Category Archives: Republic of Letters

The Odd History of the Whig Party ~ The Imaginative Conservative

When Andrew Jackson delivered his famous (or infamous, depending on one’s point of view) veto message regarding the re-chartering of the Second Bank of the United States, his most adamant supporters labeled it “a second Declaration of Independence.” While Jackson’s message was excellent, it certainly was not at the level of the Declaration of Independence. In a less hyperbolic fashion, one pro-Jackson paper stated: in “the final decision of the President between Aristocracy and the People—he stands by the People.”

This newspaper statement is almost certainly true, but not everyone agreed that the president should ever stand “by the People.” The president’s job, they believed, was to execute the laws that the representatives of the People—through the House—had drafted into law. To proclaim himself the representative of the people was to violate all that was sacred in the Constitutional understanding of the American Founders as expressed in Article II of that glorious document. Even the most adamant supporter of a strong executive, Alexander Hamilton, had feared that Article II might be the “fetus of monarchy.” To the opponents of Jackson, he had crossed a line that should never have been approached. One opposition paper proclaimed, not without justice: “the King upon the Throne: The People in the Dust!” Other papers mocked Jackson as a monarch, a king, and a dictator. All critics came together and began to refer to the president as “King Andrew,” and one of the most important political cartoons of that age depicted an old and wary man, sitting on his throne, with his feet resting on a shattered constitution.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/06/odd-history-whig-party-bradley-birzer.html

The Economics of Marriage in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Greta Gerwig’s big-screen adaptation of Little Women offers an emphasis on women’s economic independence that has precipitated some protest from purists, who correctly point out that such moments as Amy’s “marriage is an economic arrangement” speech are not in Louisa May Alcott’s novel. What such criticism misses, however, is the reminder Ms. Gerwig’s script provides of just how central the story of Little Women is to the American literary landscape. Since the novel’s publication in 1868, the four March sisters and their neighbor Laurie have lived in the imaginations of generations of Americans and readers across the globe, inspiring plays, musicals, movies, television series, and even Japanese anime. Each adaptation maintains the broad strokes of the story but alters the details to emphasize, and sometimes completely reimagine, the moral of the story. Ms. Gerwig’s retelling of Little Women maintains the major aspects of Alcott’s beloved novel, but rearranges them to serve as a commentary on the very real lack of economic opportunities available to middle- and upper-class women (really, the genteel poor) in nineteenth-century America.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/06/economics-marriage-greta-gerwig-little-women-dedra-mcdonald-birzer.html

Calvin Coolidge and the Finality of Natural Rights

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

–Calvin Coolidge, July 4, 1926

NDLS Dean G. Marcus Cole: “I am George Floyd. Except, I can breathe. And I can do something.” // News // de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture // University of Notre Dame

As an African-American man, I have had the experience of being pulled over by a police officer, with no apparent or expressed reason for the stop. I have been berated and verbally abused, without receiving a ticket or a warning. The most scarring of these events occurred in front of my two little boys, who are now grown, African-American men themselves. The police officer was intent on nothing more than humiliating and emasculating me in front of my small children, hoping to provoke me to respond. At that moment, I remember thinking that the most important thing I could do for my sons was to survive the encounter. Still, I have often thought about what lasting scars may have cut into their psyche by watching what that officer did to me that night. I often wonder what my sons think of me, as a man, and as their protector, knowing that I could not fight back.

Yes, I am alive, and George Floyd is dead. I can breathe; he cannot. But just because a police officer did not murder me or my children does not mean that he did not harm us.

Like many African-American men, my experiences are far too common. While they have never left me, these memories are all too frequently brought back to the surface by watching the videos that have become routine on American televisions and mobile telephones. The callous murders of unarmed men like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are real for me. That could have been my father. That could have been me. That could be either one of my sons. And in a very real sense, like many other African-American men, I am George Floyd. Except, I can breathe. And I can do something. I must do something.
— Read on ethicscenter.nd.edu/news/ndls-dean-g-marcus-cole-i-am-george-floyd-except-i-can-breathe-and-i-can-do-something/

Cicero’s Decaying republic

Before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.  But though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines.  For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ one which he said ‘the commonwealth of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’?  They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown.  And what shall I say of the men? For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance.

