Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Montesquieu influence in the USconstitution formation
ThomasHobbes views on government formation
TheEuropean philosophers were concerned about the governing of variousnations across the globe and especially Europe and America.Consequently, they proposed different kinds of democracy. ThomasHobbes on his observation on rule of England through monarchy systemfelt that the kings were the best rulers though they were imposingsome form of dictatorship on its citizens. According to Hobbes, thecivil war was as result of dispute on who to govern Englandgovernment. Thus, he wrote a book titled Leviathan (Martinich, 2003).In the book, Hobbes criticizes the way of government. In this light,he used various characters in the book to demonstrate how thegovernment used its powers to impose order on its people.
Hobbes in his Leviathan book proposed the government system thatvalues everyone and regards all the individuals equally. Hecontinually criticized the government whereby the people wereconstantly in fear and danger of being killed or punished if they goagainst the will of the king. His views formed the basis for theformation of government whereby the citizens are free to do whateverthey deem fit and good for their survival. In his observation, Hobbesfelt that lack of laws and the authority to enforce them createsinstability in the country and thus he proposed the creation ofsupreme power by people in order to impose peace on all citizens ofthe country (Martinich, 2003).
Hobbes believed that the government ruled by the kings was the best.Based on social contract, he proposed that the citizens should agreeto create sovereign and with powers. The sovereign could constitute aperson (king) or group of individuals who could then make and enforcelaws that are binding to all in order to secure peace, liberty, life,and property. This concept was borrowed from English contract law toform his agreement. Social contract implied that individuals lay downtheir freedom and rights of equality to sovereign with absolutepower. However, Hobbes warned against the meddling of the kings bythe religious organization in that it could promote civil war. Heproposed that church be part of the government to advice the kingaccordingly. However, the citizens must follow the rules of the kingsmore than the divine laws in cases where conflict arises (Martinich,2003).
JohnLocke theory of government
With time, people became enlightened and the fresh ideas onimprovement of human life meant that the king`s system of governmentwas discouraged. Various philosophers including John Locke proposeddemocratic governments that revolutionized the political scene inAmerican and other European nation. Based on his wide knowledge andexperience of political science, Locke agreed with Hobbes that thestate was brutal to citizens. Consequently, there was a need to forma government to foster peace. However, he differed with the Hobbes inthat human rights such as liberty, freedom, life and property existednaturally in individuals and could not be transferred (Kelly, 2015).He felt that these rights are inherent and cannot be surrendered thusdisagreed with the social contract proposed by Hobbes.
Locke believed that the power of the king was subsequentlyrestricted by the rights of individuals. He proposed that the kingsshould not have absolute powers as indicated by Hobbes. The kingsshould act to enforce, promote and protect ordinary rights of thecitizens. According to Locke, if the sovereign violated the naturalrights of individuals then the citizens had the right to revolt andpush for the establishment of new government. Lock felt that right toproperty was the most fundamental human right among other rightsincluding the right to religion, freedom from slavery, life, freedomof speech and the freedom of thought (Kelly, 2015). He encouraged theproperty owners to do whatever they want with their property so longas they do not infringe the rights of others.
Locke was in favor of hereditary House of Lords in Englandparliament with the elected House of Commons. However, since he wasin favor of the right to property he wanted the electedrepresentatives to be male property owners who were businessmen. Hefelt that individuals without property were not fit to participate ingovernment and thus he advocated for adult men only to have the rightto vote (Kelly, 2015).
This philosopher was born into a noble family and ruled as a king inFrance. Charles was educated man, he studied law and traveledextensively throughout the England and thus was able to write a bookand Roman Catholic doctrines based on his experience andobservations. In his book, The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu believedin the balancing of different arms of the government. However, theconstant fear among the individuals created the need for peace. Heagitated that the entrance of man into state of society weakens anddestroys equality resulting in war (De Montesquieu, 1989).
He, therefore, felt that war among individuals was the driving forcefor creation of human laws and establishment of the government. Inhis book, he wrote that the government has the responsibility toprotect human rights indicated by Hobbes and Locke in order tomaintain law and order. He, therefore, opposed absolute monarchy inFrance and favored English system of government that consists ofHouse of Lords and House of Commons. He saw the need to balance thepowers of government.
