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lecture4.1 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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LECTURE NOTES UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2010 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz Hunk 4 Background of U.S. Constitution The Founders' baggage , or set of experiences, comes in 4 parts: British history, intellectual resources (principles), early American history, and problems of federation. Let us consider them in turn. 1. 17 th Century England. A Civil War toppled King Charles I, along with his head, and established a republic, called the Commonwealth, under Oliver Cromwell. After Ollie died, Parliament restored the monarchy under Charles II. The Glorious Revolution then kicked out Charles's Catholic successor, James II, made William III (the Dutch ruler) and Mary (his wife and James's daughter) co-monarchs, and in effect established parliamentary sovereignty . Whigs vs. Tories . In the English Civil War, Roundheads (Cromwell supporters) were pitted against Cavaliers (monarchy supporters). The Roundheads became Whigs ; the Cavaliers, Tories . These were England’s first two parties. Whigs sought representative government; Locke's Second Treatise on Government was their manifesto; I guess that makes Locke a big Whig. Tories believed in the divine right of kings; Hobbes had argued in effect for the unchecked power of a king or other "sovereign" separate from and not beholden to his subjects. The Whigs got their way in the Glorious Revolution. The US Founders were ardent Whigs. 1
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2. Intellectual Resources . One can identify six distinct intellectual influences on the founders. 1. The social contract theory of Locke . Locke believed in government by consent, where government is bound by an implicit contract to protect the people's "natural right" to "life, liberty, and estate." There is a dual contract : one, among the governed, to set up a government, and another, between the governed and the government. Locke envisioned a limited government -- a trustee for the people's sovereignty - - and did not accept Hobbes's idea that the king should be all powerful. 2. The Baron de Montesquieu . Montesquieu celebrated the English (later British) system of government as resting on a separation of powers , where the executive (King) is separate from the legislature (Parliament), itself separated into Lords and Commons. He argued that separation protected each part from abuse by others. The Founders admired this idea. Note that the Founders largely ignored—they did not appreciate—the role of the prime minister; they thought the king was the real chief executive. 3. Intellectual Climate of the Day: the Scottish Enlightenment . The great Scots philosopher David Hume argued that there wasn't in reality a social contract. He thought government always came from conquest or usurpation. He proposed as a criterion for evaluating the justice of a government its ability to protect property and the common good. Even so, a just government would be one that resolved the PD effectively, for the common good is comparable to the mutual advantage of contract. Like Hume, the Founders thought it was important to protect property, not only for the good of the rich, but for everyone. Another towering figure of the Scottish 2
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