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Lincoln, Charity and “We, the People”

Lincoln, Charity And “We, The People”

They said, some men are too ignorant, and vicious, to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and, by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious.

-Abraham Lincoln, “Fragments on Slavery,” July 1, 1854


A Crisis of the People

Lincoln’s trust in the judgment of the American people presupposed a stern condition: “We, the People” must act charitably. The presence of Christian mores was essential in keeping the people virtuous, lest they fall back into the “mobocratic” spirit of which he famously warned in his Lyceum speech of 1838. Although other American leaders had recognized the importance of charity, they had not required it as a moral test of citizenship. The institutions of democracy alone do not guarantee a charitable people. The president’s thoughts about the capacity of Americans to be charitable are so emblematic of the typically populist rhetoric of a democrat that it is tempting to forget just how debatable they truly are.

Even conservatives in American history who are sympathetic with Christianity do not insist, like Lincoln, that charity is required for the American people to be truly worthy citizens. Even liberal admirers of the president often prefer to insist that enlightened self-interest may be sufficient in fostering good citizenship. Lincoln, more than any other leader up to his time (and perhaps for all time), posed this question: can Christian charity keep the people virtuous?

Lincoln’s trust in the capacity of the people to be charitable is controversial, to say the least. This basic trust in the capacity has never been easy or straightforward for Americans of all political stripes, before or after Lincoln. There is little evidence that the founders, liberals, aristocratic conservatives, or even populists have demanded as much virtue from the people as Lincoln did. Trust in the moral strength of the American people has fallen on hard times in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, perhaps in response to exhausting ideological use of the “chosen people” mythology as a rationale for democracy building at home and abroad.

The famous report of the Trilateral Commission of the 1970s warned that democracy was becoming “ungovernable” because the American people were demanding far too much in entitlements.1 Perhaps the Old Right aristocrats of the ancien regime had been correct, after all, about the people. Perhaps the “mobocratic” spirit of which Lincoln had warned had finally triumphed over American democracy.

A crisis of the people’s spirit is ultimately a crisis of an understanding of its traditions, as any conservative from Russell Kirk to Willmoore Kendall would agree. Indeed, American conservatism has always been a paradox. This republic began in revolution against a traditional European conservatism that did not put trust in the “people. ” Americans — Lincoln included — look forward to a future that is different from (and superior to) the past.

What, then, is the nation supposed to conserve? Which traditions do conservatives “conserve” in an age of flux? Should conservatives be populist or elitist, democratic or aristocratic? Today’s divisions among American conservatives (usually divided between “neoconservatives” and “paleoconservatives”) have forced a return to pivotal concerns: Can the American people be trusted to preserve their nation? Are they “conservative” anymore?

It would be unfair to suggest that only Americans must contend with these questions. Conservatism has always been a modern doctrine, protesting against modern movements on modern grounds. Yet American conservatism has generally been more populist than its European counterparts. The republic embraced two dynamics that have had no traditional equivalent across the Atlantic: a faith in the virtue of the people and an embrace of the free practice of Protestant Christianity.

To be sure, the status of the “people” has not always been clear. As the scholarship of Barry Alan Shain has documented, even in the early decades of the new republic there was a growing division between the Protestant agrarian majority and the secular urbanized minority, a conflict that was bound to have implications for the survival of Christianity as a political influence. The presidency of Abraham Lincoln built upon the Christian ethic of the old Protestant majority, even though the Civil War might have markedly reduced its influence.2

Nevertheless, Lincoln was convinced that Christian morality is indispensable. Still, in elevating charity to the status of an indispensable political faith, did Lincoln perhaps demand more of the people than the founders did? Some sympathetic readers of Lincoln have answered in the affirmative.3 Just how far should Americans trust themselves to be charitable?

The Founders’ Views of the People

The Federalist provides a famously influential answer to this question of the people’s moral compass. This work, the third most important document of the founding, taught that America represented a new regime because of its dedication to the people. Despite the claim of Russell Kirk, that the American Revolution was simply “a conservative restoration of colonial prerogatives, ” the founders understood the Revolution to be a new kind of politics altogether. In the words of Willmoore Kendall, this conservatism “adjourned sine die its quarrel with democracy, ” and especially with “We, the People.”4 Still, did the authors of The Federalist count on the people’s unending commitment to Christian conceptions of virtue?

Certainly, The Federalist taught that the American people possessed some virtue. They were not a rabble who had to be controlled by a wise elite. They were a people who were trustworthy in their deliberations about politics. The classic statement of American popular sovereignty can be found in The Federalist no. 55, where “Publius” warns against an overemphasis on the “depravity of mankind” lest it lead to the despairing conclusion that “there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government.”

It is well known that The Federalist warns against undue optimism in the popular will, which “factions” or demagogues can always manipulate. There is no guarantee that a republic can abolish factions or even that the majority is immune to them, as Federalist no. 10 observes. There is also no guarantee that the people will be “angels” in their deliberations, as articles 49 and 51 famously warn. A few scholars have noted that “Publius” has nothing to say about the eternal need to educate the people in virtue. 5 Yet it may not be advisable for “human prudence” to devise a government that seeks to eradicate the capricious passions of humanity (article 57).

Tyranny itself is never a solution to the fallibility or depravity of the people, as Federalist no. 55 warns, for there is no guarantee that any elite is free of vices. The republic is not meant to be “a nation of philosophers” (article 49). Indeed, this nation will never produce on a regular basis “enlightened statesmen” who will be at the helm (article 10). Just as it is unrealistic to expect a ruling elite to be regularly prudent, so it is unfair to deny that the people possess “prudence and firmness” (article 31).

Without these qualities, the people cannot restrain the vices of their representatives. Both the people and their representatives have an equal measure of reason and passion, and it is ultimately up to the public to possess the reason that ought to “control and regulate the government” (article 49). This prudence specifically never calls for the utter suppression of the people, based on the fear that their collective fallibility will lead to a new Terror. As Willmoore Kendall used to say, who would dare say “nay” to the People?

For this reason, “We, the People, ” for the first time in history, could be trusted to make decisions about a political regime. A community that understands the “constitutional morality” of The Federalist would decide to elect the most virtuous person to office: although this act paradoxically combined aristocratic leadership with democratic will, the final authority lay with the people to decide which leaders were truly virtuous.6 Indeed, the majority of the population could be trusted to be prudent and reasonable in their deliberations (unless ideologues and factions derailed the system).

