Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

“Beranrd Bailyn has spent his career at Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1953. He served as Winthrop Professor of History from 1966 until 1981, when he was appointed Adams University Professor. His works range from the history of education to historical methodology, but his most noted projects are in the field of early American intellectual and cultural history. His Ideological Origins of the American Revolution won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968....

Ideological Origins took up the fate, in America, of the Old Whig or English commonwealth ideas of the early 18th century. Here, again, it was the peculiar relevance of these ideas, and the conscious choosing among them and adding to them that was at the core of Bailyn's history. The critique of power's corrupting influence, what might be called the "anti-power" ethic, resonated with American experience…. In place of the individual seeking security for private rights of property and liberty, republicanism gave us a more politically concerned citizen laboring for the commonwealth by carefully preserving the constitutional balance of the one, the few, and the many. It was virtue, not interest, that motivated the American Revolution; self-seeking commercialism was more akin to corruption in the body politic than to the public good, according to the new republican consensus.…Bailyn argued:

‘Within the framework of these ideas, Enlightenment abstractions and common law precedents, covenant theology and classical analogy—Locke and Abraham, Brutus and Coke—could all be brought together into a comprehensive theory of politics.’

This was no unchanging paradigm, but the vibrant and shifting undercurrents of English opposition thought, "stirred by doctrinaire libertarians, disaffected politicians, and religious dissenters." It is this dynamic stirring that was and is the focus of Bailyn's interpretation….” (From: A Revolutionary Historian, The Claremont Institute,

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute's next educational seminar will focus on the topic of "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," including the political writings of John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and Bailyn's award-winning book, of which the New York Times Book Review said, “One cannot claim to understand the Revolution without having read this book.” We will also discuss the role of Enlightenment, Classical, and Covenant ideology, together with Never Before in History: America's Inspired Birth, by Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner (1998), which sets forth the influence of Christian and religious principles in the Revolution.

The seminar is primarily for Virginia middle and high school U.S. government and history teachers, and will be held Friday morning, September 17, 2010 (Constitution Day) at Prospect Hill near Charlottesville.

For registration or to receive an agenda, contact Jody Weierholt:

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