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Classical Antiquity and the Politics of America

From George Washington to George W. Bush

Edited by Michael Meckler

Publication Year: 2006

Although most prevalent and obvious during the early decades of the Republic, the influence of classical antiquity on American politics persists even into the 21st century. This study tracks the movement of classicism throughout U.S. history and illustrates how the ancient Greeks and Romans continue to influence political theory and determine policy in the United States, from the education of the Founders to the War in Iraq.

Published by: Baylor University Press

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pp. ix-x

This volume emerged from a panel organized by the editor at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association held in San Francisco in January 2002. The panel, on “Classical Antiquity and the United States Senate,” contained earlier versions of the papers by Carl J. Richard, Caroline Winterer, Michael Meckler, and Robert F. Maddox that have been ...

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pp. 1-12

Although retired from public office after leaving the presidency in 1809, Thomas Jefferson continued keenly to follow political news that reached his home at Monticello. In December 1819, Jefferson was increasingly troubled by the conflict in Congress over whether Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a state where slavery was permitted. The seventy-...

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Chapter 1. Classical Education in Colonial America

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pp. 13-28

Despite voluminous writings that reveal his polymath interests through essays, speeches, and letters, Thomas Jefferson wrote only one book: his Notes on the State of Virginia in 1782.2 The book outlined a variety of proposals for the organization and operation of the new state government.Among Jefferson’s proposals was a system of public education for Virginia, ...

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Chapter 2. Classical Antiquity and Early Conceptions of the United States Senate

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pp. 29-40

The decision by the framers of the Constitution to create a bicameral legislature to replace the Continental Congress was not merely a way to appease the smaller states, whose residents feared a more powerful federal government dominated by the larger states. The divided legislature also reflected the Founders’ understanding of American society, an ...

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Chapter 3. Classical Oratory and Fears of Demagoguery in the Antebellum Era

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pp. 41-54

In the first half of the nineteenth century, increasing immigration from abroad and increasing movement of settlers west of the Appalachians brought significant changes to the political landscape of the United States. Assisted by the economic revolution that also brought canals, railroads, factories, and banks, immigration and westward migration served to dissolve ...

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Chapter 4. William Sanders Scarborough and the Politics of Classical Education for African Americans

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pp. 55-68

The preeminent Southern political leader in antebellum America was John C. Calhoun. The South Carolinian served in Washington as a congressman, senator, secretary of war, secretary of state, and vice president. He was a staunch defender of white Southern interests, in particular, the “peculiar institution” of slavery. During the 1830s, when the abolitionist ...

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Chapter 5. The Rise of Populism, the Decline of Classical Education, and the Seventeenth Amendment

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pp. 69-82

The rapid economic and social changes that transformed the United States in the half century following the Civil War spawned demands for greater public participation in government and for greater government oversight of business and society. These demands united southern and western farmers angered over railroad monopolies that controlled the ...

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Chapter 6. William Linn Westermann at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919

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pp. 83-94

History, in many circles, is a derisive, even pejorative word. In movies,the killers often dispatch their victims with the sneer, “You’re history!” More generally, all kinds of people dismiss something as irrelevant by saying, “That’s history.” Professional historians dislike this use of the word, but in their heart of hearts they often feel the sting of truth. ...

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Chapter 7. The World of Moses Finkelstein: The Year 1939 in M. I. Finley’s Development as a Historian

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pp. 95-126

Sir Moses Finley’s involvement with American politics consumed a brief but fateful period in his life.1 Finley (1912–1986) is famous both as one of the most influential ancient historians of the twentieth century and as one of the most prominent academic victims of the anti-Communist furor in the early years of the Cold War. Dismissed from his faculty position at ...

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Chapter 8. Thucydides and the Cold War

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pp. 127-140

From Machiavelli and Hobbes to George Marshall and Henry Kissinger, political theorists and practitioners have regarded Thucydides as a paradigm for studying the ways of the world and the interactions of states. His definition of power, cited in the above epigraph from the Melian Dialogue, is surely the first such analysis in the Western tradition. Its military ...

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Chapter 9. Senator Robert C. Byrd and the Wisdom of the Ancients

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pp. 141-152

George Stephanopoulos, in his book All Too Human, recalls an encounter with Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia during the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration. The encounter took place in a meeting with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the White House cabinet room. The issue under discussion was gays in the ...

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Chapter 10. Platonism in High Places: Leo Strauss, George W. Bush and the Response to 9/11

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pp. 153-174

Various articles in a number of reputable newspapers, magazines and journals—including the The New York Times, Le Monde, The New Yorker, and Harpers—have made the surprising claim that the response of the Bush White House to the events of 9/11 is deeply connected to the thought of Leo Strauss.1 On the face of it, Leo Strauss would seem to be ...

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pp. 175-180

In 1997, Garry Wills wrote an essay for the The New York Times Sunday Magazine suggesting that classical antiquity was undergoing a revival of interest and relevance in the United States as the twentieth century drew to a close. Contemporary social and political issues—such as the nature of imperialism, the tension between dominant and minority cultures, the ...


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pp. 181-218

List of Contributors

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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781602581111
E-ISBN-10: 1602581118
Print-ISBN-13: 9781932792324
Print-ISBN-10: 1932792325

Page Count: 241
Publication Year: 2006

Edition: 1st

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • Civilization, Classical -- Influence.
  • United States -- Civilization -- Classical influences.
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