Tonight, the sixth and final season of Longmire, the Western series produced by Netflix, begins streaming. Based on Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire mystery novels, the show has earned an intense, devoted following. Originally it was an A&E series, the most watched scripted drama ever produced by the channel. When Longmire was inexplicably cancelled in 2014 after its third season, fans were incensed. Netflix, sensing an undervalued market opportunity, quickly picked up the series. By most accounts, Longmire has grown as a dramatic series under Netflix’s auspices. It’s not hard to understand why. Take the man in the lead, Sheriff Walt…
Editor’s note: David Deavel, editor of St. Thomas University’s quarterly, Logos, invited me to contribute an essay on Orestes Brownson‘s remarkable defense of religious liberty in his 1864 essay “Civil and Religious Freedom.” Posted below is a modified version of my essay published in the Fall edition of Logos.
Orestes Brownson’s wonderful essay “Civil and Religious Freedom” (1864) provides a remarkable philosophical and constitutional defense of religious liberty. The essay bears the particular merit of bridging the traditional American understanding of religious freedom as an individual right with the corporate notion of freedom of the church, which acts, Brownson argues, as the shield of religious liberty. In this way, Brownson provided an original, robust defense of American constitutionalism and religious freedom.
[T]he future of Europe rests in renewed loyalty to our best traditions, not a spurious universalism demanding forgetfulness and self-repudiation. Europe did not begin with the Enlightenment. Our beloved home will not be fulfilled with the European Union. The real Europe is, and always will be, a community of nations at once insular, sometimes fiercely so, and yet united by a spiritual legacy that, together, we debate, develop, share—and love.
-The Paris Statement, October 7th, 2017
Europe is “reaching a dead-end,” warn the signatories of the Paris Statement. Entitled “A Europe We Can Believe In” this Statement by prominent academics and writers from across Europe (Roger Scruton, Remi Brague, Ryszard Legutko, Chantal Delsol, among others) says that Europe’s great civilizational inheritance has been dissipated and buried by ideological distortion and deception. Beyond hand-wringing, the Paris Statement evokes the manifold beauty of the European mind and spirit. The reclamation of Europe must engage its full cultural, political, and spiritual dimensions. Europe might be headed to nowhere, but the signatories provide an affirmation of Europe that should serve as a lodestar for efforts to revive its flagging fortunes.
President Trump’s inability or unwillingness to lead on a legislative agenda has been cast as bad news for conservatism. But his weakness may trigger a renaissance of conservatism properly understood.
In his latest column, George Will laments that conservatism has been “hijacked” by “scowling primitives” and “vulgarians.” A conservatism that once cheerfully and unapologetically embraced “high culture” has been overtaken by a vulgar populism, which defends main-street values against elite liberal cosmopolitans, but which increasingly embodies not intellectual argument but rather, in Lionel Trilling’s words, “irritable mental gestures” masquerading as ideas.
To rise above this, Will writes, we should draw lessons from Alvin S. Felzenberg’s new book, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley, according to Will, needed to evolve from his early judgments favoring isolationism, among other juvenile statements, and his “ebullience, decency, and enthusiasm for learning propelled him up from sectarianism.”
Chronicling Buckley’s moral, personal, and political growth, the book shows, in Felzenberg’s words, how “Buckley walked a tightrope between elitism and populism.” Alas, Will notes, Buckley could not reconcile the dissonant notes they struck. And now, nearly a decade after Buckley’s death, conservatism “soiled by scowling primitives.”
But what was conservatism before “vulgarians hijacked it”? Why was conservatism, in Will’s thinking, “susceptible to hijacking”?
Surprisingly, Will blames Whittaker Chambers:
I’ve been reading With the Old Breed, Eugene Sledge’s classic account of his experiences in the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Many have come to know his story from the successful 2010 HBO Series The Pacific that relied in part on his diary of these two battles. Sledge enlisted for the duration of the war +6 months in 1943 and, owing to his intelligence, was part of a military training program at Georgia Tech. There he could have earned his degree and joined the war effort in a highly skilled position of some kind, remote perhaps from actual fighting. However, he withdrew from the program, as many of his fellow classmates did, and joined the Marines to fight as a rifleman. And so he did. The narrative “Sledgehammer” provides is compelling, horrific, and fascinating.
Peter Lawler’s passing has been quite painful to me as it has to so very many people who were his students, friends, and colleagues. His death means that a source of incomparable wisdom in my life is gone. One story that sticks in my mind is the time that Peter secured a rather sizable grant from a certain foundation. He had to participate in a contest of sorts for the grant. His other competitors had put together PowerPoint presentations, binders, flow charts, deploying MBA-speak to demonstrate the vital impact the money would have if they could make use of it. Peter, who never hesitated to mock MBA-speak in deadpan tones, thought the episode illustrated technocratic practices at their best, applying corporate business techniques in the realm of non-profit outreach. Peter told me that he wrote down a few lines on a scratch paper while waiting his turn to speak to the grant-making committee. He delivered his “innovative” talk in a few minutes. He focused on—what else?—virtue and human nature. Needless to say, he was chosen to receive the funding.
Legal historian Mary Sarah Bilder’s op-ed in the Boston Globe means to level originalism. Her effort has produced responses from Lawrence Solum and from John McGinnis and Mike Rappaport on this site. The criticisms sum to the notion that Bilder is shooting scattershot rounds at a defined scholarly target.
Bilder’s argument is that the members of the Constitutional Convention did not have “the luxury of even imagining that each and every word possessed an invariable, sacred meaning.” Who said they did?