Covenanted Governments Essay, Research Paper
The covenant is very dear to our modern world, being that many political philosophers that shaped our modern world based much of their theories on a covenanted government. When looking at the United States, the theory was considered important from the Mayflower Compact and on. The theory of a covenanted people is associated with Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Our framers took all of the aforementioned history and philosophy in account to develop our virgin nation. The concept of a covenant and covenanted form of government has greatly metamorphisised over time into nations such as ours. The thoughts of its origins are also very electric and diverse. Despite all of these idiosyncrasies, there runs a common thread through a compact form of government, and that is power is in the hand of a sovereign and all involved in the government are there by tactic consent.
Around the time the pilgrims rebelled against King James in England, philosophy was abundant, especially that influenced by the belief in god. A majority of the governments around the world were monarchies. As far as our country is concerned, the pilgrims were the first to establish a covenanted government with the Mayflower Compact. This compact stated that all aboard the ship headed for the new city of God , were under the rule of God. Here is the clincher: even though it was a government under the rule of God, the agreement was that the people in God s name would run the institutions of government. People executed God s will his permission . In these times, people believe that they were carrying out God s name and very will. These people weren t bound together by caprice and whim, but for and out of necessity and deep-rooted religious beliefs. They formed a civil body politics so they may increase their chances at survival.
The next vital document that was created in the New World was the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This document was closely related to the Mayflower Compact in that it was made in the name of God, it established a theocracy. This document brought people together in a tacit agreement that they would obey the word of God, as interpreted by the people and the sovereign appointed (a magistrate). The fundamental Orders and the Mayflower Compact are very distinct from the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution in that they are theocracies. The people governed the letter two of the aforementioned; religion played little or no importance. Even the philosophers that helped shape our government left God out of their text, placing man natural law before God.
John Locke was one of the influential philosophers upon government. He advocated and wrote a dissertation on the compact theory of government. He believed that humans formed together to escape the hand to mouth state of nature. Absolute freedom was the only rule that governed, and man needed more than that, he needed control. Man desired property and material wealth they desired to acquire it. Out of sheer loathing for absolute freedom and the factious need for material wealth, man came together to form a community. Absolute freedom was tacitly given up in exchange for the protection of human life and property. Rules were made and followed, thus necessitating the need for a government. Yet who does one follow and why? The people governed the people. Common man made up the rules to follow and others followed them because they made them and they were in their interest (property). Government became a contract between man and man. It protected individual rights (natural rights) in exchange for freedom. How is this possible? According to the rational behind this, man is obviously very ambitions and greedy, desiring things of the world, and seeing himself as an individual outside of nature. He sees himself above nature. He defines his world and everything is there for him to use, at his disposal. That is why property was one of the underlying reasons for government, because man is interested only in himself and material again. Society supplied the allowance for property as well as the grounds for keeping it. This was the liberty allowed. Liberty and freedom were not pure, for they were supplemented by rules. Rules that supported socialization and individuation. Faction could be realized thus why people supported and enforced this way of government. The essential thing to remember is this was before certain men could rise above others and gain more power and influence.
Another influential philosopher of covenanted government was Thomas Hobbes. He also thought that, at first, man existed in pure state of nature, a war of all against all. He desired to emerge out of this state because he feared for his life and wished to escape the ever-impending hands of death. Hobbes felt that people again tacitly got together and formed a body of government to which they transferred some of their power. Power was transferred because of the need for security and to make life less nasty, short, solitary, poor, and brutish . The fundamental difference here is that Hobbes believed that power was transferred to a sovereign individual. Yet this individual wasn t an autocrat, they were made of the people and therefore executed their will. Chaos would have (once again) been the mode for life, if order was not established. So once again it is seen that people got together out of necessity and tacitly agreed to live together in a society of sorts where protection from the real world existed, in exchange for absolute rights.
Another influential figure was Rousseau. His theory of a compact/covenant form of government runs a little more optimistic that the previous men mentioned. He felt that humans were intelligent, and rational, that reason drove society to form. He believed in the Social Contract . This was made up from the General Will, or the will of the people. Since humanity is rational and reasonable, it is infallible. If all of this is true, then people willingly come together to form a society, a comp actual agreement. Rousseau s theory embodied the belief in the majority, an infallible majority that acted for the good of everyone. An axiom of his was that man found morality in society and decided to keep it. Man is inherently social and wishes to stay in society.
So what do all of the above governmental documents have in common? The implied agreement to form together and give up absolute freedom to have protection from that very freedom. The bodies of people are what make up the rules. In each case (more spelled out by Hobbes and Rousseau), the will and desire of man was what the government consisted of. There is no single ruler that dictates their will for the betterment of themselves. Man got together because he couldn t handle absolute existence he needs compartmentalization and limits. He is desirous of control over his environment. He wishes not to be treated by others, so he may live peacefully.
All of these basic ideas are prevalent in our government. Ideally it is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. We transfer our power to our government, with the belief that it will serve our will and desires to the best of their potential. By living in the United States of America one implies that will under the rules set by the society and therefore government, for a society is really the power behind the government. The only difference between the two is that government can enforce rules, while society (in the true context of the word ) cannot enforce and implement rules. So all of this said, our government is based on these principles: the surrender of freedom in exchange for protection from the world, and the power of execution given to a sovereign who controls and enforces in our best interest. The factions of humanity were even taken into account by J. Locke. He saw that man was interested in himself and our framers tried to snuff out this incessant fire by implementing the Baron de Montesquie s theories.
It is true that our government has a collection of thoughts to back it up, yet the common thread is that no one is forced into the government. The subjects under its rule willingly give up their freedom in exchange for other freedom that exist in society (comfort, safety, and every other product of socialization). Even though we are not in a covenant with God, like many of the earlier compact governments, we are still in a type of compact government called republicanism (representative democracy).
Essentially covenants imply a covenanted people going back to the time of the Mayflower compact. The United States was founded because of the pursuit of religious freedom. We are of a Lockian nature because the capitalistic approach keeps us together for reasons of property and faction. We view natural rights and the collective bodies authority to secure them. We are of Hobbsian because we trust that our interests to powers that will act on our behalf. We are of Rousseau for we follow a majority vote in our three bodies of government and the amendments ensure our rights to freedom. We are Federalists, which comes from the Latin for covenants (foedus). Perhaps best expressed in the words we the people. It was this desire to be free to form their covenant with God that forced the Pilgrims to question and criticize King James, and finally to cross the Atlantic in order to establish changes and freedoms.