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gov paper final draft_Essay - Gov 3665 American Political...

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Gov 3665 American Political Thought Take Home Prelim 1 10/7/08 “The People” and their Role in the American Democracy The various appellations of “the people” assigned by Tom Paine, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the US Constitution do not all refer to the same collective subject, and
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by analyzing and understanding the reasoning behind these various appellations, one comes to understand the place of “the people” in the American populace. The appellations vary because each sees people’s nature as different than the other, and while Madison, Paine and The Constitution are referring to the people who will be politically responsible for the US, Hamilton is referring to those who will be subordinate to those politically in charge. Thus, when each refers to the people under a different appellation, it is because their disagreements on human nature has led them to design a different kind of government than the other, giving the people who run that government a different title. While in Madison’s case, his appellation refers to the people not in charge because he stresses how few worthy people there are in forming and running the new American republic, Paine stresses the importance of the inclusion of the American people in the new democratic vision. Tom Paine’s notion of “the people” refers to the equal Americans who come together to form the law, which holds a generally optimistic, egalitarian viewpoint. Tom Paine sees mankind as being created equal. He does not believe that a human being is born with a natural god given status, but that we all begin on the same plane. Thus he claims, “Mankind being originally equals in order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance…” (Paine, p. 135). It should follow then that without some external force fictitiously creating a human divide, man could live in harmony. But Paine makes an important assertion about mankind negating the possibility of harmony without something he calls “a necessary evil.” Paine believes mankind has an impulse to be wicked, or at least immoral. Thus because mankind cannot function without something to harness these impurities, government must be introduced to do so. Unfortunately government, according to Paine, is evil in that one must give up “…a part of his property to furnish means for 2
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the protection of the rest…” (Paine, p. 132). Thus in deciding between having a society of ungoverned, immoral people or a society in which those people give up individual rights for the common good, the latter is the lesser of two evils.
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