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The Political Theory of the American Founding


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Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I. The Political Theory of the Founding: An Overview: 1. Equality, natural rights, and the laws of nature; 2. The case against the natural rights founding; 3. Equality and natural rights misunderstood; 4. The founder's arguments for equality, natural rights, and natural law; 5. The state of nature; 6. The social compact and consent of the governed; 7. Natural rights and public policy; Part II. The Moral Conditions of Freedom: 8. Why government should support morality; 9. How government supports morality; 10. Sex and marriage in political theory and policy; 11. Cultivating public support for liberty and virtue; 12. What virtues should government promote?; 13. The founder's virtues: questions and clarifications; Part III. Property and Economics: 14. The founder's understanding of property rights; 15. Private ownership; 16. Free markets; 17. Sound money; 18. The Hamilton-Jefferson quarrel; Conclusion. Justice, nobility, and the politics of natural rights; Index.

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This book provides a complete overview of the Founders' natural rights theory and its policy implications.

About the Author

Thomas G. West holds the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tibbets Potter Endowed Professorship at Hillsdale College, Michigan. His research areas include American political thought, natural law and natural right, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, and Leo Strauss.


'Some claim that the founders were early-modern liberals. Others argue that the founders were primarily exponents of republicanism. Still others claim that the founders bequeathed to us an amalgam of these two strains of thought, together perhaps with still other influences. West's great ambition with this book, one that he achieves, is to show that in their self-understanding the founders grounded the American regime on natural law and natural rights, and sought to promote virtue, and in particular the virtues necessary to a self-governing people seeking to secure their natural rights. The combination of natural rights and virtue promoted by the founders does not come from two separate streams of thought. Rather, natural rights and virtue are, so to speak, two sides of the same coin.' Luigi Bradizza, Voegelinview (www.voegelinview.com)
'By reintroducing the moral underpinnings of the founders' natural rights republic, Thomas G. West has made an extraordinary contribution to our understanding of American political thought. He shows that the founders' republicanism is a part of their liberalism; that duties and rights, properly understood, are not at odds. In doing so, The Political Theory of the American Founding not only helps us better understand America's principles, it explains why we ought to cherish them and fight to restore them to their rightful place in our political life.' Vincent Phillip Munoz, University of Notre Dame

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