The Foundations of Government Essay

This essay has a total of 831 words and 4 pages.

The Foundations of Government

The "Enlightenment" or the "Age of Realization" was an age of great advancement and reform
for all of Europe and beyond. Great advancements were being made in the fields of science,
philosophy, mathematics, and logic. Most people attribute these achievements to the social
critics of that time, also known as the philosophers. These philosophers were
controversial thinkers and pioneered the intellectual movements of the 1700's. They stood
up for what they believed in, although they were constantly criticized and censured by
many other people. Such philosophers include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Aristotle, and
Montesquieu. Although their beliefs contradicted, they were all working to change what
they thought was wrong with their present government. They were four men who disagreed
about almost everything, and yet they were working towards a common goal.

Thomas Hobbes was born in London, England in 1588. He was educated at Oxford University in
England where he studied the classics. In 1651, Hobbes wrote his most famous book,
Leviathan. In this book he argued that most people were born evil and could not be trusted
to govern themselves. He thought that a ruler needed to have complete control over his
people to govern efficiently. His idea was to have something to force the people to obey
their ruler at all costs. He called this document the Social Contract. He thought that
giving power to an individual would start a "war of every man against every man" and make
life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. "Although these thoughts may seem to
label Thomas Hobbes as a supporter of an authoritarian government, he favored a
representative democracy. He coined the phrase, "voice of the people," but he thought that
this "voice" should be vetoed if a ruler deemed it proper.

John Locke was born in 1632 at Wrinton in Somerset, England. He opposed the views of
Thomas Hobbes and thought that people were born neither good nor evil. He believed that
people's characters were solely based on their experiences and their environment. He also
believed that people could learn from their experiences and change their characters for
the better. He believed that people had three Natural Rights- life, liberty, and property.
In Locke's eyes, the purpose of the government was to protect the people's Natural Rights.
He thought that if the government was not doing this job, that the people had the right to
overthrow it. Although it may seem that Locke would support a democracy, he was not a
democrat. He believed that laborers were of a lower status that the middle and upper
classes and had no place meddling in the affairs of the government. He believed that the
poor had neither the education nor the inclination to make political decisions
responsibly. This was a popular belief of the time. Many of Locke's political ideas, such
as those relating to natural rights, property rights, the duty of the government to
protect these rights, and the rule of the majority, were later embodied in the United
States Constitution.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in Switzerland in 1712. He thought humans were
naturally good, but are corrupted by society, and therefore humans should not be in
society, but in small groups in nature. He believes in equal rights and unalienable rights
which are thoughts in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
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