Liberty and Yirtue in the American Founding
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Mansfield have not been discussing the virtue of the majority of Americans at the time of the Founding, for that would be more Christian and Protestant than what can found in Locke, Montesquieu, Ben Franklin or the authors of The Federalist. His intent was to see what is more innovative and at the same time more peculiarly American than what most Americans practiced and believed. Part of the innovation is in Franklin’s list of virtues for a free, democratic society, in which religion is assumed but depreciated. More of the innovation, Mansfield would say, is in Publius, who is an underrated source of – one cannot say moral inspiration – but moral suggestion and definition in America. Publius’ notions of ambition, energy, and responsibility had behind them the force of the Constitution, the force deriving from the form, which provides constitutional space. What is this force? It is not self-interest generally or theoretically understood but “the interest of the office.” And the interest of the office is a kind of interest that permits and requires the cooperation of virtue. The lesson overall is that moral philosophy is incomplete without political philosophy.
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