Locke, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers: An Essay on the Genesis of the American Political Heritage

Locke, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers: An Essay on the Genesis of the American Political Heritage

Locke, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers: An Essay on the Genesis of the American Political Heritage

Locke, Hobbes, and the Federalist Papers: An Essay on the Genesis of the American Political Heritage

Synopsis

The common theory among political scientists is that John Locke, proponent and celebrant of democracy, is the great ancestor of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but in this new and enlightening investigation into our political roots Dr. Mace argues that our real political sire was a man often hated and scorned as an antidemocratic monarchist- Thomas Hobbes.

Mace's exposition of political philosophy shows that Locke supported democracy but that, in Locke's view, democracy does not automatically support liberty and freedom for all. Hence, Lockean democracy would provide for the protection of life, liberty, and property- not happiness. The monarchist Hobbes, on the other hand, believed a sovereign's duty lay in the protection of life, liberty, and happiness for all. For Hobbes, sovereignty exists only when monarch and subject are mutually obliged; when the sovereign fails to provide security, or when he forces upon his subjects a life that is wearisome, the subject has the right to rebel. Ultimately, his is much closer to the philosophy of Publius- Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, the men whose collected essays were published as The Federalist. Publius goes one step further, however; he proposes a federalist system that will eliminate the need for the sword as final arbiter.

Excerpt

Of more than passing interest to students of American political heritage and culture is the interface between American constitutional law and American political heritage. The interaction between these two entities is the outgrowth of a political-legal system rooted in a paramount and fundamental law. The ultimate and necessary foundation upon which the system rests is the belief that the Constitution is the supreme expression of the people's will. Since the Constitution gains its authority through the people acting in their constituent capacity, constitutional law is fundamental law embodying the people's determination of the proper extent and division of governing authority.

At the same time, the Constitution does not speak for itself. Some voice must pronounce when the ordinary daily acts of government do not comply with the superior dictates of the fundamental law. Americans, for the most part, have accepted Chief Justice John Marshall's claims in Marbury v. Madison that the Supreme Court was intended, and by its nature is singularly equipped, to speak as the oracle of the Constitution. There have been periods, however, when the Court's role as constitutional interpreter has been questioned so severely that Supreme Court Justices have been portrayed not as clearly defined and objective spokesmen for the Constitution, but as so many individuals expressing their own personal and group interests. In such circumstances, the Court takes on the appearance of an outrageous oligarchy masquerading in the black robes of constitutional impartiality.

Other groups wishing to say what they believe is or is not constitutional are greeted with even sharper rejection, since they lack the sanction created by time and a tradition of acceptance that is . . .

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