American Values and the Democratic Process

Topics: United States Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Ralph Waldo Emerson Pages: 6 (1928 words) Published: December 16, 2012
Democracy provides citizens with the opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes that impact their lives. The government must recognize rights of the individual and give them the opportunity to exercise those rights. With that said, it is our personal values that govern our conduct and determine who we are as individuals. In this same manner, our societal values guide our countries conduct and govern who we are as a nation. This essay reviews the six American values that have been introduced in this course, how those values have been intertwined throughout our history and how they helped to form our representative democratic governance.

We are bound together by these values and we are defined by the decisions that we make as a unified entity. These values not only serve as the basis for our belief systems but, also, help to define our political and justice systems. The roots of democracy can be traced far back in history but the path must include the logic and philosophy presented to us by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Each had ideas on how city-states and government should be conducted (and monitored). And while that did have different views, each have contributed ideas, in some fashion, to the beliefs that we hold as an ideal forms of government and how we should interact or allow those that govern us to conduct themselves; particularly so was the philosophy of Aristotle. Aristotle sought to clear up views on forms of government and states, quoting Plato, “democracy is the worst, but the best when all are bad” Aristotle also, says “…we should rather say that democracy is the form of government in which the free are rulers…”

I will begin with the work of John Locke whose interests were in economics, metaphysics, philosophy (pertaining to the mind), political philosophy and epistemology. Locke’s theory of the mind is said to the beginning of the self and human identity. He published the Two Treatises of Government in 1689. The first is a structured disproval of “Patriarcha” written by Robert Filmer. The second part is the draft for a theory of political and civil society that is based in contract theory & natural rights. Locke believes in the rule of a government that has been chosen by the people themselves or a “democracy”. The writing has discrepancies, but his argument that society cannot exist under the rule & vigilance of a religious body such as the Church had much impact and became the basis for future arguments and adaptations.

When Britain limited the freedoms of the colonists, the colonists first wrote letters to the King in protest. When those letters were systematically ignored, the groundwork for our nation began. Borrowing from John Locke, Thomas Paine supported the liberations of the colonies. He wrote a work called, “Common Sense”. This document, published in January of 1776, was a challenge to the authority of the British government and the monarchy. In his writings Paine says that the Americans must not only support but join the revolution is they indeed wanted to truly live their lives as free individuals. This cry to action was the beginning stages of our nationalism and it was steeped in examples for the need for Liberty. Later that year, the Declaration of Independence, the freedom document that proposed assent to its contents, was written. This ‘declaration” took several drafts by Thomas Jefferson. The final version was a document whose intent was to show the colonists why they should exercise their right and carry our their civic duty to overturn the British government that was imposing on the very freedoms that it should be upholding. The ideas contained in this document were based on the teachings and ideas from John Locke. These were the ideas of the innate rights concerning Life, Liberty and the pursuit of property, which Jefferson altered to become Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Additionally, the French-American writer,...
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