This book illustrates the deep roots of natural law doctrines in America's political culture. Originally published in 1931, the volume shows that American interpretations of natural law go to the philosophical heart of the American regime. The Declaration of Independence is the preeminent example of natural law in American political thoughtit is the self-evident truth of American society.
Benjamin Wright proposes that the decline of natural law as a guiding factor in American political behaviour is inevitable as America's democracy matures and broadens. What Wright also chronicled, inadvertently, was how the progressive critique of natural law has opened a rift between and among some of the ruling elites and large numbers of Americans who continue to accept it. Progressive elites who reject natural law do not share the same political culture as many of their fellow citizens.
Wright's work is important because, as Leo Strauss and others have observed, the decline of natural law is a development that has not had a happy ending in other societies in the twentieth century. There is no reason to believe it will be different in the United States.
About the Author
Benjamin Fletcher Wright (1900–1976) was an American professor of political science. He taught at the University of Texas and Harvard, where he served as chairman of the government department. As president of Smith College, 1949-1959, he fought for intellectual freedom in the face of McCarthyism.
Sidney A. Pearson, Jr. is professor emeritus of political science at Radford University. He is the editor of Transaction’s Library of Liberal Thought series.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction to the Transaction Edition, Sidney A. Pearson, Jr.PrefaceI introductionII Divine Law in Early New EnglandIII Colonial ImportationsIV The RevolutionV The First ConstitutionsVI The Framing and Ratification of the Federal ConstitutionVII Controversial and Non-Systematic Theory since 1789General TendenciesDebates in the State Constitutional ConventionsThe Slavery ControversyVIII Systematic Studies of PoliticsIX Constitutional InterpretationX Critics and DefendersXI ConclusionIndex