America and Democracy

When most people think of America today, a few main things come to mind: tourist attractions, sightseeing, food, the President, and democracy (because America is very well known for its democracy). Of course, none of this existed when America was still thirteen British colonies. The idea of democracy was somewhat present, as the colonies were fairly independent, yet they were still under the rule of the British crown. Once the colonies became its own country, however, people started thinking about how to form a government.

Under the Articles of Confederation, an overwhelming fear of a corrupt and tyrannical government led sovereignty to be given to the states, with a very weak central government. People didn’t like being taxed without representation, so they decided to not allow government to tax them. They also didn’t like that the king had so much power, so they declared that America would have no executive branch. However, this caused problems, as the government also couldn’t raise an army; therefore, the country was not only unable to enforce laws and get enough money to pay off debts, but they also couldn’t defend themselves. In addition, because the states essentially ruled themselves, there was very little sense of unity within America.

Therefore, the Constitution was written. Central government was given more power, but was composed of three branches with checks and balances to make sure that no branch of government had too much power. The Constitution also stated that the President is elected by the Electoral College, which meant that people could only vote indirectly for President. This was problematic, because the antifederalists who were against the Constitution demanded more democracy and representation for everyone. (It is also ironic that we are known as a democratic nation and “spread democracy” when we actually have an indirect democracy.) Eventually, the federalists won over the antifederalists, and the Constitution was ratified, though joined by the Bill of Rights.

Of course, an indirect democracy is still a democracy, and is much better than the tyrannical rule of King George III. Our way of government is most likely working well, because we are one of the strongest countries in the world. (Of course, we’re not just known for democracy, though. Places like Disneyland are nice too.)

Sources:

Bailey, Thomas Andrew, David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print.

Greene, Jack P. “Colonial American Government and Politics.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://www.history.com/topics/colonial-government-and-politics&gt;.

Lynch, Eric. American Flag. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 3 June 2008. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/royal65/2549595255/&gt;.

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3 thoughts on “America and Democracy

  1. Your description and emphasis on the lack of initial central government is nice – I think coming out of a royal system with uneven power being given to the executive branch colonists were at first apprehensive to even include one.

  2. This is a pleasurable, comprehensive summary of our path towards the government we have today. It’s interesting how the dispute still exists about whether our country should become more democratic than it already is by abolishing the electoral college. I think that the essential parts of democracy are not just that all citizens have an equal voice in government, but that they also have the most direct path towards changing the government as voting allows.

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