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American Political Thought

Keith E. Whittington

Publication Date - 26 January 2016

ISBN: 9780199338863

768 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

Traces the history of American political thought through a collection of essential writings, speeches, judicial opinions, and other political documents


American Political Thought: Readings and Materials presents a diverse collection of writings, speeches, judicial opinions, and other political documents, offering an introduction to the controversies and disputes that have mobilized Americans since the first settlements in North America. Ranging from the Colonial era to the present day-and featuring both traditional readings and lesser-known documents-this reader takes a historical approach that helps students see how political, economic, and social conditions led to the development of specific political ideas. Each chapter includes a substantial introduction and each reading is enriched by headnotes and discussion questions.

Visit the Companion Website at http://global.oup.com/us/companion.websites/9780199338863/ for additional readings and materials.


  • Chapter introductions acquaint the reader with the political, social, and intellectual climate of the period
  • Explanatory headnotes contextualize the readings and provide questions for consideration
  • Sections within each chapter summarize major themes and include bulleted lists of major developments
  • Timelines and period illustrations summarize major events and place source material in perspective
  • End-of-chapter sections suggest primary and secondary sources for further study

About the Author(s)

Keith E. Whittington is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University, where he currently serves as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Politics.


"This text that provides a succinct background on the forces that have shaped American political development, situating key debates about American values and patterns of social relations within the relevant historical and institutional environments." --Gary Lee Malecha, University of Portland

"The most thorough treatment of American political thought currently available." --Kara E. Stooksbury, Carson-Newman University

"American Political Thought illuminates how ideas have shaped our politics." --George Thomas, Claremont McKenna College

Table of Contents

    Topical Outline of Volume
    Tables, Figures, and Illustrations


    1. Introduction to American Political Thought

    2. The Colonial Era, before 1776

    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent (1644)
    John Cotton, Exposition on Revelations (1645)
    John Winthrop, Little Speech on Liberty (1645)
    John Wise, A Vindication of the Government of New England Churches (1717)
    Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Mayflower Compact (1620)
    Jonathan Mayhew, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers (1750)
    William Livingston, "Of Party Divisions" (1753)
    C. Equality and Status
    William Henry Drayton, Letters of a Freeman (1769)
    Slave Petition to the Massachusetts Governor (1774)
    Jonathan Boucher, On Civil Liberty, Passive Obedience, and Non-Resistance (1775)
    D. Political Economy
    John Winthrop, A Modell of Christian Charity (1630)
    Cotton Mather, A Christian at his Calling (1701)
    Benjamin Franklin, "The Way to Wealth" (1758)
    E. America and the World
    Joseph Doddridge, Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars (1824)
    John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768)
    Daniel Leonard, Massachusettensis (1775)
    Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence (1776)

    3. The Founding Era, 1776-1791
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    John Adams, "Thoughts on Government" (1776)
    Carter Braxton, An Address to the Convention of the Colony (1776)
    Thomas Jefferson, A Bill Establishing Religious Freedom (1777)
    Articles of Confederation (1777)
    Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights (1787)
    Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers (1787)
    James Madison, Federalist Papers (1787)
    Brutus Essays (1787)
    Letter from a Federal Farmer (1787)
    Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1787)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, "Letters from an American Farmer" (1782)
    John Jay, Federalist Papers (1787)
    C. Equality and Status
    Abigail Adams and John Adams, Correspondence on Women's Rights (1776)
    Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1787)
    Benjamin Banneker and Thomas Jefferson, Correspondence on Slavery (1791)
    D. Political Economy
    James Madison, "Vices of the Political System of the United States" (1787)
    Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1787)
    E. America and the World
    Corn Tassel, Reply to the American Commissioners (1777)
    Alexander Hamilton, Letter to James Duane (1780)
    George Washington, Circular Letter to the State Governors (1783)

