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Thomas G. West’s new book on the founding fathers of America. Amazon.

Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Thomas West released his first book in 20 years on April 3, attacking the idea that there was no political con­sensus of justice at the time of the American Founding.

West has been researching for and writing “The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Con­di­tions of Freedom” off and on since 1984, around when he became inter­ested in the topic.

“One of the main things that I’ve been con­vinced of over the years is that there really was a coherent political theory of the Founding,” West said. “That’s a theory that’s widely dis­puted today. Most scholars, I would say, deny that the Founders had a unified political vision.”

West breaks the book into three parts. The first covers the political theory of the Founding and the final two apply that theory to two major policy areas: citizen char­acter and property and eco­nomics.

West said while the Founders dis­agreed on dif­ferent policies, they believed government’s role was to secure the life, liberty, and property of its cit­izens on the basis of consent of the gov­erned.

“The primary means to implement that kind of pro­tection is through a foreign policy that is pri­marily defensive, meaning dis­courage people from attacking us and be ready for a fight if they do,” West said. “Second, in domestic policy, the primary way gov­ernment pro­tects rights is by laws — criminal law, pri­marily.”

Graduate student Sarah Onken read selec­tions from West’s book in The American Founding course she is taking with him and said it was helpful to see how the Founders’ policies cohered with their theory of justice.

“Dr. West’s under­standing of the Founding fosters a dis­cussion as to whether con­tem­porary America holds to the Founders’ con­ception of justice — spoiler, it doesn’t — and in what ways a con­ception of justice influ­ences prac­tical pol­itics,” she said in an email.

West said many scholars do not rec­ognize these fun­da­mental aspects of the Founding, despite being rec­og­nized by the Founders and a majority of the American people at the time.

“We’ve for­gotten,” West said. “As a result of the last 150 years of pro­gres­sivism and lib­er­alism, people have really for­gotten the older way of under­standing the gov­ernment.”

When he began his research, West said he thought a lot about the European influ­ences on the Founding such as the works of John Locke.

“I finally realized it wasn’t nec­essary to talk about where the Founding ideas came from, because we know what the Founders thought,” he said. “It was all over the place. They pub­lished all these doc­u­ments and dec­la­ra­tions and con­sti­tu­tions in which they state over and over again the important things you need to know about pol­itics.”

In 1997, West pub­lished “Vin­di­cating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America.” While in that book, he explain the liberal mis­un­der­standing of the Founders, in his newest book, West said, he avoids any type of par­ti­sanship.

“It sticks to a much more dis­pas­sion­ately factual description of the Founders’ political theory without wor­rying par­tic­u­larly about the issues lib­erals brought up against the Founders,” he said. “It’s focusing on the most important things about what pol­itics is for and how it should be orga­nized.”