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Liberty In The History Of America

2498 words - 10 pages

America is commonly called the “Land of the Free”, but the abundance of liberties, and liberties for all, has not always been the case. The Puritans were some of the first to settle in the New World, but they were self-interested and did not come with the purpose of creating a free state for all. As time progressed, so did their believes, and by the time Tocqueville arrived from France, liberty was an important aspect of American life. So important that people would fight and die for it. Tocqueville, while impressed at the amount liberty and freedoms that citizens had, believed that America had a long way to go before it could call itself a truly free country. Fast forward over a hundred years later, and John Rawls lived in a time were the conversation on equality and justice were major political issues. Rawls proposed a brand new way of looking at concepts of equality and justice and how to define them. The idea of liberty has played a significant role throughout the history of America, however how it is defined and what its implications are have changed from the Puritans, to Tocqueville and finally with John Rawls.
The Puritans came to the New World in the 17th century with the intent to establish a homogenous state where they could practice their religious beliefs freely, but also to create and control a government that would complement their religious society. The Puritans saw the British society that they were living in as oppressive and corrupt. Starting over gave them the opportunity to build the foundations of their society based on Puritan ideology, set the new status quo, and create a new identity for themselves. However, they had no intent of promoting religious freedom in their new country. Democracy, equality and freedom for all were not on their agenda (Baker and Thomas 55). There was no democratic idea of equality in the Puritan’s new land, and while they had just escaped religious and political persecution, they were not ready to extend their newfound freedoms to others (Baker and Thomas 54). Conformity to the Puritan ideals and beliefs was a crucial part for the success of their new society; therefore, toleration and freedom of religion were not compatible with Puritan ideology because they allow deviance and movement away from the church.
Their legitimacy did not come from the people that they ruled over, but from God, and Rulers were “appointed by God” to serve “his will”. This divine sovereignty gave them to create and enforce the laws and standards that they liked in the name of God, when often they were truly acting with self-interest. Popular sovereignty on the other hand is considered rule by the people. Through participation, people create and sustain the government. The Puritans did not believe in rule by the people because people are inherently flawed and erroneous. In reality, it was the Puritans using the claim of divine sovereignty to push their own religious and authoritarian agenda.
Most Puritan thinkers did...

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