American Political Thought: Fall 2023 Issue


American Political Thought Journal: Fall 2023 Issue


American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, has recently published its Fall 2023 issue, which includes pieces by JMC scholars Jean Yarbrough, Jason Ross, Sean Beienburg, Aaron Kushner, Max Smith, and Michael Zuckert.



>> Table of Contents <<


  1. “Tocqueville and Lincoln on Slavery,” Jean M. Yarbrough
  2. “‘Dishonorable to the American Character’: James Madison and the Impact of the Federal Convention’s Bargain on Slavery,” Jason Ross
  3. “Conservative Progressivism? Michael Cunniff, Federalism, and the Founding of Arizona,” Sean Beienburg and Aaron Kushner
  4. “Their Souls Are Marching On: What Abraham Lincoln and John Brown Have in Common,” Max Smith

Review Essay:

  1. “Michael Zuckert’s A Nation So Conceived,” John Burt

Book Reviews:

  1. The Individualists: Radicals, Reactionaries, and the Struggle for the Soul of Libertarianism, by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi; Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed, by Andrew KoppelmanPatrick Allitt
  2. America’s Philosopher: John Locke in American Political Life, by Claire Rydell Arcenas; Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher Became an Icon of American Capitalism, by Glory M. Liu,” Michael Zuckert
  3. Foundations and American Political Science: The Transformation of the Discipline, 1945–1970, by Emily Hauptmann,” Jeffery Tyler Syck
  4. Ugly Freedoms, by Elisabeth R. Anker,” Daniella Mascarenhas
  5. The Cambridge Companion to Montesquieu, edited by Keegan Francis Callanan and Sharon Ruth Krause,” William Selinger



“Tocqueville and Lincoln on Slavery,” Jean M. Yarbrough

“Alexis de Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln held nearly identical views on the evils of American slavery but used different arguments against it. In Democracy in America, Tocqueville analyzed slavery chiefly from the standpoint of material self-interest. Although he occasionally condemned slavery as a violation of the laws and rights of humanity, he never explained his meaning or mentioned the Declaration. Tocqueville adopted a similar approach in France’s Caribbean colonies, appealing primarily to considerations of interest. When reaching for grander principles, he invoked France’s glorious fight for liberty, with Christianity playing an auxiliary role. By contrast, Lincoln made the principles of the Declaration central to his fight against slavery. Although he, too, recognized the importance of self-interest, he insisted that it be guided by the Declaration’s principles. Neither, however, relied on rational arguments alone. Each in his own way raised the question of Providence in bringing about democratic justice and liberty.”

Click here to read the piece >>



Jean Yarbrough is Professor of Government and Gary M. Pendy, Sr. Professor of Social Sciences, with teaching responsibilities in political philosophy and American Political Thought at Bowdoin College. She was a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellow and has twice received research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her first award as a Bicentennial Fellow resulted in the publication of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People (Kansas, 1998). Following up on this research, she has edited The Essential Jefferson (Hackett, 2006). Her second N.E.H. grant was part of a “We the People” initiative that supported research on Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition (University Press of Kansas, 2012), which won the Richard E. Neustadt Award for 2013 (awarded annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the best book on the Presidency). Her current research involves a study of the political thought of Alexis de Tocqueville in relation to major American political figures. She has served on the editorial boards of The Review of Politics and Polity and currently serves on the editorial board of American Political Thought. She was President of the New England Political Science Association in 2005, and recently completed a Senate-confirmed appointment to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2021, Ms. Yarbrough was awarded the Henry Salvatori Prize for her scholarly work and public service in upholding the principles of the American Founding.

Professor Yarbrough is a Jack Miller Center faculty partner and serves on the Jack Miller Center’s academic advisory council.

