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The Differences Of The Athenian Democracy Compared To Todays Democracy

2351 words - 10 pages

The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means "rule by the people."(Democracy Building 2012) The democracy in Athens was a model used by our Founding Fathers to establish the democracy in America. Like our modern democracy, the Athenian Democracy was conceived as a reaction to a concentration and abuse of power by the rulers. Philosophers defined the essential elements of democracy as a separation of powers, basic civil rights, human rights, religious liberty and separation of church and state. The most current definition of a democracy is defined as a “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by ...view middle of the document...

That amount of people may seem small, but in the world of Greek city/states, Athens was huge. When our Founding Fathers established a democracy there were thirteen colonies. The thirteen colonies were located on the eastern seaboard from New Hampshire to Georgia. You could drive through all of the thirteen colonies in one long day. The population of the thirteen colonies in 1776 was approximately 2.4 million people. This consisted of land owning men, women, children and slaves. Today, New York City has more than double that amount of people at 8.4 million residents. In 2012, the United States had over 313 million people. Out of the 313 million residents in America, over 221 million citizens are eligible to vote.(McDonald 2013) In the 2012 Presidential election, 117,416,696 voted for one of the two candidates running as President of the United States. The amount of citizens that voted in 2012 are over ten times the population of Athens and the thirteen colonies combined.
Another one of the variations between the modern American Democracy, the Athenian Democracy and what the Founding Fathers envisioned is the difference in the eligibility of the citizens to participate in the democracy. Athens had strict requirements for a person to be eligible to participate in their government. Athenian law required that only adult male Athenian citizens who had completed their military training and who were descended from previous citizens had the right to vote in Athens. Citizenship could be granted by the assembly and was sometimes given to large groups. Citizenship was given to the Plateans in 427 BC and the Samians in 405 BC. By the 4th century, citizenship was only available to individuals and by a special vote with a quorum of six thousand. The percentage of the population that actually participated in the government was about twenty percent of the total number of people. The Athenian Democracy excluded a majority of the population, namely slaves, freed slaves, children, women and foreign residents from participating in the governing of their country. Women had limited rights and privileges and were barely considered citizens. Also excluded from voting were citizens who did not pay their monetary debt to the city. Property qualification was not one of the criteria for voting in the Athenian Democracy. The U.S. Constitution did not define which citizens could vote, and was simply built around a concept of rights of "person” (Harper 2007) with voting not explicitly included in those rights. When founded, most states in America only allowed white males who owned property or had taxable incomes to vote. Women could vote in New Jersey as long as they could meet the property requirement. Freed slaves could vote in four states. In the beginning of the American Democracy, men that did not own property, women, slaves and freed slaves were prohibited from voting. In today’s democracy, because of the Fifteenth Amendment to the...

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