Different Times â€" Different Views Essay

782 words - 3 pages

Who should have the power in a political state? Does the sovereignty belong to a single monarch or should the people themselves be sovereign? Well, as Americans in today's society this question seems to have an obvious answer. This question didn't seem so simple prior to the American Revolution though. Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Paine have distinctively different views concerning sovereignty and people's rights. These views are expressed in Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince and Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. In 1513 Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a handbook to explain how a prince should rule his state. One key concept of this handbook is that the state is more important than the individual. According to Machiavelli, a prince should do whatever it takes to establish a stable society. This means a prince can lie, deceive, and dismiss the church if it will benefit the state. Violence and cruelty can also be an ally if a prince uses them for short periods of time. Machiavelli did not hold a high opinion of man as an individual. He asserts that every man looks out for only himself. Paine, on the other hand, was a avid supporter of equal rights. He felt that the individual members of the state should create and operate the government of their state as a group. This meant that the people should have the freedom to debate all questions. In other words, there is no reason for the monarchy to exist. Instead, sovereignty should lie with the people of the state. According to Paine, the state was a product of its people. While Machiavelli felt that the people were a product of the prince and his state. Machiavelli, and Paine are not just two people with different opinions. These men came from different times. Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513 and Paine's The Rights of Man was written 275 years later. During those 275, many changes occurred. One early change that took place during the Renaissance was the Humanist movement. Humanism brought new ideas never conceived in Europe. These ideas included freedom of will, a more secular interpretation of happiness, and living a more active life. People began to enjoy life, participating and enjoying life day-to-day as opposed to spending life on earth as a...

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