The Progress of Rights in American History

4 April 2015
A paper which explores the way American society has emerged through the granting of rights and liberties to various groups and classes of Americans through the years.

A study of the progress of the granting of rights to various races and classes throughout American history. The paper shows this progress by examining the relevant literature that bears on the history of rights and freedoms — Ben Franklin’s Autobiography, Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative of an American Slave,” Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels, John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government” and the American Constitution. The paper shows that these documents have contributed greatly to the fact that individual liberties and rights have increased steadily since colonial times.
“But here, Franklin develops the early system of checks and balances in government. The King may not act without colonial assent, and the colonists may not act without royal asset. Once assent is given on either end, it is not retractable. Rights, then, are permanent in Franklin’s assessment. The King, once he acts, may not go back on his word and retract rights. However, there is a sort of double standard, as naturally the colonists may continue to ask for more rights on top of the ones that the king has already granted. This logic leaves a balance of the power tilted towards the colonists and their Assemblies rather than towards the King: the very start of our progress of individual rights and freedoms.”
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