In that remarkable era of the American Founding, lawyers of the caliber of James Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Marshall sought to explain their judgments by drawing their readers back to those deep axioms of law, those principles of natural right, that underlay the Constitution. They taught, in that way, the principles that were there before the Constitution. Years later, Lincoln would be compelled to state those principles anew and give them an even deeper resonance as he brought them to bear on the gravest crisis in the American regime, the crisis of our “house divided.” The purpose of the new James Wilson Institute is to teach again the writings of these statesmen and jurists on natural right. We would teach them to lawyers young and old, we would teach them to students in law school, to undergraduates and even to judges who might wish to recover that tradition of teaching. Our deeper purpose, of course, is restore to students, of all ages, the furnishings of mind of those uncommon men who established and preserved this regime—and with the hope that a new generation, in the convulsions of our own day, will be able to preserve it once again.
About the Institute
A private, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Institute is devoted to the study, spread, and further understanding of natural rights. Founded by Prof. Hadley Arkes, his former students, and alumni of Amherst College in 2000, the Institute was formerly known as the Foundation for Classical Studies in Statecraft and Jurisprudence. It supports events such as the Colloquium on the American Founding, biannual gatherings of scholars and public intellectuals to reflect on various philosophical topics and current events, and the James Wilson Seminar series, conferences bringing together accomplished federal judges who have wanted to get a firmer hold on the natural law, and brought them together with some gifted teachers of philosophy and law. In 2013, the Institute established a presence in Washington and assumed its present name.