party.
The greeks
Inventors of democracy, believed that wide popular participation in the government would cancel out tyhe selfish intrests and biases of individuals. Used direct government to rule athens.
The Romans
Inventors or the republic, a representitive form of democracy which survived for nearly 500 years.
-They had a bicameral legislature (the senate and the assembly of tribes) Which represented the intrest of all roman citizens.

-their legal principals are still honored today
The middle ages and the magna carta
-the middle ages: The catholic church is the most important political body. it is able to excert great influence b/c they have the power to excommunicate christians, denying them entrance into heaven. the political landscape is feudal in nature, with many local kings and lords who often clash with each other. Force is often the sourec of political power.

-the magna carta: Document was signed by king joh of england in 1215. It set the limits to the powers of the king and granted civil and religous liberties to the English noblemen and commoner. Considered the forefather of the american consitution. it was the first document to grant these types of freedoms.
The renaissance "re-birth"
Of greek and roman thought.
and the english bill of rights
The renissance: Experiments with different types of governemt-theocracy, monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny, and republic.

-Machiaelli writes the prince (1505), which describes how sucessful rulers do whatever is necessary ro maintain power. machiaelli suggests that it is better to be feared than loved and that values such as mercy and religous faith can be used by the ruler in order to control people.

english bill of rights: document signed by william 3 (william of orange) and mary 2 (wife of william 3 and daughter of james the 2) in 1689. the document describes the civil rights of the english people and defines those issues in which the king must obtain the consend of the governed through thri representitives in parliment. (Is the precursor to the U.S. bill of rights.
The enlightenment
-the period of the 1600and 1700's is known as the enlightnement or the age of reason. It was a time in which philosophers began to reject the religious dogma that had dominated politics ans society since the middle ages. they locked to create a society based on the use of reason ans logic and they began to take a new look at the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and romans.

-Politically, the ideas of the enlightnement formed the basis for both the American and French revolutions. the most important of these ideas was the SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY, which emphisied the that the power should lie with the people.
Thomas Hobbes
-Hobbes lived the bulk of his life during the english civil wars, which reached a climax on january 30, 1649 with the execution of charles the 1st (the only english king to be executed) by oliver cromwell and his army of round heads.

-Hobbes wrote the Leviathan, some points from it are...
*Men are created with equal natural rights and are by nature selfish, acting in their own intrest.
*In a state of nature (no laws or social conventions) each person has the right to do whatever they desire. Passion, not reason, governs our behavior. In this state of nature,there is perpetual chaos b/c competing desired will always result in open conflict.

~In the state of nature, life is "Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish and Short."

-Society was created to end the perpetual state of war that existed ion the state of Nature. Society is an agreement (covenant) among people. In order to achieve peace and saftey, the unlimited pursuit od desired is abandoned.
Key issues of the English Civil wars
-Religous liberty
-Constitutional issues (source of sovereighty, role of parliment)
-social and economic issues (should economic leaders be part of the "ruling class")
-safety and security of the people.

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