In telling the history of a great event, every writer makes choices about what he or she believes should matter to readers. The ongoing debates on the Right between liberals and post-liberals—labels that have recently been used in the exchanges between David French and Sohrab Ahmari—concerning the nature of the American Founding bring this into sharp focus. For post-liberals who think this nation was forged out of its citizens’ commitment to virtuous self-government and intense religious faith, America is a band of brothers and sisters, worthy of sacrifice and love. Liberals tend to distinguish more sharply between private life and pluralistic civil society, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. One’s view of the founding and its history determines one’s feelings toward the regime. In America’s Revolutionary Mind, C. Bradley Thompson sets out to offer a defense of our nation’s underlying philosophy from a perspective which seems different from either of those. According to Thompson, a professor at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, America owes its founding ideals and ideology almost entirely to one man: John Locke.

Thompson begins with some methodological stipulations which are not only sensible but long overdue.

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