The Natural Rights Republic: Studies in the Foundation of the American Political Tradition

The Natural Rights Republic: Studies in the Foundation of the American Political Tradition

The Natural Rights Republic: Studies in the Foundation of the American Political Tradition

The Natural Rights Republic: Studies in the Foundation of the American Political Tradition

Synopsis

By emphasizing the political philosophy -- as opposed political science -- underlying the founding of the United States, Zuckert breaks new ground in the field of America political science and sends the contemporary debates about redefining America back to their ideological roots.

Excerpt

I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World, and to define America, her Athletic Democracy.

Walt Whitman, To Foreign Lands

Defending himself in almost the last year of his life from accusations that he had, in effect, cribbed the Declaration of Independence from other sources -- from Locke, or Sidney, or earlier colonial documents -- Thomas Jefferson responded by urging that such criticism altogether missed his point in drafting the document.

This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before, but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.... Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.

Jefferson as scrivener to the American mind -- that and only that.

In those later years Jefferson fairly frequently had to parry angry or resentful or envious comments about his role in drafting the Declaration. Some men ungraciously wondered why Jefferson was receiving so much credit for drafting a statement that did indeed "express the American mind" and not any views peculiar to Jefferson himself. the resentment, of course, stemmed from the fact that the Declaration had come to be accepted not only as the most authoritative statement of "our rights and the acts of the British government contravening those rights" at the time of the Revolution, but as the most perspicuous statement of the philosophy that had come to be the American political creed. As such, it . . .

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