The fatal choice between tyranny and anarchy (which the French Revolution so tragically embodied) was not inevitable. In the new and “extended” republic of the United States, “a coalition of a majority of the whole society” would not be possible without a popular knowledge of justice (article 52). The people would not only understand justice but even practice it. Lest anyone think that “Publius” alone believes in the capacity of the people to be prudent, we can consult that other great document in which Jefferson declares to his readership that the new republic presupposes this moderation.

The people can be trusted to possess the virtue to retain and abolish government as they see fit, without the whimsicality of radical passions: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.”  Neither Jefferson nor “Publius” promises that the people will always be prudent or virtuous. However, if they lack these capacities altogether, then the alternative statecraft must be one of tyranny. If the people are truly a rabble, neither an aristocracy nor “enlightened statesmen” nor a philosophic elite will teach the people anything about virtue. Still, what do the people consider prudent or virtuous at any given time? Are there any enduring principles that the people must obey in order to remain virtuous or prudent? (Even a stalwart defender of the founding like Kendall admitted that the “missing” section of The Federalist provoked the question: what keeps the people virtuous?) 7

Natural Right Philosophy

One popular answer to this question of maintaining virtue among the populace is that unswerving support of natural rights for all of humanity would be proof positive that Americans are still a virtuous people. Rights to liberty and equality are the highest goods. Defenders of this school are confident that both the Declaration and The Federalist speak with one voice on the issue of natural right, and not simply for the necessity of the people to have prudence. Indeed, there is no point in being prudent unless the people are equally committed to these natural rights. The people must demonstrate their virtue in committing to the natural rights enshrined in the Declaration. Just as typical is their belief that Americans are becoming less virtuous as they stray from the creed of natural right.8  In short, the morality of the founding allegedly rests upon natural right philosophy (and not anything particularly Christian).

What does The Federalist actually claim about rights? Certainly, there are rights by nature, but the most important natural right of all is the right to survive. This a republic can accomplish only if the people are prudent in their deliberations over other rights. Prudence here means the awareness of survival as the right that trumps all other rights. When Madison refers to the authority of “nature” in Federalist no. 43, he has in mind the longevity of the republic (particularly in regard to the necessity of individual states to ratify the Constitution with unanimity). Both the “transcendent law of nature” and “Nature’s God” declare the supremacy of the safety and happiness of the people as the great goals of all institutions.

Nowhere in Madison’s article is there the premise that natural rights are so absolute that debates over them are more important than the “great principle of self-preservation.” The safety and happiness of society are possible only if the people decide under which circumstances these debates are to occur. Therefore, the prudence of the people is assumed once more. Nature’s “God” (to which Madison refers in order to avoid the fear of theocracy that a direct appeal to the God of revelation might provoke) does not sanction individual rights at the expense of the republic’s equally important goods of order and tranquillity. If there is a natural right, it is the right of the people to decide their form of government, not the right of minorities or individuals to question that right.9  In fine, the people decide the importance of natural rights.

The Federalist also assumes that the representatives of the people will reflect the “deliberate sense” (or prudence) of the people in resisting the temptation to embrace “every sudden breeze of passion” (article 71) that serves the interests of factions rather than the people as a whole. Only through calm discussion of the issues do the representatives serve the common good. If the representatives listen to demagogues (even those supported by the popular will), it will be left to the virtuous people to lament and condemn these leaders (article 63).

Despite the emphasis of the founders on the people’s virtue, it is impossible to find one reference to the necessity of Christian charity in The Federalist, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution. The people’s “deliberate sense” undoubtedly presupposes a moral sense, or at least a distrust of ideologically divisive factions. Yet the founders did not insist that every important decision that the people call upon its representatives to make be one based on charity. That demand entered American political thought only with Abraham Lincoln.

Tocqueville and the “People”

As I shall argue in a later section of this chapter, various American political thinkers — liberal, conservative, and populist—have refrained from presupposing that the American people either can be or need be charitable, as Lincoln did. This skepticism over the virtue of the people has even encouraged both liberals and Old Right conservatives to enlist the support of Alexis de Tocqueville to vindicate their doubts.

Liberals like Louis Hartz and Thomas Pangle are confident that this French aristocrat was fully sympathetic to the fulfillment of liberty and equality for all human beings. Conservative aristocrats like Russell Kirk and Peter Viereck are certain that Tocqueville much preferred the rule of an elite to that of the people. Historian John Lukacs, who seems to straddle both the liberal and the aristocratic positions, believes that Tocqueville appreciated both liberty and traditional order (but not the popular will) as the true foundation of the American republic.

It is undoubtedly true that Tocqueville saw and even respected the American commitment to liberty, and hoped that the best of America’s traditions would survive the relentless love of progress among the people of the republic. Yet liberals and “aristocratic conservatives” selectively ignore another essential finding of Tocqueville in his famous visit to America in the early 1830s. This European aristocrat displayed a cautious admiration for the doctrine of popular sovereignty at the heart of the American experiment. Although he dismissed as an “impious and detestable maxim” the belief that the majority can do whatever it pleases in a political order, Tocqueville also believed that this majority is committed to justice in America.10

Although he doubted that any regime, republican or aristocratic, could prevent tyranny, Tocqueville also doubted that majority rule in the United States would inevitably lead to despotism. In his words, true republicanism means “the tranquil reign of the majority.” This majority encouraged the formation of a “conciliatory government” in which resolutions of the day would be discussed “with deliberation and executed only when mature.” Moreover, Tocqueville continues, “Humanity, justice, and reason stand above” the process of government. Even a popular figure like Andrew Jackson, president at the time of Tocqueville’s visit, would not be permitted (nor would he be tempted) to impose dictatorship, according to Tocqueville. He even candidly admitted that his fellow Europeans, who thought of “power to the people” in despotic terms, could not understand the American experiment well.”

The fact that this French Catholic aristocrat saw much to admire in the overwhelmingly Protestant majority in America has not been well appreciated even among his admirers. Despite the skepticism that later observers of American politics have expressed toward the virtue of the people, Tocqueville entertained no such doubts. Tocqueville saw no serious contradiction between majority-rule democracy and respect for individual rights. Yet he also could not imagine one without the other.

