Influence of the Scottish Enlightenment upon the Constitution of the United States of America

Mackenzie, Charles Alfred (2012) Influence of the Scottish Enlightenment upon the Constitution of the United States of America. LL.M(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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A fair amount of scholarship and popular writing has been devoted to the impact great thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment had on the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how the Scottish Enlightenment influenced the drafting of the United States Constitution and the establishment of a constitutional republic.

Chapter 1 provides an overview of the Scottish Enlightenment and introduces the key Scottish thinkers whose Enlightenment ideas appear to have influenced the American philosophical debates during the late eighteenth century. Chapter 2 is an examination of that influence upon colonial Americans. Chapter 3 explores the philosophical debates from the Declaration of Independence through the drafting of the Constitution. Chapter 4 takes the debate from the Framers who drafted the proposed Constitution to the Founders who ratified the Constitution through a state convention process. Chapter 5 examines the continued influence of the Scottish Enlightenment during the early days of the constitutional republic.

A final chapter of concluding remarks offers the thesis that, while it is unrealistic to conclude that the Enlightenment influence in American political thought in general or upon the United States Constitution in particular was uniquely Scottish, neither should the distinctively Scottish contributions to the shaping of the constitutional republic be ignored in the historical record as had been the case during most of the nineteenth century. As was true of the development of competing Enlightenment ideas in Scotland, the private deliberations at the Constitutional Convention, the public pamphlet campaign waged by Federalists who supported the proposed Constitution and Anti-Federalists who opposed it, and the successive decisions by state ratifying conventions to adopt the Constitution were all characterized by vigorous debates about reason and passion, virtue and ambition, and authority and liberty. Ultimately, it would be the courageous spirit of reasoned public discourse, as much as the developing themes of liberty, that the Scottish Enlightenment would contribute to the constitutional debates in the emerging United States.

Item Type: Thesis (LL.M(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Constitutional law, Scottish Enlightenment
Subjects: K Law > KF United States Federal Law
E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Metzger, Prof. Ernest and Tomkins, Prof. Adam
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: C. Alfred Mackenzie
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3682
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:09

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