Key Figures and Terms
Ancient Greek Philosophers – Ancient Western philosophy is marked by the formation and development of philosophy from around the sixth century B.C.E. to the sixth century C.E., and is defined largely by the three great thinkers: Socrates (fifth century B.C.E.), his student Plato (fourth century B.C.E.), and Plato's student Aristotle (fourth century B.C.E.). Ancient Western philosophy is generally divided into three periods. First, all thinkers prior to Socrates are called PreSocratics; the second period spans the lifetimes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; the last period covers diverse developments in philosophy, which includes the Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics, Neo-Platonists, and Aristotelians. The end of Ancient Philosophy is marked by the spread of Christianity in the sixth century C.E..
Athens – Ancient Athens was the most powerful of the Greek city-states during the golden age of Greece. Ancient Athens reached its zenith as a powerful city-state during the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. This was the age of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pericles, and Sophocles. Ancient Athens was a small city compared to the modern city of Athens; its total area was around 2 sq. km.
Aristotle – (384 BCE-322 BCE) Born at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace. He studied under Plato. At the invitation of Philip of Macedonia he became the tutor of his 13 year old son Alexander (later world conqueror); he did this for the next five years. Among the texts are treatises on logic, called Organon (“instrument”), because they provide the means by which positive knowledge is to be attained. His works on natural science include Physics, which gives a vast amount of information on astronomy, meteorology, plants, and animals. His writings on the nature, scope, and properties of being, which Aristotle called First Philosophy (Protē philosophia), were given the title Metaphysics in the first published edition of his works (60? bc), because in that edition they followed Physics. His treatment of the Prime Mover, or first cause, as pure intellect, perfect in unity, immutable, and, as he said, “the thought of thought,” is given in the Metaphysics. To his son Nicomachus he dedicated his work on ethics, called the Nicomachean Ethics. Other essential works include his Rhetoric, his Poetics (which survives in incomplete form), and his Politics (also incomplete).
Stoics – The Stoic school was established at Athens about 300 bc by Zeno of Citium in Cyprus. Zeno, who derived much of his philosophy from Crates of Thebes, opened his school in a colonnade known as the Stoa Poikilē (“painted porch”). Among his disciples was Cleanthes of Assos in the Troad (area surrounding ancient Troy), whose extant “Hymn to Zeus” sets forth the unity, omnipotence, and moral government of the supreme deity. Cleanthes was followed by Chrysippus of Soli in Cilicia. These three men represent the first period (300-200 bc) of Stoic philosophy.
Natural Law – Ancient – The ancient Greek philosophers were the first to elaborate a natural law doctrine. Heraclitus spoke in the 6th century bc of a common wisdom that pervades the whole universe, “for all human laws are nourished by one, the divine.” Aristotle distinguished between two kinds of justice: “A rule of justice is natural that has the same validity everywhere, and does not depend on our accepting it or not; a rule is legal [conventional] that in the first instance may be settled in one way or the other indifferently.” The Stoics, especially the philosopher Chrysippus of Soli, constructed a systematic natural law theory. According to Stoicism, the whole cosmos is rationally ordered by an active principle variously named God, mind, or fate. Every individual nature is part of the cosmos. To live virtuously means to live in accord with one's nature, to live according to right reason. Because passion and emotion are considered irrational movements of the soul, the wise individual seeks to eradicate the passions and consciously embrace the rational life. This doctrine was popularized among the Romans by the 1st-century bc orator Cicero, who gave a famous definition of natural law in his De Republica: ”True law is right reason in agreement with Nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. . . . There will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and for all times.” In the Corpus Iuris Civilis a compilation and codification of Roman legal material prepared (534 ad) under Emperor Justinian, a ius naturale is acknowledged, but there is no assertion that natural law is superior to positive law and no vindication of human rights (slavery, for example, was legal).
Christian – Christians found the natural law doctrine of the Stoics quite compatible with their beliefs. St. Paul spoke of Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic law doing “by nature what the law requires” (Romans 2:14). The 6th-century Spanish theologian St. Isidore of Seville affirmed that natural law is observed everywhere by natural instinct; he cited as illustrations the laws ordaining marriage and the procreation of children. Texts from Isidore cited at the beginning of the Italian scholar Gratian's Decretum (circa 1140), the canon law textbook of the Middle Ages, stimulated extensive discussion among the Scholastics. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the natural law is the most widely known. In his Summa Theologiae (Summary Treatise of Theology, 1265-73) Aquinas called the rational guidance of creation by God the “Eternal Law.” The Eternal Law gives all beings the inclination to those actions and aims that are proper to them. Rational creatures, by directing their own actions and guiding the actions of others, share in divine reason itself. “This participation in the Eternal Law by rational creatures is called the Natural Law.” Its dictates correspond to the basic inclinations of human nature. Thus, according to Aquinas, it is possible to distinguish good from evil by the natural light of reason.
