In light of West’s new book, “The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Con­di­tions of Freedom,” Hillsdale will host a con­ference Nov. 3 – 4.
Thomas West | Courtesy


Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Thomas West’s new book has pro­pelled him to the status of “the nation’s foremost expert” on the American founding, according to scholarly reviewers of his work.

The book, “The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Con­di­tions of Freedom,” was released in May.

Hillsdale College will host a con­ference Nov. 3 and 4 spon­sored by the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship fea­turing West, as well as three panels cov­ering topics such as natural rights, the Founders’ views on mar­riage and the family, and the Founders on markets and reg­u­la­tions. The con­ference will begin with the keynote address by West in the Searle Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 and con­tinue in Lane with the panel dis­cus­sions the fol­lowing day.

Con­ference par­tic­i­pants include scholars from Louisiana State Uni­versity, the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, the Uni­versity of Notre Dame, the Liberty Fund, as well as members of the Hillsdale faculty.

West is the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tib­betts Potter Pro­fessor of Pol­itics at Hillsdale College, and teaches American gov­ernment and Political Phi­losophy. He said his goal for writing his book was twofold.

“The basic point of the book is to give an overview of the basic prin­ciples of the founding and their meaning, like natural rights, consent of the gov­erning, state of nature, among others,” he said.

West said he feels his work sep­a­rates the correct views from the incorrect in the current scholarly com­munity.

“This book is really directed towards scholars and takes on all the major voices of the scholarly com­munity who have some­thing important to say about the founders,” West said. “I go through all the areas where I think they get it right and the areas where I don’t think they get it right.”

He said his second purpose for writing the book is to show what public policy and laws had to be adopted in order for gov­ernment to fulfill the pur­poses stated in those prin­ciples: “to secure these rights,” as the Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence puts it.

West said he has been working on his book since 1983, when he first began to take the political theory of the founding seri­ously. He became certain that he wanted to write “The Political Theory” by the later 1980s and started to write full chapters by the 2000s.

The orga­nizer of the con­ference, Ronald Pestritto, expressed great admi­ration for West’s work and accom­plish­ments.

“Dr. West is one of the leading scholars of the American founding in our time,” he said. “The book is metic­u­lously researched and is an incredibly impressive achievement — one that will garner the respect of West’s allies and critics alike.”

Those reviewing West’s book were effusive in their praise of his work. Pro­fessor Luigi Bradizza of Salve Regina Uni­versity was par­tic­u­larly com­pli­men­tative, saying that “if con­ser­v­a­tives come to accept West’s key argument con­necting natural right and virtue, he might succeed in bringing about an intel­lectual recon­fig­u­ration on the Right.”

Pestritto’s goals for the con­ference are to have a ben­e­ficial pro­motion and dis­cussion of the important issues raised in the book. He also hopes to foster an appre­ci­ation of West’s book outside of the Hillsdale com­munity, as well as encourage con­ver­sation among Hillsdale faculty who have interest in the U.S. Founding.

West believes that the topics covered in his book should be important to all Amer­icans, saying that the American Founding turned “western civ­i­lization into a truly novus ordo seclorum — a new order for the ages.”