Synopses & Reviews
"This is an original, persuasive, and important study that puts the new theology of Locke and Jefferson in the context of traditional Judeo-Christian thought while illuminating the points of difference between the two". -- Garrett Ward Sheldon
Two hundred twenty years after the first Continental Congress approved the American Declaration of Independence, its principal author, Thomas Jefferson, is more and more frequently labeled "radical". His words are even used to validate the agendas of today's right-wing militias. But his unorthodox religious views, which permeate the Declaration, are most deserving of the appellation.
Allen Jayne analyzes the ideology of the Declaration -- and its implications -- by going back to the sources of Jefferson's ideas. Jayne emphasizes several sources, including Bollingbroke, Kames, and Reid, by giving a detailed examination of portions of their writings in relation to the better-known contributions of Locke. His conclusion is that the Declaration must be read as an attack on two claims of absolute authority: that of government over its subjects and of religion over the minds of men.
Today's world is far more secular than Jefferson's, and the importance of philosophical theology in eighteenth-century critical thought must be recognized in order to understand fully and completely the Declaration's implications. Jayne addresses this need by putting concerns about religion back into the discussion. Sure to be controversial, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence will contribute substantially to the contentious, ongoing debate -- led by such scholars as Garry Wills and John Patrick Diggins -- concerning Jefferson's intentions and sources when writingthe Declaration of Independence.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -231) and indexes.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The theological context -- Bolingbroke and the Enlightenment -- Locke and the Declaration -- Kames and the moral sense -- Obstacles to reason -- Self-evident truths -- Religious freedom -- Conclusion.