    4. The Early National Era, 1791-1828
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions (1798)
    Fisher Ames, "The Mire of Democracy" (1805)
    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to a Committee of the Danbury Baptists (1802)
    John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison (1803)
    Lyman Beecher, Practicality of Suppressing Vice (1803)
    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Kercheval (1816)
    James Kent and David Buel, Jr., Debate at New York Constitutional Convention (1821)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    George Washington, "Farewell Address" (1796)
    Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address" (1801)
    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams (1813)
    John Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
    C. Equality and Status
    Judith Sargent Murray, "The Necessity of Subordination" (1798)
    Memorial of the Free People of Color to the Citizens of Baltimore (1826)
    D. Political Economy
    Alexander Hamilton, First Report on Public Credit (1790)
    Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures (1791)
    John Taylor, Tyranny Unmasked (1821)
    E. America and the World
    George Washington, "Farewell Address" (1796)
    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Henry Harrison (1803)
    John Quincy Adams, Speech on Independence Day (1821)
    James Monroe, Seventh Annual Message (1823)

    5. Jacksonian Era, 1829-1860
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    George Bancroft, "The Office of the People in Art, Government, and Religion" (1835)
    John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government (1850)
    Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (1849)
    Theodore Parker, "Law of God and the Statutes of Men" (1854)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Samuel F.B. Morse, Imminent Dangers to the Free Institutions of the United States (1835)
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics" (1844)
    George H. Colton, "Responsibility of the Ballot Box" (1846)
    C. Equality and Status
    William Lloyd Garrison, Declaration of Principles for The Liberator (1831)
    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments" (1848)
    Sojourner Truth, "Ain't I a Woman" (1851)
    Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" (1852)
    George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!, or, Slaves Without Masters (1857)
    James Hammond, Speech to the Senate on Slavery (1858)
    Abraham Lincoln, Speech at New Haven (1860)
    D. Political Economy
    Andrew Jackson, Veto of the Bank Bill (1832)
    Henry Clay, Speech on the American System (1832)
    William Leggett, "True Functions of Government" (1834)
    Orestes Brownson, "The Laboring Classes" (1840)
    E. America and the World
    Andrew Jackson, Speech on Indian Removal (1830)
    Memorial of the Cherokee Nation (1830)
    John L. O' Sullivan, "Manifest Destiny" (1839)

    6. Secession, Civil War, and Reconstruction, 1861-1876
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address (1861)
    Thaddeus Stevens, Speech on the Reconstruction Acts (1867)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Jefferson Davis, Farewell to the Senate (1860)
    Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address (1865)
    Lysander Spooner, No Treason (1867)
    C. Equality and Status
    Charles Sumner, The Barbarism of Slavery (1860)
    Alexander H. Stephens, Cornerstone Address (1861)
    Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)
    Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
    Frederick Douglass, "Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln" (1876)
    Susan B. Anthony, "Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?" (1873)
    D. Political Economy
    Abraham Lincoln, First Annual Message (1861)
    Russell Conwell, "Acres of Diamonds" (1870)
    E. America and the World
    Abraham Lincoln, Fourth of July Message to Congress (1861)
    Abraham Lincoln, Letter to James C. Conkling (1863)
    Chief Spotted Tail, Speech to the Sioux Commissioners (1876)

    7. The Gilded Age, 1877-1900
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Francis Parkman, "The Failure of Universal Suffrage" (1878)
    Stephen J. Field, "The Centenary of the Supreme Court of the United States" (1890)
    James B. Weaver, A Call to Action (1892)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Henry W. Grady, "The New South" (1886)
    Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (1893)
    Henry Cabot Lodge, Speech to the Senate on Literacy Tests (1896)
    Grover Cleveland, Literacy Test Veto (1897)
    C. Equality and Status
    Thomas E. Watson, "The Negro Question in the South" (1892)
    Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Exposition Address (1895)
    Helen Kendrick Johnson, Woman and the Republic (1897)
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898)
    D. Political Economy
    William Graham Sumner, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)
    Andrew Carnegie, "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889)
    Henry D. Lloyd, Wealth against Commonwealth (1894)
    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
    E. America and the World
    Josiah Strong, "Our Country" (1885)
    William Graham Sumner, "The Conquest of the United States by Spain" (1899)
    Elihu Root, Speech at Canton, Ohio (1900)

