Liberalism and Civil Rights in Britain and America

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Throughout the 19th and 20th century many political ideas have helped change and shape society, to what it is presently today. The list is endless for what each of these political ideas has achieved. These changes can be political or economic; however the change that is most conscious in the populations mind is that of social change. Equality was an important issue in many countries, especially Britain and America between the 1850’s to 1950’s and feminism and race equality major issues campaigned for. There was a major political idea behind the want for these changes, liberalism. Political ideas change and adapt their perceptions of the social and political world through the years to cope with all changing aspects of life. Liberalism is no different. It is these changes that allow the idea to maintain its identity. Sometimes it is hard for some political ideas to adapt and change for instance the divine monarchists. Liberalism goes back at least 300years; this means that it has had to change a great deal, the ideas behind the ideology have remained the same though. Liberalism started attacking the monarchy in Britain but soon moved on to social change. This relates back to the heart of liberalism, the concept of the individual. This can be difficult because ‘man is born free, but everywhere in chains’ (- Jean-Jaques Rousseau). Liberalism was a political idea adopted by many countries during the 19th and 20th century and has been the source of many economic and social policies. Liberalism believes that each person should be free to act as they wish, it also believes that each individual deserves respect no matter of race, religion, sexual preference, or social status. Most liberals believe that the government is detrimental to liberalism’s beliefs because it does not allow everyone to be an individual since laws are in place to limit freedom. John Locke advocated this when he attacked the government saying ‘no government allows absolute liberty”. This is true because if no laws were in place then absolute liberty would soon be replaced by anarchy. Liberalism not only influenced equality but it was the basic idea behind the United States of America constitution. This was easy for the American governments to adopt because unlike other countries, it did not have to contend with aristocratic traditions and institutions.

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