On your last visit to Washington, D.C., did you stand marvelling at the size and craftsmanship of the Lincoln Memorial? Did you pause and admire the sublime and simple neo-classical elegance of the Jefferson and Washington monuments? Then, did you wander over to the memorial dedicated to commemorating the unrivaled contributions of James Madison, the man known to history as the “Father of the Constitution?” No, you did not. Not because you don’t appreciate our fourth President’s lifelong dedication to limited government; rather, the Madison monument wasn’t on your list of things to see in the nation’s capital because no such monument exists.
Despite the steadiness of the stream, the fertile field of “Founders Literature” never seems to reach a saturation point. Recently, a flood of books has flowed from familiar fountains: Joseph Ellis (First Family), Bruce Chadwick (Triumvirate), Pauline Maier (Ratification), and Ron Chernow (Washington: A Life). Thousands of pages on the lives and times of the men and women whose names are at the top of the dramatis personae of the founding drama.
For those readers with an interest in the intellectual roots of modern conservative thought, one may well describe Thomas Chaimowicz’s Antiquity as the Source of Modernity as “long-anticipated.” In fact, it is the last work to be published in the Transaction Library of Conservative Thought commissioned by the late Russell Kirk. Dr. Kirk’s introduction was penned 20 years ago (the German edition was published in 1985), and it highlights the significance of Chaimowicz’s work for conservative political discourse:
“Let me save you some trouble,” author Kenda Creasy Dean says in the very first sentence of her book Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. “Here is the gist of what you are about to read: American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith — but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate from high school.”
In an age of American culture wars against the particularities of the various regions of these United States, many citizens act as if such regional differences which remain are almost an embarrassment. The notion that one’s identity is first centered on hearth and home; that religious faith first finds its expression at a local altar and pulpit; and that one may take pride in one’s community, state, and nation — in that order — has often fallen beneath the assault of atomizing individualism.