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Felix Jun L.

Sarte AB-Pol Sci IV


Political Science 57

The Constitution, which has served since 1789 as the basic frame of government of the
republic of the United States, was the work of a constitutional convention that sat at Philadelphia
from late May 1787 until mid-September of that year.
John Locke (16321704) is among the most influential political philosophers of the modern
period. In the Two Treatises of Government, he defended the claim that men are by nature free and
equal against claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch. He argued that
people have rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property that have a foundation
independent of the laws of any particular society. Locke used the claim that men are naturally free
and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result
of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to
the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty,
and property. Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of
the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and
replaced with new governments. Locke is thus also important for his defense of the right of
revolution. Locke also defends the principle of majority rule and the separation of legislative and
executive powers. In the Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke denied that coercion should be used to
bring people to (what the ruler believes is) the true religion and also denied that churches should
have any coercive power over their members. Locke elaborated on these themes in his later
political writings, such as the Second Letter on Toleration and Third Letter on Toleration.
Montesquieu was one of the great political philosophers of the Enlightenment. Insatiably
curious and mordantly funny, he constructed a naturalistic account of the various forms of
government, and of the causes that made them what they were and that advanced or constrained
their development. He used this account to explain how governments might be preserved from
corruption. He saw despotism, in particular, as a standing danger for any government not already
despotic, and argued that it could best be prevented by a system in which different bodies
exercised legislative, executive, and judicial power, and in which all those bodies were bound by the
rule of law. This theory of the separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political
theory, and on the framers of the constitution of the United States of America.
Expanding on Locke in The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu added the judiciary to Locke's
executive and legislature. He admired the English system, and wrote of the separation of powers.
Montesquieu wrote of the three forms of government he recognized: "republican, monarchial, and
despotic." He further divided republican government into democracy and aristocracy. He wrote of
pure democracy, but quickly dismisses this as folly. He also discounted bodies that advised a
monarch, unless the body is chosen by the people. Montesquieu noted that in a republic, education
is an absolute necessity. He noted the point of education in the three forms: "in monarchies they
will have honour for their object; in republics, virtue; in despotic governments, fear." He felt that
democracies are corrupted, and devolve to despotism or monarchy, when the feeling of equality
and fairness evaporate. In this way, a fair and objective judiciary is essential to the health of
a democracy.
Sir Edward Coke is best known for his prevention of royal interference from manipulating
the independence of common law courts, and for his revolutionary interpretation of the Magna
Carta, which he applied to all subjects equally. Coke was also prominent in the 1628 drafting of the
Petition of Right.
Coke's works served not only as the definitive legal texts of his time for British common law,
they also provided a foundation for the system of checks and balances enshrined in the United
States Constitution. Coke is famous for his assertion of the "Castle Doctrine"that one should be
safe in one's own housewhich in many jurisdictions is considered today an exception from the
obligation to retreat rather than use violence when threatened. In his legal opinions and in his life,
Coke maintained an integrity that proved incorruptible, resisting efforts by those with power to
abuse it at the expense of the common people and laying the foundation for the establishment of a
peaceful world.
The constitution is a dominant ideology, an ideology that determines what people are
permitted to do, as well as what the permit of what government will do. No words on parchment,
regardless of the pedigree of that parchment or of the men and women who composed those
words, will ever override the prevailing belief system of the people who form a polity.
These political ideologies of the philosophers inspired the US congress to create a more
viable constitution that will govern the people of United States.