Seeking to improve on the printing technology of the time that used engraved wooden plates, in 1440 Gutenberg built the first printing press that used movable metal type. Metal was much more durable than wood, and type much more versatile than plates with entire texts engraved on them.
"Industrial progress, mechanical improvement, all of the great wonders of the modern era have meant relatively little to the wealthy. The rich in Ancient Greece would have benefited hardly at all from modern plumbing: running servants replaced running water. Television and radio? The Patricians of Rome could enjoy the leading musicians and actors in their home, could have the leading actors as domestic retainers. Ready-to-wear clothing, supermarkets - all these and many other modern developments would have added little to their life. The great achievements of Western Capitalism have redounded primarily to the benefit of the ordinary person. These achievements have made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful."
What did Gutenberg's printing technology revolution bring to the ordinary person that was once the sole province of the aristocrat? Relatively inexpensive and efficient printing made books more affordable and brought about the development of other new forms of written publication, including the newspaper. The widespread availability of printed material spurred an increase in the demand for such, represented by rising literacy rates. Gutenberg's legacy was the first true form of mass media. The ordinary person could now pursue an intellectual life comparable to that of the noble, and could communicate personal ideas to an audience of such size matching or even exceeding that reachable by the State.
This Scottish minister was no stranger to conflict with the British authorities. His book Exercitationes Apologeticae pro Divina Gratia took the Calvinist side in its ongoing debate with Arminianism; this earned him exile in Aberdeen for a time. In 1644 he wrote Lex, Rex: A Dispute For the Prerogative of King and People. Rutherford argued that the monarch was not the law but was a subject of the law. He also challenged the institution of hereditary monarchy itself. He insisted that God appoints rulers and that His will in such matters should be discerned through popular election:
"[F]or of six willing and gifted to reign, what maketh one a king and not the other five? Certainly by God's disposing the people to choose this man, and not another man. It cannot be said but God giveth the kingly power immediately; and by him kings reign, that is true. This office is immediately from God, but the question now is, What is that which formally applieth the office and royal power to this person rather than to the other five as meet? Nothing can here be dreamed of but God's inclining the hearts of the [citizens] to choose this man and not that man."
With Oliver Cromwell's rule ended and the crown restored in 1660, the British authorities weren’t going to ignore Lex Rex. Rutherford was summoned to appear for trial for treason, but he declined to go. He passed away on March 30.
Lex Rex significantly inspired the burgeoning political philosophy of liberty in Britain, and was particularly influential with leaders of the American Revolution.
Lex Rex, sold by Crown Rights Book Company (paperback, 258 pages)
This Oxford scholar, occasional physician, political aide, and economist was a prolific writer who explored many topics. His principle political writings were A Letter Concerning Toleration and Two Treatises of Civil Government. The former called for, among other things, interdenominational civility ("The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ") and the privatization of the church ("[T]he care of souls does not belong to the magistrate"). Two Treatises put forth a theory that stated that the individual has certain inherent rights, and that government is legitimate only by the consent of the people. One logical conclusion of the latter principle is that under certain conditions rebellion is justified:
"Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another's harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another." [emphasis in original]
Locke, like Samuel Rutherford, was a major influence on Britain’s "Political Reformation," most visibly evidenced in the American Revolution.
LinkThe First Continental Congress: Silas Deane, Eliphalet Dyer, Roger Sherman (Connecticut); Thomas Keane, George Read Caesar Rodney, (Delaware); Samuel Chase, Thomas Johnson, William Paca, Matthew Tilghman (Maryland); Nathaniel Folsam, John Sullivan (New Hampshire); James Kinsey, William Livingston, Stephen Crane, Richard Smith (New Jersey); John Alsop, Samuel Bocrum, James Duane, William Floyd, John Jay, Isaac Low, Henry Wisener (New York); R. Caswell, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper (North Carolina); John Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, Robert Treat Paine (Massachusetts Bay); Edward Biddle, John Dickinson, Joseph Gallaway, Charles Humphreys, Thomas Miffin, John Morton, George Ross (Pennsylvania);Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Ward (Rhode Island); Christopher Gadsden, Thomas Lynch, Henry Middleton, Edward Rutledge, John Rutledge (South Carolina); Richard Bland, Benjamin Harrison, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Pendleton, Peyton Randolph, George Washington (Virginia)
The Second Continental Congres: Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott (Connecticut); Caesar Rodney, George Read (Delaware); Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton (Georgia); Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone (Maryland); Josiah Bartlett, Matthew Thornton, William Whipple (New Hampshire); Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon (New Jersey); William Floyd, Frank Lewis, Philip Livingston, Lewis Morris (New York); Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, John Penn (North Carolina); John Adams, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Robert Treat Paine (Massachusetts Bay); George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, John Morton, George Ross, Benjamin Rush, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson (Pennsylvania); William Ellery, C. Stephan Hopkins (Rhode Island and Providence); Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge (South Carolina); Carter Braxton, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson Jr., George Wythe (Virginia)
The Constitutional Convention of 1787: William Samuel Johnson, Roger Sherman, Oliver Ellsworth (Connecticut); Richard Bassett, Gunning Bedford, Jr., Jacob Broom, John Dickinson, George Read (Delaware); Abraham Baldwin, William Few, William Houston, William L. Pierce (Georgia); Daniel Carroll, James McHenry, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, Luther Martin, John F. Mercer (Maryland); Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King, Elbridge Gerry, Caleb Strong (Massachusetts); Nicholas Gilman, John Langdon (New Hampshire); David Brearly, Jonathan Dayton, William Livingston, William Paterson, William C. Houston (New Jersey); Alexander Hamilton, John Lansing, Jr., Robert Yates (New York), William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson, William R. Davie, Alexander Martin (North Carolina); George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Benjamin Franklin, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Mifflin, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris, James Wilson (Pennsylvania); Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Rutledge (South Carolina); John Blair, James Madison Jr., George Washington, George Mason, James McClurg, Edmund J. Randolph, George Wythe (Virginia) Delegates who did not sign the Constitution in italics
The Armed Forces of the United States of America. Commander: General George Washington
The Armed Forces of France. Army commanders: General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau; General Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Naval commander: Admiral François deGrasse
The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774. It formed in response to a set of laws known as the Intolerable Acts. A statement of Declaration and Resolves was established October 14. A petition was drafted, calling for the crown to respect certain rights and to repeal a number of laws, the Intolerable Acts included. Benjamin Franklin delivered the petition to the British parliament, and King George III rejected its provisions.