Liberal scholars since his time have often placed emphasis on the most individualistic themes of the founding, at the expense of appreciating the Protestant majority that Tocqueville admired. To understand the historic importance of this majority might, as Shain trenchantly observes, relieve these scholars “from having to describe so much of American history as pathological or mysteriously anomalous.”12 Moreover, Tocqueville could not imagine an America that would prudently abandon its commitment to Christian mores. The fact that a later president would have to remind Americans of the implications of these mores was inconceivable even to this wise aristocratic admirer of the republic.

Lincoln and the Virtuous People

Since I have already argued in the last chapter that Lincoln always assumed that the American people possessed (even if they did not always practice) a sense of charity, my analysis of the president’s thought will be the briefest section in this chapter. Lincoln’s trust in the people was a synthesis of his faith in goodwill and prudent statecraft on his part. Without a sense of collective goodwill, the republic indeed would perish. In this important respect, Lincoln was following in the footsteps of the founders (although some writers, we have seen, argue that Lincoln loved the people more).

As the president declared in his first inaugural address:

“Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better, or equal hope, in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth, and that justice, will surely prevail, by the judgment of this great tribunal, the American people.”

The president continues: “While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years.”13

It is undeniable that Lincoln showed caution in his praise of the people’s wisdom. “While” they retain their virtue, the republic is safe, but there are no guarantees. Nevertheless, a true democrat can put his faith only in God and the people’s judgment. The people as a whole are to be trusted, as long as they are obedient to God. The “Almighty ruler” alone will decide of what this trust or wisdom consists—since both sides claimed God as their own in the upcoming conflict — but ultimately the people, united or divided, will decide, and God will judge. Lincoln would have happily echoed the sentiment of Walt Whitman, in his introduction to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, that the genius of America lays “most in the common people,” provided that this people obeys God.

“A Contempt for the People of America”

Like the founders, Lincoln worried about the dangers of factions (the slave-owning minority of the South rather than Southerners as a whole were the real enemy in his mind) in the form of a minority imposing its will on a larger number of the American people, particularly after Dred Scott opened the door to the toleration of slavery nationwide.14 Ultimately, the majority must decide. As he observed earlier in the same address, “Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left.”15 The fact that Lincoln presupposed goodwill among Southerners — which even led him to believe (perhaps with some naïveté) that the planters’ aristocracy had manipulated the good Southern folk into war with the North — did not deter him from his belief that the majority must triumph in the end.16

Still, was the majority truly virtuous?

It was, as long as the majority understood that freedom for all meant freedom for slaves, not just freedom for the majority (or minority).17 Lincoln was willing to defend majority-rule democracy as enthusiastically as the authors of The Federalist and Tocqueville, as long as the majority tried to be morally consistent. What makes Lincoln’s political usage of charity difficult is the twofold demand that the majority and minority must be just (charitable) toward each other. Can any leader — even one as talented as Lincoln — please the majority and the minority at the same time?

Conservative opponents of Lincoln often target him with two accusations. In deciding to invade the South, Lincoln uncharitably imposed majority rule on Southerners. Moreover, Lincoln upheld the rights of minorities (slaves) at the expense of the Southern minority. In short, Lincoln may well have been charitable to one group of Americans but was not so inclined toward another. Allowing for the exigencies of war, one could still make a case that Lincoln indeed was not always charitable.

Yet these critics are invoking the same moral principle as Lincoln did against the slave owners of the South. It is ironic that these foes of the president tend to oppose Lincoln on the basis of the president’s own terms, since Lincoln is the defender at once of majority-rule democracy and of the rights of minorities in America.18 Yet critics like Willmoore Kendall, who faulted Lincoln for imposing tyranny on Southerners in the name of “natural rights,” sounded just like the president when he later opposed the attempts of minorities (during the civil rights era of the 1960s) to hijack the political process or refuse to take no for an answer: this was exactly Lincoln’s position on Southern secession.19

Perhaps the most significant effect of Lincoln’s insistence on charity as a political principle is that his opponents can readily use it against him (just as his defenders can invoke its authority against his critics). This fact reveals the persistent influence of his legacy: after Lincoln, Americans must judge each other at the political level on their practice of hypocrisy. Charity is no longer a private morality, since the “virtuous” people, in the rhetoric of Willmoore Kendall, must act as the judge and practitioner of charity in the political arena.

The influence of Lincoln’s politicization of charity has not deterred many distinguished American political theorists from doubting the likelihood that Americans can be as morally consistent as Lincoln insisted they should be. Two of the most important political traditions in the twentieth century challenged the traditional American trust in the people, or at least questioned the wisdom of majority rule. Both considered their readings to reflect the true “conservatism” of the republic.

The Liberal Version of the American Founding

I shall call the first school the liberal interpretation of the American founding. The main thesis of this school is simple enough. America’s traditions are liberal to the core because its founders were liberals in the classical sense. Since, unlike their European counterparts, the Americans lacked an established church and a landed aristocracy at the dawn of their regime, they began as a nation of free individuals dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality.

The most famous exponent of this school, Louis Hartz, claims that “atomistic social freedom” is the “master assumption” of the American political tradition. On the far left side of this liberal tradition, Andrew Levine (whose work is indebted to the American liberal theorist John Rawls) dismisses as “Rousseauian” any attempt to trust the people unless the people understand rights for minorities as the primary good.20 Ultimately, the foundation of the liberal hermeneutic is the assumption that Americans act according to enlightened self-interest, not charity.

