America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
by Robert W. Galvin -- Book Review

Classification: American History - Founding of the United States -
Political Philosophy - Constitutional Law - Democracy - Economic Theory


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America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
by Robert W. Galvin
Hardcover - 120 pages
First Edition, September 2002
Published by Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN 0-7425-2280-6 / ISBN 0742522806

America's Founding Secret by former Motorola CEO Robert W. Galvin, the son of the company's founder, is a short series of articles about what he has come to realize about the U.S. Constitutional structure and political heritage.

Mr. Galvin of Barrington, Illinois began this quest for understanding a quarter century ago, when his family and friends celebrated the Bicentennial of the United States in a unique manner -- by holding a series of six dinners at his home, over which the guests would discuss the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers , the Anti-Federalist movement, the Constitution, and the institution of slavery. An outcome of these gatherings, and of his delivery of four major public addresses on the subject, was this recent collection of essays in a small hardcover volume (dimensions 0.69 x 7.80 x 4.80 inches).

America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers by Robert W. Galvin

"I have no credentials as a scholar, although I have some as a citizen," Galvin says. "As a citizen, I wish to fill a significant void in our citizen understanding of our history." [Page 8]

"The story starts with and radiates from the Scottish Enlightenment," the author writes, during which "the grandest aggregation of leading scholars from virtually all then existing fields of knowledge" combined their wisdom around the university communities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland, "during a compressed period of time" (the decades following 1720). [9-10]

Prior to this reading, I had believed incorrectly that such thinkers as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had mainly acquired their theory of democracy by adding to the work of John Locke , and had assimilated the economics of Adam Smith . I had not considered adequately how the Industrial Revolution affected this political trend. The author explains why we should add many other names, including, most surprisingly to me, several pioneers in the physical sciences, among them, inventor James Watt, chemist Joseph Black, and geologist James Hutton . The social sciences were also being advanced in this center of thought, with the work of anthropologist James Burnett and sociologist Adam Furguson . The author cites David Hume , not for his well-known work in empirical philosophy, but an an "economic philosopher." [10-11] We are indeed fortunate that Jefferson , Madison and Hamilton happened to go to school in Scotland. [21]

In what comes next, Galvin is not shy about, nor does he even mention, the possibility that some readers might attribute his position to the fact that he's a millionaire's son. He praises the capitalist economic system for its "link between intellectual and economic development" [29] and the general benefits of having a "commercial organization of society." [30] "No longer was commerce to be looked upon with suspicion," Galvin notes. [Ethical philosopher] " Francis Hutcheson argued that the increased standard of living promoted by commerce would stimulate virtuous behavior." [31] The author goes on to consider the relationship between these cornerstones and national science policy, trends in religion, and other parameters.

This is a remarkable volume which contains numerous biographical facts and quotations. I'm not in agreement with Mr. Galvin's politics, as I would maintain that capitalism without a thousand federal regulations would be quite miserable, yet I appreciate that the author contributes a thought-stimulating analysis throughout.

Book review by Mike Lepore for crimsonbird.com

16 b&w illustrations. 10-page 2-column index.

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America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
by Robert W. Galvin
ISBN 0-7425-2280-6 / ISBN 0742522806
Book Review by

Harold McFarland, editor
Readers Preference Reviews
http://www.readerspreference.com

Copyright © 2002 Harold McFarland
Reprinted with permission

The Scottish Enlightenment was a period when some of the greatest scholars from almost every field were concentrated in one area that allowed a free flow of thought and information between them. Basically they were concentrated in the university communities of Glasgow and Edinburgh between 1720 and 1780. This free thinking influence spread to the colonies where people such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were schooled by Scottish teachers. A Scottish teacher, Francis Allison, taught three signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The Scottish teachers realized that all nations of the time were founded or maintained by force. They suggested that a nation founded on commerce could be equally as powerful and influencial as those founded by force. This set the stage for the development of the philosophical underpinnings of the United States. All that was really needed now was a spark to set off the natural chain of events. During the time just prior to 1776 there was a multitude of writings from Scottish authors that proposed and defended the notion that oppressed people have a right to assert their independence. Between the strong writings calling for oppressed people to assert their independence and the belief that a country could be established based on commerce the scene was set for the establishment of the United States.

The author provides substantial and convincing background information on exactly how all of this worked together the help create the Unites States. Details on what the Enlightenment was, how it came about and exactly how it influenced the actions of our forefathers and all there for the reader to learn and consider. An excellent treatise on the often overlooked contributions of the Scottish people to the formation of the United States, I found it a very informative book.

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America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
by Robert W. Galvin
ISBN 0-7425-2280-6 / ISBN 0742522806

Book Description from the Publisher

In the history of America's founding, the names of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and other founding, fathers loom large. But few Americans today would recognize the role played by such men as Francis Hutchinson, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, David Hume, and other philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment.

In this book, Robert W. Galvin, retired Chairman of the Board of Motorola and one of America's most respected corporate leaders, reminds us of the fundamental debt that our founding fathers and this nation owe to this extraordinary group of Scottish thinkers. In the Scottish Enlightenment, America's founders themselves found the philosophical underpinnings for a conceived government and defined with the intent to promote economic programs, in commerce, based on private capital means.

Concise and accessible, America's Founding Secret will forever change the way Americans look at their nation's beginnings and will remind us again of the fundamental connection between private enterprise and freedom that remains; at the heart of the American experiment.

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America's Founding Secret : What the Scottish Enlightenment Taught Our Founding Fathers
by Robert W. Galvin
ISBN 0-7425-2280-6 / ISBN 0742522806

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