Modern – The German jurist Samuel von Pufendorf, the first to hold a chair of natural law in a German university, more fully developed the concept of a law of nature. The 17th-century English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke proposed an original state of nature from which a social contract arose and combined this theory with that of natural law. Locke's doctrine that nature had endowed human beings with certain inalienable rights that could not be violated by any governing authority was incorporated in the American Declaration of Independence.
Statism – centralized political control: the theory, or its practice, that economic and political power should be controlled by a central government leaving regional government and the individual with relatively little say in political matters. (Communism and Fascism)
Utilitarianism – (Latin utilis, “useful”), in ethics, the doctrine that what is useful is good, and consequently, that the ethical value of conduct is determined by the utility of its results. The term utilitarianism is more specifically applied to the proposition that the supreme objective of moral action is the achievement of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. (Influence Left and Center branches)
Plato (428?-347 bc), Greek philosopher, a disciple of Socrates, accepting his basic philosophy and dialectical style of debate: the pursuit of truth through questions, answers, and additional questions. The writings of the middle period include Phaedo (the death scene of Socrates, in which he discusses the theory of Forms, the nature of the soul, and the question of immortality), the Symposium (Plato’s outstanding dramatic achievement, which contains several speeches on beauty and love), the Republic (Plato’s supreme philosophical achievement, which is a detailed discussion of the nature of justice. The leaders whose goal is to become a philosopher king are known as the Guardians.) The great utopian state is described only as an analogue to the soul in order to understand better how the soul might achieve the kind of balance and harmony necessary for the rational element to control it. Just as there are three elements to the soul, the rational, the less rational, and the impulsive irrational, so there are three classes in the state, the rulers, the guardians, and the workers. The rulers are not a hereditary clan or self-perpetuating upper class but are made up of those who have emerged from the population as a whole as the most gifted intellectually. The guardians serve society by keeping order and by handling the practical matters of government, including fighting wars, while the workers perform the labor necessary to keep the whole running smoothly. Thus the most rational elements of the city-state guide it and see that all in it are given an education
The wisdom, courage, and moderation cultivated by the rulers, guardians, and workers ideally produce the justice in society which those virtues produce in the individual soul when they are cultivated by the three elements of that soul. Only when the three work in harmony, with intelligence clearly in control, does the individual or state achieve the happiness and fulfillment of which it is capable. The Republic ends with the great myth of Er, in which the wanderings of the soul through births and rebirths are recounted. One may be freed from the cycle after a time through lives of greater and greater spiritual and intellectual purity. Plato's second trip to Syracuse took place in 367 B.C. after the death of Dionysius I, but his and Dion's efforts to influence the development of Dionysius II along the lines laid down in the Republic for the philosopher-king did not succeed, and he returned to Athens.
Influenced by Socrates, Plato was convinced that knowledge is attainable. He was also convinced of two essential characteristics of knowledge. First, knowledge must be certain and infallible. Second, knowledge must have as its object that which is genuinely real as contrasted with that which is an appearance only. Because that which is fully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identified the real with the ideal realm of being as opposed to the physical world of becoming. One consequence of this view was Plato’s rejection of empiricism, the claim that knowledge is derived from sense experience. He thought that propositions derived from sense experience have, at most, a degree of probability. They are not certain. Furthermore, the objects of sense experience are changeable phenomena of the physical world. Hence, objects of sense experience are not proper objects of knowledge.
