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Founding Visions

Founding Visions: The Ideas, Individuals, and Intersections that Created America

Edited and with an Introduction by TODD ESTES
Foreword by GORDON S. WOOD
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Founding Visions
    Book Description:

    Lance Banning was one of the most distinguished historians of his generation. His first book,The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology, was a groundbreaking study of the ideas and principles that influenced political conflict in the early American Republic. His revisionist masterpiece,The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic, received the Merle Curti Award in Intellectual History from the Organization of American Historians and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

    Banning was assembling this collection of his best and most representative writings on the Founding era when his untimely death stalled the project just short of its completion. Now, thanks to the efforts of editor Todd Estes, this illuminating resource is finally available.Founding Visionsshowcases the work of a historian who shaped the intellectual debates of his time. Featuring a foreword by Gordon S. Wood, the volume presents Banning's most seminal and insightful essays to a new generation of students, scholars, and general readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5285-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Gordon S. Wood

    Lance Banning was no ordinary historian. Indeed, he was one of the most distinguished American historians of his generation. Not only has he had an important and lasting effect on our understanding of the ideas and politics of the early Republic, but, more important, his writings (the best of which are collected in this book) have become a model of what historical scholarship ought to be. In his approach to the past he had no present-minded political agenda, no desire to browbeat the past for the sake of reforming an oppressive present. All he sought to do in his scholarship...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Todd Estes

    Lance Banning was one of the best historians of his generation. He was also one of the most modest and self-effacing, which is why this book of his collected essays is only now in your hands. This introduction will deal briefly with his modesty and narrate how the collection finally came into being, many years after its conception. But its primary purpose is to establish Banning’s significance as a historian of early America and to elucidate the ways that his body of work—much of it collected in these pages—served to reshape the historiographical landscape by challenging the received...

  5. Part 1. The Enduring Issues of the American Revolution, 1776–1815

    • [PART 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 11-12)

      At its core, expressed in the broadest terms, most of Lance Banning’s scholarship in one way or another addresses the challenges that the American Revolution created but did not resolve. From his work on the Jeffersonians and their creation of a party ideology based on adaptations of Revolutionary principles, to his studies of James Madison’s efforts to create and implement a Constitution capable of fulfilling the promise of the Revolution by dealing with some of its perceived excesses, to his other more focused examinations of related historical problems, Banning’s work revolves around this theme. At the heart of many of...

    • The Problem of Power: Parties, Aristocracy, and Democracy in Revolutionary Thought
      (pp. 13-32)

      Power is a hand that can caress as well as crush, provide as well as punish. It cannot say yes to some without denying others. It may lack capacity to nourish if it cannot also grip. Properly directed, nonetheless, the might of a community, concentrated in its government, can increase the happiness and nurture the prosperity of the society it shields. If it were otherwise—if the fist could not be opened, if everyone possessed the same ideas and interests, or if the revolutionary generation had not expected government to promote the general welfare as well as to protect the...

  6. Part 2. Republicanism, Liberalism, and the Great Transition

    • [PART 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 33-36)

      One of the great scholarly debates of the 1970s and 1980s was the question of whether classical republicanism or modern liberalism best characterized the organization of political and economic life in the early republic. Viewed from the perspective of a quarter century or more, the debate seems today almost quaint and overblown. But at the time it raged, it was a central organizing paradigm of scholarship, the source of frenzied debates in journals and at academic conferences, and a subject few could avoid if they worked in any field of U.S. history up through the Civil War. Lance Banning was...

    • Jeffersonian Ideology Revisited: Liberal and Classical Ideas in the New American Republic
      (pp. 37-56)

      Recent studies of the Jeffersonian Republicans may leave some readers at a loss. The last fifteen years have brought a new interpretation of the character and sources of Jeffersonian ideas.¹ This “republican hypothesis” (to modify a term of Robert E. Shalhope’s) is a consequence of previous reinterpretations of American Revolutionary thought.² Like them, it places major emphasis on the persistent influence in the new American republic of concepts, hopes, and fears that may be traced to England’s seventeenth-century classical republicans and their eighteenth-century opposition heirs. As Shalhope tells us, though, the same fifteen years have also seen the rapid growth...

