GOV 335M • American Political Thought
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
"In the beginning," John Locke observed, "all the world was America." For Locke seventeenth-century America presented the world with an example of the state of nature where individuals enjoyed and suffered a condition of natural freedom. Over a century later, Alexis de Tocqueville too located the natural consequences of the age of democratic revolution in America: "I admit that I saw in America more than America; it was the shape of democracy itself which I sought, its inclinations, character, prejudices, and passions; I wanted to understand it so as at least to know what we have to fear or hope therefrom." For Locke as for Tocqueville and many more, America is both exemplary and exceptional; it has significance not only for itself but for humanity. We too turn to the political thought of America not only because it is ours but also to better grasp the meaning and fate of liberal democracy.
The course readings focus on primary documents in American political thought, with a focus on the revolutionary period, the founding, Jacksonian democracy, and the crisis over slavery. Topics include religious toleration, constitutionalism, individual rights, political economy, equality, individualism, and slavery. Readings are drawn from Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Hamilton, Jackson, Calhoun, Taylor, Anthony, Thoreau, and Lincoln.