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804), German philosopher, considered by many the most influential thinker of modern times. The keystone of Kant's philosophy, sometimes called critical philosophy, is contained in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), in which he examined the bases of human knowledge and created an individual epistemology. Like earlier philosophers, Kant differentiated modes of thinking into analytic and synthetic propositions. An analytic proposition is one in which the predicate is contained in the subject, as in the statement “Black houses are houses.” The truth of this type of proposition is evident, because to state the reverse would be to make the proposition self-contradictory. Such propositions are called analytic because truth is discovered by the analysis of the concept itself. Synthetic propositions, on the other hand, are those that cannot be arrived at by pure analysis, as in the statement “The house is black.” All the common propositions that result from experience of the world are synthetic.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831), German idealist philosopher; Hegel's aim was to set forth a philosophical system so comprehensive that it would encompass the ideas of his predecessors and create a conceptual framework in terms of which both the past and future could be philosophically understood. Such an aim would require nothing short of a full account of reality itself. Thus, Hegel conceived the subject matter of philosophy to be reality as a whole. This reality, or the total developmental process of everything that is, he referred to as the Absolute, or Absolute Spirit. According to Hegel, the task of philosophy is to chart the development of Absolute Spirit. This involves (1) making clear the internal rational structure of the Absolute; (2) demonstrating the manner in which the Absolute manifests itself in nature and human history; and (3) explicating the teleological nature of the Absolute, that is, showing the end or purpose toward which the Absolute is directed.
Concerning the rational structure of the Absolute, Hegel, following the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, argued that “what is rational is real and what is real is rational.” This must be understood in terms of Hegel's further claim that the Absolute must ultimately be regarded as pure Thought, or Spirit, or Mind, in the process of self-development. The logic that governs this developmental process is dialectic. The dialectical method involves the notion that movement, or process, or progress, is the result of the conflict of opposites. Traditionally, this dimension of Hegel's thought has been analyzed in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
Marx, Karl (1818-1883), German political philosopher and revolutionary, the most important of all socialist thinkers and the creator of a system of thought called Marxism. With political economist Friedrich Engels, he founded scientific socialism (now known as communism); for this, Marx is considered one of the most influential thinkers of all time.
Lenin, Vladimir (1870-1924), Russian revolutionary leader and theorist, who presided over the first government of Soviet Russia and then that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Lenin was the leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik Party (later renamed the Communist Party), which seized power in the October phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the revolution, Lenin headed the new Soviet government that formed in Russia. He became the leader of the USSR upon its founding in 1922. Lenin held the highest post in the Soviet government until his death in 1924, when Joseph Stalin assumed power.
Stalin, Joseph (1879-1953), general secretary of the Communist Party of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1922 to 1953, the despotic ruler who more than any other individual molded the features that characterized the Soviet regime and shaped the direction of Europe after World War II ended in 1945. Although unchallenged by the early 1930s, Stalin worried about potential conspiracies against him, especially after the suicide of his second wife in late 1932. Stalin set in motion a massive purge of the party following the assassination of Leningrad party chief Sergey Kirov in December 1934, which many have speculated was masterminded by Stalin because he viewed Kirov as a threat. Although the purge began gradually, with selective arrests in 1934 and 1935, by 1936 the Soviet secret police were arresting and executing party members by the thousands. Highly publicized trials of leading party figures—including Kamenev, Zinovyev, and Bukharin—were staged in Moscow and resulted in their swift execution on trumped-up charges. In 1937 and 1938 the terror spread to all of Soviet society, including the military high command. Estimates of those arrested and executed from 1936 to 1938 in the Great Purge range between 1.5 million and 7 million.
Alinsky, Saul (1909 –1972) was a community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing in America. In the 1930s, Alinsky organized the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago (made infamous by Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle for the horrific working conditions in the Union Stock Yards). He also spent years in post graduate study working with the famous Al Capone gang. He went on to found the Industrial Areas Foundation while organizing the Woodlawn neighborhood, which trained organizers and assisted in the founding of community organizations around the country. In Rules for Radicals (his final work, published in 1971 one year before his death), he addressed the 1960s generation of radicals, outlining his views on organizing for mass power. In the first chapter, opening paragraph of the book Alinsky writes, "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."
Clinton, Hillary Rodham , born in 1947, secretary of state of the United States (2009- ), Democratic member of the United States Senate from New York (2001-2009), wife of United States president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2008 presidential race. During her husband’s presidency, she became a powerful symbol of the changing role and status of women in American society. Her election to the U.S. Senate while being first lady was unprecedented in U.S. history. Alinsky offered "Miss Hillary Rodham, Wellesley College", Oct. 25, 1968, a student government president who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She was in the midst of a year-long analysis of Alinsky's aggressive mobilizing tactics, and he was searching for "competent political literates" to move to Chicago to build grass-roots organizations. She turned down the job offer — and she has said little about Alinsky since their association became a favorite subject of conservative critics during her husband's presidency.
