The letter by Manuel Madrid (May 23) says that when the American colonies adopted constitutions, they “acknowledged that all authority came from God and not from man.”
That is inaccurate. The Constitution of Virginia in 1776 asserted, “all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people.”
The Declaration of Independence, also adopted in 1776, after saying that people’s rights came from “their Creator,” emphasized that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Constitution of the United States, which was written in 1787, proclaimed, “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
All those documents showed the pervasive influence of John Locke’s conception of the social contract. Mr. Locke had argued that people entered into an agreement among themselves to form society, and that they then created government as an agent of society.
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His thinking departed from the doctrine that God was the source of the state’s authority, which had justified divine right monarchies. Like Mr. Locke, the authors of our founding documents believed that government was created by the people to serve them.
Alfred Evans, Fresno