Learn more about Jean Yarbrough >>



“”Dishonorable to the American Character’: James Madison and the Impact of the Federal Convention’s Bargain on Slavery,” Jason Ross

“Slavery has long been seen as central to the debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. Yet scholarship on the ratification debates has generally concluded that slavery was an issue of secondary or localized importance. This article explores the role of slavery in the ratification debate from the vantage point of James Madison and finds that the Convention’s infamous bargain on slavery in late August played a larger role than has been recognized in influencing Madison’s ratification-era activities. Confusion, animosity, and sectional suspicions sparked by a proposal from the Committee of Detail were escaping from behind the curtains of the Philadelphia Convention. This prompted Madison, in his second phase of contributions to The Federalist beginning with no. 37, to begin a complex defense of the reputation of the Convention against rumors of a sectional bargain on slavery that he would later remember as ‘dishonorable to the American character.'”

Click here to read the piece >>



Jason RossJason Ross is Associate Dean at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government. He is dedicated to advancing the principles of freedom and free society through teaching, writing, and managing the growth and development of academic programs and organizations. He has served as the senior program officer at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, and the Bill of Rights Institute. He has also served on the faculty of Pepperdine University’s Washington DC Program. He has published pieces in Review of Politics, Journal of Religion and Society, The University Bookman, Law and Liberty, American Greatness, and The Columbus Dispatch, in addition to chapters in Teaching America: The Case for Civic Education and Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court.

Professor Ross is a Jack Miller Center fellow.

Learn more about Jason Ross >>



“Conservative Progressivism? Michael Cunniff, Federalism, and the Founding of Arizona,” Sean Beienburg and Aaron Kushner

“Michael Cunniff was one of Arizona’s most influential founders, serving at the 1910 Constitutional Convention and as state senate president in its early legislative sessions. At this high tide of progressivism in both the state and the nation, Cunniff—always described as progressive—sought to build a political society in which an active state government worked for the public good within the framework of American federalism. He sought to bridge direct democracy and constitutionalism, using the former not against the latter but against legislative capture or judicial overreach imposing policy preferred by big business. He was an ally of labor but viewed the movement with suspicion and celebrated free enterprise. In embodying these tensions, Cunniff illustrates a conservative progressivism that did not seek sweeping social, economic, or constitutional change, as many scholars have argued of progressivism, but more modestly sought to readjust institutions to restore them to an earlier balance.”

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Sean BeienburgSean Beienburg  is an Assistant Professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University. He is also the project director of the Arizona Constitution Project. Professor Beienburg’s teaching and research interests include the Constitution and constitutional law, American political development and American political thought, federalism and state constitutionalism/politics, executive power (both presidential and gubernatorial), parties and interest groups, 19th and early 20th century political and constitutional history, and Prohibition. In addition to Prohibition, the Constitution, and States’ Rights (University of Chicago Press, 2019) he is soon to be the author of another book on states as constitutional interpreters and progressive federalists in the progressive and New Deal eras: Progressive States’ Rights: The Forgotten History of Federalism (University Press of Kansas).

Professor Beienburg is a Jack Miller Center fellow.

Learn more about Sean Beienburg >>



Aaron KushnerAaron Kushner is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Teaching Assistant Professor at Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. He is also Editor at Starting Points: A Journal of American Principles & American Practices. Within SCETL, Professor Kushner is a Co-Director of the Living Repository of the Arizona Constitution initiative. His research focuses on citizenship, the tension between liberal and non-liberal thought, and political development. More specifically, he studies how indigenous political communities formed constitutional governments while in conflict with liberal republics. His dissertation focused on the development of citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.

He is currently working on two book projects. The first is a study of Indigenous political development entitled The Development of Citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, 1710-2023 and the second is an edited volume called A Hero in All of Us? Heroism and American Political Thought as Seen on TV, now under contract with Lexington Press.

Professor Kushner is a Jack Miller Center fellow.

Learn more about Aaron Kushner >>



“Their Souls Are Marching On: What Abraham Lincoln and John Brown Have in Common,” Max Smith

“This article compares Abraham Lincoln’s and John Brown’s justifications for violently confronting slavery during the Civil War and the raid at Harpers Ferry, respectively. Though significant differences existed between these two men, I argue that there is a surprising and often overlooked convergence. Both Brown and Lincoln rooted their opposition to slavery in their belief that it threatened the possibility of free self-government. Both concluded that violence was the only effective way to fight slavery. Finally, both argued that their violence was justified by democratic procedures and principles. In making this comparison, this article offers three contributions to the study of American political thought and political theory more broadly. First, it challenges the historical consensus that portrays these men as radically opposed exemplars. Second, it rehabilitates John Brown’s political thought. Third, through the comparison, it surfaces a democratic approach to the complex relationship between violence, democracy, and racism.”