The influence of Hartz on academics studying the American founding is extensive. It has virtually become a credo to assume that what the founders understood as liberty and equality is indeed a liberal one. In the tradition of Hartz, Canadian Tory philosopher George Grant agrees that the only heritage that Americans conserve is the old liberal individualism of John Locke.21 Despite the mass of textual evidence that suggests that Locke was a defender of majority-rule democracy, most scholars dedicated to the “natural right” school have praised Hartz for what they take to be the enduring accuracy of his reading of the founding.22

Thomas Pangle concurs with Hartz that the division between the European ancien regime and American individualism has existed from the founding of the republic onward. There is no other tradition indigenous to America.23 Thomas G. West has claimed that the American founders were as liberal as their twentieth-century counterparts in their egalitarian assumptions about slaves, women, and the poor.24 In short, minority interests trump those of the majority. Rationally motivated individuals, not the majority, have constituted the body politic of America. These individuals were also secular minded. Therefore, Christianity — the religion of the majority — cannot play an enduring role in shaping the politics of the republic. (Hartz rarely mentions Christianity in his work, except in the context of the Mayflower Compact, which he dismisses as an unimportant influence. )

The liberal reading of the American founding generally ignores the fact that the vast majority of Americans were neither secular nor particularly liberal, as Barry Alan Shain has documented. Even if leaders of the Revolution like Jefferson embraced deism, they were not exempted from the influence of the Christianity that shaped the souls of the American majority. Indeed, his version of deism was particularly theistic in assuming that a providential God still governed the republic; Jefferson himself famously trembled over the justice of this “personal deity.”25 In short, the popular Christianity of the people, which enjoyed full bloom by the time of the Second Great Awakening, left precious little room for the individualism that Hartz and his many followers celebrate as the essence of the founding. Despite the claims of liberals to be walking in the footsteps of Lincoln, they ignore the president’s view that Christian charity, rather than reason, must teach morality.

The Aristocratic Conservative Version of the Founding

I shall call the second influential school the aristocratic conservative interpretation of the American founding. Like their liberal opponents, supporters of this school are also opposed to majority rule. Unlike their liberal rivals, however, they are skeptical of the wisdom of trusting in the acquisitive individualism of Americans as the basis for sound politics and are more receptive to the influence of Christianity in the republican tradition.

Although the defenders of this school have had far less influence than their liberal opponents, they have been able to tap into the long-established tradition of European conservative thought, particularly its repudiation of the French Revolution, to give weight to their argument. Although aristocratic conservatives would disdain the focus of liberals on self-interested calculation at the expense of tradition, they generally agree with liberals that “We, the People” do not deserve the trust of the leadership class.

The most venerable defender of aristocratic conservatism in America was Russell Kirk, whom many still take “to be the best example” of the American conservative tradition.26 Kirk taught that the American regime has always accepted the old Burkean assumption that every society needs an aristocracy, which then furnishes an essential understanding of a transcendent order, a class system based on privilege, and a healthy suspicion of change.27 This elite must teach the people (who are presumably ignorant) the eternal verities of community and honor, even though this same people may have at one time expressed these verities.

Belief in both “We, the People” and unbridled Lockean individualism, therefore, is equally anathema to the American conservative mind, as Kirk defines it. “Vestiges of aristocracy” must exist to “temper the impulse of majorities” toward tyranny. At first glance, Kirk sounds no different from Tocqueville in warning about the dangers of unbridled majority rule. Indeed, he invokes the authority of the great French aristocrat in critiquing the worst impulses of the people: to trustthe judgment of the people in the abstract is a leap of faith “far more credulous than medieval relic-veneration.”28 In practice, only a virtuous aristocracy can restrain the people from embracing a Hitler or a Stalin, a recurrent threat in a democracy.

Kirk did not consider his thoughts on majority rule to be outside of the mainstream of conservative thought. Indeed, he invoked Burke’s concept of the ideal majority in a society to be men of property, privilege, and inherited tradition.29 Yet it is far from obvious that his thought lies in the mainstream of American conservatism.30 Although the authors of The Federalist had no great love for unbridled majority rule, and even celebrated the need for aristocratic leadership, they did not pin their hopes on the virtue of this leadership to maintain a stable polity. Even the most elitist of the founders presupposed that the people must already possess a moral sense, which would take prime place over the authority of an equally fallible leadership class.

Naturally, every school of thought has to explain why historical reality does not cooperate with its theory. Both liberals and aristocratic conservatives (who often blame each other for what is wrong with America) still also point to the same enemy in order to explain why their vision of America has not quite panned out. That enemy is the people. More accurately, belief in the sovereignty of the people is, to both liberal and aristocratic minds, a barbaric violation of what is best and most enduring in the American tradition. On the liberal side, Hartz admitted that even the individualistic Lockean creed could become a vicious dogma of conformity in the hands of the American majority.31

Richard Hofstadter and Protestant America

Other liberal authors have followed suit. The widely respected historian Richard Hofstadter wrote extensively in the 1950s on the need to dismiss as “pseudo-conservatives” those Americans who were hostile to liberal reforms, centralized power in Washington, and a policy of appeasement toward the spread of communism (even though the first two attitudes count as traditions in their own right in American history). Hofstadter believed that these resentful factions did not fit into the American mainstream (conservative or liberal) because their rebellious attitude opposed the true traditions of the republic: presumably, these traditions were socially “progressive.”

Indeed, the opponents of these traditions were so far beyond the mainstream that Hofstadter considered these “radical rightists” to be suffering from mental illness.32 It may be tempting to dismiss Hofstadter’s famous critique of the “radical Right” as an epiphenomenon of cold war politics. After all, he often gave the impression that this right-wing constituency was a minority opinion far beyond respectable mainstream (that is, liberal) thought.

Yet Hofstadter was not content to dismiss the radical Right as a mere aberration, for he often ambitiously claimed that the true origin of these extreme tendencies historically lay within the mainstream of American thought. Hofstadter squarely laid the blame for these pathologies at the feet of Protestant America, whose inhabitants were definitely not the “virtuous people.” All that is ugly with America was attributed to the people to whom Lincoln appealed as the great arbiter of justice and morality.

Throughout his major works on American politics, Hofstadter faults the Protestant majority for holding back intellectual and political progress in America. The American disdain for ideas and elevation of irrationality “are inheritances from American Protestantism.” At best, this historically frontier culture exemplified manly virtues, at worst a hatred of the mind. While it was a society wedded to practical virtues like “cunning,” it was not a society likely “to produce poets or artists or savants,” Hofstadter wrote of the people whom Lincoln counted on to practice charity, mercy, and forgiveness.33

Indeed, he drew a pejorative relation between Lincoln and his fellow Americans, since he convicted the president for living the “Anglo-Saxon” contradiction of revering and destroying institutions and laws at the same time.34 Although Hofstadter lamented the fact that this pathologically Protestant culture still pervaded much of modern conservatism in America, he fervently hoped that the decline of the Waspish presence would also coincide with the disappearance of this “nativistic” conservatism.35 Hofstadter’s devaluation of American Protestantism fitted well with the thinking of post-World War II elites who were determined to portray the nation as truly cosmopolitan, and not indebted to a particular faith tradition.

