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Roots Of American Democracy Essay

2526 words - 10 pages

When referring to classical antiquity period, most think of Greece and Rome dominating and flourishing in the areas of philosophy, sciences, mathematics and literature. One other admirable achievement, the establishment of early forms of democracy, came from this time period and should not be overlooked as it is the historical basis of our government today. The Founding Fathers of the United States were influenced by Greek and Roman concepts in law, government structure, and even philosophy. Concepts described in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States can be traced back historically to the classical antiquity period, and show that the United States government and law were modeled after those of Greece and Rome.
The idea of a government representative of the people is rooted in the Athenian democracy dating back to the fifth century BC. Thomas Jefferson states in the Declaration of Independence, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence reflects the importance of the public intervention, showing that the actions of the government deeply affect the lives of the people, and therefore they should have a say in government. This concept is very similar to the ideology of Cleisthenes, an Athenian statesman and reformer who was an aristocrat exiled from Athens under tyrant rule.
This Athenian democracy was the first of its kind, and was certainly not the last. After Cleisthenes returned from exile, he created the first real government of the people – the demos, around 507 BC. He wanted this government to reflect the will of all Athenians, no matter their socioeconomic status or class. The Athenian city-state had originally been divided into four tribes based on family relations, and as a result, these families formed clans which led to tyranny. Cleisthenes organized the people of the city into ten tribes according to their deme, or area of residency. He also formed the Assembly, made up of free men given the right to vote (The Greeks - Cleisthenes). This group of men met regularly to discuss and vote on the proposed laws for the city, and therefore decided on the policies that would govern their own behavior – known as participatory direct democracy. The laws were proposed by the Boule, made up of five hundred men chosen at random, and were put in the city for all to see. Each man in the Boule served a one year term, and could serve a maximum of two terms in their lifetime. The Boule was stressed to follow the Bouletic Oath - “To advise according to the laws what was best for the people” (Blackwell, 2003).
By implementing democratic reform, Athens was ushered into a period of achievement and prosperity. Pericles, an Athenian statesman and general during the Golden Age of Greece...

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