    • The Republican Interpretation: Retrospect and Prospect
      (pp. 57-80)

      Twenty years ago, whenThe Creation of the American Republichad just come off the press and I was still researching my doctoral dissertation, none of us had heard of a “republican interpretation” of the Revolution. As late as 1978, unless I misremember, I did not employ this term or any of its cognates inThe Jeffersonian Persuasion,although the dissertation from which that book derived was finished just as Robert Shalhope was describing the emergence of a “republican synthesis” and calling for a reinterpretation of the new republic in its terms.¹ Modern scholarship develops with astounding speed. By 1982,...

    • Some Second Thoughts on Virtue and the Course of Revolutionary Thinking
      (pp. 81-100)

      Opponents of the Constitution, one of its supporters said, supposed that Congress would abuse its trust as often as it could.

      If this were a reasonable supposition, their objections would be good. I consider it reasonable to conclude that they will as readily do their duty as deviate from it; nor do I go on the grounds mentioned by gentlemen on the other side—that we are to place unlimited confidence in [national officials] and expect nothing but the most exalted integrity and sublime virtue. But I go on this great republican principle: that the people will have virtue and...

    • Quid Transit? Paradigms and Process in the Transformation of Republican Ideas
      (pp. 101-106)

      Scholarly debates about the “modern-liberal” and “classical-republican” dimensions of early national thought are entering into a different phase. Through the middle 1980s, controversy focused on the relative importance of the two traditions in the years surrounding the adoption of the Constitution. At this writing, these disputes appear to have resulted in a general agreement (not unanimous, of course) that both of them were present in the new republic (as were other modes of thought), that both of them were vastly influential, and that neither should be seen as having exercised an undisputed primacy during the 1780s or 1790s.¹ In one...

  7. Part 3. The Constitution

    • [PART 3 Introduction]
      (pp. 107-110)

      Conciseness in writing is an admirable trait. “Omit needless words,” as Strunk and White famously counseled. The effort to reduce large and complex subjects to the microscopic word counts required for brief essays can challenge even the most talented literary craftsmen.

      But concise writing is also measured by the authorial ability to control how much material to present to readers, in what sequence, and at what length. Knowing how much readers need to know about particular subjects and presenting that information to them can be just as important as the content of information itself. When the subject matter is as...

    • The Constitutional Convention
      (pp. 111-132)

      Meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), the Constitutional Convention found a quorum on May 25 and sat until September 17. Fifty-five delegates participated in its work, though there were seldom more than forty in the room for any single session. Representing every state except Rhode Island, the delegates comprised a good cross-section of the early national elite. Lawyers (34), merchants (7), farmers (27), public creditors (30), and public servants (10), nearly all were wealthy men, and most had taken generally conservative positions in their states. Yet members came from a variety of local factions and from all the...

    • The Federalist Papers
      (pp. 133-144)

      As the members of the Constitutional Convention gathered for a farewell dinner on 17 September 1787, the mood was both convivial and optimistic. Of the forty-two still present for the great Convention’s final act, only three had been unwilling to affix their signatures to the unanimous agreement of the delegations present. Throughout the summer the public had been waiting patiently, yet eagerly, for the notables at Philadelphia to complete a plan of constitutional reform. The Convention had agreed to submit its work directly to the people, who would elect special ratifying conventions in their several states. Unassailable in democratic theory,...

    • 1787 and 1776: Patrick Henry, James Madison, the Constitution, and the Revolution
      (pp. 145-172)

      Scores of patriotic speakers have reminded us, of late, that the United states enjoys the oldest written constitution in the world. As we celebrate its bicentennial, however, we might also recollect thedoubtswith which the Constitution was originally received—reservations so severe and so widespread that it was barely ratified in four of thirteen states, rejected by two more. Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee—a formidable corps of Revolutionary heroes—all expressed significant objections. Patrick Henry thought the Constitution might betray the democratic Revolution, and Henry spoke for fully half the voters of the union’s...

  8. Part 4. James Madison

    • [PART 4 Introduction]
      (pp. 173-176)

      Although it touched on a variety of subjects, the bulk of Lance Banning’s scholarly career was spent in the study of James Madison, culminating in his 1995 masterworkThe Sacred Fire of Liberty.The path toward that book was a long one, initially undertaken as his first book,The Jeffersonian Persuasion,was being published in 1978.

