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Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America
     

Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America

by Thomas G. West
 

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According to the conventional wisdom of our time, our nation's Founders were guilty of racism, sexism, and elitism. They were hypocrites who failed to live up to their own enlightened principles. The fact that Washington and Jefferson held slaves is taken as definitive proof that they never really believed "all men are created equal." It is also widely asserted that

Overview

According to the conventional wisdom of our time, our nation's Founders were guilty of racism, sexism, and elitism. They were hypocrites who failed to live up to their own enlightened principles. The fact that Washington and Jefferson held slaves is taken as definitive proof that they never really believed "all men are created equal." It is also widely asserted that women, even after the American Revolution, enjoyed virtually no rights, and that the poor and property-less were denied the basic tenets of democratic participation. Observing that our understanding of the Founders so profoundly influences our opinion of contemporary America, Thomas West demonstrates why the Founders were indeed sincere in their belief of universal human rights and in their commitment to democracy. More importantly, this landmark book explains why their views, and particularly the constitutional order they created, are still worthy of our highest respect. In a straightforward style, West debunks numerous widely held myths about the Founders' political thought. He contrasts the Founders' ideas of liberty and equality with today's, concluding that contemporary notions of liberalism bear almost no resemblance to the concepts originally articulated by the Founders. This controversial, convincing, and highly original book is important reading for everyone concerned about the origins, present, and future of the American experiment in self government.

Editorial Reviews

Review of Politics
Provocative book. . . . Vindicating the Founders is not only about justice, but about how to cultivate the whole cluster of virtues which 'are necessary for a people to be free.' West's admirable study begins a discussion that is long overdue.
The Weekly Standard
Americans can count themselves fortunate to have at the bar a scholar of West's erudition, good sense, and tenacity.
The Washington Times
There are important lessons in this book for political thinkers. . . . By challenging popular new ideas and reviving unfashionable old ones, Mr. West contributes to the process of reclaiming the founders.
The Wall Street Journal
It's hardly news that in our time some Americans have taken to accusing the Founders of their country of hypocrisy. There is something decidedly cheap about such charges. They reek of ingratitude and imprudence. But they are being made by historians who want to substitute their own authority for the Founders' and it is necessary for someone to take them seriously enough to provide a refutation. Thomas West has risen to the occasion with Vindicating the Founders.
The American Enterprise
West has written a powerful vindication of our common civic faith.
— Mahoney, Daniel J.
Trenton Times
With prosecutorial rigor and scholarly erudition, West defends the Founding Fathers and their creation—the American republic—from the relentless assault both have undergone in recent decades. . . . West's tightly argued book adresses a problem that should be a concern to all—namely, the attack on basic American principles.
Society
A political scientist at the University of Dallas, West has given us a book that challenges the reigning orthodoxy as expressed by the high priests of multiculturalism. Those who reflexively reject his thesis—the nation's founding is the source of our greatness—have a moral and intellectual duty to refute him.
The Review Of Politics
Provocative book. . . . Vindicating the Founders is not only about justice, but about how to cultivate the whole cluster of virtues which 'are necessary for a people to be free.' West's admirable study begins a discussion that is long overdue.
Modern Age
Thomas West has written a courageous book.
Appelate Journal
This defense of the founders with their own words and voices is closely reasoned, sharply focused, and highly convincing. . . . This is a superb book. The historical research is excellent, the analysis quite penetrating, and writing quite lucid. This book is rich with truth and wisdom. It deserves a wide audience.
William and Mary Quarterly
A persuasive case . . . stunningly bold.
Indianapolis Star
West not only scolds those academics who denigrate the brilliance of the founders, he also exposes their shameful prejudice toward those great men who molded the liberties we enjoy today.
Library Journal
West (politics, Univ. of Dallas) aims to defend the U.S. Constitution and the men who drafted it in 1787 from the accusations of sexism, racism, and prejudice against the poor. West writes from a conservative perspective, and, as he frequently pauses to remind the reader, his arguments are learned and logical. However, this is a deeply flawed book. West writes in a supercilious and dismissive tone. Worse, he digresses far afield to introduce his ideas on contemporary issues, which have almost nothing to do with the founders; his chapter on the family is simply a compendium of current conservative views and he rarely mentions the founders, who said and wrote little on the subject. More eloquent and elegant conservative viewpoints on the founding include Marvin Olasky's Fighting for Liberty and Virtue (Regnery, 1996), M.E. Bradford and Russell Kirk's A Better Guide Than Reason (Transaction, 1994), and Forrest McDonald's We the People (Transaction, 1992).Fritz Buckallew, Univ. of Central Oklahoma Lib., Edmond
Newt Gingrich
One of those rare publications that promises to shape the field of inquiry about the American founders for decades to come.
Rush Limbaugh
A pathbreaking book. The American people finally have a definitive answer to the distortions about the founding that liberals have been pouring into the American mind since the 1960s. I recommend this book heartily. It belongs on every bookshelf and in every classroom in America.
William Kristol
Vindicating the Founders is important but (relatively) easy. Learning from them is more difficult. This book helps us learn from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison. And there aren't many better teachers about America.
Forrest McDonald
Compelling, accurate, closely reasoned, and entirely convincing.
Herman Belz
A valuable contribution to history and government studies on the founding.
Dinesh D'Souza
Vindicating the Founders is an eloquent defense of the principles of the American founding by one of its most learned students.
Michael Novak
West is committed to understanding the American founders accurately and in their own terms. His work is unfailingly penetrating and trustworthy, and I eagerly seek it out.
J. D. Born
A provocative and interesting book.
Leland B. Yeager
West shows how textbooks charge the American Founders with not conforming to present-day standards of political correctness. He also shows how the Founders nevertheless deserve the admiration that they used to receive from teachers and school children many decades ago. West's arguments are convincing.
Herb London
Mr. West presents a compelling and well-researched history of the founding fathers and their motives in establishing a new nation. Most important, he challenges effectively the gross misrepresentation of the founding fathers based on presentistic and misleading political judgments.
The American Enterprise - Daniel J. Mahoney
West has written a powerful vindication of our common civic faith.
The Review of Politics
Provocative book. . . . Vindicating the Founders is not only about justice, but about how to cultivate the whole cluster of virtues which 'are necessary for a people to be free.' West's admirable study begins a discussion that is long overdue.
From the Publisher
Thomas West has written a courageous book.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780847685165
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
08/28/1997
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,208,857
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.83(d)
Lexile:
1330L (what's this?)

What People are Saying About This

William Kristol
Vindicating the Founders is important but (relatively) easy. Learning from them is more difficult. This book helps us learn from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison. And there aren't many better teachers about America.
Rush Limbaugh
A pathbreaking book. The American people finally have a definitive answer to the distortions about the founding that liberals have been pouring into the American mind since the 1960s. I recommend this book heartily. It belongs on every bookshelf and in every classroom in America.

Meet the Author

Thomas G. West is professor of politics at the University of Dallas and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.

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