Foundations of American Democracy Question #1 and 2

Explain how the claims made in the Declaration of Independence relate to Enlightenment thought and Republican ideals.

Review the three types of democracies. Based on the provisions of the Articles of Confederation, identify the type of democracy that the Articles of Confederation created. Describe two provisions of the Articles of Confederation that demonstrate that type of democracy.

  1. The claims made in the declaration of Independence relate to Enlightenment thought because it includes ideas life the natural rights of John Locke that said that people are born with specific right and they should be denied them. It also mentions the social contract idea of Jean Jacques Rousseau that says that the citizens of a country need to give up some of their rights so that their government can protect other rights. It also relate to Republican ideals because it talks about popular sovereignty meaning that the people should be in charge of government.

  2. After reviewing the three types of democracies I think that the Articles of Confederation created an Elite Democracy because only rich white men were elected or appointed to important positions. As we can see in Shay’s Rebellion, peasants and farmers were not really represented as much as they should be because none of the people that rebelled where in any type of government at state or national level. Provision 9 and 13 support that an Elite democracy was in place.

We also see John Locke’s idea of the people’s obligation to rise up (rebel) when their natural rights are violated.

Great job with your analysis of Elite Democracy and Articles of Confederation!

  1. The Declaration of Independence all went back to JOhn Locke and Jean-Jaques Rousseau. John Locke was all about natural rights saying that if there is a bad government those controlled by the government are obligated to rebel. This was seen directly in the Declaration as Jefferson and the other founding fathers decided it was high time to declare independence. They, the Founders, had tried to peacefully solved the conflict, until they were tired of peacefully fightinh. The colonists had had their natural rights taken away and could no longer tolerate it. Jean-Jaques Rosseau said that people should be able to agree to being governed and there should be contract between citizens and their ruler. In the Declaration colonists were unable to have a representative in Parliament, and had no way to control what was being done to them, they didn’t have a social contract. Enlightment thinkers heavily influenced the Declaration of Independence.
  2. There are three main types of democracy, participatory, pluralist, and elite. The Articles of Confederation created an elite democracy because of who was elected and who could vote. The Articles had 7 men per state to elect, and those who were elected were rich and in power within their local and state communities. Those elected were never an underdog, or someone that was lesser known. Elections were more like a popularity contest. The people who were able to vote also showed an elite democracy. They were all white, land-owning men, which left out minorities, women, and those in poverty. Shay’s Rebellion occured because the farmers didn’t want to pay a tax, and they wouldn’t have had to if they had been represented in the 7 representatives. Only the elite could be elected and vote showing an elite democracy.

Great work, Hannah! I really liked in your first answer how you brought in a great example of a social contract. Through making the connection between not having a voice in Parliament, you really showed your understanding of Rousseau.

The concept of an Elite Democracy is fascinating to me. We see in the Articles of Confederation, that yes, it is quite clear there is an elite democracy. I find it fascinating that sometimes when it is not as explicit, we may still see aspects of an elite democracy today.

The Declaration of Independence included John Locke’s idea of Natural Rights and Rousseau’s Social Contract. These ideas were key in Englightenment thought. The writers of the Declaration of Independence believed that all men are born with certain rights and if they’re taken away, it’s their obligation to rebel. They were clearly influenced by Locke’s ideas which were evident at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence; “all men are born with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” From Rousseau, the writers adopted the idea of popular sovereignty and Republican ideals. They stated that the role of government is to provide protection for society in exchange for certain rights. Essentially, the power is with the people: they consent to the government and have the right to rebel after a series of abuses. Which is exactly what the Declaration of Independence argued.

The Articles of Confederation created an Elite Democracy by only giving power to wealthy, white men. It didn’t allow much input or representation of other groups. As seen in the Articles, only white men with property were given the right to vote. Even so, the “delegates” of the states were elites that voted on behalf of the states like trustees. Back then, there wasn’t direct participation of many people in society (Participatory Democracy) or groups that tried to influence policy (Pluralist Democracy) like there is today, so Elite Democracy was the norm.

Great answers!

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