Natural Rights and the New Republicanism

Natural Rights and the New Republicanism

Michael P. Zuckert
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 410
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    Natural Rights and the New Republicanism
    Book Description:

    InNatural Rights and the New Republicanism, Michael Zuckert proposes a new view of the political philosophy that lay behind the founding of the United States. In a book that will interest political scientists, historians, and philosophers, Zuckert looks at the Whig or opposition tradition as it developed in England. He argues that there were, in fact, three opposition traditions: Protestant, Grotian, and Lockean. Before the English Civil War the opposition was inspired by the effort to find the "one true Protestant politics--an effort that was seen to be a failure by the end of the Interregnum period. The Restoration saw the emergence of the Whigs, who sought a way to ground politics free from the sectarian theological-scriptural conflicts of the previous period.

    The Whigs were particularly influenced by the Dutch natural law philosopher Hugo Grotius. However, as Zuckert shows, by the mid-eighteenth century John Locke had replaced Grotius as the philosopher of the Whigs. Zuckert's analysis concludes with a penetrating examination of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, the English "Cato," who, he argues, brought together Lockean political philosophy and pre-existing Whig political science into a new and powerful synthesis. Although it has been misleadingly presented as a separate "classical republican" tradition in recent scholarly discussions, it is this "new republicanism" that served as the philosophical point of departure for the founders of the American republic.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2152-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    St. Paul
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-2)

    In the beginning, all the English were Christian Aristotelians, more or less. Early seventeenth-century thought, whether royalist or parliamentary in orientation, betrays the formative marks of Aristotelian ways of thinking. By the time of the American Revolution, however, Aristotle was an almost discarded figure, among the Whig Opposition at least; the categories of political thinking resonated hardly at all with Aristotle’sPoliticsand much more with Locke’sTwo Treatises of Government. Thus I defend points of view considered outdated or simply mistaken in many if not most advanced scholarly circles today. I maintain, for example, that Locke was the inspiration...

    (pp. 3-26)

    Government, says the American Declaration of Independence, is an artifice, a made thing. A thing is properly made when its making is governed by the end or purpose it is to serve. In the realm of artifice, end or purpose dominates. In the realm of political artifice described by the Declaration, the dominating end is the securing of rights: “… in order to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.” Important as other ideas in the Declaration may be—equality, consent, revolution—rights are thus simply central.

    Although the Declaration declares government an artifice made by human beings, that...

  7. Part One: Protestants
    • CHAPTER ONE Aristotelian Royalism and Reformation Absolutism: Divine Right Theory
      (pp. 29-48)

      Whether Locke and the Whigs, or whether the English Whigs of 1688 and the American Whigs of 1776, spoke with one voice or not, there was surely one thing they were all agreed in—their opposition to the political doctrine of the divine right of kings. Locke’s most important political writing, hisTwo Treatises of Government, contains a lengthy and detailed commentary cum refutation of one of the leading divine right theorists, and Locke’s was but one of several such large-scale efforts to refute that particular thinker. Even as late as fifty years after the American Declaration of Independence— that...

    • CHAPTER TWO Aristotelian Constitutionalism and Reformation Contractarianism: From Ancient Constitution to Original Contract
      (pp. 49-76)

      The divine right theory reveals one of the significant processes at work in seventeenth-century England—the Protestantization of political thought. However, just as a sumptuous variety of strains and forms of Protestant theology emerged, so did a plethora of versions of Protestant political thought. Although it is not altogether fruitful to directly correlate major Protestant theologies with the variants of Protestant political thought, some important parallels exist. The divine right doctrine, with its emphasis on the divine ordination of public authority and its focus on human subjection, shares much with Luther’s own version of reformed Christianity and of its authoritarian...

    • CHAPTER THREE Contract and Christian Liberty: John Milton
      (pp. 77-94)

      By the late 1640s the universe of parliamentary political thought had changed almost entirely from what it had been at the time of Hunton and Parker. Parliament—by now a rump of the House of Commons—no longer accepted the ancient constitution, no longer took pains to remain within the bounds of the regime of mixed monarchy, and no longer resisted the effort to find an authority for the constitution back behind the constitution. As a prelude to putting King Charles I on trial, the House of Commons issued an all-important resolution in January 1649. No shadow of the theory...