    8. The Progressive Era, 1901-1932
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism (1910)
    Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom (1913)
    John Dewey, The Public and its Problems (1927)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Louis D. Brandeis, "True Americanism" (1915)
    Randolph S. Bourne, "Trans-National America" (1916)
    C. Equality and Status
    Edgar Gardner Murphy, The White Man and the Negro at the South (1900)
    W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
    Jane Addams, "If Men Were Seeking the Franchise" (1913)
    D. Political Economy
    Eugene Debs, "Unionism and Socialism" (1904)
    Emma Goldman, Anarchism (1907)
    Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (1909)
    Herbert Hoover, American Individualism (1922)
    E. America and the World
    Theodore Roosevelt, "Social Values and National Existence" (1915)
    Woodrow Wilson, Address to the Senate on the Terms of Peace (1917)
    Randolph S. Bourne, The State (1918)
    William Borah, On the Need for Naval Disarmament (1919)

    9. The New Deal Era, 1933-1950
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Herbert Hoover, Rugged Individualism Speech (1928)
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, Commonwealth Club Address (1932)
    Albert Jay Nock, "Life, Liberty, and . . ." (1935)
    Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat on the Reorganization of the Federal Judiciary (1937)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action (1935)
    Thurman Arnold, The Symbols of Government (1935)
    C. Equality and Status
    James Weldon Johnson, Negro Americans, What Now? (1934)
    Ralph J. Bunche, "A Critical Analysis of the Tactics and Programs of Minority Groups" (1935)
    Philip Randolph, March on Washington Keynote Address (1942)
    D. Political Economy
    Rexford G. Tugwell, "The Principle of Planning and the Institution of Laissez Faire" (1932)
    Adolf A. Berle, Jr., "A High Road for Business" (1933)
    Huey P. Long, "Every Man a King" (1935)
    Earl Browder, What is Communism? (1936
    E. America and the World
    George F. Kennan, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" (1947)
    Harry S. Truman, Address before a Joint Session of Congress (1947)
    Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1949)
    Robert A. Taft, A Foreign Policy for Americans (1951)

    10. Civil Rights and the Great Society, 1951-1980
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (1962)
    Barry Goldwater, Acceptance Speech for the Republican Nomination for President (1964)
    Herbert Marcuse, An Essay on Liberation (1969)
    John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Young Americans for Freedom, The Sharon Statement (1960)
    Students for a Democratic Society, The Port Huron Statement (1962)
    Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the University of Michigan (1964)
    Ralph Nader, "We Need a New Kind of Patriotism" (1971)
    C. Equality and Status
    Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham City Jail (1963)
    Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
    Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963)
    Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (1969)
    D. Political Economy
    John Kenneth Galbraith, American Capitalism (1952)
    George J. Stigler, The Theory of Economic Regulation (1971)
    E. America and the World
    Hans J. Morgenthau, In Defense of the National Interest (1952)
    James Burnham, Containment or Liberation? (1953)
    J. William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power (1966)

    11. Recent Politics, 1981-Present
    A. Democracy and Liberty
    Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address (1981)
    Richard Rorty, "The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy" (1990)
    Richard A. Epstein, Skepticism and Freedom (2003)
    David Graeber, "Direct Action, Anarchism, Direct Democracy" (2009)
    B. Citizenship and Community
    Richard John Neuhaus, "What the Fundamentalists Want" (1985)
    Michael Walzer, "What Does It Mean to be an 'American'?" (1990)
    Irving Kristol, "The Neoconservative Persuasion" (2003)
    Wendell Berry, Citizenship Papers (2003)
    C. Equality and Status
    Thomas Sowell, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? (1984)
    Thurgood Marshall, Bicentennial Speech (1987)
    Cornel West, Race Matters (1994)
    D. Political Economy
    Richard A. Posner, The Economics of Justice (1981)
    National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All (1986)
    Bill Clinton, Remarks to the International Business Community (1994)
    Michael Albert, "Beyond Class Rule is Parecon" (2012)
    E. America and the World
    Jean J. Kirkpatrick, "Dictatorships and Double Standards" (1979)
    Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" (1993)
    Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power (2002)