Obama, Barack, born in 1961, the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to be elected president. Obama was elected president in the November 2008 elections after securing the nomination of the Democratic Party and becoming the first African American to head the ticket of a major party. A member of the United States Senate from Illinois, Obama and his vice-presidential running mate, U.S. senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, defeated the Republican Party ticket of Senator John McCain of Arizona and his vice-presidential running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Obama and his mother stayed in Hawaii until her second marriage to an Indonesian man, named Lolo, brought a move to Jakarta when Obama was 6 years old. At the age of 10, Obama returned to Hawaii to attend a prestigious college-prep academy, the Punahou School, and live with his grandparents. After graduating from Punahou in Hawaii, Obama studied for two years at Occidental College in Pasadena, California before transferring to Columbia University in New York City. Obama completed his undergraduate studies in political science in 1983. He then moved to Chicago to take a job as director of a community development program on the city’s far South Side, a predominantly African American area. His work with the nonprofit, church-based program involved helping residents of poor neighborhoods, including the Altgeld Gardens public-housing project, cope with lost jobs from a wave of factory closings.
Sparta, The ancient city, even in its most prosperous days, was merely a group of five villages with simple houses and a few public buildings. The passes leading into the valley of the Evrótas were easily defended, and Sparta had no walls until the end of the 4th century bc. The inhabitants of Laconia were divided into Helots (slaves), who performed all agricultural work; Perioeci, a subject class of free men without political rights, who were mainly tradesmen and merchants; and the Spartiatai, or governing class, rulers and soldiers, descended from the Dorians, who had migrated to the area about 1100 bc.
The foundation of Spartan greatness was attributed to the legislation of Lycurgus, but was more probably the result of ascetic reforms introduced about 600 bc. In the 7th century bc, life in Sparta was similar to that in other Greek cities, and art and poetry, particularly choral lyrics (see Alcman), flourished. From the 6th century bc on, however, the Spartans looked upon themselves as merely a military garrison, and all their discipline pointed to war. No deformed child was allowed to live; boys began military drill at the age of 7 and entered the ranks at 20. Although permitted to marry, they were compelled to live in barracks until the age of 30; from the ages of 20 to 60 all Spartans were obliged to serve as hoplites (foot soldiers) and to eat at the phiditia (“public mess”). The earliest struggles of Sparta were with Messinía, the southwestern district of Pelopónnisos, and Árgos, a city located in northeastern Pelopónnisos. The Messenian War terminated about 668 bc in the complete overthrow of the Dorians of Messinía, most of whom were reduced to the status of helots. In the wars with the descendants of the original Achaeans and with the Dorians of Árgos, the Spartans were generally successful. Under their stern discipline, the Spartans became a race of resolute, ascetic warriors, capable of self-sacrificing patriotism, as shown by the devoted 300 heroes at Thermopylae; but utterly unable to adopt a wise political and economic program. The outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 bc finally brought the rivalry between Sparta and Athens to a head. Upon the overthrow of Athens in 404 bc, Sparta became the dominant Greek state, but the Thebans under Epaminondas in 371 bc deprived Sparta of its power and territorial acquisitions, reducing the state to its original boundaries. Sparta later became a portion of the Roman province of Achaea and seems to have prospered in the early centuries of the Roman Empire. The city itself was destroyed by the Goths under their king, Alaric I, in 396 ad.
Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679), English philosopher and political theorist, one of the first modern Western thinkers to provide a secular justification for the political state. The philosophy of Hobbes marked a departure in English philosophy from the religious emphasis of Scholasticism. His ideas represented a reaction against the decentralizing ideas of the Reformation (1517-1648), which, Hobbes contended, brought anarchy. Regarded as an important early influence on the philosophical doctrine of utilitarianism, Hobbes also contributed to modern psychology and laid the foundations of modern sociology by applying mechanistic principles in an attempt to explain human motivation and social organization.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques (1712-1778), French philosopher, social and political theorist, musician, botanist, was one of the most eloquent writers of the Age of Enlightenment. In 1750 Rousseau won the Academy of Dijon award for his Discours sur les sciences et les arts (Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, 1750), and in 1752 his opera Le devin du village (The Village Sage) was first performed. In his prize-winning discourse and in his Discourse on the Origin and Foundation of Inequality Among Mankind (1755; trans. 1761), he expounded the view that science, art, and social institutions have corrupted humankind and that the natural, or primitive, state is morally superior to the civilized state (see Naturalism). The persuasive rhetoric of these writings provoked derisive comments from the French philosopher Voltaire, who attacked Rousseau’s views, and subsequently the two philosophers became bitter enemies. Although Rousseau contributed greatly to the movement in Western Europe for individual freedom and against the absolutism of church and state, his conception of the state as the embodiment of the abstract will of the people and his arguments for strict enforcement of political and religious conformity are regarded by some historians as a source of totalitarian ideology.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1844-1900), German philosopher, poet, and classical philologist, was one of the most provocative and influential thinkers of the 19th century. In addition to the influence of Greek culture, particularly the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Nietzsche was influenced by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, by the theory of evolution, and by his friendship with German composer Richard Wagner. Nietzsche’s first major work, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste de Musik (The Birth of Tragedy), appeared in 1872. His most prolific period as an author was the 1880s. During the decade he wrote Also sprach Zarathustra (Parts I-III, 1883-1884; Part IV, 1885; translated as Thus Spake Zarathustra); Jenseits von Gut und Böse (1886; Beyond Good and Evil); Zur Genealogie de Moral (1887; On the Genealogy of Morals); Der Antichrist (1888; The Antichrist); and Ecce Homo (completed 1888, published 1908). Nietzsche’s last major work, The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht), was published in 1901. Nietzsche claimed that new values could be created to replace the traditional ones, and his discussion of the possibility led to his concept of the Superman or superman.
National Socialism – commonly called Nazism, German political movement initiated in 1920 with the organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, also called the Nazi Party. The movement culminated in the establishment of the Third Reich, the totalitarian German state led by the dictator Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945. The roots of National Socialism, however, were peculiarly German, grounded, for example, in the Prussian tradition of military authoritarianism and expansion; in the German romantic tradition of hostility to rationalism, liberalism, and democracy; in various racist doctrines according to which the Nordic peoples, as so-called pure Aryans, were not only physically superior to other races, but were the carriers of a superior morality and culture; and in certain philosophical traditions that idealized the state or exalted the superior individual and exempted such a person from conventional restraints.
Islamo-Fascism (Islamist Movement, Militant Islamism) – a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century. Daniel Pipes: "And if it is true that most Muslims are not Islamist, it is no less true that all Islamists are Muslims."
Aquinas, Saint Thomas, sometimes called the Angelic Doctor and the Prince of Scholastics (1225-1274), Italian philosopher and theologian, whose works have made him the most important figure in Scholastic philosophy and one of the leading Roman Catholic theologians. Before the time of Aquinas, Western thought had been dominated by the philosophy of Saint Augustine, the Western church's great Father and Doctor of the 4th and 5th centuries, who taught that in the search for truth people must depend upon sense experience. Early in the 13th century the major works of Aristotle were made available in a Latin translation, accompanied by the commentaries of Averroës and other Islamic scholars. The vigor, clarity, and authority of Aristotle's teachings restored confidence in empirical knowledge and gave rise to a school of philosophers known as Averroists. Under the leadership of Siger de Brabant, the Averroists asserted that philosophy was independent of revelation. Averroism threatened the integrity and supremacy of Roman Catholic doctrine and filled orthodox thinkers with alarm. To ignore Aristotle, as interpreted by the Averroists, was impossible; to condemn his teachings was ineffectual. He had to be reckoned with. Albertus Magnus and other scholars had attempted to deal with Averroism, but with little success. Aquinas succeeded brilliantly.
Descartes, René (1596-1650), French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, sometimes called the father of modern philosophy. Descartes attempted to apply the rational inductive methods of science, and particularly of mathematics, to philosophy. Before his time, philosophy had been dominated by the method of Scholasticism, which was entirely based on comparing and contrasting the views of recognized authorities. Rejecting this method, Descartes stated, “In our search for the direct road to truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain a certitude equal to that of the demonstration of arithmetic and geometry.” He therefore determined to hold nothing true until he had established grounds for believing it true. The single sure fact from which his investigations began was expressed by him in the famous words Cogito, ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.”
Locke, John (1632-1704), English philosopher, who founded the school of empiricism. Locke’s views, in his Two Treatises of Government (1690), attacked the theory of divine right of kings and the nature of the state as conceived by English philosopher and political theorist Thomas Hobbes. In brief, Locke argued that sovereignty did not reside in the state but with the people, and that the state is supreme, but only if it is bound by civil and what he called “natural” law. Many of Locke’s political ideas, such as those relating to natural rights, property rights, the duty of the government to protect these rights, and the rule of the majority, were later embodied in the Constitution of the United States.
