Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Frisch, Morton J.||Glenn, Gary Dean, 1941-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


United States--Politics and government--1789-1809


In order to understand American political philosophy, it is necessary to understand the original character of the American regime, that is, the character of its founding. One must study The Federalist Papers, the Founding Fathers' most authoritative commentary on American government which also represents a kind of first appearance of political philosophy in America. One obstacle to an understanding of American political philosophy in this way is the fact that the political philosophies of two of The Federalist's authors (excluding Madison) are not exactly the same. This thesis, a comparison of the two rival introductions to The Federalist as a whole, shows that Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 1 is the introduction that contains the authoritative germ of the work as a whole whereas John Jay's Federalist No. 2 is unauthorized. Although both men will lave been shown to be within the traditional Lockean interpretation of American political philosophy, Jay will be shown to be closer to natural rights theory than Hamilton who somehow steps beyond natural rights theory without being in opposition to it. The Federalist will be shown to employ a commonsensical or Aristotelian mode of reasoning rather than the theoretical approach of the natural rights theorists. However, The Federalist rejects the lofty ends of the Ancients in favor of something within the commonsensical ends of the natural rights position, although The Federalist also rejects the aspect of the natural rights position that is purely norma agendi as well. The Federalist, based upon the facultas agendi, the right of self-preservation, is founded upon a reason that recognizes only political necessities that will achieve certain limited ends derivative from that right. That the ends of the American regime have yet to be achieved makes The Federalists mode of reasoning more similar to Aristotle than the natural rights theory that desired to simply preserve ends that existed prior to the formation of government. Thus, the political philosophy implicit in Hamilton’s introduction as well as in The Federalist as a whole may be said to be within the Lockean tradition but it may also be said to somehow go beyond the traditional interpretation of Locke in such a way that The Federalist and American political philosophy in general may be said to stand between the Aristotelian and natural rights traditions.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 45 pages




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