Common Authors Essay

This essay has a total of 824 words and 5 pages.

Common Authors

Few political documents have affected the world quite like
the American Declaration of Independence or the French
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The
repercussion of each have had a profound effect on world
history up to this point. But why did these documents have
such an effect? The answer lies in the common
philosophical backgrounds of the two. The writings of
Rousseau, Locke and Montesquieu all contained ideas that
were later used by Thomas Jefferson and the National
Assembly to compose the two documents. Rousseau's
ideas of a social contract, which states that the general will
and the people were sovereign, and if a king abuses the
liberty of the people they have a right and a duty to dissolve
the current government and create a new one (McKay,
581), were central to both documents. Jefferson had
Rousseau's ideas in mind when he wrote the Declaration of
Independence. The history of the present King of Great
Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and
usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of
an absolute tyranny over these states...a prince, whose
character is thus marked by every act which may define a
tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people...we
therefore...solemnly publish and declare, that these United
Colonies are...independent states... (Jefferson, 1-2). The
reasons, such as suspension of colonial legislatures,
impressment of American sailors and the importation of
mercenaries (Jefferson, 2), given for the dissolution of the
political connections that the American and British people
have held for over 100 years all relate to the King's
tyrannical tendencies and the peoples right to choose a
different government. The edict also states that although
petitions of grievances were issued, the King turned a deaf
ear. The Declaration of the Rights of Man is not only built
on the social contract, but also on Rousseau's idea of
general will of the people. He defines the general will as
being, "Sacred and absolute, reflecting the common
interests of the people, who have displaced the monarch as
the holder of the sovereign powers. (McKay, 581)"
Passing and enforcing arbitrary laws are considered to be
an act of tyranny and a substantial reason, according to
Rousseau, to declare the current government void and
establish a new one. Article VII clearly states that arbitrary
laws and orders cannot exist.(Sherman, 100) The fact that
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