Montesquieu, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755), French writer and jurist. His masterpiece was The Spirit of Laws (1748; trans. 1750), in which he examined the three main types of government (republic, monarchy, and despotism) and states that a relationship does exist between an area's climate, geography, and general circumstances and the form of government that evolves. Montesquieu also held that governmental powers should be separated and balanced to guarantee individual rights and freedom.
Burke, Edmund Burke (1729-1797), British statesman and orator, who championed many human rights causes and brought attention to them through his eloquent speeches. 1766 Burke was elected as a Whig to Parliament. Almost immediately Burke sought repeal of the Stamp Act. In a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), and in two speeches, “On American Taxation” (1774) and “Conciliation with America” (1775), he urged justice and conciliation toward the American colonies.
Jefferson. Thomas (1743-1826), was the third president of the United States (1801-1809) and author of the Declaration of Independence. He was one of the most brilliant individuals in history. His interests were boundless, and his accomplishments were great and varied. He was a philosopher, educator, naturalist, politician, scientist, architect, inventor, pioneer in scientific farming, musician, and writer, and he was the foremost spokesman for democracy of his day.
Jay, John (1745-1829), American statesman and jurist, the first chief justice of the United States. Jay was born in New York City and educated at King's College (now Columbia University). He was admitted to the bar in 1768. He represented the point of view of the American merchants in protesting British restrictions on the commercial activities of the colonies, and he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 and again in 1775. He drafted the first constitution of New York State and was appointed chief justice of the state in 1777. In the following year he was again elected to the Continental Congress and was chosen its president. In Paris in 1782 he was one of the commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain, ending the American Revolution. From 1784 to 1789 Jay was secretary for foreign affairs. The ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation led him to become a proponent of a strong national government. With Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Jay wrote the series of articles known as The Federalist, which urged ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In 1789 President George Washington appointed Jay chief justice. In 1794, when war with Britain threatened due to controversies over the Treaty of Paris, Jay was appointed by Washington to negotiate a settlement. He went to Great Britain and concluded the agreement known as Jay's Treaty.
Hamilton, Alexander (1757?-1804), American statesman, best known for his fiscal policies settling the finances of the American Revolution, for his role as the principal author of The Federalist papers, and for his advocacy of a strong central government.
Shortly after the establishment of the new government in 1789, President Washington appointed Hamilton the first secretary of the treasury. The nation's finances were in disorder, public credit was at a low ebb, and the economies of the states were still adjusting to the changes resulting from independence. In 1790 Hamilton submitted to the Congress a report on the public credit that provided for the funding of national and foreign debts of the United States, as well as for federal assumption of the states' revolutionary debts. After some controversy, Hamilton's proposals were adopted, as were his subsequent reports calling for the establishment of a national bank and the encouragement of American manufactures by means of bounties and protective tariffs.
Madison, James (1751-1836), was the fourth president of the United States (1809-1817) and one of its founding fathers. In a distinguished public career that covered more than 40 years, he worked for American independence, helped to establish the government of the new nation, and went on to participate in that government as congressman, secretary of state, and ultimately president. Madison’s work on the Constitution of the United States gave him his best opportunity to exercise his great talents and is generally considered his most valuable contribution. His intense concern for religious and intellectual freedom led him to seek the strongest possible safeguards of individual liberty. More than any other person, Madison can be considered responsible for making the Bill of Rights part of the Constitution.
Federalism, also referred to as federal government, a national or international political system in which two levels of government control the same territory and citizens. The word federal comes from the Latin term fidere, meaning “to trust.” Countries with federal political systems have both a central government and governments based in smaller political units, usually called states, provinces, or territories. These smaller political units surrender some of their political power to the central government, relying on it to act for the common good. Federal political systems divide power and resources between central and regional governments. The balance of power between the two levels of government varies from country to country, but most federal systems grant substantial autonomy to state or provincial governments. Central governments decide issues that concern the whole country, such as organizing an army, building major roads, and making treaties with other countries. Federalism varies in practice, however, and in some countries with federal systems the central government plays a large role in community planning, schools, and other local issues. Federal political systems are relatively uncommon around the world. Instead, most countries are unitary systems, with laws giving virtually all authority to the central government. The central government may delegate duties to cities or other administrative units, but it retains final authority and can retract any tasks it has delegated. The central government in a unitary system is much more powerful than the central government in a federal system. Cameroon, France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Morocco, South Korea, Sweden, and Uruguay are examples of unitary systems.