What Hofstadter found so extremist about this people was simply their opposition to liberalism (just as Hartz excoriated Southerners for resisting this tradition). He faulted them for opposing the liberal reforms of the New Deal and the Fair Deal. He even ridiculed conservatives like Barry Goldwater for holding the absurd view that conservatism is “a system of eternal and unchanging ideas” that requires lasting preservation.16 (Perhaps unbeknownst to this historian, The Federalist makes this assumption several times.) The reader of Hofstadter’s works as a whole gets the distinct impression that a true American conservatism in his view must accept liberalism without any Protestant trappings, or else it will face a deserved extinction.

Hofstadter sometimes even expected that these ideological “fundamentalists” were small enough in number to wind up eventually in the dustbin of history. The liberalism of the American founding was simply too powerful for these upstarts to challenge. In direct opposition to Lincoln’s trust in the wisdom of the Christian people of America, there is no indication in Hofstadter’s work that the American Protestant majority possesses a capacity for virtue.

America Protestantism Leads to Oppression?

Hofstadter was confident that Waspish conservatism would meet its demise in progressive twentieth-century America, but his admirers who have written about the populist Right since Hofstadter’s death in 1970 have been less optimistic.37 John Lukacs, using language comparable to that of Hofstadter, warned in the post-cold war era that this xenophobic and intolerant (yet strangely popular) movement on the American Right was a false conservatism that, sadly, had nothing to do with the European ancien regime and perhaps even amounted to a Yankee version of National Socialism [Nazis].18

On the aristocratic conservative side, warnings about the resurgence of a new populist conservatism have been no less dire. In the same volume on the “radical Right” to which Hofstadter contributed in the 1950s, the self-styled “Tory Democrat” Peter Viereck echoed ominous worries about a new fascism afoot in America. Like Hofstadter, Viereck believed that these rightists were a minority who posed no threat to respectable thought. Although Viereck accused Russell Kirk — another conservative who was suspicious of the popular will — of believing in a”rootless” conservatism that had no application to America, he seemed to agree with Kirk that true American conservatism (as he defined it) ought to be suspicious of the rabble, and this rabble was Protestant.39 In concurring with Hofstadter that the people are at fault for so easily caving into right-wing radicalism, however, Viereck seemed to worry about the popular roots of what passed for conservatism in America: a “savage direct democracy” that was intolerant of intellectual dissent and aristocratic checks on majority rule.40

Like Kirk and Viereck, other self-styled true conservatives have echoed the liberal worry over the dark populist heart of the American people. In the early 1960s, Clinton Rossiter sought to define real conservatism in the manner first prescribed by Kirk and Hofstadter: Rossiter, who followed Hartz in seeing America as a “progressive country with a Liberal tradition,” even faulted the mainly Protestant conservatism of Senator Robert Taft for consisting of “assumptions, prejudices, myths, vague longings, and slogans,” a conservatism all too reflective of an unimaginative and dangerously radical people.

Indeed, Rossiter worried as much as Hofstadter that the most “extreme conservatives” were outdoing the Left in dissenting from the established liberal consensus.41 In the late 1970s, when the first signs of a well-organized and populist “New Right” were gaining attention, political journalist and self-styled “conservative” Alan Crawford lamented the resentful yet persuasive influence of these new upstarts who were far less concerned with preserving the power of privileged elites and far more interested in overthrowing liberal elites who were faulted for promoting a lax morality, high crime rates, and dependence on federal largesse.

In Crawford’s polemic, it seemed that both the liberal and the aristocratic conservative readings of America had once again dramatically converged, as they had in Rossiter’s analysis. What particularly troubled Crawford (who claimed that Kirk was the classic American conservative) was that the new rightists were as opposed to the old conservative elites as they were to their liberal counterparts. Crawford, who admired Hofstadter’s analysis of the populist Right, despised these pseudoconservatives for rejecting the “elites” who clearly know better than they how to manage the nation’s affairs.42

In the same time period, Catholic conservative political theorist Frederick Wilhelmsen doubted whether the American people, corrupted as they are by the vices of democracy, are even capable of understanding high principles like those that constitute natural law ethics. Even a populist conservative like Kevin P. Phillips (a onetime adviser to President Nixon on his “southern strategy” to win marginalized white voters in the South) has warned about the ominous radicalism of “Middle America” (especially in the South) with parallels to the rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic.”43 In short, both self-professed liberals and aristocratic conservatives agree that “real conservatism” (whether it is the old liberalism of John Locke or the old conservatism of the ancien regime) must fear the tyranny of the people, a fear that shows no continuity with the thought of the founders or Lincoln. Neither liberals nor aristocratic conservatives demand a high morality from the American people.

Liberals are content to assume that Americans are rational, self-interested individuals who have no need for religion; aristocratic conservatives insist that virtuous leaders will restrain the masses if they are allowed to reign. When they regard Americans as a people with political authority (rather than social atoms or cowed subordinates), however, they both tend to fear the rise of intolerance and ignorance. Each camp fears the vulnerability of most Americans (especially the old Protestant majority) to demagogic appeals. Ultimately, both are silent on the capacity of the American people to practice the Christian charity upon which Lincoln attempted to build a new politics.

Willmoore Kendall and Lincoln’s Charity

Lincoln, who considered himself a conservative preserver of the true founding principles, insisted that charity must be the true morality of Americans. Many on the American Right, who would otherwise heartily endorse Lincoln’s trust in the people and his valuation of Christianity, have questioned whether Americans need to be both conservative and charitable at the same time. Willmoore Kendall was one of the famous teachers of this position, an influential theorist who rejected Kirk’s aristocratic conservatism as easily as he repudiated Hartz’s liberalism. Still, he did not embrace Lincoln’s use of Christian morality as a suitable basis for American politics.

