The Character of Our Constitution. As Frohnen notes,
Early in the book, Kirk points out that our “Constitution had been designed by its Framers, in 1787, to conserve the order and the justice and the freedom to which Americans had grown accustomed.” Thus Kirk takes issue with ideologues who seek to convince us that America was created ex nihilo through the drafting of an abstractly philosophical Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, and the War for Independence, must be seen as our Founders saw them: as defensive measures intended to protect Americans’ traditional and chartered rights from an overreaching English Parliament.That's just a taste of Frohnen's review -- read it all, and better yet, get a copy of Kirk's book and read it closely. There is much wisdom there. I first read Kirk's book on the Constitution when I was a law student, and it was the first book by Kirk that I ever read. I was immediately impressed by his wisdom and insight, and quickly devoured everything he had written that I could get my hands on. I would have loved to have met him and studied with him, but alas that was not to be. But he lives on in his writings, and thanks to them we can all be Kirk's students. And he is a fantastic teacher! Of history and literature and on the roots of our country's polity and order.
1. Heavenly Father, 2. May all revere thee, 3. And become thy dutiful Children and faithful Subjects. 4. May thy Laws be obeyed on Earth as perfectly as they are in Heaven. 5. Provide for us this day as thou hast hitherto daily done. 6. Forgive us our trespasses, and enable us likewise to forgive those that offend us. 7. Keep us out of Temptation, and deliver us from Evil.Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, post-1784, quoted in The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations, edited by James H. Hutson (Princeton Univ. Press: 2005), pg. 166.
Jefferson Bible, is even more traditional -- deviating lightly from the version of the Lord's Prayer given in the Authorized King James Version. Jefferson is often invoked by those hostile to religion as someone who was opposed to religion. And it is true that Jefferson disagreed with orthodox Christianity and was a critic of organized religion for the most part. But he also was a strong believer in a theistic idea of God, a deity who governs the world through Providence. Jefferson's version of the Lord's Prayer evidences that belief:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Beacon Press: 1989), pg. 87.
When referring to the religious view of the Founders, it is easy to fall into anachronism on either side, either viewing the Founders as a whole as proto-evangelicals or viewing them as proto-free thinking "New Atheists." Both views are incorrect. Even the most secular of the Founders were strikingly religious by modern standards, and affirmed beliefs in strong-theism, of a personal God who intervenes in human affairs, responds to prayer, who authors a moral law, and who will hold each human being accountable for their violations of that law as well as for how they treat those who have sinned against them. Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson both testify to this fact.
this article by Sean Lewis over at The Imaginative Conservative rightly points out, the study of rhetoric -- the presentation of ideas and concepts -- is critical for liberal education. The study of rhetoric is one of the pillars of classical education, and the recovery of the integrity of rhetoric is essential to forming a disciplined mind.
One good place to start a study of the use of language is with George Orwell's magnificent treatise on writing & rhetoric: Politics and the English Language.
Reagan's agenda in his own words: as the country prepares for another presidential political campaign, the memory of Ronald Reagan will no doubt be powerfully in mind for conservative & Republican voters. It might be a good idea to see the consistency and the changes in Reagan's approach to politics and policy across his life in politics. Below are three examples, from the beginning, peak and close of Reagan's political career, of speeches where Reagan set out his political vision.
Here is Reagan's first major venture on the national political stage, his Time for Choosing speech in support of the Goldwater campaign in 1964:
After serving two terms as governor of California and then running successfully in 1980 against President Jimmy Carter, Reagan delivered his first First Inaugural Address in 1981:
Finally, at the conclusion of his second term of office in 1989, President Reagan addressed the country in his Farewell Speech, talking about his hopes for the future of our country:
The conservative understands that the circumstances of men are almost infinitely variable, and that any particular political or economic policy must be decided in the light of the particular circumstances of time and place -- an enlightened expediency, or prudence ... Conservatism, I repeat, is not an ideology. It does not breed fanatics. It does not try to excite the enthusiasm of a secular religion. If you want men who will sacrifice their past and present and future to a set of abstract ideas you must go to Communism, or Fascism, or Benthamism. But if you want men who seek, reasonably and prudently, to reconcile the best in the wisdom of our ancestors with the change which is essential to a vigorous civil social existence, then you will do well to turn to conservative principles. The high-minded conservative believes in Principle, or enduring norms ascertained through appreciation for the wisdom of dead generations, the study of history, and the reconciliation of authority with the altered circumstances of our present life. He is a highly reasonable person, although he looks with deep suspicion on the cult of Reason -- the worship of an abstract rationality which asserts that mundane planning is able to solve all our difficulties of spirit and community. But the high-minded conservative detests Abstraction, or the passion for forcing men and societies into a preconceived pattern divorced from the special circumstances of different times and countries.