JMC Fellow Writes on Political Theory and the American Founding


Thomas G. West, professor of politics at Hillsdale College, has written a new book, The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom,  which was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

Abstract: A complete overview of the founders’ political theory, with an in-depth account of its implications for policies and laws.

The Founders’ political thought is often misunderstood today as a discordant amalgam of “liberalism,” “republicanism,” Protestantism, English law, and perhaps also sexism and racism. In his book, West responds in three stages. First, he uses official federal and state documents to piece together the Founders’ consensus on natural rights and natural law, and to show how their theory guided all major decisions on institutions and on foreign and domestic policy. Second, he elaborates the ways by which government promoted the republican virtues necessary for the protection of life, liberty, and property. Third, he explores the Founders’ policies securing property ownership while also enabling the poor to acquire property of their own.

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