Center Holds Conference on the American Founding

Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations is holding its culminating conference on the American founding March 31 and April 1 on the Macon campus.  The conference, titled “The Triumphs and Travails of the Natural Rights Republic,” began with a presentation by Dr. John W. Danford, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago and will conclude April 1 with the keynote address by noted scholar and author Dr. Michael Zuckert, professor of political science at Notre Dame University.

On April 1, the conference reconvened with a student panel, featuring a discussion of original research by Mercer and Berry College students, focusing on the political theory and history of the early republic. A guest faculty panel at 3 p.m. in the Fickling Recital Hall, will feature research from Dr. Joseph Knippenberg of Oglethorpe University, Dr. Booker T. Ingram of Presbyterian College, and Dr. Eric Sands of Berry College.

“These excellent scholars will cover a variety of interesting topics,” Dr. Jordan said, “from how the founders understood the political importance of liberal education, to how the founders’ ideas were appreciated and applied by Abraham Lincoln.” 

The conference’s keynote event will be a lecture on April 1 by Dr. Zuckert, titled “The Politics of Race and Slavery at the Constitutional Convention,” at 6 p.m. in Willingham Auditorium. Dr. Zuckert, author of the books Natural Rights and the New Republicanism, The Natural Rights Republic, and Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy, is a leading scholar of the founding period, and his presentation will draw from his current research on the Constitutional Convention and offer a preview of his upcoming book.

“The controversy and debate over slavery at the Constitutional Convention is an under-explored topic,” said Dr. Matthew Oberrieder, assistant professor of philosophy at Mercer.  “Dr. Zuckert’s talk promises to be very illuminating regarding the founders’ attitudes on race; for our students to get a sneak peek at a chapter in Dr. Zuckert’s next book is a real treat.” 

The conference began on the evening of March 31 with an address by Dr. Danford, titled “The Intellectual Origins of the American Republic: The Case for the Scots.” Dr. Danford, one of the country’s finest scholars of the development of political and economic liberty in the 18th Century, explored how the American founders were influenced by the major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, including David Hume and Adam Smith, in conceiving of and designing institutions for a modern commercial republic.

Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations is hosting the conference to further its mission to help a new generation of citizens acquire knowledge of, and appreciation for, the founding principles, values and history of our nation. 

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