Regents Prep: U.S. History: Government:
Foundations of U.S. Government
The roots of American democracy stretch back beyond the formation of the United States, having origin in ancient Greek thinking, the Enlightenment, as well as colonial injustices under the English.

Ancient Influences on American Democracy
The ancient Greeks in the city-state Athens created the idea of the democratic government, practiced as a direct democracy (government in which all citizens had say via participation in voting). The Romans developed the concept of the representative democracy (one in which the citizens elect representatives to act of their behalf in government). This was best exemplified by the Roman Senate. The upper house of the US Congress is the Senate in ode to this ancient ideal.

The United States was founded as a representative democracy in which qualified citizens elect representatives to carry out their will in government. However, the ONLY example of directly elected officials in the original Constitution was election of representatives to the House of Representatives, as the President is in-directly elected by the electoral college and senators selected by state legislatures.

Influences of the Enlightenment
The thinking of the founding fathers (especially Thomas Jefferson) was heavily influenced by the intellectual changes occurring in 1700's Europe. The European Enlightenment focused on reason, human thought and experience as opposed to the divine reasoning of religious thought. This thinking in government is best seen in the work of Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu.

Locke declared that all men are born with the natural rights of "life, liberty and property" and no government can revoke these rights. Locke maintained that citizens grant governments the power to rule, in order to protect their natural rights. When a government fails to protect rights and consent is revoked, the government can be changed or replaced with a revolution. Jean Rousseau developed the idea of the social contract, based on the previous ideas of Locke. It held that a social contract existed between government and the people. It further stated that when government broke the contract by failing to serve the will of the people, a revolution was justified. Baron de Montesquieu was an enlightenment philosopher who wrote of the benefits of dividing power in a government among more than one branch.

Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers borrowed many of these ideas when crafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Natural Rights appear in the declaration as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".  The notion of replacing a government that fails to maintain consent is cited as justification for the American Revolution against the English. Finally, separation of powers is integrated into US government along the three branch system and protected by the system of checks and balances.

Colonial Democratic Developments
Democratic developments during the colonial era date back to the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth rock. The Mayflower Compact was the earliest example, in which the Pilgrims consented to be governed and to abide by the decisions of their government.

Ben Franklin's Albany Plan of Union in 1754 was the earliest attempt at organizing the 13 colonies against the French. It was soundly rejected by the colonial governments as a threat to the democratic institutions that had created in the absence of direct British rule. During this era the English government had no specific policy of direct governing of the colonies. This became known as the period of salutary neglect or the ignoring of the colonies for their own health, during which they developed forms of self-rule.

During this period of salutary neglect the colonists began to develop their own forms of government. In Virginia, the House of Burgesses developed as a representative democracy in which elected officials served as the voice of their regions within the state. In Massachusetts, many towns relied upon a New England style town meetings in which all white, land-holding men were allowed to participate.

Oval: Virginia
	House of Burgesses
	Elected Representatives
	Representative Democracy

Oval: New England
	Town Meetings
	Citizen Participation
	Direct Democracy

The Articles of Confederation Fail 
During the years immediately following the Revolutionary War, the colonies organized themselves into a new American government. The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789) served as the foundation for this first attempt at a national government and while a failure, it was the lessons learned under the articles that helped strengthen the government formed by the Constitution.

Weakness in Articles of Confederation Example   Change in Constitution
No Standing Army In ability to deal with the threat of "Shay's Rebellion"

Federal Government is given the power to raise and maintain a standing army
No Federal Taxation States did not pay debts to Congress and so federal gov't had no $$ Congress is granted the power to tax, impose duty and raise tariffs
No Single National Currency States minted money, no set exchange disrupted trade among the states Congress is granted sole power to coin money
No Executive Leadership Failure of direct leadership resulted in indecision A strong executive (President) is created
Each State had Equal Vote in Congress Smaller states with low populations had disproportional power Bicameral Legislature with proportional representation in the House of Reps.
Required Unanimous Vote to Amend Complete inability to correct the failures under the articles The 1787 Constitutional Convention completely replaced the Articles rather than amending them