Montesquieu can be seen as a strong proponent of a balanceddemocratic form of government. He believed that the powers of theking in England were checked by law making parliament and thus heconcluded that England form of government was the best. Theexecutive, court/judiciary and the legislative branches of governmentkeep on checking each other. He believed in separation of power andindependence on the arms of government in order to promotetransparency (De Montesquieu, 1989). The Charles`s theory ofseparation of powers, therefore, formed the basis of the USconstitution.
Influenceof the three philosophers on formation of early American government
As discussed above, the monarchy system promoted the formation ofself-government guided by the democracy. Americans learned from thevarious early forms of government in order to develop democratictradition in their nation. This necessitated an American Revolutionthat prompted the creation of a constitution that guarantees therights of individuals to prevent political instability caused by theMonarchy system of government. The ideas that led to the formation ofa democratic government in the US are attributed to civilization inRome and Greece.
The philosophers contributed immensely to the foundation of the USconstitution. The ideas of Locke and Montesquieu discouraged absolutepower given to the Kings. They gave hopes to democracy by advocatingthat kings should be questioned in cases where they go wrong.Montesquieu proposed the separation of powers in different branchesof the government, a system that was later adopted in the US (Gu,2013). John Locke shaped the foundation of the early Americangovernment in that he identified the basis of formation of legitimategovernment. Locke believed the government has the soleresponsibility of protecting life, property and liberty rights ofindividuals and in a case of violation the people has the right tooverthrow the government. The philosophers, therefore, influence theshaping of American constitution through their writings that gavepolitical ideas to Americans. The founders of American governmentfelt the need for a constitution that promotes welfare and protectshuman rights to avoid oppressive monarchy that had an unfair ruling.
De Montesquieu, C. (1989). Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws.Cambridge University Press.
Gu, M. D. (2013). Sinologism, the Western World View, and the ChinesePerspective. Comparative Literature and Culture, 15(2),2.
Kelly, P. (2015). Armitage on Locke on International Theory: The TwoTreatises of Government and the Right of Intervention. History ofEuropean Ideas, 41(1), 49-61.
Martinich, A. P. (2003). The two gods of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbeson religion and politics. Cambridge University Press.
For most of the Americans, the constitution is a document that isbasically supposed to protect the rights of the individuals. However,the initial design was directed at making sure that the government inoffice was fair. According to most of the federalists, there was needto make sure that the government structure was supportive of theindividual rights (Hardy, 2016). It is for this reason that theantifederalists were reluctant to sign the constitution into lawuntil the bill of rights were included. It was crucial foe them thatthese liberties were included in the constitution (Lynch, 2016).
The bill of rights forms one of the most crucial corner stones of theAmerican society. It is the basis within which the rights of everyother person are protected along with their freedoms. It is withreference to the freedoms and rights of the citizens that the bill ofrights was in place, to make sure that all the citizens within theAmerican society are guaranteed on the same. The basic element of thebill of rights, was the protection that it offered against thegovernment (Hardy, 2016). While the government was formed of thepeople representatives, there was always a fear that the governmentwas always a threat to the society and those that it governed withinand without that nation. As such, the bill of rights was created as acheckpoint, with the powers of the government in mind (Lynch, 2016).There was always a fear that the government may become too powerfuland it may actually abuse these powers to intimidate the citizens andthus become a threat to the population. The bill of rights helps withlimiting the powers of the government on such issues as the judicialproceedings.
Ideally, there have been ten amendments that have been directed atmaking sure that the citizenry is protected from the powers of thegovernment. These are amendments that form the basis for thecitizens’ protection and that reinforce the freedoms and rights ofthe people in America. One of the aspects that is noteworthy is thefact that, the bill of rights is one of the fundamental rights. Assuch, no president that has powers over the bill of rights. This isthe same case for the senate and further, there is not absolute powerthat is given to majority public opinion, which can overturn the billof rights.
