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Our Long Heritage

Our Long Heritage: Pages From the Books our Founding Fathers Read

Copyright Date: 1955
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Our Long Heritage
    Book Description:

    This collection of readings, selected from the books and documents that were the major sources of American ideas and beliefs during the period of the founding of the democracy from 1750 to 1780, demonstrates that America has a long heritage behind its social and political philosophy. The excerpts are from the works that represent four different cultural or historical heritage, and they are presented in this order: the classical heritage, the English tradition to 1700, the continental stream, and the eighteenth century, both British and American. Mr. Clough, a former professor of English at the University of Wyoming, provides introductory and explanatory comment throughout the volume. The first book of its kind, it should be particularly useful in American studies programs.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3681-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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    (pp. 1-18)

    “Let us study the law of nature; search into the spirit of the British constitution; read the histories of the ancient sages; contemplate the great examples of Greece and Rome; set before us the conduct of our own British ancestors, who have defended for us the inherent rights of mankind against foreign and domestic tyrants and usurpers.” John Adams,Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law, 1765

    “Having been initiated, in youth, in the doctrines of civil liberty, as they were taught by such men as Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero and other renowned persons among the ancients, and such as...

    (pp. 19-92)

    “This it is which is particularly salutary and profitable in the study of history, that you behold instances of every variety of conduct displayed on a conspicuous monument; that from thence you may select for yourself and for your country that which you may imitate; thence note what is shameful in the undertaking, and shameful in the result, which you may avoid.” Livy, Preface toHistory of Rome(c. 25. B.C.)

    “By reading of these Greek and Latin authors, men from their childhood have gotten a habit (under a false show of liberty) of favoring tumults, and of licentious controlling...

    (pp. 93-164)

    “Yield due reverence and obedience to the common laws of England: of all laws these are most equal and most certain, of greatest antiquity and least delay, and most beneficial and easy to be observed.” Edward Coke (1552-1634)Institutes

    “And here it is worthy of consideration, how the laws of England are not derived from any foreign law, either canon or other; but a special law appropriated to this kingdom, and most accomodate and apt for the good government thereof, under which it hath wonderfully flourished.” Edward Coke,Institutes, Part III

    “Fear not to do right to all, and to...

    (pp. 165-210)

    “No French tradition is more alive than that of the century of Enlightenment. . . . It is Voltaire and Rousseau, and sometimes Montesquieu and Condorcet, that one finds almost always behind the living influence of France on the masses and the ideologies of South America, of the United States itself, of central and eastern Europe, and that one will find tomorrow in Africa and Asia.” Henri Peyre, “Influence of Eighteenth Century Ideas on the French Revolution,”Journal of the History of Ideas, January 1949, p. 85. Quoted by permission of the editors.

    Though colonial Americans were more intimately concerned...

    (pp. 211-256)

    “QUERY: What used to be the pride of the Americans?

    ANSWER: To indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great Britain.

    QUERY: What is now their pride?

    ANSWER: To wear their old clothes over again, 'till they can make new ones.”

    Benjamin Franklin, examination before the British House of Commons, February 3, 1766

    “The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals. It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.” State Constitution of...

    (pp. 257-264)

    Thus was the stage set for American rebellion and the founding of a new government. The literature of the centuries had contributed the argument; and time had woven the threads into a new pattern. Now, as political documents replaced the more general papers, one might observe the effort to profit by the long schooling in liberty. Perhaps the “Rights of the Colonists” of 1772 advanced the first full-fledged use of the whole argument. The historian Clinton Rossiter calls it “the most historic, felicitous, and frugal statement of the political theory of the Revolution.”¹ It antedated the famous Declaration of Independence...