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  • Author: Luke C. Sheahan
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Humanitas
  • Institution: The Center for the Study of Statesmanship, Catholic University
  • Abstract: Traditionalist conservatives have often expressed hostility to the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, perceiving it as an attempt to accomplish social change undertaken by the court’s current justices while disregarding the original meaning of the Bill of Rights.1 According to this account, rather than recognizing the provisions of the First Amendment to be part of a larger constitutional project that upholds social order and traditional institutions, the court interprets First Amendment clauses so as to undermine the basic structural logic of the Constitution itself. An advocate of this position is the figure many consider to be the godfather of American intellectual conservatism, Russell Kirk.
  • Topic: Law, Domestic politics, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Luigi Bradizza
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Humanitas
  • Institution: The Center for the Study of Statesmanship, Catholic University
  • Abstract: Russell Kirk has three interlocking intentions in writing The Roots of American Order.1 First, he would draw our attention to the appearance of modern tyranny, particularly as established by the French and Russian revolutions, and have us see this form of tyranny as a new and especially dangerous type of political evil. Second, he aims to keep America from succumbing to a similar modern tyranny by arguing that America is largely the result of premodern strains of thought and historical and cultural experiences that have combined to give us an ordered liberty that, if properly understood and attended to, insulates us from modern tyranny.2 Third, in recovering an understanding of our ordered liberty, Kirk would also have us renew our loyalty to it on its own terms (apart from the protection it offers us from modern tyranny) and retain it as the substantial political goal toward which Americans can and should aim. In recovering an appreciation of the premodern roots of American order, Kirk sets himself against the position that America can be understood as a fundamentally early-modern liberal nation. Though recent scholarly work on the place of natural rights in the American Founding has raised questions about Kirk’s analysis of the Founding, it is my argument that Kirk’s analysis is largely sound because America’s political culture does indeed have deep roots in premodernity. Furthermore, Kirk’s analysis of modern tyranny is also sound. Despite the fact that debate over the character of the Founding is very much alive, and regardless of how it turns out, loyalty to Kirk’s understanding of ordered liberty is vital because the American ordered liberty that he describes is a precondition of human flourishing.
  • Topic: Religion, Political Theory, Domestic politics, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Humanitas
  • Institution: The Center for the Study of Statesmanship, Catholic University
  • Abstract: By any conventional measure, Chief Justice John Marshall’s Life of George Washington (1804) was a flop. Intended to be the authoritative biography of the nation’s most celebrated general and president, the work was widely derided at the time of its overdue publication, and since then has been largely forgotten. Surely the sense of personal embarrassment Marshall experienced must have been keen, for he admired no public figure more than Washington. Amid his Supreme Court duties, he labored for years on the Life, digging deep into American military and political history in hopes of etching in the minds of his fellow citizens the memory of the republic’s foremost founder. Yet in spite of his efforts, on no other occasion were Marshall’s failures more total and public. At one point, Marshall expressed the desire to publish the work anonymously, and one wonders if his wish was motivated less by self-effacement than a faint premonition of the biography’s failure.
  • Topic: Law, Military Affairs, Domestic politics, Supreme Court
  • Political Geography: United States