1 - Democracy

1 - Democracy - From [email protected] Sent Saturday...

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From: [email protected] Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 3:05 PM To: [email protected] Subject: Britannica Student Encyclopedia Article democracy Britannica Student Encyclopedia In his Gettysburg Address of November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln defined the kind of society he wanted the United States to preserve: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” He was defining democracy, but not as it existed anywhere in the world at that time. He was describing an ideal, which increasingly became realized in the next century. The ideal was based upon a basic concept of the Declaration of Independence—all human beings are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Meanings of Democracy The word democracy is derived from two Greek words: demos , meaning “the people,” and kratos , meaning “rule.” A democracy is a way of governing in which the whole body of citizens takes charge of its own affairs. As citizens of towns, cities, counties, states or provinces, and nations, the people are the sovereigns, the source of power. Democracy means that they can freely make the decisions about what is best for them: what policies to adopt and what taxes to pay. A true democracy, as Lincoln was defining it, means a society in which all the people are citizens with the same rights to participate in its government. Direct democracy. As a term for a type of government, democracy came into use during the 5th century BC in Greece. Since then it has acquired a number of different meanings, most of which have common elements. The most basic and original sense is direct democracy—a government in which political decisions are made directly by all the citizens and policies are decided by majority rule. Direct democracy was the government adopted by some ancient Greek city-states. Many centuries later, during the colonial era in North America, the New England townships chose direct democracy as their form of government. All the townspeople gathered at one time and place to decide public policies. Neither ancient Greece nor colonial New England had a true democracy because some segments of the population did not have the rights of citizenship. Certain members of Greek society were considered either noncitizens or second-class citizens. Women and slaves, for example, were denied participation in government. In New England, only property-owning white males were active in government. Women, poor whites, and slaves were nonparticipants. To the extent that any segment of the population is deliberately excluded from citizen participation, a government fails to be a true democracy. It is really an oligarchy, or government by the few. In the United States, for example, most African Americans were not given suffrage (the right to vote) until after the American Civil War.
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Even most white males were excluded from voting rights before the early 1800s. Women were not granted
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1 - Democracy - From [email protected] Sent Saturday...

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