From a discussion on Citizen Tom’s blog on the forms of government, I wrote a bit on of how the US Constitution was inspired and framed:
There are conceptual hints in Scripture and remarks by Jesus on what forms of government are disfavored, but the Framers took inspiration from Aristotle. Many Enlightenment thinkers tended to downplay Aristotle, though the re-discovery of his works is one of the factors leading to the Enlightenment. But many of the Framers read Aristotle directly as well as earlier writers he inspired including Locke and de Montesquieu.
Aristotle spends the first several chapters of Book 4 of Politics cataloging systems of government in a way reminiscent of Linnaeus taking apart the structure of species of flowers. Aristotle gets something of a bad rap here, in which he is frequently said to “favor rule by a strong and virtuous leader.” This misunderstands him, as that is not his most favored arrangement. Here he describes a government divided into three branches:
Having thus gained an appropriate basis of discussion, we will proceed to speak of the points which follow next in order. We will consider the subject not only in general but with reference to particular constitutions. All constitutions have three elements, concerning which the good lawgiver has to regard what is expedient for each constitution. When they are well-ordered, the constitution is well-ordered, and as they differ from one another, constitutions differ. There is (1) one element which deliberates about public affairs; secondly (2) that concerned with the magistrates- the question being, what they should be, over what they should exercise authority, and what should be the mode of electing to them; and thirdly (3) that which has judicial power.
Why is ‘s post worth checking out? Aristotle’s book is ancient. When we read it and consider what it says, we can begin to grasp how our forebears struggled for the right to be free. The notion of a constitutional republic did not just pop into the heads of the men who wrote the Constitution. In a process that took thousands of years, people — many people — slowly and painfully developed the ideas that went into our Constitution. Aristotle was one of the first theorists.
Throughout human history, slavery has been the norm, and that did not change after Aristotle wrote his book. For thousands of years scholars studied Aristotle, but few others. What changed? Why did a group of men meet in Philadelphia and write a Constitution? What motivated them?
Consider. Our success in making our constitutional republic work requires a substantial amount personal integrity and hard work from each citizen. Where people don’t care enough to protect the rights of their family, friends, and neighbors, those people have no rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So that raises this question. How did the American people acquire such a concern for their neighbors, even people they had never personally met? How did the people who founded of this country do that, and how do we maintain such integrity? Why should we even want to do so?
Are we willing to protect the integrity our Constitution for the sake of our children. Will we work to add what improvements we can?
If you and I just don’t care, that is a bad sign for the next generation and those that follow.