The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment / Edition 1

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Overview


Is our Greek and Roman heritage merely allusive and illusory? Or were our founders, and so our republican beginnings, truly steeped in the stuff of antiquity? So far largely a matter of generalization and speculation, the influence of Greek and Roman authors on our American forefathers finally becomes clear in this fascinating book-the first comprehensive study of the founders' classical reading.

Carl J. Richard begins by examining how eighteenth-century social institutions in general and the educational system in particular conditioned the founders to venerate the classics. He then explores the founders' various uses of classical symbolism, models, "antimodels," mixed government theory, pastoralism, and philosophy, revealing in detail the formative influence exerted by the classics, both directly and through the mediation of Whig and American perspectives. In this analysis, we see how the classics not only supplied the principal basis for the U.S. Constitution but also contributed to the founders' conception of human nature, their understanding of virtue, and their sense of identity and purpose within a grand universal scheme. At the same time, we learn how the classics inspired obsessive fear of conspiracies against liberty, which poisoned relations between Federalists and Republicans.

The shrewd ancients who molded Western civilization still have much to teach us, Richard suggests. His account of the critical role they played in shaping our nation and our lives provides a valuable lesson in the transcendent power of the classics.

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Editorial Reviews

The Historian

This is a well-conceived, solidly researched, and ably argued book about the influence of the classics in the the political thought of the founding fathers...This work will be required reading for historians interested in the ideological origins of the American republic. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the intellectual complexities of the period.
— Frank Ninkovich

Wall Street Journal

An admirable book...Richard has done an impressive amount of scholarly detective work.
— Roger Kimball

Washington Post Book World

A detailed and fascinating exposition of the classical traditions that gave the United States's founding generation so many political models and ideas.
— Mortimer Sellers

Religious Studies Review

Richard's study offers intriguing glimpses into the minds of the founders through the lens of their classical learning, and the volume fairly bursts with engaging testimony...The force of the book's revelations and the charm of its matter win the day.
— D. M. Hooley

The Historian - Frank Ninkovich
This is a well-conceived, solidly researched, and ably argued book about the influence of the classics in the the political thought of the founding fathers...This work will be required reading for historians interested in the ideological origins of the American republic. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the intellectual complexities of the period.
Wall Street Journal - Roger Kimball
An admirable book...Richard has done an impressive amount of scholarly detective work.
Washington Post Book World - Mortimer Sellers
A detailed and fascinating exposition of the classical traditions that gave the United States's founding generation so many political models and ideas.
Religious Studies Review - D. M. Hooley
Richard's study offers intriguing glimpses into the minds of the founders through the lens of their classical learning, and the volume fairly bursts with engaging testimony...The force of the book's revelations and the charm of its matter win the day.
Wall Street Journal
An admirable book...Richard has done an impressive amount of scholarly detective work.
— Roger Kimball
The Historian
This is a well-conceived, solidly researched, and ably argued book about the influence of the classics in the the political thought of the founding fathers...This work will be required reading for historians interested in the ideological origins of the American republic. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the intellectual complexities of the period.
— Frank Ninkovich
Washington Post Book World
A detailed and fascinating exposition of the classical traditions that gave the United States's founding generation so many political models and ideas.
— Mortimer Sellers
Religious Studies Review
Richard's study offers intriguing glimpses into the minds of the founders through the lens of their classical learning, and the volume fairly bursts with engaging testimony...The force of the book's revelations and the charm of its matter win the day.
— D. M. Hooley
Library Journal
While it is well known that the Greek and Latin languages and literatures informed the educations and cultural vocabularies of 18th-century Americans, few studies have fully attempted to describe and explore the formative role of the classics for the leaders of the American Revolution and the framers of the Constitution. Providing abundant examples, historian Richard (Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana) argues compellingly that the classics played a definitive role in the minds of figures such as Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Washington, and many others, providing not only theories of constitutional government, human nature, and virtue but even models for emulation. Richard makes a strong case for the continued relevance of the study of the classics. A lucidly written and informative book; for informed lay readers and specialists.-- T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Booknews
Richard begins by examining how 18th-century social institutions in general and the education system in particular conditioned the American founders to venerate the classics. He then explores the founders' various uses of classical symbolism, models, "antimodels," mixed government theory, pastoralism, and philosophy, revealing in detail the formative influence exerted by the classics, both directly and through the mediation of Whig and American perspectives. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674314269
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 8/11/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 0.64 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl J. Richard is Professor of History, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

1. The Classical Conditioning of the Founders

2. Symbolism

3. Models

4. Antimodels

5. Mixed Government and Classical Pastoralism

6. Philosophy

7. The Myth of Classical Decline

Conclusion

Notes

Index

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