      Banning seems to have gotten a line on Madison very early in his research. In reviewing the scholarship on the Virginia founder, particularly the work of biographer Irving Brant, Banning was soon struck by a number of mistaken assumptions that had worked their way...

    • James Madison and the Nationalists, 1780–1783
      (pp. 177-210)

      In the Continental and Confederation Congresses, wrote Irving Brant, James Madison “endeavored to establish . . . national supremacy—first by a return to the original authority Congress lost when it stopped printing money and became financially dependent upon the states, next by recognition of implied powers in the Articles of Confederation, then by the vigorous exercise of powers whose validity could not be challenged, finally by amendment of the articles to confer new powers upon Congress.”¹ While subsequent biographers of Madison have challenged Brant on lesser points, both they and other students of Confederation politics have generally affirmed his...

    • The Hamiltonian Madison: A Reconsideration
      (pp. 211-236)

      When Alexander Hamilton submitted his Report on Public Credit to the First Federal Congress, he was dismayed to learn that his proposals for funding the Revolutionary debt would be opposed by the most influential member of that body. He had accepted his position at the Treasury, he wrote, in the conviction that “a similarity of thinking” and personal good will would guarantee James Madison’s support. “Aware of the intrinsic difficulties of the situation and of the powers of Mr. Madison, I do not believe I should have accepted under a different supposition.”¹

      Hamilton had cause to feel betrayed and reason...

    • The Practicable Sphere of a Republic: James Madison, the Constitutional Convention, and the Emergence of Revolutionary Federalism
      (pp. 237-264)

      James Madison made three distinctive contributions to the writing of the Constitution. Together, these distinguished him as first among the framers. He was primarily responsible for the preliminary resolutions that served throughout the summer of 1787 as the outline for reform, proposals that initiated the Constitutional Convention’s transformation of the old Confederation into a republican government of national extent. In the early weeks of the deliberations, he persuasively explained why lesser changes would not work, an enterprise in which he was impressively assisted but never overshadowed by a handful of like-minded men. And most distinctively of all, he repeatedly insisted...

  9. Part 5. The First Party Conflict

    • [PART 5 Introduction]
      (pp. 265-268)

      If Lance Banning is best known for his study of James Madison, he first established his scholarly reputation as a close student of early American political thought and party politics. His revised dissertation became his award-winning first book,The Jeffersonian Persuasion,which remains in print today more than thirty-five years after its initial publication. While Banning’s scholarly work went backward in time to the 1780s in his study on Madison, he never lost interest in, nor stopped thinking about, the issues and conflicts stemming from the world of politics and ideology in the 1790s and 1800s. He edited a collection...

    • Political Economy and the Creation of the Federal Republic
      (pp. 269-312)

      As recently as 1980, there was little reason to expect a reinvigoration of intensive interest in the Founders’ economic thinking. Federalist opinion, nearly everyone agreed, was socially conservative, yet strongly pro-developmental: determined to defend the rights of property, to create a national market, and to raise a legal framework in which private enterprise might thrive. Since 1980, much has changed, though we are just beginning to appreciate the implications. In the aftermath of a remarkable resurgence of intense investigation,¹ the enduring image of the Federalists as champions of economic liberty and growth (and of their foes as narrow-minded or heroic...

    • The Jeffersonians: First Principles
      (pp. 313-342)

      The Democratic Party—which, to the befuddlement of countless college freshmen, called itself “republican” at first—emerged within three years of the adoption of the Constitution.¹ This was not coincidental. The Constitution marked, at once, a new beginning for the nation and a milestone in the revolutionary reconstruction which had started ten years before. In consequence, its launching led directly to the first and most ferocious party conflict in our annals. Supporters of the Constitution thought that it had saved the Union from the danger of a speedy dissolution and had armed that Union, after years of ineffectuality, with powers...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 343-346)
  11. Appendix: Bibliography of Published Works by Lance Banning
    (pp. 347-356)
  12. Copyrights and Permissions
    (pp. 357-358)
  13. Index
    (pp. 359-362)