"Independence Forever" was, of course, John Adams’ final toast to his countrymen. His eldest son, however, gave serveral major addresses on July 4th. Thus far, I have found the full text of two of them available online.
On July 4 it is good, of course, to remember the words of the Declaration itself. But in order that we might remember why we must remember them, consider this speech from Calvin Coolidge. An excerpt:
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.Have a glorious Fourth!
For placing such thoughtful reflections on Mr. Jefferson and the Declaration in the NYT. According to Bill, our exercise of equal rights depends on unequal honor--on "the worthies" who moved first.
1. Ken Blanchard of South Dakota also concludes, for good reasons, that Lincoln is far more important than Darwin. And he likes Darwin.
2. The best argument I’ve read in a long time for the pernicious character of not only Dawinism but Darwin himself is the first chapter of the Calvinist novelist/essayist Marilynne Robinson’s THE DEATH OF ADAM. I’ll say more about that soon. Robinson reminds us of the important--maybe decisive--role Calvinism played in abolishing slavery in our country, and she displays for our admiration the Christian egalitarianism of antebellum upper Midwest. We Straussians and we Catholics probably don’t give the Calvinists the credit they deserve. We actually probably shouldn’t today; I don’t think they had that much to do with the big event of July 4th.
3. Have a great Independence Day!
And here is the wonderful 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st century version of the Declaration of Independence. Annuit Coeptis.
He doesn’t say much that he hasn’t at least hinted at before, nor much of anything that would jar the ears of the most hardened secularist Democrat. "Faith-based"--I’d say, faith-erased--groups are welcome partners with government as long as they’re virtually indistinguishable from the bureaucrats they’re assisting.
Greetings NLT readers. I’m coming up for air from finishing Age of Reagan Vol. 2 (due to the publisher at the end of this month) long enough to nip over to Madrid for the launch of the Spanish edition of my Reagan-Churchill book, Grandeza!. Turns out former Pres. Jose Maria Aznar (with whom I enjoyed a delightful lunch on Monday), leader of the right-leaning Partido Populare, bought my book at a Barnes & Noble in the U.S., liked it, and arranged for a Spanish translation to be published.
I’m getting lots of interviews from the media--they really do take authors more seriously over here--and, like journalists at home, most seem anti-Bush and pro-Obama, but above all are curious and confused. How can America really elect another Republican after Bush? But will America really elect a black man President? I put the matter as simply as I can: if American voters come to perceive Obama as a leftist, he will lose. Right now he is skillfully and rapidly moving to the center, and may succeed in concealing or disguising his previous leftism, in which case he will win. Comprende?
Once Age of Reagan II is finally in the can at the end of the month, I’ll be blogging up a storm here. I notice the prolific Lawler has passed me in the number of NLT posts, so I have some catching up to do.
P.S. By the way, I’ve met a substantial number of Spanish conservatives, of all ages (but especially young ones); they are deeply serious and impressive. There is a lot of spirit in them, and I suspect the Partido Populare has a promising future.
As we prepare to honor our nation on July 4th, it worth returning ourselves to the scene. On July 2, 1776, a unanymous Continental Congress approved the resolution that "these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states."
John Adams wrote Abigail twice the next day:
Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony "that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do." You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.
When I look back to the Year 1761, and recollect the Argument concerning Writs of Assistance, in the Superiour Court, which I have hitherto considered as the Commencement of the Controversy, between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole Period from that Time to this, and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprized at the Suddenness, as well as Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been fill’d with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my judgment. -- Time must determine. It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadfull. If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonour, and destroy Us. -- The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extreamly addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable [ as] the Faith may be, I firmly believe. (link)
Letter II: But on the other Hand, the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it. -- The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. -- Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. -- This will cement the Union, and avoid those Heats and perhaps Convulsions which might have been occasioned, by such a Declaration Six Months ago.
But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. -- I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. -- Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (link)
In response to a private request, I’m offering another snippet from Jim’s commentary on the two main kinds of Straussians: "In their public faces, the East is more philosophic, the West more political. Some allege that the far East, by which I do not mean China but Boston College, is not much interested in "the regime" at all, but only in philosophy. Political science today needs to be practiced today only as a way of protecting philosophy, which by accident finds its home in America today chiefly in political science departments. Easterners invite speakers to talk on political subjects and then deride them for deigning to be concerned with the real world....Westerners invite speakers to talk on a variety of philosophic subjects, but then are disappointed that more time has not been spent parsing the Declaration and Lincoln."
