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The Political Philosophy of the American Founders

Garrett Ward Sheldon, Series Editor

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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The Political Philosophy of the American Founders

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The Political Philosophy of Benjamin Franklin

Lorraine Smith Pangle

The most famous man of his age, Benjamin Franklin was an individual of many talents and accomplishments. He invented the wood-burning stove and the lightning rod, he wrote Poor Richard's Almanac and The Way to Wealth, and he traveled the world as a diplomat. But it was in politics that Franklin made his greatest impact. Franklin’s political writings are full of fascinating reflections on human nature, on the character of good leadership, and on why government is such a messy and problematic business. Drawing together threads in Franklin's writings, Lorraine Smith Pangle illuminates his thoughts on citizenship, federalism, constitutional government, the role of civil associations, and religious freedom. Of the American Founders, Franklin had an unrivaled understanding of the individual human soul. At the heart of his political vision is a view of democratic citizenship, a rich understanding of the qualities of the heart and mind necessary to support liberty and sustain happiness. This concise introduction reflects Franklin's valuable insight into political issues that continue to be relevant today.

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The Political Philosophy of George Washington

Jeffry H. Morrison

George Washington is revered as the father of his country, a clever and skilled general, and a man of restrained principle—but not as a political thinker. This short introduction to Washington's political philosophy reveals him as a thoughtful public intellectual who was well equipped to lead the young United States. Though Washington left little explicit writing on political philosophy, Jeffry Morrison examines his key writings, actions, education, and political and professional lives. He finds that Washington held closely to a trinity of foundational principles—classical republicanism, British liberalism, and Protestant Christianity—with greater fidelity than many of the other founding fathers. In unearthing Washington's ideological growth, Morrison reveals the intellectual heritage of his political thought and shows how these beliefs motivated him to action. This insightful, concise story makes clearer the complexities of the revolutionary era and shows how the first president's political ideas shaped governmental institutions and instantiated the nation's foundational principles.

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The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine

Jack Fruchtman Jr.

This concise, insightful study explores the sources and impact of one of the early republic's most influential minds. An Englishman by birth, an American by choice and necessity, Thomas Paine advocated ideas about rights, equality, democracy, and liberty that were far advanced beyond those of his American compatriots. His seminal works, Common Sense and the Rights of Man, were rallying cries for the American and French Revolutions. More than any other eighteenth-century political writer and activist, Paine defies easy categorization. A man of contrasts and contradictions, Paine was as much a believer in the power of reason as he was in a benevolent deity. He was at once liberal and conservative, a Quaker who was not a pacifist, and an inherently gifted writer who was convinced he was always right. Jack Fruchtman Jr. analyzes Paine’s radical thought both in the context of his time and as a blueprint for the future development of republican government. His systematic approach identifies the themes of signal importance to Paine’s political thought, demonstrating especially how crucial religion and God were to the development and expression of his political ideals.

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