Inventing America
by Garry Wills

A brilliant analysis of Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. He shows that Hutcheson, rather than Locke, was the biggest influence on Jefferson's moral philosophy and Hutcheson's theory was the leading theory all over America and Europe. Jefferson believed in the rights of people based on the moral sense. The people, with a moral bond of sympathy, was the moral unit rather than the individual. Locke was more for private property than Hutcheson and Jefferson, who viewed property as a result of social order rather than a prerequisite. Property only exists when society guarantees the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson was sympathetic to Negroes who robbed and dealt in the black market, because the slave system deprived them of the social bond and relieved them of the obligation to respect private property. Jefferson believed Negroes were equal to Whites in regard to the moral sense and that this is the fundamental and most relevant fact in moral philosophy. Inequalities in intelligence and physical characteristics have no bearing on this fundamental equality of all mankind. Hence, all men have the same basic rights.

Kames was Jefferson's early hero. Kames emphasized justice rather than benevolence in contrast to Hutcheson.

Year Read: 1983

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