  8. Part Two: Whigs
    • CHAPTER FOUR Whig Contractarianisms and Rights
      (pp. 97-118)

      The search for the “one true Protestant politics” produced a civil war, the regicide, the Commonwealth, Cromwell’s Protectorate—and, finally, a general and widespread revulsion against the whole enterprise. The ultimate outcome was then a restoration of the monarchy and the Stuart line of monarchs, of the old church, and of the old House of Lords. Given the astounding fragmentation and conflict of political opinion during the preceeding half century, the degree of unanimity of opinion favoring the Restoration was truly remarkable. By 1660, Milton’s eloquent voice protesting the return of kings could no longer raise an answering echo; blind...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Master of Whig Political Philosophy
      (pp. 119-149)

      Grotius dominated seventeenth century Whiggism—and with good reason.¹ HisDe Jure Belli ac Pacis(1625), known generally as the founding treatise of international law, is far more comprehensive than that description suggests.² It also presents a full-blown theory of the law of nature and the civil law. It treats such topics as the origin of political power and private property, the relations among the natural, divine, and human laws, and the powers of rulers and the liberties of peoples. Moreover, theDe Jureis a work of nearly unparalleled erudition. Probably not since Thomas Aquinas had an author displayed...

    • CHAPTER SIX A Neo-Harringtonian Moment? Whig Political Science and the Old Republicanism
      (pp. 150-184)

      That the Whigs of the seventeenth century were Grotians rather than Lockeans undermines the version of the story of Anglo-American political thought that told of continuities between 1649, 1689, and 1776, or some set of points in between. Insight into the Grotianism of the Whigs helps highlight the role the very un-Grotian doctrines of the state of nature and natural rights came to play for Locke and his American successors, and thus to highlight the essential differences between Locke and the Americans, on the one hand, and the Grotian Whigs, on the other. Insight into the Grotianism of the pre-Lockean...

  9. Part Three: Natural Rights and the New Republicanism
    • CHAPTER SEVEN Locke and the Reformation of Natural Law: Questions Concerning the Law of Nature
      (pp. 187-215)

      In 1688–89 the most Whiggish of the Whigs were Grotians; by 1750 or so, they were Lockeans.¹ The obfuscating theory of unicontractarianism has concealed the fact of this change so effectively that we have no real idea of how it came about or what it signifies.² But by the time the Americans began their serious thinking about politics, at the end of the Seven Years War, Locke was so firmly ensconced as the Whig theorist of the revolution that his immigration to America had been natural and easy.³

      Only in the last half of the twentieth century are we...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Locke and the Reformation of Natural Law: Two Treatises of Government
      (pp. 216-246)

      Locke’s unpublishedQuestions Concerning the Law of Naturereveals much of his thinking about the natural law tradition—far more than the laterTwo Treatises of Government, and more even than theEssay Concerning Human Understanding. The Essay reproduces much of the critical reasonings of theQuestions, but does not make their application to the natural law tradition so clear. Nonetheless, theQuestionsitself fails to do more than hint at the political teaching that might be implied by Locke’s new understanding of the law of nature. TheQuestionshelps one understand the innards of Locke’s political philosophy, butTwo...

    • CHAPTER NINE Locke and the Reformation of Natural Law: Of Property
      (pp. 247-288)

      Locke continues his systematic consideration and revision of the original natural law limitations on natural liberty in theTwo Treatiseswith his famous discussion of property. This discussion stands in an obviously important place in Locke’s thinking, for his argument has been moving to the claim that “every man has a property in his own person”—a claim that not merely contradicts the ostensible initial grounding of the law of nature in God’s ownership of all persons, but one that reverberates with one of the most striking features of Locke’s doctrine of rights, his tendency to cast the whole in...

    • CHAPTER TEN Locke and the Transformation of Whig Political Philosophy
      (pp. 289-320)

      Not only did Locke’sTreatisesdiffer from other Whig defenses of the Glorious Revolution, but Locke failed to set his name to the work until he acknowledged it in his will. Those two facts together help account for its relatively marginal place in English political thought in its early years. “Contrary to many textbook accounts, the early defenders of the Revolutionary Settlement” did not seeTwo Treatises“as an expression of the principles upon which the revolutionaries acted in 1688.”¹ Many scholars now agree that “the majority of writers who supported the Revolution failed to say that they had found...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 321-376)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 377-390)
  12. Index
    (pp. 391-397)