What Historical Developments influenced Modern Ideas of
Individual Rights?
UNIT ONE: LESSON THREE
JUDEO – CHRISTIAN INFLUENCES
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Classical Republicanism & Natural Rights philosophies
influenced the Founders
Judeo-Christian religious traditions also influenced them
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Emphasized Private Morality over Public Morality(inner faith and obedience to God)
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Used Biblical Teachings to model expected behaviors
Valued the worth of each individuals
(good will & loving others)
FEUDALISM
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Society divided into different classes & groups (royals,
nobility, clergy, craftsmen, peasants & serfs) each with its own
rules and responsibilities
Society was HIERARCHICAL – groups ranked from
most powerful to least powerful. No equality existed
between the classes
Social relationships were permanent and heredity
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Not free to leave the class into which you were born
Land not freely bought or sold. Only passed on thru inheritance
Inheriting property (usually oldest son) also brought responsibilities
Rights and Duties were tied to the group you belonged
to. There was no concept of rights
RENAISSANCE & REFORMATION
HOW DID THEY CONTRIBUTE TO IDEAS ABOUT RIGHTS
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Renaissance: a time marked by a revival of intellectual life (14th
Century)
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Cities developed economically, educationally, technologically
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Especially the printing press which meant people could read and learn themselves
Some began to place more importance on the individual than on the class
they belonged to
The Spirit of free inquiry and individual conscience posed a
threat to the established institutions (gov’t and church)
THE RISE OF THE NATION-STATE
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At the end of the Middle Ages, rulers were beginning
to expand their realms into larger and larger states
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Not easy to expand
(Wars & Illness wiped out 1/3 to ½
of the population)
The Treaty of Westphalia (settled one of the bloodier wars)
Recognized national sovereignty
 Recognized the right of each nation-state to an independent
existence
 Each nation-state would respect the others right to choose their own
path
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THE RISE OF CAPITALISM
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The increase in commercial trade and the expansion
of trade over greater distances impacted old medieval
society
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means
of production and distribution are privately owned and
operated for a profit in a competitive market
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Capitalism allows more people to choose their own occupations, to state
their own businesses and to buy and sell property
People began to pay more attention to their own private interests than to
the Common Good
The goal was to improve their own economic position
Power began to shift from old powerful families to the new wealth
Natural Rights (gov’t role to protect property) and reformed religion
(wealth a sign of God’s grace) supported this new social society
“THE ENLIGHTENMENT” INSPIRES
THE AMERICAN FOUNDERS
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The Enlightenment brought study of the natural world and the
laws that govern it
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Science and Technology quickly advanced
By the 18th Century, it was believed Man could solve all the problems that had
plagued the world for centuries
FRANCIS BACON (English Philosopher) Man not only had the power to
understand nature, but could control it for the benefit of humanity
Discoveries by GALILEO and COPERNICUS seemed to confirm this theory
This theory extended to the study of Man and Government
HOBBES and LOCKE believed human behavior could be understood, predicted
and controlled
MONTESQUIEU posed that government, economy and geography were
intertwined. Governments needed to be tailored for each unique nation
The American Founders believed in the “New Science of Politics” which allowed
them to understand the workings of governmental and social institutions
REVIEW QUESTIONS
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How would you describe the difference between “Classical Republicanism”
and “Judeo-Christian Morality”
How did the Judeo-Christian heritage contribute to the Founders’
understanding of human rights?
What features of the Middle Ages society contributed to the view that rights
belonged to groups rather than the individuals?
How did feudalism contribute to the idea that government is based on
contractual relationships?
What modern ideas about rights were developed during the Renaissance?
How did the Reformation contribute to the development of these ideas?
How did the rise of the Nation-State help stimulate thinking about the
principles of government like constitutionalism, individual rights, and
republicanism?
How did the creation of Capitalism encourage new thinking about the
individual and society?
How did the invention of the printing press promote the spirit of
individualism?
How did the Age of Enlightenment influence the Founders?