Classical Influences on the American Founding Fathers
THE CLASSICAL TRADITION, Anthony Grafton, Glenn Most, Salvatore Settis, eds., Harvard, 2009
14 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 21, 2009
The American Revolution was a Whig revolution, which made it also a neo-Roman revolution from the start. Americans petitioned, remonstrated, and eventually fought to preserve neo-Roman conceptions of mixed government, liberty, and the rule of law that had dominated British political discourse since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Roman example gave Americans heroes, vocabulary, and a constitution for their revolutionary experiment in government without a king. The most important of the many classical influences on the American founding fathers was the political history of the Roman republic, because the American Revolution was political, and could neither have taken place nor succeeded as it did without classical learning to guide it. With the Revolution’s triumph in the federal constitution, the new American republic supplanted its ancient models. Subsequent revolutions would look to the United States and to its sister republic in France for political inspiration, just as Americans and their predecessors once imitated Rome.
Keywords: classical tradition, founding fathers, United States Constitution, Rome, republic, Whig, Glorious Revolution, American Revolution, mixed government, liberty, rule of law, Roman republic, American republic. republicanism, American history, legal history
JEL Classification: B30, H10, K19, K39, N41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation