Hadley Arkes

Hadley P. Arkes (born 1940) is an American political scientist and the Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College, where he has taught since 1966.

recent articles

Life Watch: Win or Lose — Pro-Lifers Get the Blame

He was one of the smartest of the “political” people I knew. He had been active in conservative politics, been in former President Bush’s administration, been involved in a powerful consulting firm. He was plugged into all of the most recent surveys emanating from all quarters, he was in touch with Gov. George Bush’s campaign, … Read more

Life Watch: After the Election–A Sober Reckoning

Midge Decter once offered the model of the Jewish Telegram: “Start worrying now—details to follow.” With our necessary lead time, I write now only two weeks before the election, and by the time this is read, we will all know how this election—the cause of so much nail-biting and bewilderment—has come out. As I write, … Read more

Life Watch: Canady Bill Advance–But Will Bush Speak?

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was brought to the floor of the House on September 26, but it was delayed until 7 p.m., debated for 40 minutes, and then passed by a vote of 380-15. An overwhelming success? Or a vote much larger than we had needed or wanted? Therein hangs a tale, and not … Read more

Life Watch: Democrats Receding, Republicans Pressing

It was nearly, as they say, déjà vu all over again: It was another hearing in the Subcommittee on the Constitution in the House of Representatives—and once again an encounter with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.). Last year, it was a tangle over the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (see “Congressman Graham Springs a Bill,” October … Read more

Life Watch: Diary of a Hearing

July 20. The day had finally come: the hearings, in Congress, on “the most modest first step of all.” Rep. Charles Canady (R- Fla.) would be presiding over the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and he would be guiding the committee in considering the bill that he himself had … Read more

Life Watch: Opening the Argument—Round Two

For the past three presidential elections, the pro-life party has had at its head a candidate who was quite plainly uncomfortable in talking about abortion. But that very reluctance made it certain that the press would go after him and press him to speak. If there is, in our politics, any certainty we can count … Read more

Life Watch:At Long Last: The Modest First Step—Taken

Finalmente! After years of pressing the argument in the pages of Crisis, the Wall Street Journal, and National Review, the most “modest first step” of all was finally taken: On April 13, Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.) introduced the federal bill that would protect the child who survives an abortion (the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of … Read more

Life Watch: The Coup That Wasn’t

I was minding my own, prosaic business; I was on my way back to deal with the repairs on frozen pipes at our house in Amherst, Massachusetts, when a call came in from Robert George at Princeton. He was dialing 911, putting out a call for help with an upcoming conference on religion and public … Read more

A Season for Chameleons: Abortion and the Court

When the helicopters lifted off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon in 1975, and that project of American arms was allowed to collapse, President Gerald Ford went on television to reassure and calm the country. His message was that this was no time for recriminations. To which a friend of mine remarked, “What … Read more

Life Watch: A Midspring Nights Dream

It was sometime in the early 1980s. My friend, the late Nachman Greenberg, had a daughter the age of our oldest son. She was spirited and appealing, and so I spake unto him: “Nachman, there is no reason,” I said, “that things must be with the next generation as they were with ours. You and … Read more

Life Watch: May Embryos Be Adopted?

The story runs back to the 1930s, and it was told to me by a late colleague at Amherst. He had been teaching at Ohio State University, and he had been asked to act as the lawyer for a maid who cleaned the offices. She was in the midst of a divorce from a man … Read more

Life Watch: Vermont—The Madcap Conservatism of the Judges

In December, the Supreme Court of Vermont decided to provide a coda of sorts to the millen­nium just ending— and sent tremors through the ranks of conservative writers. The court decided that it was, on balance, a violation of the Constitution of Vermont to with­hold from couples of the same sex the benefits that flow to … Read more

Life Watch: Millennial Blues, Cautious Hopes

Chesterton once flicked away the beamish assumption that History was moving onward, ever upward; that each epoch not only would bring an advance in material comforts but an enlargement of freedom and a notable improvement in the moral sensibility of humankind. The last century has pro  vided by now an ample refutation of that facile … Read more

Life Watch: The Abasement of the Morellas

It was another tumultuous day in the House of Representatives on September 30, as the Committee on the Judiciary brought to the floor the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (see “Congressman Graham Springs a Bill,” October 1999). It was tumultuous because the exertion evidently strained the collective wit of the Democrats in the House. Just … Read more

Life Watch: Federalism and Assisted Suicide

In the days of Daniel Webster and John Calhoun, when the Senate was debating the Oregon bill, Calhoun anticipated the argument that would be made later in the Dred Scott case: American citizens should have the right to carry their property in slaves into the territories of the United States. After all, the territories were … Read more

Life Watch: Congressman Graham Springs a Bill

At a meeting in Washington in June, I offered praise for the House managers during the impeachment of the president, and contrasted their performance with the preening and cowardice of the senators. I was moved to say of the House managers what Lincoln had said of the Massachusetts Sixth regiment, after it had finally broken … Read more

Life Watch: The Moment for Bush

The summer has brought rumblings of a movement toward a third party on the part of pro-lifers, like Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, who had struck off on a presidential campaign and found, as they say, no “traction” in the Republican party. But to move seriously to a third party is to separate pro-lifers … Read more

Life Watch: In the Scale of Things

It was a dinner in Pasadena, with friends who were journalists and professors. In the face of their skepticism I was trying to explain again why I was encouraging the candidacies of Gary Bauer and Steve Forbes, despite the fact that the odds at the moment were running against them. Bauer had long ago cultivated … Read more

Life Watch: At the Edge of Conventional Wisdom

In the mid-1980s, as people began to ponder the question of a successor to Ronald Reagan, there was a flicker of interest in Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada. But one veteran of the Goldwater campaign observed that one of the lessons learned in that campaign was that a candidate from a small state found it … Read more

Life Watch: Practical Alternatives to Abortion May Be Hazardous

“Summoning his passion, nearly foaming with conviction, straining his temples with anger … he professed his moderation. And he swore an eternal enmity to those people, swollen with surety, who thought they knew the ‘truth.’” That description could have served well over the last 30 years to describe colleagues I have known in Amherst and … Read more

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