The Transformation of Liberalism

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Master'sA+, April 1996

download word file, 11 pages 3.0

Downloaded 269 times

Liberalism is a force that has produced change from the birth of this nation to the politics of today. Liberal tenets have been a basis of thought and action in American politics since well before the signing of the Constitution. Certainly, liberalism has had to transform in order to remain a legitimate force throughout the years. When considering this transformation, one may ask whether or not the ideas and goals of classical liberalism have been lost in the conversion into modern liberalism. In order to answer this, the areas of freedom, the role of government, human nature, and the function of law should be addressed. While this may not be a complete register of change in liberalism, research into these subjects can provide strong indications toward the nature of this transition. Objectively, the evidence suggests that many of the ideas of classical liberalism were either abandoned or changed fundamentally when America entered the modern era.


The idea of freedom has been a paramount concern of liberalism throughout history. Consider the classical ideas of religious freedom, the right to resist and the inherent right of every individual to be independent. These were some of the main focuses of classical liberalism in early America.

On religious freedom, seventeenth century minister Roger Williams wrote:

'... All Civill States with their Officers of justice in their respectiveconstitutions and administrations are proved essentially Civill, and therefore not judges, governours or defendours of the spirituall or christian state and worship.' (Volkomer, 50)

This quote is notable because it illustrates the early liberal ideas of religious freedom by stating that government officials have no right to pass judgment on religious practices. In furtherance of his views, Williams founded a colony at Plymouth and contributed to the development of religious tolerance in the new world. Religious tolerance...