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The Rise of American Democracy: Influences of the Constitution Report (Assessment)

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Magna Carta

Magna Carter was an agreement between a small fraction of wealthy and powerful landowners and the King, which acted as the very first real verification on the English Monarchy. The Magna Carter had an unlimited authority, as its writing were used for references whenever there were power disputes. The Carter’s simplicity also allowed rebellion in case the monarch surpassed his recommended authority. The American constitution shares similar concepts of the importance of written documents, limited government and the citizen’s rights to modify government forms, should the government fail to act as the citizens recommend. Because the Magna Carter was the first document to offer detail agreements of rights between the government and its citizens, the United States constitution seems to be an annex of Carter’s concepts. It is the institution for most western legal beliefs and laws.

The Mayflower

This is a social contract between forty-one men and the government. The forty-one men involved in the contract signed it, to signify their agreement to abide by the government’s new laws in order to obtain shared protection. It acted as a covenant, whereby the colonizers would subordinate their rights to abide by the government’s laws. This compact was the basic document for the Plymouth Colony and set a precedent for the creators of the United States constitution. The Mayflower compact also influenced the division of the government into three branches.

Articles of Confederation

These articles were the first set of regulations that governed the United States in her early years. This article of confederation-contained flaws that demanded modification in a modified scheme, leading it to become be the country’s constitution. It included a weak executive and a weaker national government. Instead of the federal system that was formed under the constitution, this article deposited most power to the states. The states retained certain rights such as the rights to taxation and armies. The article did not place power in the “people”, but somewhat, in the states. This enabled the states to have their private laws and taxes, without the influence of the central government. While the Constitution deposited powers to the federal government, it included an amendment that maintained that the states reserved all rights. However, the Constitution presented better balance and enhanced the federal government’s power.

Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance refers to the 1787 document that attentively outlines the territorial designation into states. In 1787, the government designated the Ohio River territory to include states such as Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. This designation followed a process that the government clearly stated in the Northwest Ordinance. In addition to this, the ordinance described the government of each state (territory). The congress chose a secretary, governor and three judges for each territory. The ordinance also provided a Bill of Rights, which guaranteed certain rights such as the right to religion, exclusion of slavery and the right to proportional judicial representation and trial. The Northwest Ordinance’s philosophy of territorial equality new states form America’s constitutional heritage. This is visible in its principle, which was carried into America’s constitution; Section four of article four, that America would pledge to every state a form of government (Patterson, 2009).

Declaration of Independence

This refers to a formal statement that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams drafted to highlight the intentions of the colonies. This came due to armed conflict between British soldiers and American colonists, which began in 1775. The American colonists majorly fought for their rights, and by 1776, this became a full swing revolutionary war, seeking independence from Britain. In addition to this, the declaration forced the continental congress delegates to vote on the independence issue. Later, Congress officially adopted the independence declaration. Thomas Jefferson wrote the most part of the declaration of independence. Because this declaration was the first formal proclamation by the people asserting their need to select their own government, it became a noteworthy landmark in America’s history of democracy and can be viewed as one of the three indispensable founding documents of the U.S administration (George & Hillenbrand, W2005).

Thomas Hobbes

He lived in England between 1588 and 1679, where he acquired the English heritage that supported monarchy. In 1651, Hobbes wrote a book, Leviathan, which formed the basis for a variety of Western political philosophy. In this book, Hobbes established philosophies for Western politics and set out his doctrines for societal foundations as well as for legitimate governments. Hobbes wrote the Leviathan during the Civil War in England, hence his emphasis on the need for a strong central authority, which would shun the conflict as well as the war. He explained that the central authority would represent a national government that maintained full control, hence preventing people from acting as they please. Hobbes also brought about the idea of the social contract, in which he argued that with a lack of a national government to control citizens’ behaviour, citizens usually enter into a social contract. A good social contract would require people to recognize a sovereign authority, to which all citizens surrender their natural rights in order to receive protection.

John Locke

John Locke was a philosopher who created the basic principles for the U.S through his writings. The first was the 1689 letter concerning toleration, followed by 1690’s civil government second treatise. Locke is first writing presented a view of appreciating moral truths with valuable political implications. Its focus was separation of the church from the authority and functions of the government. This letter laid the foundation for freedom of actions and free speech. Thomas Jefferson borrowed John Locke’s ideologies when drafting the declaration of independence as well as in his address to the Virginia assembly. The most important fact is that Jefferson espoused Locke’s ideas and placed them in the declaration of independence, which was a form of the constitution. Some of these ideas included the basic rights: pursuit of happiness, equality and life. The second idea wad government responsibility in protecting these rights. The final idea was the representatives and consent of citizens to form governments (Wilentz, 2005).

Benjamin Franklin’s views on the social compact and government structures

Benjamin Franklin (1705 to 1790) was one of America’s founding fathers, with numerous titles; printer, scientist, author, political theorist, diplomat, musician, inventor and postmaster. The social impact referred to a crucial and initial principle of the freedom of America. Benjamin Franklin had strong religious beliefs, and hence tried to introduce similar prayerful practices to the constitutional convention. His attempt to introduce prayers and puritan virtues to the constitution was met with resistance. He proposed the idea of an ideal republican government. Benjamin sought to teach egalitarian democratic values, which supported hierarchical social orders. His Puritan values were fundamental in shaping America’s character and social relationships.

Patrick Henry

Born in 1736, Patrick was a politician as well as an orator who participated largely in leading independence movement in Virginia during the 1770s. Henry served as a postcolonial governor in 1776 to 1786. Additionally, he led an opposition to 1765 Stamp Act. Patrick Henry is largely remembered for his liberty speech, in which he proclaimed the government to provide him liberty or death. Patrick Henry is one of the most famous advocates of Republicanism and supporter of the American Revolution. He denounced corruption in government offices and defended historic rights. He later became an anti-federalist leader in Virginia, where he opposed the constitution in fear that the constitution endangered State’s rights and freedom of citizens.

Compare and contrast Hamilton and Jefferson

The two had several similar and divergent views concerning the development and government of America. Their first differences were on their support for federalism. While Hamilton supported federalism, Jefferson despised a federalist system of government, choosing to believe in the liberty of citizens. On the other hand, Hamilton believed that a strong centralized government was necessary, as it would restrict the citizens to live in a democracy. Jefferson believed in “the people” while Hamilton favored authority, law, order and properly. Despite having divergent views on the government of America, both Hamilton and Jefferson provided foundations for America in different ways. Jefferson enabled America become a democratic nation while Hamilton elevated the country’s economic industry.


George, J., & Hillenbrand, W. (2005). The journey of the one and only Declaration of Independence. New York: Philomel Books.

Patterson, T. E. (2009). The American Democracy (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Wilentz, S. (2005). The rise of American democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. New York: Norton.

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