America’s political thought has been shaped over the years. Greece, Rome, and England played a major role in forming the way Americans think today about their government.
Greece’s political structure was that of a democracy. They were one of the first land’s recorded to have citizen participation in their government. Greece consisted of many polises. These polises were small units that met at a common agora or acropolis to have governmental decisions. The Greek citizens had to participate in politics, otherwise they would be killed. Over all, the democracy in Greece went well. The people were content with it, since they got a say. America adopted this policy of citizen participation into their political thought, which is why America has voting every four years for a president and voting for other, smaller, issues.
The period of the Roman Republic came after the Greek democracy. Rome used Greece as a precedent to shape their own government. Rome had a republic which consisted of two main parts. The first were the consuls. These were two men who directed the army and took part in making decisions for their land. The consuls had a one year term, and only once ten years had gone by could they be reelected. Each consul could veto the other, which limited their power. Furthermore, a senate was in action to limit their power. The senate made laws. Both the senate and consuls can be seen in the American government today. The senate would be like the American congress, since they are both small groups who make laws. The consuls are like the vice president and president of America. They have a lot of power, yet are still limited so that they don’t become tyrants. This is a fear that both Rome had and that America wants to prevent. America replicated Rome’s idea of having separation of powers because in this way a tyrant is prevented from coming to power.
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America is a republic democracy. It derived this form of government from both Rome and Greece. However, America’s political thought goes much beyond those two simple ideals. America, like all other countries in existance nowadays, have become religiously tolerant. Ever since the time of the English Civil War, countries have learned that being religiously tolerant is important in keeping a country stable. The church used to be the center of power in England. The Catholic Church would scare the people into thinking that purgatory was worse than hell, and that that is where they were going unless they bought their way out of it. After several years, the English began to question the Church, and so they started to break away from it and join the protestant churches. Much of England became protestant, as well as many other countries, which shows that religious toleration was a large “must-have” for countries. If a government was not tolerant, like it had not been in England for some time, a civil war would break out. Secondly, England was also the precedent to America in showing the importance of the individual. The Habeas Corpus Acts, which was written in England, was one of the first documents written that protects the individual.
This document states that an individual is innocent until proven guilty and that they must stand before a judge before being accused. This act protects the individual, which is important in American society. Not only was England’s Habeas Corpus Act a founder of American political thought, but so was England’s English Bill of Rights. This bill of rights was written to make England a constitutional monarchy in which the king is below the law. In a nutshell, the English Bill of Rights limits a government, gives rights to the people, and makes the law rule, not a person. This is exactly how America’s government is. The American law rules above everything else. In fact, America also adopted a “Bill of Rights”, trying to duplicate the English Bill of Rights ideals.
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