The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

I
THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS IN THE
EARLY REPUBLIC

The assembly to which I address myself is too enlightened not to be fully sensible how much a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation. . . . Among the motives to . . . [create a national University] the assimilation of the principles, opinions and manners of our countrymen, by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter, well deserves attention.

The more homogeneous our citizens can be made in these particulars, the greater will be our prospect of permanent union; and a primary object of such an institution should be, the education of our youth in the science of government.

WASHINGTON before Congress, December 7th, 1796

In the selection of our Law Professor we must be rigorously attentive to his political principles.

JEFFERSON to Madison, February 17th, 1826


1. Pedagogy or Practice?

RIGHT FROM the founding of the new Republic there were good reasons why the study of politics should grow into a distinct, large and powerful academic discipline, something very different in both content and size from almost anything, then or now, in European education.

In the Ninth Paper of The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton had written of a 'science of politics' which had sprung from the precepts of Harrington, Locke and Montesquieu and which could be maintained and extended:

The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received vast improvements. The efficacy of the various principles is now understood, which were either not known at all or imperfectly known to the ancients, the regular distribution of power into distinct departments, the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts

-3-

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