Over at the Acton Institute blog, Quinn Trevelen introduces the political thought of John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper. He also helpfully connects the perspectives of Calvin with respect to James Madison.
As Calvin preached, “Were we like angels, blameless and freely able to exercise perfect self-control, we would not need rules or regulations.” The resonance here with Federalist #51 are clear, where Madison observes, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Later Abraham Kuyper, too, would write, “Without sin there would be no state.”
Trevelin also links to a Harper’s blog post in which the Calvin/Madison connection is explored in more depth, with attention paid to the mediating influence of John Witherspoon. Scott Horton adds an appropriate caveat: “But saying that Calvinist theory helped support the architecture of the Constitution is different from saying that it rests on Calvinism or indeed any theology.”
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