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Avarice and Ambition in America: The Founders’ Debate on the Political Place of the Selfish Passions in the Constitutional Order of the United States

Jonathan W. Pidluzny, Murray S. Y. Bessette

Abstract


Federalists and Anti-Federalists were different kinds of republicans insofar as they offered opposite solutions to the perennial problem of republican government. The Anti-Federalists hoped to minimize faction by cultivating piety, self-control, and patriotism in the citizenry. The Federalists rejected the traditional approach. Instead, they unleashed the selfish passions for the sake of economic and military strength. To mitigate the pernicious effects of faction along economic lines, they designed the constitutional order to channel elite ambition in service to the republic. They seem not to have foreseen, however, that in unleashing human greed they risked creating an environment that would corrupt the ambition of those very elite, a problem made worse by the advent of political party. This article investigates the reasons Federalists did not institutionalize mechanisms to perpetuate those attributes of civic character that their regime in fact presumes, as well as disagreements among Federalists on the importance of religion and public morality to a well-ordered republic.

Jonathan W. Pidluzny and Murray S. Y. Bessette, "Avarice and Ambition in America: The Founders’ Debate on the Political Place of the Selfish Passions in the Constitutional Order of the United States," Journal of Markets & Morality 22, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 117-145.


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