Colonial America the Philosophy of Individual Rights Term Paper

Download this Term Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Term Paper:

Colonial America

The Philosophy of Individual Rights Before the Constitutional Convention in England and America

Although many individuals today might like to romanticize the origin of individual rights in America, suggesting that such rights began and ended with the passage of the current version of the United States Constitution that now governs the totality of the American land, the actual history of a private citizen's individual rights in America and England is far more checkered and complex. America's founding fathers owe a far greater debt to English and French philosophies of rights and liberties than were acknowledged at the time for the idea that the individual citizen possesses certain inalienable rights that cannot be impinged upon by the state. Also, the Articles of Confederation that were eventually passed contained the seeds of the later document that was to govern the land, even though it was too weak a document to provide the type of unity that the international politics of the time demanded to accord respect to the new American union and nation.

The English Empiricist philosopher John Locke was one of the first philosophers to coin the idea of "life, liberty, and property" as being inalienable rights of every human citizen and person. Equally important as the exact definition of the rights themselves was the simple notion itself that individual citizens possessed rights that were intrinsic to their human mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual persons that no sovereign could impinge upon. Unlike earlier political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes who placed a priority on an overall orderly society under the will of a monarch, Locke turned his view to the rights of the human being in society, rather than focusing on the state or on society alone as an entity in need of order and protection.

Thomas Jefferson was later to take up Locke's philosophy and words. As later and concisely and eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with *inherent and* [certain] inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness: that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it's foundation on such principles, & organizing it's powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness."

Happiness, rather than property held sway in Jefferson's rhetoric, for the Declaration was a rhetorical rather than a legal or even a philosophical document. Still, the principles were the same as articulated in Locke's philosophy. Jefferson paid a nod to Hobbes in the Declaration's text when he noted, "Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses & usurpations *begun at a distinguished period and* pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, & to provide new guards for their future security." Jefferson states that he and his fellow rebels know the risks of disorder than severance poses, but the risks of tyranny to the individual are more in need of address, ultimately, than the risks posed to society.

None of Jefferson's ideas were new, thusly -- nor was even the language he used to articulate them. In fact, the idea of individual rights could be said to extend far back in England as the Magna Charta, which specified the duties owned not simply of lords to the king but also of the king to those who served him. Even the ultimately unsuccessful Roundhead revolution of Cromwell did establish some idea that Parliament, as opposed to purely royal and dictatorial authority, could hold sway over an executive authority conferred by birth rather than election, and that Houses elected by the populace should have a voice in the form of…[continue]

Cite This Term Paper:

"Colonial America The Philosophy Of Individual Rights" (2004, July 21) Retrieved December 2, 2016, from

"Colonial America The Philosophy Of Individual Rights" 21 July 2004. Web.2 December. 2016. <>

"Colonial America The Philosophy Of Individual Rights", 21 July 2004, Accessed.2 December. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • America as a Multinational Society

    In years before, America was a collection of Chinese, Germans, Italians, Scots, Croats, etc., all craving freedom. Today, even the simple concept of an English-speaking nation is fading off the continent. In the past, immigrants were taught in English in the public schools. In America today, children are taught in German, Italian, Polish, and 108 other languages and dialects. Most of these schools are funded by 139 million federal

  • Individual Freedom When the English Parliament and

    Individual Freedom When the English Parliament and Crown enclosed their views with undue fiscal and theoretical restrictions upon the citizens of the North American colonies, the men who would become known as America's Founding Fathers rejoined with a quick, powerful, rhetorical and later military response. These politicians cum philosophers approached the legal authorities with the disdain of an unjust ruler, purporting instead a policy of individual rights protected by a

  • Americas Interests & Involvement in

    ..) the subsequent U.S. occupation of the island tied its economy ever closed to the United States as U.S. military governors promulgated laws giving U.S. firms concessionary access to the Cuban market. By the late 1920s U.S. firms controlled 75% of the sugar industry and most of the mines, railroads, and public utilities." (Leogrande and Thomas, 2002, 325-6) The economic dependence on the United States and in particular the high degree

  • Education in America the Seventeenth Century Has

    Education in America The seventeenth century has been called, as an age of faith, and for the colonists a preoccupation with religion, as probably right. The religious rebel of the sixteenth century was severe and shaking as its impact was felt both on the continent as well as in America. However, intelligent Americans of the seventeenth century thought and realized that education could, and may be should, be a handmaiden

  • Colonial Times for Third Grade

    Additionally, she found that interdisciplinary units proved monumentally successful in helping teach children; for an inclusive colonial times unit, the children could learn about colonial daily life through completion of temporal everyday chores, cooking meals of the day, and involving themselves in the day-to-day activities that affected colonial children. Additionally, through their own student projects, the children might learn to "initiate and manage complex projects" when they are creating student

  • America Without the Constitution Without

    Articles of Confederation: The Articles of Confederation were approved in November, 1777 and were the basic format for what would become the Constitution and Bill of Rights for the United States. There were, of course, deficiencies in the document, this was a new experiment and getting the delegates to agree in kind to pass any sort of document was challenging at best. The Articles did allow a semblance of unity,

  • Real America Interestingly Enough One of the

    Real America? Interestingly enough, one of the themes in the post-modernism period of American history has been the reexamination of the "real America," particularly the moral, ethical and sexual changes that have evolved since the turn of the century. This has not been a new theme, nor has it been relegated to non-fiction. At the beginning of the 20th century, American novelists were expanding the role fiction took by examining

Read Full Term Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved