Cover image for A government of laws : political theory, religion, and the American founding
A government of laws : political theory, religion, and the American founding
Sandoz, Ellis, 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
xiv, 259 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Essays originally published in various publications between 1971-1988.

Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JA84.U5 S26 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In A Government of Laws, which includes a new preface, Ellis Sandoz reevaluates the traditional understanding of the philosophic and intellectual background of the American founding. Through an exhaustive assessment of Renaissance, medieval, and ancient political philosophy, he shows that the founding fathers were consciously and explicitly seeking to create a political order that would meet the demands of human nature and society. This rigorous and searching analysis of the sources of political and constitutional theory generates an original and provocative approach to American thought and experience.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

One of the great metaphysical heroes of the post-World War II American conservative revival--epitomized by Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan--was LSU professor Eric Voegelin. Sandoz, a colleague at LSU, dedicates this book to Voegelin's memory and thus alerts the reader early to the fact that here is a source of enlightenment on the conservative mind. He brings to light some obscure eighteenth-century religious writings to support his contention that religion did indeed infuse the early American spirit with a sense of the need for revolt against arbitrary power, and he tries to diminish the commonly accepted significance of Locke and the humanist tradition on the founding of the U.S. Rather, he sees a strong connection between the founders and classicism and medieval English thought. Bibliography; to be indexed. --Allen Weakland

Choice Review

An important contribution to the ongoing controversy about the character of the American founding. Sandoz, a leading member of the school of Eric Voegelin, examines the major ideas about politics held by the American Founders. He argues that American public life is built on foundations inherited from classical and medieval philosophy, theology, and political practice. The center of the US political experience is a creative synthesis of this classic heritage with aspects of the modernism of the 17th and 18th centuries. In this synthesis, the ideas drawn by the Founders from moderns such as Hobbes, Locke, and others were, he suggests, tempered so as to be deprived of their "radical secularist modernity." Sandoz argues his case forcefully and his terminology is designed to be accessible to contemporary readers. There are extensive notes and a comprehensive bibliography. The latter provides a useful guide to the works Sandoz thinks embody this heritage of the great tradition as internalized in the American political tradition. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and public library patrons. -D. J. Maletz, University of Oklahoma

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2001 Editionp. ix
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: Human Nature, Politics, and Democracyp. 1
Chapter 1 Political Obligation and the Brutish in Manp. 26
Chapter 2 The Civil Theology of Liberal Democracy: Locke and His Predecessorsp. 51
Chapter 3 Classical and Christian Dimensions of American Political Thoughtp. 83
Chapter 4 Power and Spirit in the Founding: Thoughts on the Genesis of Americanismp. 105
Chapter 5 Reflections on Spiritual Aspects of the American Foundingp. 125
Chapter 6 Liberty as Law: The Constitution and Civil Rightsp. 163
Chapter 7 The American Constitutional Order After Two Centuries: Concluding Reflectionsp. 218
Bibliographyp. 241
Indexp. 253