Click here to read the piece >>



Max Smith is the Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Political Science at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame and has a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Max’s research interests focus on the history of political thought and contemporary democratic theory. Specifically, he is interested in the history of theories of civil conflict, the liberal tradition, early modern political thought, theories of toleration, American political thought, and ancient political thought. His current book project delves into Machiavelli’s theory of civil conflict, aiming to provide insights into modern challenges of class conflict and party politics. Beyond Max’s work on Machiavelli, his research on the conceptualization of civil conflict, and the deployment of theories of conflict by political theorists past and present to overcome, domesticate, or embrace the irascible part of politics deals with matters of central concern to scholars across the social sciences.

Dr. Smith is a Jack Miller Center fellow.

Learn more about Max Smith >>



America’s Philosopher: John Locke in American Political Life, by Claire Rydell Arcenas; Adam Smith’s America: How a Scottish Philosopher Became an Icon of American Capitalism, by Glory M. Liu,” Michael Zuckert

Faculty partner Michael Zuckert reviews two books on reception history: “Seldom have there been two books that cry out so loudly to be reviewed together. They are both studies in reception history, in the one case of how Americans have received John Locke, in the other of how they have received Adam Smith. That is to say, they are surveys of how their respective subjects have been understood over the course of “American intellectual life.” … In the case of both, a reader is tempted to ask, why a reception study? The two supply similar answers to that question: there is a reigning, more or less dominant understanding of the meaning Locke and Smith have had historically in America, and in both cases, that understanding is mistaken—badly mistaken in the case of Locke, less mistaken but still importantly so in the case of Smith. These mistakes are important because they serve a significant political or perhaps better, ideological role in our current or recent politics. The ultimate aim of both books seems to be to undercut whatever ideological support the mistaken view of the reception history gives to these current or recent political and economic positions.”

Click here to read the rest of the piece >>



Michael ZuckertMichael P. Zuckert is  the Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science, Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and Visiting Professor, ASU’s School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership. He has published extensively in both Political Theory and Constitutional Studies. His books include Natural Rights and the New Republicanism, the Natural Rights RepublicLaunching Liberalism, and (with Catherine Zuckert) The Truth About Leo Strauss and Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy, in addition to many articles. He has also edited The Spirit of Religion & the Spirit of Liberty and (with Derek Webb) The Antifederal Writings of the Melancton Smith Circle. He is completing Natural Rights and the New Constitutionalism, a study of American constitutionalism in a theoretical context. Professor Zuckert taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Political Philosophy and Theory, American Political Thought, American Constitutional Law, American Constitutional History, Constitutional Theory, and Philosophy of Law. His advising specialties were graduate programs in political science. He is a 2019 Visiting Professor in Arizona State University’s School of Civic & Economic Thought and Leadership. He co-authored and co-produced a public radio series, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson: A Nine Part Drama for the Radio. He was also senior scholar for Liberty! (1997), a six-hour public television series on the American Revolution and served as senior advisor on the PBS series on Ben Franklin (2002) and Alexander Hamilton (2007).

Professor Zuckert is a Jack Miller Center faculty partner and serves on the Jack Miller Center’s academic advisory council.

Learn more about Michael Zuckert >>



American Political Thought journal coverAmerican Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture is a JMC supported journal that bridges the gap between historical, empirical, and theoretical research. It is the only journal dedicated exclusively to the study of American political thought. Interdisciplinary in scope, APT features research by political scientists, historians, literary scholars, economists, and philosophers who study the foundation of the American political tradition. Research explores key political concepts such as democracy, constitutionalism, equality, liberty, citizenship, political identity, and the role of the state.

Click here to learn more about American Political Thought >>



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