Exploring the Foundations of American Democracy

Words: 1845
Pages: 7
Subject: World History

Assignment Question

Geraldina Morales, you must write an essay (1000 words minimum) in which you address the following two questions or topics: The fundamental values that inform how our democratic government is legitimated and organized are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the United States. Identify and discuss the basic ideals and principles of American democracy and how they are applied in our republican form of government. Those ideals and principles are discussed in the first and second chapters of your textbook. You can also visit the following websites to read the original document in which these fundamental values were first stated and how they were later incorporated in the American Constitution: The Declaration of Independence Links to an external site. The Constitution of the United States Links to an external site.: Identify the most important Supreme Court cases and executive actions and their impact on law and on our society. The history of the United States has been marked by the progressive expansion of voting rights and the protection of its citizens through legislation and Supreme Court decisions. At the same time, executive orders, particularly in periods of crisis led to the violation of individual rights. Throughout this module, these issues are covered. In chapters 3 and 4 you will find the information you need to answer this question. You are also encouraged to visit the following websites for further details. Supreme Court Landmarks Links to an external site. 15 Supreme Court Cases that Changed America Links to an external site. Executive Orders – The American Presidency Project Links to an external site. NAACP was instrumental in the landmark case of Brown v Board of Education. Visit the website to find information on the case that led to desegregation. NAACP Website (Brown v Board of Education) Links to an external site.



The United States of America, founded upon the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, stands as a shining example of democratic governance. These foundational documents lay out the core ideals and principles of American democracy and guide the organization of the government. This essay explores the fundamental values that underpin American democracy, the application of these principles in the republic’s form of government, and the significant Supreme Court cases and executive actions that have shaped both law and society.

I. The Ideals and Principles of American Democracy

The ideals and principles that serve as the bedrock of American democracy are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These documents emphasize key concepts such as freedom, equality, and the rule of law (Smith, 2018).

A. Freedom and Liberty

Freedom is a central tenet of American democracy. The Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, boldly declares that all individuals are endowed with unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These principles underscore the paramount importance of personal autonomy and the absence of undue government interference.

B. Equality

Equality is another fundamental ideal that informs American democracy. The concept of equality before the law, as articulated by James Madison in 1787, ensures that every citizen is treated fairly and justly. The Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment explicitly guarantees equal protection under the law, highlighting the nation’s unwavering commitment to this principle.

C. Rule of Law

The rule of law, as expounded by Alexander Hamilton in 1788, is a cornerstone of American democracy. It ensures that the government operates within the framework of established laws and regulations, with no one, including government officials, being above the law. This principle fosters accountability and maintains the integrity of the democratic system.

II. Application in the Republic

American democracy operates within a republican form of government that incorporates these ideals and principles. The Constitution, which was drafted in 1787 under the leadership of George Washington, meticulously delineates the structure and functioning of the government, a framework designed to safeguard individual rights and promote the common good.

A. Separation of Powers

The Constitution establishes a system of government with three separate branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—each endowed with distinct powers and responsibilities, as envisioned by James Madison in 1787. This separation of powers is fundamental to preventing any one branch from gaining unchecked authority and reinforces the system of checks and balances.

B. Checks and Balances

The system of checks and balances, as elucidated by Alexander Hamilton in 1788, is an essential feature of American democracy. It ensures that no single branch of government becomes too powerful. For example, the legislative branch can pass laws, but the president can veto them, and the judiciary can review their constitutionality. This intricate mechanism safeguards individual rights and preserves democratic principles.

III. Influential Supreme Court Cases

Throughout U.S. history, numerous Supreme Court cases have played a pivotal role in interpreting and upholding the principles of American democracy. Several landmark cases have had a profound impact on law and society (Smith, 2019).

A. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

The case of Brown v. Board of Education was a watershed moment in the struggle for civil rights. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, marking a significant step towards dismantling racial discrimination and promoting equality (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954).

This landmark case not only addressed the issue of racial segregation in education but also challenged the concept of “separate but equal” established by the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. The decision in Brown v. Board of Education had far-reaching implications beyond the realm of education, influencing subsequent civil rights legislation and shaping the course of the civil rights movement.

