Jefferson's Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy, and Theology

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Allen Jayne analyzes the ideology of the Declaration of Independence — and its implications — by going back to the sources of Jefferson's ideas: Bolingbroke, Kames, Reid, and Locke. He concludes that the Declaration must be read as an attack on two claims of absolute authority: that of government over its subjects and of religion over the minds of men. Today's world is more secular than Jefferson's, and the importance of philosophical theology in eighteenth-century critical thought must be recognized in order to understand fully and completely the Declaration's implications. Jayne addresses this need by putting religion back into the discussion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A clear, concise, and accurate account of the philosophical and religious views that inspired Thomas Jefferson to compose the United States' formative document." — American Historical Review

"The great virtue of Jayne's study is that it uncovers the proselytizing mission of Jefferson and the Declaration." — Choice

"This is an original, persuasive, and important study that puts the new theology of Locke and Jefferson in the context of traditional Judeo-Christian thought while illuminating the points of difference between the two." — Garret Ward Sheldon

"Never before has anyone endeavored to establish a direct link between Jefferson's most famous statement on politics and his tolerance of divergent faiths." — H-Net Reviews

"Jayne's Jefferson is right on the mark. His book is a convincing brief for Jefferson the American 'philosophe'. Behind his radicalism is the European Enligtenment. Case made." — Isaac Kramnick

"This book began when Jayne, a philosopher, read the books that Jefferson recommended to friends. Janye's quest is to answer the riddle of whose ideas most influenced Jefferson when he drafted the famous Declaration of Independence." — Journal of Church and State

"Jayne's wide-ranging research and sound judgments come as a welcome relief to one who has labored through the dyspeptic sermonizing of Conor Cruise O'Brien.... Jayne rejects the much-publicized work of Garry Wills and returns us to the once-standard interpretation associated principally with Carl Becker... And his interpretation is utterly convincing....Should stand for some time as the definitive work on the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence." — Journal of Southern History

"This is a learned and clearly written book that advances and deepens our understanding of Thomas Jefferson's thought, especially as it had developed by the time he drafted the Declaration of Independence.... Jayne has written the best account we have of exactly how Jefferson's thought derived from the tradition of his 'Trinity of Immortals,' Bacon, Newton, and Locke." — Journal of the Early Republic

"A stimulating and rather original book." — Louis R. Harlan, The Key Reporter

"Demonstrates the importance of political thought and philosophical theology in Jefferson's worldview, and he shows how they would later be manifested in the Declaration of Independence." — McCormick (SC) Messenger

"A strong appeal to the importance of liberty to understanding Jefferson and the Declaration." — North Carolina Historical Review

"A powerful study, well organized, clearly written, and convincingly argued. It should be required reading for all students of American history and culture." — Ohio History

"Jayne focuses his considerable historical and analytic skills on the mind of Thomas Jefferson. The result is a meticulously researched, cogently argued view of Jefferson that should force most readers to reconsider their understanding of him." — Perspectives on Political Science

"Jayne's findings shed light on a controversy — almost as old as the Declaration itself — over how much credit Jefferson deserves for authorship.... A lucidly written, insightful treatment of a very complicated subject." — Virginia Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813190037
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 9/11/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Theological Context 9
2 Bolingbroke and the Enlightenment 19
3 Locke and the Declaration 41
4 Kames and the Moral Sense 62
5 Obstacles to Reason 87
6 Self-Evident Truths 109
7 Religious Freedom 139
Conclusion 168
App The Declaration of Independence 175
Notes 179
Bibliography 217
Index of Persons 232
Index of Subjects 240
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