–Cicero, The Republic, Book 5, Section 1.

Pieper on the 7 Virtues

How the virtues all tie together:

“First, the Christian is one who, in faith, becomes aware of the reality of the triune God.  Second: the Christian strives, in hope, for the total fulfillment of his being in eternal life.  Third: the Christian directs himself, in the divine virtue of love, to an affirmation of God and neighbor that surpasses the power of any natural love.  Fourth: the Christian is prudent; namely, he does not allow his view on reality to be controlled by the Yes or No of his will, but rather he makes this Yes or No of the will dependent upon the truth of things.  Fifth: the Christian is just; that is, he is able to live “with the other” in truth; he sees himself as a member among members of the Church, of the people, and of any community.  Sixth: the Christian is brave, that is, he is prepared to suffer injury and, if need be, death for the truth and for the realization of justice.  Seventh: the Christian is temperate; namely, he does not permit his desire to possess and his desire for pleasure to become destructive and inimical to his being.”

–Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart (San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius, 1991), 10-11.

On liberty, peace and brotherhood

by Richard K. Munro


'Miguel de Cervantes: He was disabled in battle (Lepanto) and held captive in Algiers for a number of years.'
“Liberty, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven gave to men; with her the treasures that the earth or the sea conceals cannot be equaled; for freedom, as well as for honor, life can and should be ventured, and, on the contrary, captivity is the greatest evil that can come to men. ” (CERVANTES) “Is it not the interest of the human race, that every one should be so taught and placed, that he would find his highest enjoyment to arise from the continued practice of doing all in his power to promote the well-being, and happiness, of every man, woman, and child, without regard to their class, sect, party, country or colour?” (Robert Owen)
'Robert Owens, British humanitarian. His sons emigrated to America and were strong supporters of Abraham Lincoln.'

Violence is a deadly form of hypocrisy, particularly for the believing Christian. The Great Teacher rejected all manner of violence as evil, whether it be the psychological violence of class or racial oppression as well as physical brutality that wreaks inhuman harm.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”
'Truly peacemakers are needed.'
“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

(John F. Kennedy Commencement Address at American University, June 10 1963)


Peace cannot be kept by the hard hand of force; it can only be achieved by understanding and mutual respect.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
'We should all be Good Neighbors.'

On being rejected for dates, jobs and being called very bad things in public.

I used to be young; now I am old. I used to be slim with thick reddish brown hair; now in my mid-60’s I am rather more portly and not completely secure on my pins and as the Scots say my brow is no longer smooth but “brent” (wrinkled) and my poll or wee pow (head) is frosty-white and gane beld (going bald). Hoot mon! My fayther wasna beld at 80 nor my grandfayter at 70. It must be that Islander blood from my mother’s side (lost of bald men on that side)!

I learned long ago that 1) being turned down for a date was part of life and sometimes turned out to be damn good luck. I used to weep when being spurned by a bonnie lassie. It seemed than when I was 16 and 17 and 18 and 19 that the world was almost over. My old grannie, said, “Och, dinna fash yerself. What is the lassie like?” I described the slender, smooth skinned sex goddess. I often shared a picture. And grannie would say, “Nae bad. But there are many fish in the sea. And in another thirty, forty or fifty years she will be a fat old woman like mysel’ if she is lucky or she will be deid (dead).” I remember being struck by her frankness but how right she was (Granny has been dead since 1984). Some of the young woman I pursued, I kissed I desired to possess are now dust. One beautiful, charming woman died at age 42 that was many years ago. Another beautiful woman -one of the most charming and beautiful woman I had ever known- was my wife’s first cousin. I was so happy at her wedding and looked forward to a long and happy relationship with her and her doctor husband. She said when she had children we would be her godparents But on her honeymoon, HONEY MOON, she began to feel a sharp pain in her right leg. Cancer. I won’t go into gruesome details but suffice it to say she was dead in two years and her last years were of great pain and suffering. We lost all contact with her grieving husband. I knew two women who were semi-finalists in beauty contests and when young were pursued by many men eagerly. I wasn’t considered good enough a catch for either one at the time so they both laughed off my attentions. Neither married (though one had a child out of wedlock). The first wrote to me for a while when I as in the military and I actually went back to visit her after a few years interval. She was only 24 but had aged tremendously in less than three years. She still had SOME sex appeal. I liked fact she didn’t smoke or do drugs. We went out to dinner and this young woman was pleasant company. But I noticed how much weight she had gained. She been health conscious and abstemious -usually drinking only water in her beauty pageant days and eating like a bird. She had been a shapely size 4 or 6. But now she was at least a 12. She at like horse and drank quite heavily. At one point she guffawed and her false teeth came out and fell in the soup which was quite embarrassing . It turned out her father (so she said) beat her an knocked out teeth. I took her home early wrote her a letter a reserved a flight for first flight off the island. She still wrote to me after that and called me on the phone tearfully saying she had been waiting for me and that I was the love of her life. She even said she would fly to X to spend a week with me so I could get to know her better and as she said “all the way this time.” Frankly, her eagerness scared me. I changed my phone number and left no forwarding address. I think I made a very good decision. She was desperate to marry and escape her father. But I easily could have succumbed in the early years to the siren call of Eros. But I remembered what my father taught me some women have a low lifetime batting average.