Jim does add in a note: "For reasons of space, I will not speak here of faith-based Straussians, many of whom live in France."
This unfriendly NEW REPUBLIC article actually gives McCain some good advice. It’s a mistake to brand Barack as a "typical politician." If that’s what he seems to be, he’ll easily win the election, given all the advantages of merely being a Democrat right now. If Mac seems an honorable man of character and Barack seems just a typical Democrat, Obama wins. The Republicans have to convince Americans that Obama is, in fact, too ideological to be mistaken for a typical politician or a typical Democrat.
Barack Obama did a smart thing today. He visited my hometown and he went there to talk about faith. He knows that he needs to win Ohio. And he knows exactly where he needs to go to help facilitate that victory. He went to the Eastside Community Ministry to talk about his support for faith-based initiatives in government anti-poverty programs. Here’s the text of that speech and here is a link to his plan for a faith-based initiative.
As I read through his remarks in Zanesville, I was struck by a couple of things. First, he wants to distinguish his faith-based initiative from that of his predecessor. He does this in the following way:
Second, his faith-based initiative seems less a way to help these groups to do their jobs than a way to get them dependent on government in order to do what they’re already doing. And, of course, this means that his sort of folks can direct what it is that these groups do (because, after all, you can’t expect people who "cling" to God and guns to know anything about helping the needy):
Well, I still believe it’s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular. But it has to be a real partnership – not a photo-op. That’s what it will be when I’m President. I’ll establish a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new name will reflect a new commitment. This Council will not just be another name on the White House organization chart – it will be a critical part of my administration.
First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.The takeaway line from this story today is Obama’s call for "all hands on deck." I’ve heard this repeated all day on radio and t.v. news. But the full context of that quote is this:
You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.This is, rhetorically, very smart and it has had the desired effect. He’s doing what Bush should have done about the war. He’s explaining why the American people are needed to help in the effort--except Obama’s "effort" is "saving our planet" and "ending poverty." (Hey, at least he’s ambitious!) This flatters people who, naturally, love their country and want to be a part of something good and larger than themselves. But the fact is that Obama’s call for "all hands on deck" is telling. A captain orders all hands on deck not because he feels they have some new insights to offer on swabbing it. He calls them up top to work according to his will. This is what Obama’s faith based initiative appears to offer too. Groups will have to agree to be secular and "non-discriminatory" even in their hiring . . . so Catholic Charities could not, I presume, require that their efforts be led by a Catholic? They will not be permitted to proselytize? And what will we call "proselytizing"? Could it be that even a conversation about Jesus might cause a group to lose its funding? And God-forbid we suggest that these groups do a better job at lifting people up (because they do). Suggesting that might put the Democratic party out of business.
That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.
I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Who is more important?
Well, there are certain crucial similiarities. They both were "compulsive scribblers." And they both get attacked by fools for no good reason.
Lincoln, though, was more IRREPLACEABLE. What would have happened to our country without Lincoln? Who knows, exactly? But things very likely would haven turned out very differently and much worse. But there was no urgency about Darwin’s discoveries, which would eventually have been made by someone else. In general, great STATESMEN are more important than great SCIENTISTS. And they won’t hesitate to tell you that.
Can Darwin’s theory account for Lincoln? Or Darwin? Can Lincoln’s understanding of human equality survive what’s true about Darwin’s theory? Can it correct what’s false or incomplete about that theory? According to Darwinian Larry, Lincoln and Darwin are, if properly understood, perfectly compatible.
We certainly can’t hold Darwin acccountable for those who use the evolutionary metaphor to explain political progress (like Woodrow Wilson). We can blame him for being nerdy enough to be poltically naive, to think that the human moral sense will almost inevitably continue to get stronger as the world gets more enlightened scientifically. Lincoln was pretty darn realistic when it comes to both politics and science.
Here’s another similarity: There are some people who (quite mistakenly) think Darwin explains it all. They’re not usually big NLT fans. And there are some people who think Lincoln explains it all. Although the characteristic error is to underrate Lincoln (and so he does need vindication), is it possible to overrate him?
Barack Obama has been called many things: Messiah, Redeemer, a Lightworker (?!), Jedi Knight, the New Testament to JFK’s Old Testament, a "quantum leap in America’s consciousness," and so on. But Jonah Goldberg in trying to understand (and NOT, I’d add, question) Obama’s patriotism, makes the case that Obama’s patriotism is trans-figurative. In other words, Obama argues that his patriotism can be seen in his views about "what will make America great." [emphasis mine] Jonah, like a Jewish mother, asks "What? It’s not great now?" Why does Obama think it needs to be "made" great? And how does this square with his speech yesterday at Independence, MO where he stated that, "Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given." If she needs to be "made great" why is your love for her a given?
