The American Founding and the Social Compact

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Ronald J. Pestritto, Thomas G. West
Lexington Books, 2003 - 283 pages
Unlike many other books about the American founding, this new work by two of the most prominent scholars of American political history emphasizes the coherence and intelligibility of the social compact theory. Social compact theory, the idea that government must be based on an agreement between those who govern and those who consent to be governed, was one of the Founders' few unifying philosophical positions, and it transcended the partisan politics of that era. Contributors to this volume present a comprehensive overview of the social compact theory, discussing its European philosophical origins, the development of the theory into the basis of the fledgling government, and the attitudes of some of the founders toward the theory and its traditional proponents. The authors argue forcefully and convincingly that the political ideas of the American Founders cannot be properly understood without understanding social compact theory and the exalted place it held in the construction of the American system of government.

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Locke on the Social Compact An Overview
Social Compact Common Law and the American Amalgam The Contribution of William Blackstone
Hume Historical Inheritance and the Problem of Founding
The Political Theory of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson and the Social Compact
From Subjects to Citizens The Social Compact Origins of American Citizenship
Alexander Hamilton and the Grand Strategy of the American Social Compact
John Adams Hobbism
Benjamin Franklin and the Theory of Social Compact
About the Contributors

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About the author (2003)

Ronald J. Pestritto is Charles and Lucia Shipley Chair in the American Constitution at Hillsdale College and author of Founding the Criminal Law: Punishment and Political Thought in the Origins of America (2000). Thomas G. West is professor of politics at the University of Dallas and director and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. His book Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class and Justice in the Origins of America (1997) won the 2000 Paolucci Book Award.

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