A Republic Not Kept

This book might have been called “Forgotten Figures in Real American His­tory”—a social and intellectual reality, tradition, and political-economic program whose life ended, effectively, in 1861, though many dedicated public and literary men (including most of the contributors to this journal) have devoted—or rather sacrificed—themselves to resuscitating it, or at least to keeping its memory alive over the past century and a half.  American conservatism, as Brion McClanahan and Clyde Wilson understand it, can be summed up in the words independence, liberty, free trade, strictly limited government, and constitutionalism, as the Jeffersonian and states’-rights Whig tradition understood these things.  In Wilson’s and McClanahan’s opinion, the last American president who saw the U.S. Constitution as a restraint on government was Grover Cleveland, the “last Jeffersonian president.”  Grover Cleveland’s second term in the White House was a long, long time ago—in political terms, an eon.  The American conservative tradition exists on three levels: the metaphysical, the dispositional (as Russell Kirk insisted), and the constitutional.  Forgotten Conservatives in American History does justice to all three of them.

Forgotten Conservatives comprises relatively short but pithy biographical...

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