I focus here on Kendall’s thought for two reasons. First, it represents the most serious objection to the egalitarian legacy of Lincoln, as Kendall’s longtime opponent, Harry Jaffa, has admitted.44 Second, his ideas (unlike those of Hofstadter and Kirk) reveal a deeper appreciation for the founding documents (especially The Federalist). At present, there are a few signs of a revival of interest in Kendall’s thought.45 The irony is that Kendall, whose thinking has influenced the thought of other critics of Lincoln (Mel Bradford in particular), seemed to share the core assumptions of Lincoln, particularly the defense of majority-rule democracy and an appreciation of the role of Christianity in American thought.

Kendall was fond of using a phrase that Lincoln Steffens had made famous: Americans “felt in their hips” a common sense that helped them decide just how important the political issues of the day were.46 Americans were indeed a people, not a collection of atoms accidentally colliding with each other (Hartz), nor were they an unruly mob needful of restraint by wise elites (Kirk). Kendall had no patience with political scientists who despised their own people and advocated the use of statecraft akin to the operation of a “well-run insane asylum” in which the inmates are to be made as comfortable as possible. A conservative in America (or perhaps anywhere) has no right to view “with contempt the generality of the kind of people his society produces.” It is simply wrong for conservatives to consider the people as “already corrupt.”47 Lincoln would have happily echoed these sentiments.

Kendall took to heart what The Federalist calls the “deliberate sense” of the American people when he constantly railed against both liberal and aristocratic students of the founding for either ignoring or devaluing the idea of popular sovereignty of a prudential citizenry. Liberals, we have seen, prefer to speak of individual rights as the founding premise. Aristocratic conservatives, on the other hand, prefer to speak of wise and benevolent elites who control the vices of the people. These premises are positively alien to American governance, as Kendall articulated it. It is the virtue of the people (rather than individuals or elites) who are best able to prevent tyranny (although, again, there are no guarantees, given human fallibility). All the checks and balances will not prevent this tragedy unless a “certain kind of people” are dedicated to virtue, justice, liberty, and the common good.48

Kendall’s admonitions about what he sometimes called the “virtuous people” are thoroughly realistic about the limits of majority rule. As a Christian theorist, one might expect him to follow Lincoln on the necessity of having a charitable citizenry. Yet Kendall was oddly silent on the need for the virtuous people to express Christian charity. Nevertheless, Kendall has won a few supporters on the American Right for his hermeneutic of the founding. (Jeffrey Hart calls his teaching on the people’s deliberate sense the “core position of American conservatism.”)49

Kendall’s Detractors

Still, many more voices across the political spectrum have doubted Kendall’s assumptions about the virtues of the people (even though they are grounded in The Federalist). Both rightists and leftists have questioned Kendall’s faith in the people, an optimism that his former student William F. Buckley calls “baffling.”50 Russell Kirk believed that Kendall was a dangerous Rousseauian.5l His longtime opponent, Harry Jaffa, accuses Kendall of promoting a consensus theory of politics that is so vague and even aprincipled that it might as well be a “distinctive American fascism, or national socialism.” Shadia B. Drury associates Kendall’s thought with what she considers the “Nazi” philosophy of Carl Schmitt. John Lukacs simply dismisses Kendall’s concept of majority-rule democracy as “half-mad.”52 In short, Kendall’s faith in the people (which had more in common with Lincoln than perhaps he himself cared to admit) does not appeal to most students of American political science.53

Although not all of Kendall’s readers have attacked him for imaginary associations with the Far Right, other more admiring critics have found his ideas wanting due to their lack of practicality with respect to the American political system. Samuel Francis contends that Kendall is more of a utopian than a conservative, since he “exaggerated the counterrevolutionary impulses that the mass of the American people harbor.” Kendall’s former student Gary Wills has faulted his teacher for basing his notion of political discussion on the template of a “faculty meeting” engaged in debate over a protracted period, which poorly serves the interests of impatient minorities in American history. Raymond Tatalovich and Thomas S. Engeman conclude, in their critique of Kendall’s “constitutional mythology,” that there is nothing fundamentally conservative or prudential in assuming that the people’s representatives in Congress will arrive at a just outcome, especially if a legislative majority prevents the president from making important reforms.54

It may well be that Kendall’s concept of “deliberate sense” is equivalent to a doctrine of majority rule that might oppose the interests of minorities at any given time. Certainly, Kendall admitted that his conservatism was one of process, not abstract principle.55 In the context of debates over the demands of the civil rights movement in 1964, Kendall described it as the “proper business of the American political system” to place the “good health” of the system over divisive debates on abstract rights.56

The Deliberative Sense of the American People

In short, Kendall opposed as much as Russell Kirk any attempt of the majority (or a determined minority) to impose its will tyrannically, but he was also confident that the necessarily deliberative process of republican governance would minimize this prospect. (For this reason, Kendall praised the judicial review powers of the Supreme Court for curbing the plebiscitary potential in the Constitution.) Like Lincoln, then, Kendall placed his faith in the wisdom of Americans to deliberate on political issues. Still, as some of his critics argue, even a process needs principles that are worth preserving.57 Did Kendall have an answer to this concern that, he himself admitted, was the “missing section” of The Federalist? What exactly should Americans believe in, to make this process work?

Here Kendall had to turn to principles that, he sometimes believed, the American system should cautiously embrace. These amounted to an embrace of a secular state whose citizenry was moderately religious (in the Christian sense). Kendall’s attempt to relate biblical principles to the American regime was, in his own view, a reflection of the most important issue in American politics, even though a few of his critics fault him for overemphasizing the Christian origins of the American regime.58 As he once put it, the issue at stake between American conservatives and liberals was over the meaning of reason and revelation.59 To be sure, Kendall was concerned with the relation, not the identity, between religion and the American regime. (The wall between church and state was indeed “porous,” but there was still a wall.)

Like Lincoln, Kendall also thought that the American people’s religiosity was valuable and even necessary to the workings of this secular political system. They were not allowed to identify religion with politics. Conservatives could not support a quasi-religious state (Kendall faulted Kirk for this error), but conservatives had to support a religion that at least inspired a prudential people.60 Lincoln as well as Kendall also knew that there was no more guarantee that religion would inspire virtue and moderation than there was that the republican system would prevent tyranny.

