Forgotten Men You Should Know About
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas DiLorenzo: Time’s
Rx: More Politics, More Politicians, More Lincoln Worship
In their new
Conservatives in American History, Brion McClanahan and
the great Clyde Wilson discuss how the Machiavellian-minded connivers
and plotters known as "neoconservatives" weaseled their
way into the Reagan administration and hence "became the accepted,
respectable Right in American discourse . . ." Genuine conservatives,
which during the ‘60s and ‘70s included traditionalists, libertarians,
anti-communists, and other opponents of leftism, "became an
irrelevant and possibly dangerous fringe, disdained by all decent
people. . . " This latter category would include most readers
of LewRockwell.com and certainly all the writers.
conservatives" who now run the Republican Party and much of
the Democratic Party as well, are a peculiar bunch. The leading
lights of "neoconservatism" during the Reagan years "were
Trotskyites who had replaced their hereditary agenda of global socialist
revolution with one of a global revolution of ‘democratic capitalism.’
Unashamedly embracing Machiavellian tactics against opponents and
against the American people, they gloried in ‘big government’ and
fervently planned to project American armed force around the world,
the national debt be damned." None of this "could be considered
a "conservative" agenda . . .", they write.
and Wilson don’t mention it, but the intellectual guru of most of
the high profile neoconservatives was the late Leo Strauss, a University
of Chicago professor. Strauss was quite the crackpot. He was an
atheist who "scoffed at the idea of God," wrote Daniel
Flynn in his book, Intellectual
Morons, but who nevertheless preached about the value of
using religion to dupe the masses into accepting the neocons’ interventionist
foreign policy agenda. The "evangelical Christians" in
America would be Exhibit A of the success of this Machiavellian
was nowhere more on display than when he bloviated on about the
"value" of numerology in reading books. For example, in
his book, Persecution and the Art of Writing, he insisted that "a
book’s first and last words have special meaning." The famous
book The Prince, about Machiavelli, "consists of 26
chapters and twenty six is the numerical value of the letters of
the sacred name of God in Hebrew," Strauss wrote. Wowwwww.
wrote Flynn, are a bizarre cult whose members claim to know TRUTH
that "lesser humans fail to grasp"; they "talk in
a kind of code to one another"; and "genuflect to their
great guru" Strauss. They steadfastly believe in the idea of
"the noble lie" and "exalt dishonesty in the service
of supposedly noble causes." As such, they are among the worst
of the Lincoln mythologists, among other things.
But I digress.
The real focus of Forgotten Conservatives in American History
is the ideas of sixteen or so historical figures who espoused genuinely
American, conservative ideas, as opposed to the weird and creepy
Eastern European totalitarian schemes of the "respectable"
neoconservatives . These men include John Taylor of Caroline, James
Fenimore Cooper, Condy Raguet, President John Tyler, Abel Upshur,
Grover Cleveland, William Graham Sumner, H.L. Mencken, Mel Bradford,
and others. All of these men could have been listed as former LewRockwell.com
columnists had the Web site been around in some published form since
the early nineteenth century.
What do these
historical figures have in common? They all share, to some degree,
a belief in genuine American conservatism as defined by McClanahan
and Wilson (drawing on the late Russell Kirk). This includes avoiding
burdening future generations with government debt; honoring the
Constitution; remembering the founders’ warnings about "entangling
alliances" with foreigners; valuing "voluntary community"
and "a larger sphere for private society, and a smaller sphere
for government, especially the federal government"; opposition
to "multiculturalism" or "an enforced monolithic
non-culture"; and belief in the necessity of free markets and
opposition to corporate welfare and other forms of neo-mercantilism.
in the book is eloquent, and the substance is inspiring, informative,
and entertaining. The chapter on H.L. Mencken alone is worth the
purchase price. The authors discuss Mencken’s famous statement that
"government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a
sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." Mencken was
a relentless critic of all politicians, but especially of the worst
of the worst, such as Woodrow Wilson, whose professorial writings
were described by Mencken with "its ideational hollowness,
its ludicrous strutting and bombast, its heavy dependence on greasy
and meaningless words . . . and almost inexhaustible mine of bad
writing, faulty generalizing, childish pussyfooting, ludicrous posturing
and naïve stupidity. To find a match for it one must try to
imagine a biography of the Duke of Wellington by his barber."
senator John Taylor of Caroline was the author of six books that
espoused the Jeffersonian position in the American political tradition.
These were all deeply scholarly books in stark contrast to the silly,
elementary-schoolish "biographies" that today’s politicians
hire ghost writers to write for them. McClanahan and Wilson explain
how Taylor’s writings smoked out and relentlessly critiqued the
Hamiltonian statists of his time with their schemes of perpetual
government debt, corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, and an
insidious national bank. He was also an eloquent proponent of the
Jeffersonian states’ rights position.
early American Northern politicians were relying on the propaganda
efforts of two early corporate PR flacks – Mathew and Henry C. Cary
– in bamboozling the public into believing that high taxes, high
protectionist tariffs, corporate welfare, and a national bank operated
by politicians was "in the public interest," the North
also produced a number of prolific writers who understood economics
and spoke economic sense. One of them is the Philadelphian Condy
Raguet, who was an "eloquent opponent" of every aspect
of the Hamilton/Henry Clay/Lincoln "American System" of
British-style corporate welfare, central banking, and protectionism.
As such, Raguet could reasonably be labeled as a precursor to the
free-market, Austrian School of Economics. If Ron Paul had been
alive then and running for president, Raguet would surely have been
one of his top economic advisors.
and Wilson describe James Fenimore Cooper’s book, The
American Democrat, published in 1838, as "one of the
most important and original political treatises written in the antebellum
United States." Cooper’s writings explain how "It was
the Whigs – the party of business . . . who had vulgarized and subverted
American democracy" and not "the Democrats – advocated
of states’ rights and laissez faire." This was also a theme
of some of Murray Rothbard’s writings on this period of American
and Wilson provide insights into why Ivan Eland, in his recent book
Rushmore, labeled John Tyler as the best of all American
presidents when it comes to fulfilling his duty to protect the lives,
liberty and property of American citizens. Tyler was another Virginia
Jeffersonian who became president when, while serving as vice president
in 1841, President William Henry Harrison dropped dead a month after
his inauguration. He outraged the statist Whigs, led by Henry Clay,
by vetoing national banking, protectionist tariff, and corporate
welfare legislation the Whigs assumed would be rammed down the throats
of the American public with "their man" (Harrison) finally
in the White House. Alas, they would have to wait until the old
Whig Abraham Lincoln occupied that office twenty years later.
If the chapter
on Mencken alone is not worth the purchase price, the chapter on
John C. Calhoun, presumably written by Clyde Wilson, the world’s
preeminent Calhoun scholar, is. Calhoun was Murray Rothbard’s favorite
American political philosopher, and the reader can quickly understand
why by reading this short chapter.
is Grover Cleveland, the last good Jeffersonian Democrat; the great
William Graham Sumner; the anti-war Lindbergs of Minnesota; famed
novelist William Faulkner; Senator Sam Ervin; and Professor Mel
Bradford, the great Lincoln critic of the last generation, among
If the neoconservatives
ever get around to reviewing Forgotten Conservatives in American
History, they will probably look at it like Dracula would look
at a Christian cross. Which is exactly why the book should be read
by all real conservatives, especially libertarians.
J. DiLorenzo [send him mail]
is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the
author of The
Real Lincoln; Lincoln
Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe
Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s
Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution
– And What It Means for America Today. His latest book is
Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.
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