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Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America Paperback – November 28, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

West (politics, Univ. of Dallas) aims to defend the U.S. Constitution and the men who drafted it in 1787 from the accusations of sexism, racism, and prejudice against the poor. West writes from a conservative perspective, and, as he frequently pauses to remind the reader, his arguments are learned and logical. However, this is a deeply flawed book. West writes in a supercilious and dismissive tone. Worse, he digresses far afield to introduce his ideas on contemporary issues, which have almost nothing to do with the founders; his chapter on the family is simply a compendium of current conservative views and he rarely mentions the founders, who said and wrote little on the subject. More eloquent and elegant conservative viewpoints on the founding include Marvin Olasky's Fighting for Liberty and Virtue (Regnery, 1996), M.E. Bradford and Russell Kirk's A Better Guide Than Reason (Transaction, 1994), and Forrest McDonald's We the People (Transaction, 1992).?Fritz Buckallew, Univ. of Central Oklahoma Lib., Edmond
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


One of those rare publications that promises to shape the field of inquiry about the American founders for decades to come. (Newt Gingrich)

A pathbreaking book. The American people finally have a definitive answer to the distortions about the founding that liberals have been pouring into the American mind since the 1960s. I recommend this book heartily. It belongs on every bookshelf and in every classroom in America. (Rush Limbaugh)

Vindicating the Founders is important but (relatively) easy. Learning from them is more difficult. This book helps us learn from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison. And there aren't many better teachers about America. (William Kristol, editor, The Weekly Standard)

Compelling, accurate, closely reasoned, and entirely convincing. (Forrest McDonald, University of Alabama; author of We the People)

A valuable contribution to history and government studies on the founding. (Herman Belz, University of Maryland)

Vindicating the Founders is an eloquent defense of the principles of the American founding by one of its most learned students. (Dinesh D'Souza, American Enterprise Institute)

West is committed to understanding the American founders accurately and in their own terms. His work is unfailingly penetrating and trustworthy, and I eagerly seek it out. (Michael Novak, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, 1994 Templeton laureate)

A provocative and interesting book. (J. D. Born, Jr., Wichita State University)

Americans can count themselves fortunate to have at the bar a scholar of West's erudition, good sense, and tenacity. (The Weekly Standard)

West shows how textbooks charge the American Founders with not conforming to present-day standards of political correctness. He also shows how the Founders nevertheless deserve the admiration that they used to receive from teachers and school children many decades ago. West's arguments are convincing. (Leland B. Yeager, Auburn University)

Mr. West presents a compelling and well-researched history of the founding fathers and their motives in establishing a new nation. Most important, he challenges effectively the gross misrepresentation of the founding fathers based on presentistic and misleading political judgments. (Herb London, New York University)

There are important lessons in this book for political thinkers. . . . By challenging popular new ideas and reviving unfashionable old ones, Mr. West contributes to the process of reclaiming the founders. (The Washington Times)

It's hardly news that in our time some Americans have taken to accusing the Founders of their country of hypocrisy. There is something decidedly cheap about such charges. They reek of ingratitude and imprudence. But they are being made by historians who want to substitute their own authority for the Founders' and it is necessary for someone to take them seriously enough to provide a refutation. Thomas West has risen to the occasion with Vindicating the Founders. (The Wall Street Journal)

West has written a powerful vindication of our common civic faith. (Daniel J. Mahoney, Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship, Assumption College The American Enterprise)

With prosecutorial rigor and scholarly erudition, West defends the Founding Fathers and their creation―the American republic―from the relentless assault both have undergone in recent decades. . . . West's tightly argued book adresses a problem that should be a concern to all―namely, the attack on basic American principles. (Trenton Times)

A political scientist at the University of Dallas, West has given us a book that challenges the reigning orthodoxy as expressed by the high priests of multiculturalism. Those who reflexively reject his thesis―the nation's founding is the source of our greatness―have a moral and intellectual duty to refute him. (Society)

Provocative book. . . . Vindicating the Founders is not only about justice, but about how to cultivate the whole cluster of virtues which 'are necessary for a people to be free.' West's admirable study begins a discussion that is long overdue. (The Review of Politics)

Thomas West has written a courageous book. (Modern Age)

This defense of the founders with their own words and voices is closely reasoned, sharply focused, and highly convincing. . . . This is a superb book. The historical research is excellent, the analysis quite penetrating, and writing quite lucid. This book is rich with truth and wisdom. It deserves a wide audience. (Appelate Journal)

A persuasive case . . . stunningly bold. (William and Mary Quarterly)

