The American Government
Today people have criticized the existence of government; few people argue that government is unnecessary. Would you imagine what the state would be without the government? The life without government was referred to as the state of nature. A state without government would mean to be poor, to be nasty and brutal, since human beings are self-centered, they would take vantage of others. That is when the theory of survival for the fittest would be applied. John Locke, one of the political philosophers in America, described it as, a state where individuals were free and responsible for their actions, dispose and possess those they thought would fit better within the borders of the law of nature (Holman & Lenz, 2013).
The Origin of the Government
Survival of the fittest means competing for economic and political status by individuals. This always results in war, making an individual existence to be dangerous. These people, who felt unstable and insecure in the state of nature, decided to form a social contract that would enable them to maintain law and order by controlling how people behave and move (Holman & Lenz, 2013). Under this social, people began to have power over others and use them to impact others negatively, is what made others leave it and live under the government, and that is how it came to existence. The existence of the law of nature was not meant to oppress other peoples’ health, liberty or what they possessed. According to Locke, the man was to be free from oppressions.
The purpose of government. European philosophers in the past years used to have debates on who should govern a state and why should it exist in the first place. They argued from the different perspective of democracy. Thomas Hobbes is one of the political thinkers of the American Revolution (Holman & Lenz, 2013). According to him, the purpose of government is to guarantee that there are peace and security throughout in whatever means since they are very necessary. The government is a contract set up between the people ruling and the citizens, and since citizens sometimes give up some of their rights, the government needs to provide peace and security in return. John Locke, an English philosopher, defines government as a social contract. According to him, the government had a duty to protect the rights of life, liberty and property of its people (Adams, 1772). Additionally, it needs to create order in the society.
Baron De Montesquieu, on the other hand, had a different view about the government. He argued that extreme severity could only be avoided when political power is shared among a diversity of classes and groups. He said it was appropriate to divide the government into three; the legislature tasked with law making, the executive responsible for enforcing the laws and judiciary to interpret the laws (Adams, 1772). Adam Smith, on the contrary, said it was the duty of the government to ensure its citizens are protected, administered justice to, and provide public works. All the above-enlightened philosophers wanted the human beings to have a better living on earth, rather than concerning themselves with religion. They valued life from all perspectives, from valued reason, science, and religious tolerance is not forgetting the natural rights.
The vision of natural rights – Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams was among the many revolutionary leaders that drove the American Revolution forward. He worked on setting up a network for revolutionaries by taking Boston town a step towards rebellion by declaring the rights of the colonists (Adams, 1772). The purpose of the meeting was to establish a committee responsible for disseminating information and putting the efforts of the members together. He from the beginning he resisted against the Parliament taxing the colonies without their knowledge since it sounded oppressive. He also opposed the Sugar Act by making public accusations against it. Additionally his success in structuring a rebellion state government stirred up other colonies to do the same. Adams classified the natural rights into three; first, a right to life; secondly to liberty; thirdly to property (Adams, 1772). Samuel Adams described a natural liberty of men where an individual was a judge of their rights (Adams, 1772). An individual was supposed to enter into a political society, a civil government that would help be defensive of their natural rights to live, liberty as well as property. These were the three main issues Adams cared about, as deductions from the first law of nature.
Every man has a right to demand on the improvements of performance. To enter into society was a voluntary willingness. All those laws considered to be positive and civil were supposed to act by the law of natural reason and equity. Religion or reason does not allow anyone to do the contrary. Every man is entitled to the right to worship God in any manner they feel like since they are all entitled to the eternal laws of God and nature.
On the other hand, the right to liberty allows a man to be free from oppressions due some superior powers on earth; he needs to have control over his rule. Similarly, servants should be paid reasonable wages for the services they provide. The government was formed to be protective of the laborers to ensure they are worth being employed and paid what is relative. This same government was not meant to turn out as a tyrant or absolute master that oppresses its people.
A state is a civil society that unifies its men together to promote mutual safety and prosperity. The positive rights for all freemen expected out of civil society are personal liberty, private property as well as personal security (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2004). Samuel Adams stated fundamental laws governed by the legislative power (1772). Foremost, he championed the Commonwealth law and ensured that the Legislative has no right to random power over the lives of people; nor is it allowed to set the fortune of men too high (Adams, 1772). Finally, the supreme power has no right to violate someone’s property without his knowledge or without being represented. These are the first principles of the natural law that brought justice to men by making them free.