The other beauty who laughed at my advances, smoked, drank and gambled with abandon. I met her her casually after many years when she her thirties and she was already losing her figure and looks. By the time she was 60 she weighted over 300 pounds and had face of wizened crone. She was almost unrecognizable and a mutual friend said she was a horrible , mean embittered person who spent her last year gambling in Reno and Las Vegas casinos. I was lucky to have missed that boat!

Nothing ventured nothing gained. of course. Better to have loved and lost then never loved at all. Sometimes much better and luckier to have lost.

#2 JOBS:

SO you will get turned down for dates and jobs for MANY reasons. Sometimes the market is very tight. Sometimes you are not a right fit.

I always had a simple back up plan: A) some savings B) a free and clear car C) enough food to make it to the end of the week or end of the month. Lost one car. Another car was totaled (not by me) that I owned free and clear. D) I always kept my credit solid .

It still is tough to get rejections for projects and jobs but that’s life.

It is tough to be denounced publically by the president of Cal State Bakersfield as an anti-immigrant racist English-only White Supremacist as I was some years ago. I still remember the crowd oohing. But I stood my ground and said my conscience was clear; my life story and career were clear. I support free public education for all. My parents were immigrants to America. My mother didn’t speak English when she came (my father did he grew up in the city). My wife was an immigrant. My son-in-law is an immigrant. My daughter in law is an immigrant. Everyone one in my family is multilingual and most speak Spanish (including me I am a certified Spanish teacher). I have taught and tutored immigrant youth and adults almost my entire adult life.

I have tutored (often pro bono) after school and on Saturdays college students and adults of all colors, genders and backgrounds for citizenship tests or college projects in history, English and Spanish. I have taught catechism in English and Spanish and have been the advisor of Spanish-speaking youth organizations. Everything I have stood for in education was to help students and to support academic rigor for all students at all levels so that many students could have access to college prep classes and AP classes in many subject areas. I have supported honesty in educational programs not subterfuges and hollow credits. I am not afraid the calumnies and lies of some people of the Far Left like the SPLC which claims to monitor “hate groups” but routinely engages in hatred and slander itself. I know. For anyone to say I am anti-Immigrant or anti-Spanish or English-only is not telling the truth because I favor a two-pronged approach to education

1) voluntary Dual immersion programs when possible including the teaching of community languages as native languages as part of the academic program and

2) where NOT FEASIBLE I repeat NOT FEASIBLE due to lack of materials and certified qualified teachers having strong sheltered ENGLISH IMMERSION and LITERACY classes for newcomers.

I have never opposed bilingual education or bilingualism in my entire life not even for five minutes. I have always supported waivers for Dual immersion programs and even voluntary native language academies where English is taught as a foreign language. I know teachers of such academies in Spain and Scotland and think the work they do is outstanding. But these programs have high academic rigor and all students are tested for competencies in English as well as target language.

Bellarmine and Jefferson, Part II

[Original source: “Bellarmine and Jefferson,” Cincinnati (OH) Catholic Telegraph Register (August 31, 1945), pg. 3.]

