Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Reagan first

Maybe a real conversation about Lincoln is a good idea. Maybe. Maybe it is a good idea to relive the political fights between Jefferson and Hamilton, between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, the Northwest Ordinance, the difference between the American and French revolutions, the politics of the 1790’s, the meaning of the election of 1800, the constitutionality of the Lousiana Purchase, the value of the Missouri Compromise, the debate between Andy Jackson and Henry Clay, the nullification crisis, as well as the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision. Maybe.

In the meantime, on perhaps a smaller point, I think some who are so especially concerned with defining conservatism (that is, try to articulate its nature, if it has one) may want to listen to a few of Reagan’s speeches to see how conservatism manifested itself politically victorious for the first time since Progressivism’s political victory was revealed in the New Deal and the Great Society. There are 14 speeches between 1964 and 1989. Enjoy!

Discussions - 9 Comments

This is why I thought it better to ask about Jaffa.

Why is this seemingly innocuous and forgettable individual the center of so much debate? What do his followers see in him? Why is somebody with a degree in English considered a suitable guide to Constitutional law and to the proper ordering of nations? Not that there is anything wrong with English majors, but why would you listen to one over the foremost legal minds on questions of law?

I’m not trying to be snarky here. I’ve read a few of his articles online, and I’ve ordered "Crisis". But so far he strikes me as an improbable person to be at the center of what resembles a cult. Where’s the beef?

There must be some "there" there since I read that four of his students founded Claremont to advance his ideas. I’ve read some great stuff at Claremont on assorted other topics, but what exactly Jaffa’s ideas are remains elusive.

Fair question, John. But it is so much, much better for you to read Crisis than for you to read an attempt to `explain’ Jaffa, that I honestly and strongly believe that you should go ahead and do just that. I think that you may find it informative.

Go look at Kendall’s review of Crisis both in his Conservative Affirmation.. Crisis is a classic and deserves to be seen as one. And as for him being an English scholar.. its a big plus as being a reader of the text... cause good ol’ Mel B was also an English scholar, or as he used to stay a student of oratory. Mel B was a Faulkner scholar, turned to the defence of his region and then to a defence of the original constitutional regime, as opposed to the second founding based on the DoI that Lincoln offers us.

I’m suppose I will find it informative. I doubt it will answer my question though.

In 1857, "all men are created equal" meant "lets free the slaves", and was understood to mean that at the time. When certain people monomaniacally repeat the phrase in 2007, and want it inserted into the Constitution, ... what does it mean? What do they want?

It’s possible that I’d agree with the Jaffa people if I found out what they wanted. Or I might disagree; there are lots of people "on the right" I disagree with at present. But most of the other factions are happy to make the case for themselves. You can hardly shut them up. The reticence of the Jaffaist’s in explaining what they are about is a stark contrast.

None of which will stop me reading Powerline every day. But I’ll always be suspicious when questions of ConLaw come up, because reading between the lines, there is a distinctly undemocratic and unrepublican cast to what Jaffa said, and a strongly implicit argument that a wise elite should explain "natural law" to the benighted citizenry, and compel them to obey it for their own good if neccessary. That’s a proposition the GOP has been trying to reject when the Democrats make it.

Professor Bates’s point about the advantages of being an English literature scholar is a good one. Both Jaffa and Bradford came along at the time when the `New Criticism’ dominated most English departments. The New Critics--including John Crowe Ransom, who was still alive and delivering poetry readings at Kenyon when I was there--required of their students close readings of whatever text the class was studying. The Yale English department was one of the finest in the country, maybe the best. It all seems a light year away, now.

Amen, Dr. Schramm, Amen. All conservatives can get behind Reagan.

Hey, that’s all Greek to me! :)

Now that’s Greek pre-9/11 thinking...

All this Lincoln talk serves little purpose, except to evaluate the IDEA of Lincoln. The way he keeps coming up though suggests that maybe the country is unconciously moving toward some major change - reinstituting slavery? The red states suceeding?

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