The Founding Fathers of the United States were given the unenviable task of creating a governmental system that was familiar enough to the citizens, yet unique in its balance so as to create a delicate, but lasting institution.
While classically educated and still thinking in European terms, they may have drawn from various philosophers of Europe.
One such philosopher to which they may have looked was a thirteenth-century Catholic priest, whose philosophical writings are the subject of many university philosophy courses today.
Drawing greatly on Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas stated that there are five forms of legitimate governmental systems:
- Monarchy – Government by Royal Ordinances
- Aristocracy – Government by Decrees of the Senate
- Oligarchy – Government by rich and powerful men
- Praetorian – Government of Honorary laws
- Democracy – Government by Decrees of Commonality
It is unknown to us whether or not the Founders ever read the philosophies of St. Thomas Aquinas. However, it is interesting to find within the legislative construct of the United States Constitution can be heard the echoes of St. Thomas’ conclusions as to the best form of a governmental system.