The Foundations of American Constitutionalism

By Andrew C. McLaughlin | Go to book overview

I
THE CHURCH AND THE COVENANT; THE PILGRIMS; THE PLANTATION COVENANTS

MY purpose in these lectures is to trace briefly the historical origins of some of the fundamental and elementary principles of the American constitutional system. In doing this I shall emphasize the influence of New England ideas and principles. Such emphasis will probably not result in distortion of historical facts; for certainly in many ways the New Englander was peculiarly conscious of certain theories, and he especially represented those doctrines of the seventeenth century which we find of leading importance in the later days when our institutions were taking formal shape in national and state constitutions. I shall have occasion at first to call your attention to the church polity of advanced Puritanism and to refer also, though briefly, to Puritan theology. It is not, of course, my intention to advocate or to defend the system of either theology or church organization, but to treat them historically and to assign to them such influence as appears justified by facts.

For the first hour or two I shall be chiefly engaged in presenting the ecclesiastical beginnings and also the industrial or economic systems and practices which are important to us if we wish to understand the sources of our institutions. We all know that no understanding of our constitutional system can be quite complete unless we have examined the developments of English constitutionalism; and in any such examination we

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