Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mercer Conference to Feature Noted Scholars of the American Founding

Mercer University’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations will hold a conference on the American founding on March 31 and April 1 on the University’s Macon campus. The conference, titled “The Triumphs and Travails of the Natural Rights Republic,” will include presentations by several prominent scholars on American political thought, including Dr. Michael Zuckert, noted author and professor of political science at Notre Dame University, and Dr. John W. Danford, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. All of conference events are free and open to the public.

The conference will begin on the evening of March 31 with an address by Dr. Danford, who will give a presentation titled “The Intellectual Origins of the American Republic: The Case for the Scots.” His presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Neva Langley Fickling Recital Hall in the McCorkle Music Building. Dr. Danford will explain 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.

“Dr. Danford is one of the country’s finest scholars of the development of political and economic liberty in the 18th Century,” said Dr. Will Jordan, associate professor of political science at Mercer. “He will show that the American founders were extremely up-to-date and influenced by the most cutting-edge political thought of their day.”

The conference will reconvene on April 1 with a student panel at 1 p.m. in the Fickling Recital Hall. The discussion will feature original research from Mercer students, focusing on the political theory and history of the early republic. Next, there will be a guest faculty panel at 3 p.m. in the Fickling Recital Hall, featuring 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.”

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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