Book Recommendation

Conservatism is founded upon the wisdom of the ages in appreciation of both  human nature and the need for civil society. The American Compact between the people and their government is an on-going experiment in self-governance.

According to historian Joyce Appleby, one of the factors that qualified Thomas Jefferson as a genius was Jefferson’s ability to take the lessons of the past and apply them to current situations in a way that was new and novel.

While democracy is constantly praised, it is classical republicanism that is the agent of change that established the American Compact of self-government. Classical republicanism is based on the understanding that

there were two orders of men – the talented few and the ordinary many – and because there were inevitable social divisions, a properly balanced constitution would balance the powers of these two groups. But constitutional stability rested ultimately in this classical paradigm upon the exercise of civic virtue – upon the capacity of some men to rise above private interests and devote themselves to the public good. Men deeply involved in their own business, in getting ahead, and seizing opportunities for gain were not proper candidates for public office. [p. 9.]

Capitalism and A New Social Order: The Republican Vision of the 1790’s  records the era that completed the new vision of the American concept of self-governance, as Jefferson led a republican assault on the then ruling Federalist Party.

In understanding that history repeats itself, it is interesting to know that the Federalist Party of the 1790’s lost power forever because they defended a party platform of the well-born over the common citizen, Federal solutions to local problems, and the unity of church and state – re: the current entitlement argument.

The Jeffersonian republicans ran on a platform of Liberty that heralded that ability of the common man to participate in affairs of state and labeled the Federalists as autocratic…

…and pointed out the conundrum that they condemn people to ignorance and superstition and hence produce the evils that are used to justify their repressiveness” [p. 81] as well as arguing that “authoritarian institutions [were] the cause rather than the consequence of human waywardness” [p. 82] and declaring a revolutionary republican principle that it was the Liberty of self-interest that drove human beings to take care of themselves, and thus eliminating the need for “vigorous government“. [p. 82]

The elections of the 1790’s were pivotal in setting the vision of the new nation because in each election there was something of consequence to be determined in this new experiment in self-government. At the end of the 1790’s the Federalist Party was extinct, never to rise again from obscurity as the republican vision became the leading view of what the new nation was meant to be.

We need this now

This book is back in print and is a short and historically packed blueprint for our current need in the American experiment in self-government. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in reacquainting themselves in the American Spirit of Liberty.

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