Trask-Jaffa_022020
Image Credit: above: Harry V. Jaffa
Society & Culture

The Great Debate: Lincoln's Legacy

Bradford V. Jaffa in 1975

The year 1975, for those of us old enough to remember, was a calm and quiet time in the United States. The Vietnam War and Watergate were both over, the riots and protests had ceased, and everybody liked our presiding nonpartisan president, who shared the name of America’s most iconic car company. The music was nonpolitical, and everybody was anticipating the coming bicentennial of the independence of our country. And, although now it’s hard to believe, the national commemoration was not being riven by fractious and acrimonious debates about its real meaning.

However, a momentous debate over the meaning of America did occur that year, although without great publicity or notice. It signified American conservatism’s increasing transformation into its antithesis.

In the summer of 1975 the Loyola Law Review published a book review article by Harry V. Jaffa, a professor of government at Claremont College in California. The title of the piece was “Equality as a Conservative Principle,” and the book reviewed was The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition (1970) by the late Willmoore Kendall. Kendall had been a professor of government at the University of Dallas, a prominent conservative, and a writer for National Review. Jaffa also wrote for National Review. A year before (1974), its famous editor William F. Buckley, Jr., had asked Jaffa to give a paper...

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