wwrousseaudo - WWRD What Would Rousseau Do Thomas Jefferson...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
WWRD: What Would Rousseau Do? Thomas Jefferson was a highly respected politician, whose hand played a significant role in penning the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, and who – quite mistakenly – is attributed as a devoted follower of the Enlightenment era philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Many charge Jefferson with this adoration of the works of Rousseau due to the many striking similarities between Rousseau’s On the Social Contract and the framework of the United States of America (i.e., the Constitution). They forget, however, about the influence that James Madison – yet another great politician and future President – on the framework of America due to his work on “The Federalist Papers” and the “Bill of Rights.” All of these works make up the basic framework of American democracy, and it is important to note that this framework has essentially stayed the same since the days of the founding fathers until present day. Though the framework shares a basic likeness in philosophy in matters such as civil religion, the social contract, and the goal of government with Rousseau, there are many philosophies of government and ruling where the two depart. This is abundantly clear in the distinctions that can be made between contemporary America and Rousseau’s statements in On the Social Contract . It is important to look to the past, to explore his writings, in order to illuminate just how similar (or different) the modern day United States is to Rousseau’s image of an ideal government. Rousseau imparts that there are several specific needs that must be met in order for a state to be able to govern itself well. He gets quite specific with this, going so far as to say that the physical size – both in terms of land mass and population – are important to the government and how it manages its people. Rousseau states: “Just as nature has 1
Image of page 1

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
set limits to the status of well-formed man…there are limits to the size it [a state] can have, so as not to be too large to be capable of being well governed, nor too small to be capable of preserving itself on its own.” (Rousseau 167) He claims that the administration would get more difficult and that the government would have less force and speed in terms of enforcing laws and overseeing the public good. Rousseau is correct in assuming that if a state’s citizens are spread apart over distances, the social bond (i.e. the government’s ability to effectively govern) will weaken. Observing the contemporary American governmental structure, we see that this is not at all the case.
Image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern