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Consent of the Governed

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Consent of the Governed is an expression tantamount with the political premise that a government’s legality and right to use state power is only warranted and legal when derived from the people or society that this power will be exercised. The consent of the governed is given through a direct referendum or through elected representatives. The United States of America was the first, among modern states, to ever apply this principle of consent of the governed which was entrenched into the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Before this principle came to be in America, most countries applied the principle if autocracy where the leader exercised infinite power over his subjects and ruled with a heavy hand. The people were not regarded as citizens but as subjects and owed their entire devotion and obedience to the ruler. Most of these forms of autocratic governments came about due to the presence of monarchies. This was the case as China when the Communist Party held power in 1949.

Most cases where consent of the governed is applied, is in a republic or sometimes even in a monarchy such as in Great Britain.  In Emmeline Pankhurst’s speech on 21st October 1913, she petitioned against women’s non allowance to vote. She asked the men to see them as humans just like them and accord them their rights.

At this time women, unlike men, were not allowed to vote. Emmeline, a great supporter of the consent of the governed principle, asserted that women were no longer going to be unjustly governed.  Women of this time were imprisoned for their support that women be accorded their rights. Emmeline proclaimed that government does not rest against force but it rests in the consent of the governed. Emmerline and her counterparts finally won as women were accorded the right to vote and their consent of the governed obtained.

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