Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment

Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment

Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment

Power, Morals, and the Founding Fathers: Essays in the Interpretation of the American Enlightenment

Excerpt

This volume assembles a group of essays that have appeared in various journals over a period of ten years. They are unified in their treatment of two main themes. One focuses on an interpretation of the American Enlightenment and those aspects in the thought and character of the founding fathers which conjoin the supposedly contradictory terms "power" and "morals." The other theme centers on what I believe is still vital and viable about the political and moral tradition they hoped to establish.

These essays serve to emphasize certain features of the American Enlightenment that are often obscured or given a false perspective. Franklin, as the progenitor and, in Jefferson's phrase, "the father of American philosophy," helps to delineate the American Enlightenment's underlying attitude of pragmatic wisdom. Jefferson's contribution is seen against the political, moral, and personal implications of his "right to the pursuit of happiness." The essay on Hamilton centers on the pursuit of power, both in its economic implications for political growth and in its personal aspects in his own career. John Adams, both as "John Yankee" and as the "Atlas of Independence," is viewed as preoccupied with the taming of power. And finally, Madison's efforts are neatly symbolized . . .

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