War broke out as on April 19, 1775, as British troops, intent on seizing colonial munitions, clashed with colonial militia near Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia from May 10, 1775 to March 2, 1789. It appointed George Washington as commander of the Continental Army, made provisions for financing the war, and authorized the colonies to draft constitutions. Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Benjamin Franklin was sent to negotiate an alliance with France in 1778. The Articles of Confederation, which served as a provisional constitution for the new nation, was signed in York, Pennsylvania on November 15, 1777.
The alliance ultimately paid off at the Battle of Yorktown. Washington had been planning to attack British-occupied New York City, but Rochambeau persuaded him to move against the British position at Yorktown. The plan was to surround the entire army of General Charles Cornwallis with the combined French and American land forces, and to position deGrasse's fleet to block entry to the Chesapeake. Admiral deGrasse defeated the British fleet of Admiral Thomas Graves and won control of the entire bay. Washington, Rochambeau, and Lafayette converged on Yorktown with 17,000 men, which included 3,000 deGrasse's troops. After a three-week siege Cornwallis surrendered on October 19,1781. Britain and the United States signed a peace treaty in Paris on September 3, 1783.
The Constitutional Convention began meeting in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. All states but Rhode Island sent delegates. One chief point of conflict concerned the makeup of the legislature. The small states favored the New Jersey Plan, which called for a unicameral legislature and equal representation for the states. The Virginia Plan, by contrast, called for a bicameral legislature and representation in proportion with the population. A compromise solution established a bicameral legislature, with equal representation for the states in the upper house and population-based representation in the lower.
Another major sticking point was the lack of an enumeration of individual rights. George Mason and Elbridge Gerry fought for something similar to the Virginia Declaration of Rights, authored by the former, to be included in the Constitution. Their proposal was not included in the final draft signed on September 17, 1787. On March 4, 1789, the Constitution was formally adopted, having been ratified by eleven of the states. North Carolina and Rhode Island held out, insisting on rights provisions like those pursued by Mason and Gerry. James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights on June 8. Within a year the two holdouts ratified the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights was officially enacted on November 3, 1791.
Nations had always been ruled by monarchs or other sorts of autocrats. In some, courts and legislatures provided some measure of checks and balances against the crown, but the crown was always ultimately their superior. The United States of America was the first nation to place executive, judicial, and legislative power in three coequal branches. Most nations historically placed the government as the final authority over written laws. The United States Constitution was drafted as the supreme law of the land, one to which all, including government, were equally subject, and one by which the rights of all were protected equally.
Were the Founders consistent with the ideals of liberty? No. Slavery persisted for another 80+ years, and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 could hardly be described as homage to speech rights. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir." The Founders understood the basic principles of liberty, if not all their logical conclusions, and recorded them in both the Declaration and the Constitution. These documents served to guide future generations of Americans and those of many other nations to lead their societies to greater freedom.
LinkCandidates for the Presidency of the United States of America, Election of 1800: Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican), John Adams (Federalist), Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist), John Jay (Federalist)
The Seventh Congress of the United States of America (1801-1803)
Historians generally note two aspects of this historic election: that it marked a change from Federalist to Democratic-Republican occupation of the Presidency, and that the chaos that ensued due to contested election results led to the adoption of Amendment XII. Regarding the latter event, election rules dictated that the candidate receiving the most votes became President, and the one receiving the second most votes became Vice President. Jefferson and Burr tied in the electoral vote count, throwing the election into the House of Representatives. After 36 votes Jefferson was elected President, and Burr his Vice President. The amendment to the Constitution changed election rules to require separate races for each of the two top executive offices.
But this election had far greater significance than most historians recognize. Executive power was about to change hands, and a dispute arose within the government and among the claimants as to who was the rightful successor. In ages past such disputes ultimately led to armed conflict. The inauguration of President Thomas Jefferson saw no riots, no attempted coups d'etat, no lynchings of Federalists by Democrat-Republicans (or vice versa). That day marked the first time in human history that contested executive power of a nation changed hands peacefully.
Liberty represents these four basic rights: to life and physical safety, to property, to choice and expression of personal
beliefs, and to choice and pursuit of personal interests. The State exists to protect individual rights, and society exists
to provide opportunity for individuals to voluntarily associate with others to engage in commerce, to share ideas, and to
pursue common peaceable interests. Any person, whether acting as a private party or as an agent of the State, is guilty of
violating these rights when that person commits assault against person and property, theft of property, fraudulent trade,
coercion to prevent peaceable speech and pursuit of peaceable interest, or coercion to adopt and express undesired beliefs
and to pursue undesired interests. Liberty is advanced with the broadening of support for individual rights within a society,
with legislation that brings a body of laws into greater compliance with individual rights, and with the overthrow of
tyrannical governments that have violated the rights of the people and that have abolished all means of seeking redress of
grievances against the crimes of the State. -- A Statement of Individual Rights, finalized version July 9, 2003