Contrast Obama’s sentiment for America--his "given" love for a thing that still needs to be "made great"--with Abraham Lincoln’s expression of admiration for Henry Clay:
He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.In other words, Henry Clay’s love of country was also (though only in part) a given. We all love the things that are our own--sometimes even when they don’t deserve our affection. If this is the sense in which Barack Obama means patriotism, he is right to argue that it is no great testament to a man. It is inhuman not to love oneself and one’s own. But the real test of love--the kind of love that deserves the highest admiration and respect--is whether that love has ever asked and given a good accounting for the "why?" of itself. What is worthy of our love in this country we call our own? Not "do" we love her, but "why" do we love her? It is only in answering this question that we can aspire to be worthy of her and call ourselves Americans in the best sense (and not the mere factual sense) of the term.
It seems to me that Barack Obama has got it all wrong. America does not need to be "made great"--she was great from the beginning when, on that first of Independence Days, we declared:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.The problem now, as it always has been, is that Americans need to continue to make themselves worthy of her. It goes without saying (or, perhaps, not) that any number of Americans have failed to live up to Americas ideals over the centuries. We continue to see examples of that today and (God willing and the nation endures) we will always see these examples. But our failures to be good Americans do not mean that America is a failure as a force for good in the world. If Obama were merely saying that we can do better by making ourselves worthy of our own founding principles, that would be one thing. And then we could have a conversation about how we might go about doing that and, of course, we could have legitimate disagreements about the best way to proceed. But he is not saying that. He’s saying that we need "make America great" and he is dismissing patriotism as a "given" because he sees it as something ordinary. He argues that his ideals can transfigure America. In truth, what we really need is to look to a deeper understanding of patriotism and then to transfigure ourselves accordingly. What we really need is to learn to "love [our] country partly because it is [our] own country, but mostly because it is a free country" and we need to "[burn] with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because [we see] in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature."
UPDATE: I note in passing that it is interesting to see that in his speech yesterday, Obama noted Lincoln’s arguments in favor of suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War as a questionable use of patriotism . . .
Ted reports in the thread below what I’ve also heard from a couple of other sources: Palin and Romney are, at least for now, McCain’s two top choices. Romney is waging a campaign for the nomination, and he has his supporters. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. And I don’t know enough about Sarah to say for certain that she doesn’t have any downsides that should disqualify her. Still, my tentative conclusion is that she would be an exciting choice that would narrow the enthusiasm gap.
According to this article Mac is leaning toward Romney, for the good reasons of executive competence and fundraising prowress. The arguments against him are the same--McCain doesn’t really like him, the Mormon issue, and he’s too standard a choice in times that call for audacity. Bobby Jindal apparently is not mentioned by McCain insiders, because he would call attention to Mac’s age. The only new name is South Dakota’s Senator Thune. As far as I know he’s a solid and somewhat boring guy, but I don’t know very far.
Not every NLT reader is a subscriber to the Claremont Review of Books, baffling as that may seem. For those of you who don’t receive CRB in your mailbox, you can read some of the pieces from the new Summer 2008 issue at claremont.org. You can also read my CRB essay on "Civil Rights and the Conservative Movement" at Real Clear Politics today. Try not to start reading it, however, if you have a bus to catch. The editors allowed me to go on at Tolstoyan length on the topic, so be prepared to hunker down.
To stop murder, get rid of guns. And to stop obesity, get rid of fast food.
Whatever happened to teaching people to be responsible and to govern themselves? Liberty is hard to reconcile with distrust of the citizenry.
The new (spring) issue of PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE is out!
The lead article is by James W. Ceaser--"The American Context of Leo Strauss’s NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY." There’s so much wisdom here that I don’t dare summarize. So I’ll offer a few tastes...
On Eastern vs. Western Straussians: "The East has followed one reading in seeing the American founding as reflective of Locke and modern natural right philosphy, and thus in need of direct and visible ’correction’ from without. The West has argued, in any number of ways, that this ’correction’ is already to be found inside the American founding, and in particular inside the Declaration of Independence."
