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The Constitution of the United States of America is the fabric by which the government functions. [5]  Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government, to which are added, Memoirs of His Life, 1698, 3rd ed. What is more, Locke’s social contract, as it were, closely resembled a covenant as was practiced by Jews and Christians in the Bible and by the Puritans in early America. 13. The American, Bible-based Defense of Unalienable Rights  Students will think about the characteristics of the Declaration that make it a compact. 8. Locke asserted the need for consent in such contracts, saying, “That which begins and actually constitutes any political society is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of majority, to unite and incorporate into such a society. 17. Indeed, one prominent scholar has concluded that "[t]he idea of the social contract implicit in America's rights ideology served the new nation well at the beginning, but had no further use. A City on a Hill:  Why John Winthrop and the Puritans Came to America A government 's role in the social contract subsists to protect the rights of their people and the citizen’s responsibility is to allow the government to protect their rights without oppressing them. Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015. These particular influences were either indirectly or directly informed by a biblical worldview and Judeo-Christian thought. The Swiss philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) each took the social contract theory one step further. Martin Kelly, M.A., is a history teacher and curriculum developer. As with many philosophical ideas behind the political theory, the social contract has inspired various forms and interpretations and has been evoked by many different groups throughout American history. The type of government is less important to Locke (except for absolute despotism): Monarchy, aristocracy, and republic are all acceptable forms of government as long as that government provides and protects the basic rights of life, liberty, and property to the people. The Principle of Rule of Law People come together and agree to give up some of this freedom in exchange for protection of their basic rights. He writes, “There is no such thing therefore as a dutiful obedience, or duty of being obedient, incumbent upon all nations…nor upon any particular nation, unless it be expressed by a covenant.”7  He cited, for instance, the biblical Israelites’ use of covenants to institute their kings. By following public arguments reflective of the social contract tradition, Mark Hulliung offers a useful way of rethinking the origins and development of the American political order from its birth to the present. He is the author of "The Everything American Presidents Book" and "Colonial Life: Government. Great Awakening Principle:  All Men Equal Before God 7. "15 My central thesis is that the idea of the social contract has had noteworthy uses since the American Revolution. Vice President of the United States: Duties and Details, Between History and Nature: Social Contract Theory in Locke and the Founders. During this time, patriot American colonists argued that Britain’s King George III and parliament had breached its colonial charters in America by violating colonists’ rights. What Is a Constitutionally Limited Government? This essay (with endnotes) is available as a printable PDF handout in the member resources section on americanheritage.org. An explanation for the limited American notion of social citizenship and social contract is beyond the scope of this article. The aim of a social contract theory is to show that members of somesociety have reason to endorse and comply with the fundamental socialrules, laws, institutions, and/or principles of that society. [7]  Sidney, Discourses, chapter 3, section 4, 267. Locke’s social contract was later taken up by the American revolutionaries and Founders. More recently, historians also have linked social contract theories to pivotal social movements such as those for Native American rights, civil rights, immigration reform, and women's rights. In primeval times, according to the theory, individuals were born into an anarchic state of nature , which was happy or unhappy according to the particular version. The Social Contract Press is an educational and publishing organization advocating open discussion of such related issues as population size and rate of growth, protection of the environment and precious resources, limits on immigration, as well as preservation and promotion of a shared American language and culture. America’s Theological Social Contract: The Mayflower Compact By Eric Patterson & Rebecca Blessing on November 25, 2020 In November 1620, the individuals we know as the Pilgrims created the first social contract in the New World. Following from this principle, a government established by the free choice of its people is required to serve the people, who in the end have sovereignty, or supreme power, to keep or overthrow that government. The Purpose of American Civil Government. Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 7, Part 2, Activity 9:  Our National Compact:  The Nation’s Social Contract, p. 254. Revolutionary-era Americans favored social contract theory over the British Tory concepts of patriarchal government and looked to the social contract as support for the rebellion. The students will also consider and write about how this compact affects them personally. 362-365, or in the “Miracle of America Snapshots” handout under member resources at americanheritage.org. The Founders also added the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights of 1791, to the U. S. Constitution to reinforce citizens’ individual rights. The Declaration affirms the need for the people’s consent to form a civil state, asserting that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed.”  What is more, the Declaration—in being a pledge or promise among the people, with God as witness—acts not only as a contract but also much like a covenant when it concludes, We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…. This tradition consists of several different sets of theories that offer justifications for social and political order. It can only be … 3. Covenants are a biblical practice. Hobbes' theory was that in the past, the people mutually agreed to create a state, giving it only enough power to provide protection of their well-being. The Pledge states, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”. For men enter civil society, says Locke, “only with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse).”4  Thus if the civil authority unjustly infringes upon citizens’ rights and properties, or does not abide by and enforce the laws to protect citizens, the people may reform the laws, elect new leaders, or overthrow the government. 20. John Locke and Algernon Sidney:  A Bible-based Defense of Equality and Popular Sovereignty for the American Founders What Was the US Second Party System? Delivered July 26, 2007 While the term "social contract" has not been wide­ly used in America, the idea of some mutual obligation between society and the individuals that comprise it … See Chapter 3, Section 4, p. 267; and Chapter 3, Section 2, p. 262. Instead, he defended popular sovereignty or the people’s rule—the idea that since all men are created free and equal by God, the whole people (not just one person) hold political power. The formation of the United States of America as a new nation was made possible by the principle and practice of social contracts. Signing of the Mayflower Compact by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, 1899. Hulliung's book is the first to examine the role of the social contract across the entire sweep of American history, well beyond the Revolution and Founding periods. [17]  James Madison, Federalist Paper #51, in The Federalist Papers, ed. How the American Puritans Were Like the Bible’s Israelites  According to social contract theory, governments exist as a result of an implicit contract between the government and the governed. 18. The people’s rights and freedoms are limited only to the minimal extent necessary for society. How is it similar to a civil covenant? White House, Washington, DC. Activity:  Journal/Reflection Writing and Short Answer Test In such a covenant, the king agreed to abide by God’s law and rule justly, and the people agreed to follow God’s law and submit to their chosen king’s rule. Definition and Examples. Self-Evident Truth:  A Philosophy of Rights in the Declaration of Independence 4 (1980):  9. Americans often recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which affirms the national compact. Main The Social Contract in America: From the Revolution to the Present Age. [11]  George Klosko, ed., The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy (Oxford:  Oxford U Press, 2011), 575. Sidney cited King David and King Joash of Judah as examples in the Bible. The Puritans in America Created the First Written Constitutions of Law The Creator God:  The Basis of Authority, Law, & Rights for Mankind in the United States of America Equality poses the biggest problem to America simply because in any country the people make the country, and if the people can’t get along either internal conflicts occur, or people eventually leave. The people thus enter a contract or firm agreement with one another to submit to the determination of the majority and to abide by the just, agreed-upon laws of the civil body. Locke addresses this practice and purpose of social contracts:  …, Men being…by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent, which is done by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living, one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it. English parliamentarian and theorist Algernon Sidney notably connected the principle of civil covenant to the social contract. The civil covenant was seen, for example, in reformed political writings including Stephen Junius Brutus’s 1579 Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (Defense Against Tyranny), Samuel Rutherford’s 1644 Lex Rex (The Law and the Prince, or The Law is King), Thomas Hobbes’s 1651 Leviathan, and Algernon Sidney’s 1698 Discourses Concerning Government. 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