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Snapshot Biographies


Thomas Hobbes

Politics is perhaps the most influential of Aristotle's writings; it provides a broad analysis of the social order, the origin and types of states, a justification of mixed government, and a partial sketch of the ideal state. The basis of Aristotle's social thought is the claim that human beings are fundamentally “political animals”—fulfilled and capable of pursuing the good life only in organized social relations.

He believed that humans were basically selfish creatures who would do anything to better their position. Left to themselves, he thought, people would act on their evil impulses. According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. Governments were created, according to Hobbes, to protect people from their own selfishness and evil.

Aristotle distinguished three pure types of state: kingship, aristocracy, and constitutional government (reflecting rule by the one, the few, and the many, respectively). He further recognized three degenerate versions of these types, in which the interests of all are sacrificed to the interests of the ruling power: tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy— the last associated with demagoguery and mob rule Source: <a href=" stotle.html">Aristotle Biography</a>

Despite his distrust Hobbes believed that a diverse group of representatives presenting the problems of the common person would, hopefully, prevent a king from being cruel and unfair therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. Source: es-bio.html

Snapshot Biographies

Charles de Montesquieu

John Locke

Montesquieu believed that all things were made up of rules or laws that never changed. He set out to study these laws scientifically with the hope that knowledge of the laws of government would reduce the problems of society and improve human life. According to Montesquieu, there were three types of government: a monarchy (ruled by a king or queen), a republic (ruled by an elected leader), and a despotism (ruled by a dictator). Montesquieu believed that a government that was elected by the people was the best form of government. He did, however, believe that the success of a democracy - a government in which the people have the power - depended upon maintaining the right balance of power.

Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory widely known as the Father of Liberalism Locke's ideas on freedom of religion and the rights of citizens were considered a challenge to the King's authority by the English government and in 1682 Locke went into exile in Holland. It was here that he completed An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and published Epistola de Tolerantia in Latin.

Montesquieu argued that the best government would be one in which power was balanced among three groups of officials. He thought England - which divided power between the king (who enforced laws), Parliament (which made laws), and the judges of the English courts (who interpreted laws) Source: tesquieu-bio.html

He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to preexisting Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception. Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labor.

Source: Alexis de Tocqueville

Snapshot Biographies

Despite his aristocratic upbringing, Tocqueville believed that the spread of democracy was inevitable. Chief among his many insights was to see equality of social conditions as the heart of American democracy. He noted that although the majority could produce tyranny its wide property distribution and inherent conservatism made for stability. American literature, then still under European influence, he felt would become independent in idiom and deal with plain people rather than the upper classes. Out of it came his best-known work, Democracy in America, 4 vol. (1835 – 40), a highly perceptive and prescient analysis of the American political and social system, as well as of the vitality, excesses, and potential future of democracy, with attention to the situation in France. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1839 and held various political offices after the Revolution of 1848. The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). Soruce: James Madison

In 1776 Madison was elected to the Virginia convention. The convention decided to move for independence from Britain and drafted a new state constitution, or a body of laws that formally lay out the structure of a new government. Madison's special contribution was in strengthening the articles on religious freedom to proclaim "liberty of conscience for all." In May 1787 Madison attended the Constitutional Convention, whose representatives gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The convention brought together America's leading politicians, including Benjamin Franklin (1706–1799) and John Adams (1735–1826). Madison shared leadership in the ratification, or passing, of the Constitution with New York representative Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804). Madison designed a strategy for the supporters of the Constitution (the Federalists) and wrote portions of the Federalist Papers, which were essays on political theory for the new country

Source: Adam Smith

Snapshot Biographies

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith wrote: â&#x20AC;&#x153;How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Smith used this insight on equality of returns to explain why wage rates differed. Wage rates would be higher, he argued, for trades that were more difficult to learn, because people would not be willing to learn them if they were not compensated by a higher wage. Smith used numerate economics not just to explain production of pins or differences in pay between butchers and hangmen, but to address some of the most pressing political issues of the day. Source: th.html

Was a German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, and communist revolutionary, whose ideas played a significant role in the development of modern communism and socialism. Marx summarized his approach in the first line of chapter one of The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx argued that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its destruction. Just as capitalism replaced feudalism, he believed socialism would, in its turn, replace capitalism, and lead to stateless, classless society called pure communism. This would emerge after a transitional period called the "dictatorship of the proletariat": a period sometimes referred to as the "workers state" In section one of The Communist Manifesto Marx describes feudalism, capitalism, and the role internal social contradictions play in the historical process. Source:

Karl Marx Thomas Jefferson

Snapshot Biographies

Jefferson rose to fame as an effective spokesman during the American Revolution, and his political thought would become the centerpiece of liberalism, or a movement to develop freedoms, in America. In challenging the British Empire, Americans like Jefferson came to recognize their claims to an independent nation. "A Summary View of the Rights of British America" (1774). He argued that Americans possessed the same natural rights to govern themselves as their ancestors had exercised when they moved to England from Germany. The time Jefferson took his seat in the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in June 1775. It was chiefly as a legislative draftsman, or legal writer, that Jefferson would make his mark, with his great work being the Declaration of Independence Source: Ho-Jo/Jefferson-Thomas.html

The first 25 years of George's reign were politically controversial for reasons other than the conflict with America. The King was accused by some critics, particularly Whigs (a leading political grouping), of attempting to reassert royal authority in an unconstitutional manner. In fact, George took a conventional view of the constitution and the powers left to the Crown after the conflicts between Crown and Parliament in the 17th century. Being extremely conscientious, George read all government papers and sometimes annoyed his ministers by taking such a prominent interest in government and policy. His political influence could be decisive. In 1801, he forced Pitt the Younger to resign when the two men disagreed about whether Roman Catholics should have full civil rights. George III, because of his coronation oath to maintain the rights and privileges of the Church of England, was against the proposed measure. Source:

King George III

.Thomas Paine

Snapshot Biographies

Paine settled in Philadelphia where he soon began a new career as a journalist. He contributed articles to the Pennsylvania Magazine on a wide range of topics. Thus on January 10, 1776, he published a short pamphlet, Common Sense, which immediately established his reputation as a revolutionary propagandist. Often tactless, Paine provoked considerable controversy. He was invariable hard-pressed for money and had to depend upon the generosity of his American friends and the occasional reward from the French envoy in America. When the War came to an end, his financial position was so precarious that he had to campaign to obtain recompense from the government. Congress eventually rewarded him $3000. Pennsylvania granted him ÂŁ500 in cash, while New York proved more generous and gave him a confiscated Loyalist farm at New Rochelle. Source: html


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