4.1 The Origins Of Democracy
From Political Freedom and Democracy by LJM Cooray (1996)

Representative democratic institutions evolved over many centuries as a consequence of the battles between King and Parliament in England (and later the United Kingdom) and between Parliament, King and Colonies in the United States. In the United Kingdom over many centuries the once all pervasive powers of the King were gradually reduced, with executive, legislative and judicial powers developing in separate though overlapping compartments. The American Revolution saw the eclipse of the power of the autocratic British King and his advisers. A new nation set about so distributing power, that abuse of power in the hands of an all-powerful executive, was made more difficult. The Amendments to the US Constitution incorporating a Bill of Rights were intended to restrict the exercise of power by Congress, the President and Cabinet and other repositories of power. The political history of the UK from the Magna Carta (if not earlier) is a long drawn out battle between the King and the people. A consequence of this battle was a gradual transference of the powers of the King to Parliament. Electoral reform and universal adult franchise created a link between the people on the one hand and the legislature and the Cabinet, on the other. Thus the essence of the representative democracy could be said to be the placing of restrictions on the powers of government. This cannot be over emphasised.

"But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on governments would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government: but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." (James Madison, The Federalist No 51).

The concept of limited government is analysed below, see sections 16, 17, 18 and 26.