The Declaration and Its Iconoclasts

The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition (1995)
by Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey
Catholic University of America Press
168 pp., $19.95

Ask the average American what  his country stands for and he will likely answer “equality.” If that person studied a bit of American history, he or she would then cite the passage in the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal. Although Joe Biden during a senior moment in a campaign speech couldn’t recall the entire passage, he reminded his audience, “You know the drill!” And quite likely his listeners did know it, because an American founding predicated on equality is what they were educated to believe.

Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey dispute this conventional interpretation in their 1995 book, The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition, one of the most original interpretations of America’s founding documents and of their effect on the American republic. These documents reveal the origins of what became the American political tradition, one based on a virtuous people expressing themselves politically through “the deliberate sense of the community.”


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