The Unvarnished Doctrine

Locke, Liberalism, and the American Revolution

The Unvarnished Doctrine

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: Published: December 1989

History > U.S. History, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy

In The Unvarnished Doctrine, Steven M. Dworetz addresses two critical issues in contemporary thinking on the American Revolution—the ideological character of this event, and, more specifically, the relevance of "America’s Philosopher, the Great Mr. Locke," in this experience. Recent interpretations of the American revolution, particularly those of Bailyn and Pocock, have incorporated an understanding of Locke as the moral apologist of unlimited accumulation and the original ideological crusader for the "spirit of capitalism," a view based largely on the work of theorists Leo Strauss and C. B. Macpherson. Drawing on an examination of sermons and tracts of the New England clergy, Dworetz argues that the colonists themselves did not hold this conception of Locke. Moreover, these ministers found an affinity with the principles of Locke’s theistic liberalism and derived a moral justification for revolution from those principles. The connection between Locke and colonial clergy, Dworetz maintains, constitutes a significant, radicalizing force in American revolutionary thought.


The Unvarnished Doctrine restores Lockean-liberal thought to its proper place as the dominant ideology of the American Revolution. In doing so, this excellent book challenges republican revisionism which either denies the significance of Locke’s liberalism or casts it as anti-revolutionary.” — Douglas Jaenicke, Political Studies

"A splendid and lively . . . book." — Issac Krammick , Society

"Dworetz has done a fine job of drawing attention to the interwoven political and theological issues that frame the American Revolution. . . . Readers of Dworetz’s effort will come away with renewed interest in American Revolutionary thought." — John J. Holder Jr. , Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society

"Provocative and challenging, Dworetz’s argument is calculated to unsettle intellectual complacency and to prompt Americans to a new appreciation of the liberal philosophic foundations of liberal philosophy." — Wilson Carey McWilliams, Rutgers University


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