Lincoln’s Charity and the “Chosen People”

Unlike Kendall, however, Lincoln demanded that this “deliberate sense” be completely based on charity. To be sure, Kendall favored the “Christian picture of man” for presupposing that the people are virtuous. Yet he did not demand quite as high a level of moral excellence as Lincoln had because he legitimately worried about the belief in chosenness taking over the deliberate sense of Americans. As he warned in his last work (which he coauthored with George Carey), even secular-minded American leaders might fall for the belief in Americans as a “chosen people.” Kendall and Carey warily described this view as the ambition of a “self-chosen people” whose abandonment of belief in God’s existence does not deter them from urging Americans to create a “Promised Land” of free and equal human beings, even if it requires “remaking human nature” in the process.61

Kendall particularly worried about the “fanatics” in American politics who failed to realize just how religious they were, or how devoted they were to the doctrine of the chosen people. It is undeniable that Kendall had the views of Harry Jaffa in mind, whose work Crisis of the House Divided he reviewed in 1959. Kendall rightly worried about the unlimited egalitarian vision that Jaffa implied when he described the divinely sanctioned mission of America in the language of the Mosaic narrative. In Jaffa’s terms, the American people were no more worthy of their “mission” than the ancient Israelites, since they had failed to create “a government of equal rights,” as the founders had demanded.62

Though Kendall (along with many conservatives) wondered how any system could embody “purity of heart,” he was confident that this doctrine is a derailment that, influential though it may be, is not fundamental to the American political system or its traditions. Belief in chosenness was an unfortunate accident to which various demagogues throughout history (Kendall blamed Lincoln in particular here) kept contributing. Pace Rousseau, Kendall believed that the prudential people did not err: it was a thoughtless leadership that had led an otherwise moderate people into the civil wars and imperialist crusades characteristic of a “chosen people” ideology. Moreover, Kendall squarely blamed Lincoln for contributing to this derailment.63

Although it is hard to deny the validity of Kendall’s worry that Americans have often disastrously flirted with the myth of chosenness from the time of Winthrop to the present, it is more debatable whether Lincoln himself should share the blame for propagating this myth. As I argued in the last chapter, Lincoln was careful and tentative in not asserting that he possessed actual knowledge of Providence, and placed greater emphasis on the importance of charity (even if he did not always live up to this ethic). Lincoln knew that both sides in the Civil War could invoke the authority of the Exodus narrative (black slaves desired liberation from the “Egyptian” South as much as Confederates desired freedom from the pharaohs of the North). Other presidents, such as Woodrow Wilson, were far more certain that they were acting on the side of God.

Most significant, however, Kendall sets up an extreme dichotomy between a “chosen people” who make impossible demands on the American system of governance and a people with a limited commitment to moral principles. This choice is arguably a false one, since it is hard to imagine Americans ever refraining from making morally principled demands on their system of government. Yet Kendall, despite his belief that politics and religion are inexorably linked through a porous wall of separation, also believed that the overriding need for “consensus” in this system trumped any considerations based on moral values.

In the context of the civil rights era of the 1960s, Kendall admitted that he had no moral position on the “merits” of the arguments put forth by the marchers and demonstrators within this movement. He felt only that the “proper business of the American political system [was] to adjudicate” these claims to civil rights. The only way to avoid a constitutional crisis, Kendall argued, was to refrain from divisive debates about the rightness and wrongness of abstract principles like equality. Kendall always thought that America, with its great potential for civil war (not least due to the lurking influence of chosenness), would be best served if its leaders did not encourage the untidy integration of ethics with politics using dramatic calls to war upon the sin of prejudice and bigotry “by declaring them criminal.”64

Although Kendall is justified in warning about the limits of debate over abstract moral ideals (will these debates ever end?), it is unrealistic to think that Americans should avoid bringing their moral concerns into the process of government altogether. It is hard to imagine that Kendall himself consistently believed this arrangement to be possible, particularly when he celebrated the fact that the “people” (American or not) had every right to suppress dissent, a tradition that began with the execution of Socrates, continued on to the time of the libertarian Jefferson’s enforcement of the laws against sedition, and forward to the age of Senator McCarthy.63 Surely, these cases are examples of the “people” relating moral principles and politics in dramatic ways.

The key difference between Lincoln and Kendall (in addition to other populists in American history) is that the president still insisted on a certain willingness on the part of Americans to relate morality and politics together. While Kendall celebrated the Christian faith of his people as much as Lincoln did (and even agreed that it was central to maintaining the virtue of the people), he also held that this faith cannot enter the political realm (despite the “porous” nature of the wall between church and state). Surely, one way to address conflicts over morality is to encourage their entrance into the deliberations of the political system.

In resisting the fanaticism spurred on by appeals to chosenness, the determination to separate morality and politics altogether is a high price to pay and smacks of the legal positivism that Kendall otherwise despised. It was not sufficient to celebrate the moral sense of Americans, as Kendall did, without demanding that they actually act upon this sense. This Lincoln most certainly demanded. Indeed, if no one makes this demand, then the gap between politics and morality leads to the result that Lincoln most dreaded—the charge of hypocrisy. It is hard to imagine any other culture, apart from one with historically Protestant roots, agonizing over this existential danger.

In the End, Was Lincoln Unrealistic?

The legacy of Lincoln’s trust in the people has not been an overwhelming success as a persistent influence in American political thought. The major schools of the American political tradition either do not trust (as in the case of liberals and aristocratic conservatives) or do not demand (as in the case of populist conservatives) the willingness of the people to act in a morally consistent manner, as Lincoln did. Perhaps the demand of the president was unrealistic.

Charity, the hardest truth of the Christian worldview, is not easily introduced into the political realm. For this reason defenders of democratic universalism, whose ideas I discuss in the next two chapters, do not usually insist that Americans themselves act charitably, a strange attitude that reflects the willingness of these ideologues to support the spread of democracy while displaying indifference to the more vulgar aspects of popular American culture.

It may be more “realistic” to rely on the enlightened self-interest, deliberate sense, or deference to aristocratic virtue that the people may see fit to practice. Yet none of these attitudes fully resonates with the Christian origins of the American people. None of these ideological factions answers this question: what would happen if America’s Christian roots became politically irrelevant? If that were to happen, it is far from obvious that the historic commitment to Christian charity would still survive.

