Hofstadter Chapter 1

Topics: United States Constitution, Democracy, Federal government of the United States Pages: 4 (1592 words) Published: October 8, 1999
By: Audrey

Hofstadter Summary: "The Founding Fathers: The Age of Realism" Summary of Section: I The reasoning behind the Constitution of the United States is presented as "based upon the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin. It assumes the natural state of mankind in a state of war, and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God." Throughout, the struggle between democracy and tyranny is discussed as the Founding Fathers who envisioned the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 believed not in total democracy, but instead saw common man as selfish and contemptuous, and therefore in need of a "a good political constitution to control him." Being a largely propertied body, with the exception of William Few, who was the only one who could honestly be said to represent the majority yeoman farmer class, the highly privileged classes were fearful of granting man his due rights, as the belief that "man was an unregenerate rebel who has to be controlled" reverberated. However, the Fathers were indeed "intellectual heirs" of the seventeenth-century England republicanism with its opposition to arbitrary rule and faith in popular sovereignty. Thus, the paradoxical fears of the advance in democracy, and of a return to the extreme right emerged. The awareness that both military dictatorship and a return to monarchy were being seriously discussed in some quarters propelled the Constitutional framers such as John Jay to bring to attention. II Consistent to eighteenth-century ethos left the Constitution-makers with great faith in universals. They believed in an inexorable view of a self-interested man. Feeling that all me were naturally inclined to be bad they sought a compromising system of checks and balances for government. This was bolstered by the scientific work by Newton, "in which metaphors sprang as naturally to mens minds as did biological metaphors in the Darwinian atmosphere of the late nineteenth century." Therefore Madison and others thought to squelch...

Bibliography: Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition.
Word Count: 1576
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