A Life Rediscovered

ISI Books, the publishing arm of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is doing a great service by putting out the Lives of the Founders series, emphasizing “important but unjustly neglected figures of the American Founding.”  Leaving aside for a moment the problems inherent in thinking about the last quarter of the 18th century as an “American Founding,” the series is giving us a fresh look at the period through the minds of (so far) a nice mix of nationalists and true federalists who, for one reason or another, have been lost to the historical consciousness of recent generations of Americans.

Bradley J. Birzer’s volume on Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, is a worthy addition to the series.  Professor Birzer has written two other books on Catholic humanism—lives of J.R.R. Tol­kien and Christopher Dawson—and this search into Carroll’s heart and mind extends that theme.  Tolkien and Dawson were medievalists, representative of “sanctifying myth” and the “Augustinian mind” applied to great movements of world history.  Charles Carroll, educated in Jesuit schools in France, was to Professor Birzer the first Catholic gentleman who tried to show that Catholic tradition was fully compatible with the American experience (an enterprise later taken up by such men as Ores­tes Brown­son and Carlton J.H. Hayes,...

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