Of the ten amendments that have been effected, there are fourimportant ones that layout the background for the protection of thecitizens’ rights. The first amendment is one very crucial inclusionand one that dictates the freedoms and rights of the citizens thatshould not be abused by the government. The first amendmentguarantees the freedoms on religion, expression, right to petitionand assembly. Ideally, this is an amendment that protects thatcitizens from congress making any laws that may prohibit the abovementioned freedoms. Adopted in the year 1791, it is one of the mostfundamental amendments that basically constitutes the bill of rights.It is also highly connected to the anti-federalist opposition to theratification of the constitution, to ensure freedoms and rights ofthe people are abused by the government at any one point (Lynch,2016). The rights to the freedoms of press, expression, assembly,petition, redress of grievances towards the government form apowerful tool that the government would want to curtail, but with theamendment, the people are shielded from the government powers to dothe same.
One of the most debated amendments in the American constitution, therights bear arms. This is one that has had massive impacts in thelast few year. This is relative to the incidences of mass shootings.The right to bear arms, is one that is borne of the need to protectoneself from any form of harm. It is also a right that is founded onthe precept that the various legislative bodies should not in any wayinfringe on the right to have a fire arm (Hardy, 2016). Theimportance of the amendment and its inclusion on this list isrelative to the fact that, it is one of the most debated rights inthe recent times. It is also one of the rights that brings out themain freedoms that drive the American ideology of individualism.Given the latest mass shooting, the issue of carrying around aconcealed weapon is largely debatable on accounts of people thatcould be considered to be unstable emotionally owning arms (Hardy,2016). This makes a debatable point from the fact that, some of thepeople do not feel safe, relative to people misusing the right andcausing massive death.
One other amendment that has been highly debated in the last fewyears, is the sixth amendment, which relates to several rightsassociated with having a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, theright to knowing ones accuser, the right to trail and the right toknow the nature of the charges that have been leveled against someone(Lynch, 2016). This is a right that has been quite influential in thecases regarding the trial for persons that are found to havecommitted or having links to terrorist cell networks. Some of thefaction have felt that, for those that have been found to be guiltyor suspected of having been involved in terrorist activities, theyshould also be accorded the same sense of justice as the rest of thecitizens (Lynch, 2016). However, there are those that havecontinually indicated that, it is crucial that the terrorists aretreated in the same inhumane way as they treat their victims and assuch should not be accorded any such rights are there are in thesixth amendment.
In the last several decades, the fourth amendment has been underheavy criticism relative to the fact that it gives the citizens theright to be secure in their person, paper, houses, and effect andthus prohibits any unreasonable searches (Call, 2016). This alsoprovides for the need of probable cause, which is supported by oathof affirmation and a description of the place to be searched and thethings that are to be seized. This is has particularly been the casewith the fight against drugs, where some of the people have felt thatthis amendment is being violated. Ideally, the American ideology offreedom is entrenched in the government not infringing on personalspaces and property without citing substantive cause for the same(Call, 2016).
Some of the other very crucial amendments that were ratified afterthe bill of rights is the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments. Thethirteenth amendment is on the abolition of slavery. Before theamendment, America like most of the western nations, practicedslavery. This meant that slaves would be held against their will(Lynch, 2016). This is an aspect that largely negates from theAmerican ideology of freedom for all of its citizens. It is for thisreason that the amendment lays a firm foundation on freedoms. Theenactment of the amendment made it illegal to practice slavery orinvoluntary servitude with the exception for the use of the same forpunishment on crimes committed. The other amendment and one of themost crucial legislations to ever instill the American ideology isthe fourteenth amendment, on civil rights (Heckman & Donohue,1991). This is an amendment that has had some subtle ramifications onthe American history and culture. It is an amendment that protectsthe civic rights of the people (Heckman & Donohue, 1991).
Call, J. (2016). Two Recent Virginia Supreme Court Cases on ProbableCause. Radford University, 4(2). Retrieved fromhttps://www.radford.edu/content/va-chiefs/home/october-2008/probably-cause.html
Hardy, D. (2016). Historical Bases of the Right To Keep and BearArms. Guncite.com. Retrieved 1 August 2016, fromhttp://www.guncite.com/journals/senrpt/senhardy.html
Heckman, J. & Donohue, J. (1991). Continuous Versus EpisodicChange: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status ofBlacks.
Lynch, J. (2016). Debating the Bill of Rights What No GovernmentShould Refuse, or Rest on Inference. CW Journal. Retrievedfrom https://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter09/rights.cfm