"There are several versons of this [Western] thesis: that the correction in the American founding is not in Locke, whom the Americans thankfully read exoterically rather than esoterically; that Locke, if read differently from Strauss, does already contain that correction; that the whole way in which the problem is stated was transformed by the advent of Christianity, with the result that if Aristotle were to have come back in the eighteenth century, he would assume the body of John Locke."
"Leo Strauss could easily have joined this flabby [anti-totalitarian] consensus in favor of natural rights and become part of the burgeoning ’let’s pretend’ club that was spreading throughout academia....His great offense against the American intellectual establishment was his heretical suggestion that any affirmation of natural rights has something to do with restoring nature."
"Nominalism is the only philosophic category that is listed in the index of NATURAL RIGHT AND HISTORY....Every other entry is a name." (Let me know what the heck this means!)
The Knippenbergs spent the better part of two days this weekend down at the Georgia Tech natatorium, where the Knippkids competed in their summer swim association championships. The final results (which it took all Sunday afternoon to produce) included six top 5 finishes, two personal bests, and a team age group record.
While I was serving on Friday as a master timer (which is to say backing up the touchpads, secondary electronic systems, and stopwatches held by the lane timers), my wife had an interesting conversation with another mom. Seems her daughter, a seventh grader, had taken Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. While the official content description for the social studies portion of the test looks pretty impressive, the girl’s reaction was that what prepared her best for taking that part of the test was watching American Idol. I don’t mean this as an endorsement of the educational value of that program.
And then there’s this, from God and Gold, my current nightstand reading:
Like Addison and Macaulay--and like Lewis Tappan and J.P. Morgan, for that matter--A.P. Giannini believed that his business was rooted in character and morality, and inconceivable except under free and accountable government. The depositor must believe that the bank which receives his or her savings is soundly managed; lenders must seek individuals who are committed to repaying their loans.
Food for thought, eh?
From today’s LA Times:
Giovanni Lanaro was born in Los Angeles, grew up in La Puente, attended Cal State Fullerton, and coaches and trains at Mt. San Antonio College. Yet, when the torch is lighted during opening ceremonies this summer at the Beijing Olympics, the world’s sixth-ranked pole vaulter will be with Mexico, not the United States.
"I will always compete for Mexico," said Lanaro, whose mother was born there. "I will never compete for any other country."
I used to think that the Olympics ought to be cancelled because amateurism is dead. Now I wonder if post-nationalism/ multi-culturalism will do it in. (On the other hand the pursuit of athletic excellence remains a worthy thing. Sports are one of the few places in American life where excellence is demanded, rewarded, and praised. )
Allen is the author of Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. She spoke on the theme of the book at the Ashbrook Center in 2005.
1. I just got back from the meeting of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The main topic was healthcare. Here’s one big issue: The present system, where most people get the insurance from their employer, is collapsing. It’s incompatible with a dynamic economy and unaffordable over the long term. And when key "intermediary" groups can no longer do a job, it’s inevitable that some responsibilities devolve to individuals, and others to the government. We need a system that fosters competition among private insurers, gets everyone covered (maybe through individual mandates)--incuding the so-called uninsurable, eliminates the present tax breaks for employer-based insurance (which are very regressive), and replaces those breaks with tax credits and subsidies to make insurance affordable for all. The result should be as much individual responsibility or choice as is reasonable. But that responsibility isn’t really for "abstract individuals" alone. The new system--to be sustainable--has to encourage voluntary caregiving by families, communities, and churches. We have to think more consciously in terms of SUBSIDIARITY in our increasingly individualistic time. Otherwise, we’ll end up with more government than is good for us. Republicans have to show they really understand the imperatives of this new situation, and not merely rail against new rights, socialized medicine, and so forth. More on this later.
That leads us to the "Sam’s Club Republicans," who have to be cultivated for the GOP to have a future. For them, the SOCIAL ISSUES concerning the disintegration of the family and elite contempt for ordinary virtue remain more real than ever. But so too are the issues flowing from their economic anxiety--like health care. They don’t experience their lives as on the road to some "soft despotism." For them, the individual--surrounded by collapsing "safety nets"--seems more on his or her own than ever. Sam’s Club Republicans don’t want "socialized medicine," but they also don’t want to constantly worry about access to affordable health care for themselves and their children.
The main reason for the "enthusiasm gap" in the presidential campaign so far is that McCain doesn’t yet seem to feel the pain of the "Sam’s Club Republican"--either morally or economically. Mac has to appeal to independents (one honorable maverick appealing to others), given how discredited the Republican "brand" is right now. But he also has to energize the base that reelected the president in 2004.