It is even less likely that a democracy, detached from the religious moorings that once inspired Americans, could export easily its politics abroad. Lincoln simply assumed that Christianity in America would survive and that no secular substitutes would take the place of this faith. Indeed, an insistence that Americans, both leaders and citizens, act charitably may be the only restraint against ideological rationales for adventurism in foreign policy that strain both the moral fiber and the institutions of the republic.


1. Michael Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission.

2. Shain, Myth of American Individualism, 55, 146. See also Noll, Civil War, 161-62.

3. Thurow, Abraham Lincoln, 119; Pierard and Linder, Civil Religion, 100.

4. Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 72; Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 72.

5. Kendall and Carey, Basic Symbols, 59; Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 400.

6. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 222.

7. Ibid., 400.

8. Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, chap. 1; Jaffa, New Birth, 84; Jaffa, How to Think, 18. I shall assess the claims of the natural right school in the next chapter, particularly their attempt to write Christianity out of the American political tradition.

9. See Shain, Myth of American Individualism.

10. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 250.

11. Ibid., 395, 396.

12. Shain, Myth of American Individualism, 327. 1 shall discuss these authors later in this chapter.

13. Lincoln, Collected Works, 4: 270.

14. See Morel, Lincoln’s Sacred Effort, 172-74.

15. Lincoln, Collected Works, 4:268.

16. See Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, 330.

17. Lincoln, Collected Works, 5: 537.

18. I have in mind Willmoore Kendall, Mel Bradford, Thomas DiLorenzo, and George Carey.

19. Kendall, The Conservative Affirmation in America, 252; Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 362-85.

20. Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought Since the Revolution, 62; Levine, The American Ideology: A Critique.

21. Grant, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, 64-65.

22. See Willmoore Kendall, John Locke and the Doctrine of Majority-Rule, which challenges the traditional view of Locke as a liberal.

23. Pangle, Spirit of Modern Republicanism, 27. Shain’s analysis of America’s communalism in Myth of American Individualism critiques the reading of Hartz and Pangle.

24. West, Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class, and Justice in the Origins of America.

25. See Longley, Chosen People, 23-24; and Novak, On Two Wings, 109-10.

26. Ted V. McAllister, Revolt against Modernity: Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin, and the Search for a Postliberal Order, 10.

27. Kirk, Conservative Mind, 8-9.

28. Ibid., 220, 224.

29. Ibid., 59-60.

30. See Paul Edward Gottfried, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, 2-8.

31. Hartz, Liberal Tradition, 284-309. Hartz drew a straight line between Lockeanism and the populist demagoguery of Senator McCarthy.

32. Hofstadter, Paranoid Style, 41-141.

33. Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, 55, 80.

34. Hofstadter, American Political Tradition, 133.

35. Hofstadter, Paranoid Style, xii, 54.

36. Ibid., 94.

37. See David S. Brown, Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography, chap. 2.

38. Lukacs, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, 339-40.

39. Viereck, “The Philosophical ‘New Conservatism,'” 188. For a brief yet insightful review of Viereck and other essays in The Radical Right, ed. Daniel Bell, see Richard M. Weaver, In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard  M. Weaver, 1929-1963, 582-83.

40. Viereck, “The Revolt against the Elite,” 165.

41. Rossiter, Conservatism: The Thankless Persuasion, 182, 262. For his admiration for Hofstadter’s analysis of the Right, see 168, 171-72. See also Kendall’s critique of Rossiter in Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 58-73.

42. See Crawford, Thunder on the Right: The “New Right” and the Politics of Resentment, 292-93. For an insightful critique of Crawford’s book, see George W. Carey, “Thunder on the Right, Lightning from the Left.”

43. Wilhelmsen, Christianity and Political Philosophy, 188; Phillips, Post-Conservative America: People, Politics, and Ideology in a Time of Crisis, 155-64, 193-204. Phillips’s most recent work, American Theocracy, trumpets the same fear about the rise of a radical Right (mainly based in the South) in American politics.

44. See Catherine Zuckert and Michael P. Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy, 240-41.

45. See Grant Havers, “Leo Strauss, Willmoore Kendall, and the Meaning of Conservatism.”

46. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 342.

47. Kendall and Carey, Basic Symbols, 20; Kendall, Conservative Affirmation, xxv; Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 402

48. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 399.

49. Hart, American Conservative Mind, 303.

50. Quoted in George H. Nash, “The Place of Willmoore Kendall in American Conservatism,” 11.

51. George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945, 247.

52. Jaffa, American Conservatism, 195; Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right, 95-96; Lukacs, New Republic, 340.

53. See John A. Murley,”On the’Calhounism’ of Willmoore Kendall,” 126-31.

54. Francis, Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism, 87; Wills, Explaining America: “The Federalist,” 200; Tatalovich and Engeman, The Presidency and Political Science: Two Hundred Years of Constitutional Debate, 12-24.

55. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 275.

56. Ibid., 362-63.

57. Wills,  Explaining America:   “The  Federalist,” 200;  Jaffa,  American Conservatism, 195.

58. See Zuckert, “Natural Rights,” 24-27; and Jaffa, How to Think, 38.

59. Kendall, Conservative Affirmation, 242.

60. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 46-47.

61. Ibid., 401; Kendall and Carey, Basic Symbols, 152-53.

62. Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided, 230-31. He repeats these claims in New Birth, 257-58, 349-50. Kendall’s review of Crisis of the House Divided is included in his Conservative Affirmation, 249-52.

63. Kendall and Carey, Basic Symbols, 153-56.

64. Kendall, Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 362, 382. For a discussion of the high potential for civil war in America, see Ranney and Kendall, Democracy, 464-67.

65. For Kendall’s thoughts on Socrates and Jefferson, see Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum, 149-67, 290-302. For his thoughts on McCarthy, see Conservative Affirmation, 50-76.


This excerpt is from Lincoln and the Politics of Christian Love (University of Missouri Press, 2009); also available is our review and the author’s response to it.

Grant N. HaversGrant N. Havers

Grant N. Havers

Grant Havers is an Associate Editor of VoegelinView and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Trinity Western University in Canada. He is the author of Lincoln and the Politics of Christian Love (Missouri, 2009) and Leo Strauss and Anglo-American Democracy: A Conservative Critique (Northern Illinois, 2013).

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