Part One “ The Legal Framework
What were the philosophical and religious influences on American Constitutional Government?
In framing the Constitution, the forefathers derived many of the foundations of constitutional government from philosophical and religious ideas. American Constitutional government was not perfect but a result of trial and error of almost two centuries of colonial existence. The origins of Constitutional Government stem from the Judeo Christian principles of covenant, justice, and inalienable rights. This idea was a reflection of the protestant influences and upbringings of the framers and that of the American people. The framers read extensively on the writings of Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke and Montesquieu, applying their ideas into the constitution. John Locke's "Second Treatise and his idea of the "social contract was a major influence upon the construction of the constitution. According to Locke, the original state of nature was happy and characterized by reason and tolerance; all human beings were equal and free to pursue "life, health, liberty, and possessions." Thus such rights could not be delegated or withheld from any individual in a state of society. The framers applied Locke's social contract, which guaranteed a human's inalienable rights to formation of the constitution. Also, Locke argued that revolution was not only a choice but in some cases an obligation when faced with tyranny. Baron Montesquieu's, an influential French philosopher believed that in order to protect the liberty of the people, the government should be divided into three branches: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Montesquieu argued in his essay "Spirit of the Laws that this was necessary to prevent the abuse of power, which he felt was the nature of humans.
What was the process by which our constitution was adopted? The compromises required and the mistakes made.