The revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries played an important role in the development of democracy, however the Glorius Revolution of 1688 was the integral event that has shaped modern-day mass democracy.
The Glorious, American and French Revolutions of 1688, 1776 and 1789 respectively, all played an essential role in the development of democracy. These events and the interdependent thinkers and philosophes, inspired the bourgeoisie to pursue and advocate a liberal political system that would initially provide for their own interests, but eventually the challenge to the autonomy of the aristocracy. This created a relentless pursuit by the masses for a liberal mass democracy and individual rights. In comparison to other events, the Glorious Revolution was integral in paving the way toward a working democracy.
The Glorious Revolution was integral in the development of democracy as it laid the foundations and set a precedent for subsequent revolutionary movements for a democratic system of government. This revolution was particularly successful, its effects compounded to inspire revolutions in the Americas and France. The Glorious Revolution lays claim to being the only political revolution that has not seen bloodshed, this is due to the fact that James II could not revolt to an invitation from the parliament to William of Orange (King of Holland) to assist in its administration.
The importance of this revolution is highlighted by the commissioners’ success in overturning the powers of the monarchy and establishing an elected parliament and a movement toward a constitutional monarchy. The first ‘Bill of Rights’, ensured this and indirectly invested in the rights of the individual to freedom from absolute power. As a precedent, the Glorious Revolution was an integral part of democratic development and the foundations for political revolution in France and America.
The French and American Revolutions were essential but not integral in the development of democracy. These revolutions were based upon the ideals of the Glorious Revolution, but could not be achieved without bloodshed; the powers of the autocracy were too great or reluctant to relinquish the largest and strongest bastion of English colonialism in the ‘new world’. The French Revolution’s effect was short-lived as a result of the rise of Napoleon’s empire and the Reign of Terror, putting an end to individual rights and liberal democracy. The American and French Revolutions assisted in establishing the rights of the individual, yet they were still based upon English precedent. The Declaration of Independence and Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the common element that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed” is constructed upon the English clause, ” the election of members of parliament ought to be free.” Although not exact, the parliamentary foundation was laid for the progress toward today’s liberal democracy.
The ideologies of liberalism of the bourgeoisie in the Age of Reason/Enlightenment laid the grounds for equity and freedom from unjust imposition. This allowed for the rise of democracy through providing the inspiration for the Glorious Revolution. The Age of Reason brought the demise of the Feudal System and the burden of vassalage. This was directed under the leadership of numerous ‘thinkers’ that took to challenging the status quo of the aristocracy and the divine rights and knowledge of the church. New thought free from religious restrictions, allowed for traditions and social management issues to be re-assessed.
The bourgeoisie created a movement toward democracy, however they were interested in protecting their own ideals of economic and political freedom or ‘liberalism’. They pursued a full democracy but could not trust the masses to control it and also wanted a ‘laissez-faire’ economy and political system free from autocratic intervention. Although this is not a step toward realising liberalism in its true form, the ‘thinkers” challenge to authority was pivotal in paving the way for the Glorious Revolution and changes toward a government “run by the people for the people.”
Briton John Locke and the French philosophes inspired the masses challenge the ideals of the monarchy in revolutions. However, it is to be realised that philosophes were dependant on the Glorious Revolution and that the philosophes and Thomas Jefferson essentially based their ideas on the papers of Locke. Voltaire came to agree with the British Parliamentary System; Montesquieu agreed with the British ‘Bill of Rights’ for the separation of powers; Rousseau inspired the masses to revolt to achieve individual rights, freedoms and equity; and Thomas Jefferson based the Declaration of Independence on Locke’s principle of “life, liberty and property; the Declaration states, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The ‘thinkers’ established the nexus that makes the Glorious revolution the integral event in the development of a working/mass democracy.
It is clear that the ideologies conveyed by the masses and figureheads in the American and French Revolutions were dependent upon the thinkers of the Enlightenment leading into the Glorious Revolution. These facts establish that the Glorious Revolution was integral in the development of the policies and ideals that were sprouted out of subsequent events. The peaceful exhibition displayed by the British in 1688 proved to the monarchies that the citizens should be endowed with liberties, equity and the right to self-determination.