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Sources of Democracy and Freedom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Friday, 30 September 2011 08:47

The HistoryWorld website  [htp://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories] offers a good example of a common comprehensive over view of World History and typically its Section for study of the History of Democracy makes no reference to Biblical or Christian sources.  The History it documents is totally secular.

The common view of the origin of Democracy that is taught in our schools is reflected in this excerpt from a Wikipedia article-

"Most of the procedures used by modern democracies are very old.  Almost all cultures have at some time had their new leaders approved, or at least accepted, by the people; and have changed the laws only after consultation with the assembly of the people or their leaders. Such institutions existed since before the Iliad or the Odyssey, and modern democracies are often derived or inspired by them ..."

On the contrary, the Models of Democracy we are looking for are not what ancient Greece or in Imperial or Republican Rome provide.  The major reason why the Greeks and Roman Models do not serve us well is because their experiments in "Democracy" extended only to certain classes and all others were denied their Rights to participate.  Their System of Government was rooted in a belief that people were naturally unequal and that one or a privileged few were competent to govern all others.  Their States easily reverted to complete Totalitarianism The concept of personal and social Freedom for all Citizens is unknown and impossible in Nations which are controlled by an all-powerful King, Dictator or Regime which, by definition, must deny such Freedom.  However, the Principles of both personal freedom and the concept of the limited State were known in Medieval Europe.  We find there the beginnings of *representative institutions, *popular sovereignty, *social contract, *elected Rulers, *limited Powers and *Government under Law". And this is because Medieval Europe was permeated by Christianity and these basic principles are found in Catholic Church (Christian) Teaching.  For example, the roots of these Principles can be found in Augustine (5th Century) and in Thomas Aquinas (13th Century). 

M. Stanton Evan's very important book on this subject, The Theme is Freedom, to which I am indebted, discusses in chapter 2 these examples of Government in the Middle Ages that began to incorporate Principles of Democratic Government as Americans know it -

the cortes in Spanish Aragon (12th - 15th Centuries)

the Estates-General in France (13th - 15th Centuries)  

the Reichstag in Germany (14th - mid17th Centuries)

the Parliament in England (end of 13th - mid 17th Centuries)

All of these institutions changed over time and Democratic Principles were suppressed --except in England!.  That suppression happened because the States or Nations became controlled by  all-powerful Kings or Regimes which, by definition, must deny it.  Freedom requires a Government that is limited to prevent it from becoming oppressive. And such limited Governments ceased in Europe  during the Renaissance and the coming of the Modern Age.

But in England the Heritage of Freedom continued under the influence of the Church: "the King is under God and the Law" was fundamental concept in England.  It was challenged in early 1600s with conflict between Crown (the Stuarts) and Parliament over "divine rights"  Opposition to the Crown was led by Puritans.  That led to their emigration to America.  These Puritans (and Pilgrims) brought the ideas of personal freedom and limited, constitutional Government under Law to the Colonies.  These ideas were grounded in their Religion.  This connection between Government and Christianity was noted repeatedly by the 18th Century Founders in their speeches and writings. 

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