The similarity of the ideas of government expressed in the Declaration of Independence and those found in the writings of St. Robert Bellarmine forms the subject of a long article in a recent issue of the Vatican’sOsservatore Romano. This resemblance has often been pointed out, some Catholics even going to far as to declare that the saint, an Italian Cardinal who died more than 150 years before the Declaration of Independence, was Jefferson’s chief inspiration when he wrote the historic document. While the Osservatorearticle is more restrained in its claims, it nevertheless points out several interesting parallels, not only in thought but also in expression, between the Cardinal’s writings and the Declaration of Independence.

Bellarmine wrote that ‘In a free state all men are born free and equal by nature.’ The Declaration of Independence proclaims that ‘All men are created equal.’

Bellarmine wrote, ‘It depends on the consent of the people to decide whether kings, consuls, or other magistrates shall exercise authority over them.’ Jefferson wrote, ‘Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’

Bellarmine wrote, ‘The people can change a kingdom into an aristocracy, an aristocracy into a democracy.’ The Declaration of Independence says, ‘whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.’

Although the similarity between the ideas of the Cardinal and those of Jefferson is evident, the degree of the influence of the former on the latter is not clear. The American intelligentsia of the period of the War of Independence had some knowledge of the Cardinal’s teachings, but for the most part only indirectly, through the writings of non-Catholic philosophers, some of whom quoted Bellarmine only to reject his theories. Jefferson himself possessed such a book that summarized Bellarmine’s theory of government. He was also familiar with the writings of philosophers who may have been influenced by the Cardinal, and he was acquainted with the Carrolls of Maryland, a Catholic family whose sons were educated in European Catholic schools and who were probably conversant with Bellarmine’s works. But whether the American statesman read and discussed the Catholic philosopher’s ideas to any great extent before he wrote the Declaration of Independence cannot be proved, especially since Jefferson was only 33 in 1776. 

But there is no need to establish a direct connection between Jefferson and Cardinal Bellarmine to prove that fundamental American democracy is supported by Catholic teaching. Whether the founding fathers were influenced by Bellarmine or not, it is certain that the Cardinal, who died the year the Mayflower landed in New England, taught the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence a century and a half later. Nor did Bellarmine’s teachings rise full grown from an arid soil. The doctrine he taught, perhaps with more specific details than anyone before him, was a logical conclusion of the philosophical system of the medieval schoolmen, which in turn was the philosophical expression of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

did bellarmine whisper to jefferson?

[Original source: Catholic Information, “Did Bellarmine Whisper to Thomas Jefferson?” in The Brookfield (Missouri) Argus (October 17, 1947), page 3.  Reprinted in dozens of papers over the next several years.]

Nearly two centuries apart they lived—Robert Bellarmine, Catholic theologian, and Thomas Jefferson, an American patriot. Yet their pens inked out philosophies so similarly sound and God-like that we wonder, we Catholics, whether at least a whisper from the great theologian did not reach the ear of the great statesman as he pondered and wrote his historic document. Read the extracts below from the Declaration of Independence, 1776 and from Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, 1576:

“All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” (Declaration)

“All men are equal, not in wisdom or in grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind.” “Political right is from God and necessarily inherent in the nature of man.” (Bellarmine)

“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” (Declaration)

“It is impossible for men to live together without someone to care for the common good. Men must be governed by someone lest they be willing to perish.” (Bellarmine)

“Governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Declaration)

“It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is indeed from God but vested in a particular ruler by the council and election of men.” (Bellarmine)

“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute a new government. . . . Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons.” (Declaration)

“For legitimate reasons the people can change the government to an aristocracy or a democracy or vice versa.” “The people never transfers its power to a king so completely but that it reserves to itself the right of receiving back this power.” (Bellarmine)

“Government by consent of the governed” has been Catholic teaching down the ages. The 16th century doctrine of the “Divine Right of Kings” was, and is, as repellent to the Catholic as it is to the American and when one is both Catholic and American, it is just twice as repellent. So here’s to Cardinal Bellarmine and Statesman Jefferson! May their philosophies ever govern our land and may they conquer those poor lands where ‘kings still can do no wrong’ and where no man dare say them “nay”!