Utilitarianism in the Early American Republic  book cover
1st Edition

Utilitarianism in the Early American Republic

ISBN 9780367545260
Published November 26, 2021 by Routledge
280 Pages

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Book Description

In Utilitarianism in the Early American Republic James E. Crimmins provides a fresh perspective on the history of antebellum American political thought.

Based on a broad-ranging study of the dissemination and reception of utilitarian ideas in the areas of constitutional politics, law education, law reform, moral theory and political economy, Crimmins illustrates the complexities of the place of utilitarianism in the intellectual ferment of the times, in both its secular and religious forms, intersection with other doctrines, and practical outcomes. The pragmatic character of American political thought revealed—culminating in the postbellum rise of Pragmatism—stands in marked contrast to the conventional interpretations of intellectual history in this period.

Utilitarianism in the Early American Republic will be of interest to academic specialists, and graduate and senior undergraduate students engaged in the history of political thought, moral philosophy and legal philosophy, particularly scholars with interests in utilitarianism, the trans-Atlantic transfer of ideas, the American political tradition and modern American intellectual history.

Table of Contents


1. Natural Rights and the Language of Utility

2. Dissemination of Bentham's Writings and Ideas

3. Utilitarian Moral and Legal Philosophy from Dumont to Hildreth

4. David Hoffman and Law Education

5. Edward Livingston, Penal Law and Codification

6. The Death Penalty Debate

7. Moral and Political Thought of Thomas Cooper

Epilogue: The Pragmatic Impulse

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James E. Crimmins is Professor Emeritus and Research Fellow at Huron University College, Canada. He is a leading authority on utilitarianism and the history of utilitarian thought, on which subject he has published extensively, including The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism (2013; rept 2017), Utilitarian Philosophy and Politics: Bentham’s Later Years (2011; rept 2013), On Bentham (2004), Utilitarians and Religion (1998), and Secular Utilitarianism: Social Science and the Critique of Religion in the Thought of Jeremy Bentham (1990). He has also edited Religion, Secularization and Political Thought: Thomas Hobbes to J.S. Mill (1989; rept 2013), Church-of-Englandism and its Catechism Examined (with Catherine Fuller) for The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham (2011), Utilitarians and Their Critics in America, 1789–1914 (with Mark G. Spencer), 4 vols (2005), and Bentham’s Auto Icon and Related Writings (2002), among other anthologies and collections.


"No political and legal theorist since Bentham himself has had a better grasp of the rich meaning and powerful influence of Benthamite utilitarianism. This is a work for scholars and intellectuals in general to treasure, one that will challenge many deep-seated prejudices against the legacy of utilitarianism and role it played in the early history of the U.S."

Bart Schultz, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, The University of Chicago