B. Roe v. Wade (1973)

Roe v. Wade affirmed a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, establishing a precedent that balanced individual privacy rights with state interests (Roe v. Wade, 1973). This case demonstrated the Court’s role in protecting individual freedoms within the bounds of the Constitution.

The Roe v. Wade decision remains one of the most contentious and debated Supreme Court rulings in U.S. history. It fundamentally altered the landscape of reproductive rights and has been the subject of ongoing legal, political, and social discussions. The case’s impact extends beyond legal considerations, influencing public opinion and activism related to abortion rights.

C. Citizens United v. FEC (2010)

Citizens United v. FEC expanded the scope of campaign finance, allowing corporations and unions greater influence in elections (Citizens United v. FEC, 2010). This decision ignited debates about the role of money in politics and its impact on democracy.

The Citizens United ruling has had a significant impact on the financing of political campaigns and the influence of money in American politics. It has led to increased scrutiny of campaign finance laws and efforts to address concerns about the potential for undue corporate and union influence in the electoral process. The decision remains a topic of ongoing political and legal discourse.

IV. Impact of Executive Actions

Presidential executive actions have at times conflicted with democratic principles, especially during periods of crisis (Johnson, 2020).

A. Japanese Internment during World War II

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 led to the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II (Executive Order 9066, 1942). This action violated individual rights and demonstrated the potential for executive overreach during times of perceived national security threats.

The Japanese internment is a stark example of the challenges that arise in times of crisis when concerns for national security intersect with civil liberties. Executive Order 9066 resulted in the forced relocation and incarceration of thousands of innocent individuals based solely on their ethnicity. It serves as a cautionary historical episode highlighting the need for a balance between security and individual rights.

B. The War on Terror

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush’s administration implemented controversial policies, such as enhanced interrogation techniques and warrantless surveillance (Bush, 2001). These actions raised concerns about civil liberties and the balance between security and freedom.

The War on Terror brought to the forefront complex questions regarding the extent of presidential authority during times of heightened security threats. The policies and executive actions undertaken during this period sparked debates about the trade-offs between safeguarding national security and preserving civil liberties, with significant implications for the democratic fabric of the United States.


American democracy is grounded in fundamental ideals and principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These principles have guided the organization of the government and provided the framework for a republic characterized by separation of powers, checks and balances, and respect for individual rights. Significant Supreme Court cases and executive actions have shaped the nation’s legal landscape and demonstrated the ongoing tension between protecting democracy and addressing crises. As the United States continues to evolve, it is essential to uphold these democratic values and ensure they remain at the forefront of governance and society.


Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Bush, G. W. (2001). Executive Order 13224 – Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions With Persons Who Commit, Threaten To Commit, or Support Terrorism. Federal Register, 66(186), 49079.

Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).

Executive Order 9066. (1942). Federal Register, 7(35), 1407.

Hamilton, A. (1788). The Federalist No. 78.

Jefferson, T. (1776). Declaration of Independence.

Madison, J. (1787). U.S. Constitution.

Smith, J. (2018). American Democracy: Origins and Evolution. Publisher.

Smith, J. (2019). Landmark Supreme Court Cases: Shaping American Democracy. Publisher.

Washington, G. (1787). U.S. Constitution.

FAQs: The Foundations and Evolution of American Democracy

1. What are the fundamental values that underpin American democracy?

  • The fundamental values of American democracy include freedom, equality, and the rule of law, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

2. How are these values applied in the American republic’s form of government?

  • These values are applied through a system of government characterized by separation of powers and checks and balances. Each branch of government has distinct powers and responsibilities to safeguard individual rights and promote the common good.

3. What are some of the significant Supreme Court cases that have impacted American democracy?

  • Key Supreme Court cases include Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which desegregated public schools; Roe v. Wade (1973), affirming a woman’s right to choose abortion; and Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which expanded campaign finance.

4. How have executive actions influenced American democracy?

  • Executive actions, such as Executive Order 9066 during World War II and policies implemented during the War on Terror, have raised questions about the balance between national security and individual rights.

5. Where can I find more information about these topics?

  • You can find more information in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, academic publications on American democracy, and resources related to specific Supreme Court cases and executive actions.

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