I published part one
of my review on Saturday; it covered most of the book from the Introduction through chapter 8 on John Locke and how the Founders read him (see below for an outline of the book's contents, including the subheads in each chapter).
So, having offered his review of the intellectual background to the Founders' understanding of the issues of governance (Natural Law, Reason, happiness, tyranny, consent of the governed, Divine Right of Kings, rights to overthrow tyrants, etc), Reilly summarizes how they applied that knowledge to the situation the British American colonists faced in the 1760's and 1770's as Parliament (not really King George III) had violated their right of consent through taxation without representation. I found it remarkable that after all this discussion of the battle of ideas between Reason and Will, Reilly states that half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were college graduates who had received classical Scholastic educations in the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry) and had studied Latin, another vestige of medieval Catholic culture. Whatever the contemporary debate about rights and rulers--Hobbes vs. Locke et al--half of the signers had a grounding in the liberal arts. In that day, a university education was conservative of classical knowledge of the past.
Next, Reilly compares and contrasts the thoughts of some of the leaders of the French Revolution with those of the Founders, citing Abbé Sieyès, Marquis de Condorcet, Marquis de Sade, and Louis Saint-Just (who wasn't). He explains Jefferson's initial support of the French Revolution, before the Reign of Terror (a reign without a monarch!), and his disappointment with its progress after he left Paris, but then demonstrates how much John Adams and Alexander Hamilton inveighed against the philosophy and ideology of these French thinkers from the start. Reilly highlights Adam's arguments against Condorcet's The Progress of the Human Mind
, carried out in the margins of a copy of the book, to demonstrate how completely he rejected Condorcet's view of the human person and society. Reilly's pithy statement in the section on the French Revolution's attack on the Catholic Church, Christianity, and Catholics sums up the dichotomy: The revolutionaries in France "attempted a total break with the past by destroying it"; the Founders of the United States of America "sought a fulfillment of the past by preserving and improving it" (p. 280). Tories, who had wanted to remain loyal to England's rule, may not have been "treated with kid gloves" (p. 288), but there was no genocide as in the Vendee, no rejection of Sunday as a day of rest and worship, no martyrdoms, September massacres, or new religion in the American Revolution.
Having built his case over ten chapters, Reilly now takes on the critics of the Founders and their intellectual background. Perhaps I am at a disadvantage here because I have not read the works of Deneen and Hanby. He devotes at least five pages to debunking Deneen's misquotation of a passage by James Madison in Federalist Papers Number Ten
, noting that Deneen uses that misquotation several times in his analysis of the Founding. (The complete quotation is: "The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.") Deneen proposes that Madison argues for the protection of the "diversity in the faculties of men" while Reilly argues that Madison wanted government to protect the "faculties" but acknowledged that the natural diversity in those faculties was an obstacle to unity that had to be dealt with because of dangers factionalism pose. A reading of that paper makes it clear to me that Madison was trying to find the better way of "controlling the effects of faction" while enabling and protecting liberty. Madison thought that the federalist structure helped balance those efforts: "The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures."
In his Epilogue, Reilly cites passages from Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton--whom he incorrectly identifies as a signer of both the Declaration and the Constitution (p. 314)--to demonstrate that the Founders believed the form of representative government they were establishing required Christian virtues to succeed and perdure. They predicted the decline of the Republic if Christian virtues were rejected and diminished among the Republic's citizens.
Reilly identifies German historicism as the cause of our current decline as we've been taught that progress in itself perfects. Our truths are superior to truths of the past--there is no objective, natural, real truth; it's relative to time and place; it's subjective for each person. "That may be your truth, but it's not mine. Don't impose your truth on me." (I overheard that in a pub outside Canterbury Cathedral many years ago when one woman opined that it's good to be married before you have children--and it was spoken in anger, not comity. The discussion was closed.) Therefore, who ever has the most power to impose their subjective truth--BLM, the NBA, NFL, MSM, Corporations, etc--will triumph; there will be no discussion or debate on a reasonable basis. Wilson, Dewey, and Obama agree: Social reform and political control; schools as great factories to create properly formed citizens; Truth as the object of will because there is no absolute truth. Except
for the truth that there is no absolute truth.
