Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2005 - 12/31/2005

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Revolutionary America's Declaration of Independence: The Nature of Rights at the Founding

FAIN: FB-50460-04

Barry A. Shain
Colgate University (Hamilton, NY 13346-1338)

In my research, I explore the rights language of the Declaration of Independence and the political thought of not only its American authors but also early modern European theorists of political, natural and international law. I hope to add to our understanding of the Declaration of Independence and, more generally, the political thought that guided Americans towards their separation with Britain. In addition, I will explore the development in the West of the meaning and political use of the language of natural and individual rights. Above all, I want to describe the unique development of human rights in eighteenth-century America, and to make sense of their emergence from two distinct streams of rights discourse: one that is historical and political, and the other that is abstract and metaphysical. The goal of this research is to produce a work modeled on that of Carl Becker's The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas.