Constitution 201

“Overview: Founders vs. Progressives”


Progressivism represents a radical departure from the Founders’ understanding of the purpose and ends of government. Comparing and contrasting the arguments of the Founders and of the Progressives regarding six key principles of government—the meaning of freedom; the purpose of government arising from the meaning of freedom; the elements of domestic policy; the extent of foreign policy; the centrality of the consent of the governed; and the size and scope of government—shows decisively that Progressivism is not a logical outcome of the Founders’ principles, but rather a conscious rejection of them.



Note: all readings link to Hillsdale's online Constitution Reader, also available at


  1. The Declaration of Independence
  2. Virginia Declaration of Rights
  3. John Dewey - "Liberalism and Social Action" – Excerpt 1
  4. John Dewey - "Liberalism and Social Action" – Excerpt 2
  5. John Dewey - "Liberalism and Social Action" – Excerpt 3
  6. John Dewey - "Liberalism and Social Action" – Excerpt 4
  7. John Dewey - "Liberalism and Social Action"– Excerpt 5
  8. Woodrow Wilson - "Socialism and Democracy"


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Thomas G. West is the Paul Ermine Potter and Dawn Tibbetts Potter Professor in Politics at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. from Cornell University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University.