In the final paragraphs of the Epilogue, Reilly calls for a ressourcement
of the Founding--a return "to reality, to reason, to 'the laws of Nature's God'"--and avers that it will come as the "modern project" destroys itself, cancels itself, devours itself as the Soviet Empire "imploded from its own hollowness." (p. 331)
But as the history of the Soviet Empire demonstrates, there will be great suffering before the end of the modern project: viz Portland, Seattle, and Chicago, et al.
Foreword by Larry P. Arnn, PhD
Introduction: Do We Hold These Truths?
--Whose Fault Is It?
--Sources of the Founding
Chapter 1. The Legacies of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome
--The Prephilosophical World
--Magic Time: The Problem with Pantheism
--The Problem with an Eternal Universe
--The Philosophical World: Athens
--Natural Law: "What Is"
--The End of Man and Morality
--The Order of the City and the Order of the Soul
--The Problem of Happiness
--Jerusalem: Transcendent Monotheism
--The Goodness of Creation and the "Imago Dei"
--The Origin of Evil
--Rome: Christianity--The Nuptials of Jerusalem and Athens
--The Solution to Happiness
--Limiting the Political to Itself
--Dedivinization of the World
--The Spiritual Genealogy: Equality
Chapter 2. The Medieval Roots of Civilization
--Wielding the Two Swords
--The Investiture Conflict
--The Struggle in England
--The Struggle in the Holy Roman Empire
--The Contribution of Canon Law to Constitutional Thinking
--What Touches All Must Be Approved by All
--The Development of Consent
Chapter 3. The Loss of Reason and Nature
--The Realist Metaphysics of Reality
--Nominalism and the End of Essences
--Voluntarism and the Primacy of Will
--Parallels with Islamic Voluntarism
--Loss of Cause and Effect
--Consequences for Law
Chapter 4. Enter: Martin Luther--Exit: Christendom
--Luther and Nominalism
--The Hidden God--Deus Absconditas
--Complete Corruption of Original Sin
--Contra Aristotle and Philosophy
--Freedom from Free Will
--The Political Consequences
--The End of Dual Sovereignty
--Legal Positivism--Law as Will
Chapter 5. Richard Hooker: Restoring Natural Law
--Recovery of Reason
--The Requirement of Consent
Chapter 6. Thomas Hobbes and the Rise of Secular Absolutism
--Hobbes versus Hooker
--Denial of the Highest Good
--Primacy of Passion and Power
--The War of All against All
Chapter 7. The Divine Right of Kings and Its Enemies
--Bellarmine and Suarez
--James I's Divine Right
--Filmer's Defense of Divine Right
--Sovereignty of the People
--Principle of Equality
--A Catholic Founding? (parallel passages from Bellarmine, Suarez, the Virginia Declaration of Rights
and the Declaration of Independence
8. John Locke: Problem or Solution?
--Equality and Consent
--The Right to Revolution
--Locke and the Founders
--A Two-Faced Janus?
--The State of Nature
--Happiness or Hedonism?
--Locke vs. Hobbes
9. A Restorative Founding on Reason
--War of Ideas
--Parliament's Violation of the Right of Consent
--Violating the "Laws of Nature" and "Natural Right"
--James Wilson and Natural Law
--The Revolution Arrives
--Declaration of Independence
--The Theology of the Founding
--"All Men Are Created Equal"
--The Relationship between Liberty and Happiness
10. The Antipodes: The American Revolution versus the French Revolution
--French Enlightenment Ideologies
--The Assault on Christianity
--Adams and Hamilton React
11. Critiquing the Critics: Why They Go Wrong about What Was Right
--America Devoted to Diversity?
--Misunderstanding the Declaration
--Retrofitting the American Founding
--Cogs in the Machine