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The origins of American government
date back into antiquity, beginning at
least as far back as Mosaic Law – the Ten Commandments
– and trace their evolution through the Greek, Roman, and Western European civilizations.
The largest contribution to American
Government come from that Judeo-Christian
values systems and the British system of law and politics. When
Thomas Jefferson sat down and wrote the Declaration
of Independence, for example, he borrowed ideas from such intellectual luminaries as the Greek philosopher
Aristotle, British political theorist John
Locke, and the French philosopher and
wine-maker Jean Rousseau.
Today, we will begin to focus on the
origins of government in the United
Since our legal system has its roots
in the English system of law, it’s best to
begin our discussion of common law in that nation.
English Common Law developed in the
1100s, beginning with King Henry II of
England who ruled from. It is based on
the decisions of judges, and the
prevailing social customs, and the traditions
and customs of the English people over the centuries. It is
not based on laws that were passed by Parliament. The establishment
of Common Law made it possible to have one system of justice throughout England in the Medieval era.
In modern times, what Aristotle called a “polis” has developed
into the state – an independent political unit. Most often states are called “nation” or “country”
During your time studying government in this course, this use of
the term “state” should not be confused with the term as it applies to those
sub-governments within the United “States” of America. In the early days of this nation, each of
the original 13 states was actually its own mini-nation, with all of the
powers of independent states. However,
with the ratification (legal acceptance) of the Constitution in 1787, the term
“state” came to mean a smaller part of the U.S.A. – but such states are now
under the over-all sovereignty of the national, or U.S. government, and are no
longer entirely independent of the rest of the nation.