Lincoln, (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865), sometimes called Abe Lincoln and nicknamed Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, was the 16th President of the United States (1861 to 1865), and the first president from the Republican Party. In the history of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is an iconic figure. He is most famous for his roles in preserving the Union and helping to end slavery in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation. The son of illiterate farmers, he exemplified the American Dream that in the land of promise and plenty, anyone can rise to the highest office. He may have battled depression for much of his life. For a man whose life had its share of tragedy, Lincoln's achievements were remarkable. Lincoln staunchly opposed the expansion of slavery into federal territories, and his victory in the 1860 presidential election further polarized an already divided nation. Before his inauguration in March of 1861, seven southern slave states seceded from the United States, forming the Confederate States of America, and took control of U.S. forts and other properties within their boundaries. These events soon led to the American Civil War.
Lincoln is often praised for his work as a wartime leader who proved adept at balancing competing considerations and at getting rival groups to work together toward a common goal. Lincoln had to negotiate between Radical and Moderate Republican leaders, who were often far apart on the issues, while attempting to win support from War Democrats and loyalists in the seceding states. He personally directed the war effort, which ultimately led the Union forces to victory over the Confederacy. His leadership qualities were evident in his diplomatic handling of the border slave states at the beginning of the fighting, in his defeat of a congressional attempt to reorganize his cabinet in 1862, in his many speeches and writings that helped mobilize and inspire the North, and in his defusing of the peace issue in the 1864 U.S presidential campaign. Critics vehemently attacked him for violating the Constitution, overstepping the traditional bounds of executive power, refusing to compromise on slavery in the territories, declaring martial law, suspending habeas corpus, ordering the arrest of some opposing state government officials and a number of publishers, and for being a racist.
All historians agree that Lincoln had a lasting influence on American political values and social institutions. He redefined republicanism, democracy, and the meaning of the nation. He destroyed secessionism and greatly weakened states rights. There are some critics who argue that he prosecuted an unnecessary war. However, from the point of view of a divine providence that sees the United States as destined to fulfill a central role in championing freedom and democracy throughout the world, Lincoln appears to have been a providential figure. His stirring speeches helped to motivate people through difficult times, the most violent in US history. He defended democracy and freedom at a time when these ideals were under threat. For the United States to assume her historic role on the world stage in the twentieth century, Lincoln's role in securing national unity in the nineteenth century was essential.
Lincoln's administration established the U.S. Department of Agriculture, created the modern system of national banks, and encouraged farm ownership and westward expansion with the Homestead Act of 1862. During his administration West Virginia and Nevada were admitted as states. Lincoln is ranked as one of the greatest presidents, due to his role in ending slavery, and his guiding the Union to victory in the American Civil War. His assassination made him a martyr to the cause of freedom for millions of Americans.
Reagan, Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th president of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd governor of California (1967–1975). Before entering politics, Reagan had been a lifeguard, radio sports announcer, newspaper columnist, motion picture and television actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild (a union), and motivational speaker. His memorable speaking style, widely regarded as well-delivered and persuasive, earned him the nickname "The Great Communicator." Perhaps the most important legacy of Reagan's presidency was he instilled a profound sense of pride and purpose in an American nation that spent the previous decade slipping into self-doubt due to its withdrawal from Vietnam and captivity of its diplomats in Iran. His passion was to instill this pride, improve the quality of American life, and bring about the downfall of communism—what he called "the evil empire." Arguably, he achieved all his goals. Reagan defeated incumbent President Jimmy Carter in an unexpected landslide victory to win the 1980 presidential election, restoring Republican control to the Senate after 26 years. One of the hallmarks of Reagan's administration was his policy of supply-side economics, dubbed by some "Reaganomics," consisting of tax cuts and economic deregulation. He stated in his first inaugural speech that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." In foreign affairs, Reagan's presidency is noted for a policy shift from communist containment to direct, though diplomatic, confrontation with the Soviet Union, accompanied by dramatically increased military spending. A significant number of former world leaders, scholars, and especially conservatives credit Reagan's policies as instrumental in leading to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe (1989) and the Soviet Union (1991), particularly beginning with his 1984 Strategic Defense Initiative. In June 2004, Reagan died at age 93 at his home in southern California after a decade of affliction with Alzheimer's disease.