Thomas Jefferson. According to Thomas Jefferson, natural rights are those rights necessary for a man to fulfill and realize his abilities on this earth. They are natural since they are obtained from the nature of man and its natural existence itself. The government is designed in a manner which it accommodates the existence of man. Therefore, the natural rights upon which the government is built on are not at any point based on theories instead they are structured due to the natural universe man lives in.
As a matter of fact, declaration of independence came to free man; since they started living the way human beings should live (Bailyn, 1992). Therefore, the purpose of the government is to protect and secure our rights. Free people should recognize that rights are not given by the government nor are they offered and presented by the magistrates. The laws of nature are what facilitate the existence of the rights. Jefferson continues to make us understand that natural rights are not rights that were not exercised at early stages of human development nor when a man was recognized as uncivilized. Instead, they are rights that are intelligently derived by examining man’s nature and his ability to exist in this world. These rights are not to be judged if actually humankind has enjoyed them in specific stages of development; they still exist to be natural. Jefferson’s opinion questions natural rights are that these rights have a capability of being tried by their state of being identical with the moral sense and reason of man.
During that time when Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence, he tried to stretch his hands to the very beginning of man’s existence in this world so that he could give the colonists an explanation as why it is necessary to profess their independence from Great Britain (Adams, 1772). Similarly, he managed to establish the moral foundation and one that has a capability of reasoning for American society. In the history of man, declaration of independence is considered to be a great political document.
On the other hand, Thomas Paine describes natural rights as those that belong to a man because of his existence. He regards the intellectual rights, and those that bring comfort and happiness to someone as the natural rights. Natural rights according to Paine are not supposed to infringe into others happiness. Paine is regarded as the voice of the revolution, and his thinking was not influenced by anyone he was an independent thinker (Claeys, 1990). He took a revolution to a next step just the same way Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams did. He took a tax rebellion against the state arguing that was infringing into the rights of man. He managed to transform the tax rebellion into a revolution and later independence.
Natural rights were originally a segment of natural law, which addressed and presented the psychological, moral and political experience to have a clear meaning of the natural law or system of rules that God poses to man for him to be happy and be known through reason. Paine’s political thought and the way he integrated the natural rights doctrines with the ideas of reason, social ability, mutual independence and how duties have reciprocated; was saved by the fact that the natural law framework was not destroyed (Claeys, 1990).
Therefore rights demand for morality, which consist of obligation, restriction of natural liberty to help others to exercise their rights. Paine goes on to emphasize that rights of man cannot be granted by any charter because this would literally and legally mean that they can be revoked anytime meaning it will not be a right anymore rather a privilege. A charter will operate in an opposed nature taking rights away from the man who is meant to be enjoying them instead. Therefore, it will be correct to say individuals themselves need to be in control of their personal and sovereign rights by creating a government with one another based on the principle, which they have a right to exist. Charters are instruments of injustice, self-centeredness and unfairness.
Thus, government occurs almost everywhere because it is one of the ways that individuals organize themselves to achieve individual goals such as public safety, education, and wealth. It also helps to achieve shared goals such as a sense of national security, sense of belonging to a community and establishing a just and fair society. These material and non-material goals cannot be provided by protected by the government. The fact that government can protect those values we regard so important to us is one of the reasons that compel leaders and philosophers to debate continually about it; ways to govern a state and government setups.
The foundations of the American Revolution can be drawn to the year 1763 when the British leaders had a tight look on the imperial system (Adams, 1772). The major serious problem the empire faced was a lack of money to support its operations and the attempts that were made through acts such as Sugar Act and Stamp Act instead of helping to raise money for the Empire, the trade faced control and resistance in the colonies. This was so unfortunate for the colony since it faced tensions within and later there was war. Finally, the American Revolution had consequences such as adapting to the written constitution that came with a lot of freedom to its people. It also made taxation system to change to progressive. Finally, inheritance laws were reformed. All these were possible because of the political thinkers that pushed rebellion to independence.
Adams, S. (1772). The report of the committee of correspondence to the Boston town meeting. Retrieved from http://www.constitution.org/bcp/right_col.htm
Bailyn, B. (1992). The ideological origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge. The Belknap Press.
Claeys, G. (1990). Thomas Paine social and political thought. Boston. Taylor & Francis.
Constitutional Rights Foundation. (2004). Bills of rights in action. Retrieved from <http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-20-2-c-hobbes-locke-montesquieu-and-rousseau-on-government.html>
Holman, M., & Lenz, O.T. (2013). American government. Florida. University Press of Florida.