West not only scolds those academics who denigrate the brilliance of the founders, he also exposes their shameful prejudice toward those great men who molded the liberties we enjoy today. (Indianapolis Star)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847685179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847685172
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Did the Founders think that blacks were morally and intellectually inferior? Yes, most of them did. Did the Founders think that blacks were still fully entitled to the unalienable rights of man? Yes, most of them did. Were intellectual and social debates as multifaceted then as now. You bet. That's why it is possible to find facts and quotations to support a variety of assaults on the Founders, based on selective evidence and anachronistic, collectivist values. This book looks at the people and the circumstances of the founding period in light of the individualist values of the time and the social conflicts and necessities those people had to reconcile. The mere fact that they created a nation more free and more fair than any that had gone before should make us doubt the malign, revisionist, politically-correct histories we've seen in recent decades. This book is not only very good, but much needed.
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Format: Hardcover
No one should criticize or condemn the Founding Fathers of this country until they've read either this book by Tom West or every one of the speeches, letters, and other writings of the Founders for themselves. One of the problems in today's country is that we have a bunch of self-appointed PC historians that regularly badger the Founders for falling short of today's enlightened sense of justice without taking the time to read what the Founders had to say on these issues themselves. West lets the Founders speak for themselves by documenting both their writings and their actions. Truly, a valuable contribution to the study of American history.
I hope to see more from Tom West.
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Format: Hardcover
Thomas G. West does a masterful job of explaining the commonly held political and social beliefs of the Founders, all the while he debunks numerous myths from both the Left and the Right. West, a disciple of Leo Strauss and Harry Jaffa, stays within the tradition of natural law theory as currently advocated by the Clairemont Institute as he explains the true meanings of the words found in the Declaration and the Constitution. Each chapter begins with quotations from various historians or influential thinkers who have misinterpreted their meanings, then West gathers quotes from the Founders within context and gives the reader the proper meaning. This is then followed by what might be called application and social critique, telling us things that may surprise us.
Although I think he underplays the racism that was evident in their thoughts and behaviors, I believe he is correct in most of his conclusions and I learned quite a bit. It could be a conservative compliment to *Lies My Teacher Told Me* by James Loewen. For those who want to gather the true meaning of the what the USA was founded on, they could get no better book than this.
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Format: Paperback
It is a crime that the founders of America are dismissed because they are represented as failing to meet our present PC standards of faux morality. This terrific book takes on every PC misconception about them and sets the record straight. While never presenting them is marble pillars of morality, the author puts all of the issues in their proper context and demonstrates clearly the intelligence, morality, and rightness of our founders.

One of the most famous of the old canards that you will still hear is that the founders only considered slaves to be 3/5 of a human being because it says so right there in the Constitution. How sad that misunderstanding and misrepresentation is. Because each state was given a number of representatives based upon the number of residents, the issue was whom do you count. You have to first ask yourself whom the representatives from the slave holding states would represent. The slaves? Of course not!

So, if the rights of the slaves were not going to be protected, to give their slaveholders the ability to count those slaves as people and thereby become over-represented in Congress would actually work against interests of those people trapped in slavery. Those opposing slavery wanted the slaves to remain uncounted for representation. The slaveholders wanted them to count as a full person (does that mean the slaveholders cared about the human rights of the slaves more than the abolitionists?). The compromise was to count them as 3/5. However, it is essential to remember that those who wanted the slaves counted as a whole person were uninterested in the rights of those human beings and those that wanted them uncounted actually had the interests of the slaves more in mind.
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Format: Paperback
Most of the negative reviews of this work cite its author's being a follower of the conservative University of Chicago political philosopher, Leo Strauss. Though I despise Leo Strauss as much as they might, their criticisms are off-base, because West here documents that conservative interpretations of the U.S. Constitution are false. He documents that the predominant intentions of America's founders were progressive: condemning slavery and seeking its abolition, supportive of equal rights for Blacks and Whites, supportive of equal rights for women and men, supportive of voting rights for the poor, etc. Leo Strauss's support for Plato's "philosopher kings" reigning over a powerless deceived citizenry is alien to West's book.

West's documentation is sound. His criticisms of other historians, even including of liberal ones such as Charles Beard and Gordon Wood, are on the mark, but will inevitably offend the vast majority of historians, who have built upon falsehoods they've derived from such historians.

This book is well organized, as a topic-by-topic critique of previous historians' misrepresentations of the supposed conservatism of people such as Thomas Jefferson -- whom, for example, West convincingly documents did believe in equal rights for Blacks and Whites, notwithstanding Gordon Woods's having asserted to the exact contrary.

Though Leo Strauss was an extreme conservative, West has provided here a book which argues, in a more thorough way than has previously been done, for interpreting the original intent of the U.S. Constitution as having been progressive.
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