Civil War

Defy Mob Justice by Celebrating the Life of Robert E. Lee

On October 12, 1870, a good man closed his eyes on this world. Although loved by many, and respected by most at the time of his death, history has since laden Robert E. Lee with abuse and hatred. The change has been long coming, but Dylann Roof's 2015 racist shooting raised disgust to a fever [...]

Fiction and the Right Side of History

John Maynard Keynes famously noted that “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.” That’s putting it mildly. My experience is that of Peter Hitchens: I am ceaselessly amazed, as I look at our media, political parties, schools and universities, how formerly conservative people [...]

Robert E. Lee’s Visage Becomes a Target of Mob Protests

In an unforgettable scene in the film Dr. Zhivago, the adaptable lawyer Komarovski bellows from the foot of the frozen stairs, where he had been flung by the eponymous hero: “We’re all made from the same clay, you know!” Komarovski, whose name suggests “mosquito” in Russian, is not a card-carrying communist, but a broad-minded member [...]

Is Lee a Victim of Political Opportunism?

There is talk in New Orleans right now of tearing down a statue of Civil War general Robert E. Lee that adorns the (locally, almost equally famous) Lee Circle in New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu is seeking to replace the statue of Lee, as well as one of P.G.T. Beauregard, with “symbols that reflect the culture, unity, [...]

The Real Heroes of the 1863 Draft Riots

The staircase in my rectory is lined with pictures of the twelve pastors who preceded me in my parish, which is called Hell’s Kitchen.  I hope that thirteen is a benign number. While the neighborhood now is experiencing the most promising real estate development in the history of the nation, it did not get its nickname for [...]

The Good and Bad of Democracy

I’ve been rereading Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterful Democracy in America.  This book, written in the first half of the nineteenth century by a French aristocrat for his countrymen, remains standard reading for American college students and even some of their professors.  In a way it is too bad that we tend to read it as [...]

Can Congress Steal Your Constitutional Freedoms?

  Can the president use the military to arrest anyone he wants, keep that person away from a judge and jury, and lock him up for as long as he wants? In the Senate's dark and terrifying vision of the Constitution, he can. Congress is supposed to work in public. That requirement is in the [...]

The First Catholic President — Almost

Most people know that John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, was the first Catholic president of the United States. Many are also aware that Al Smith was the first Catholic to run for the presidency, in 1928. Very few, however, know about the Catholic Civil War general who almost became Abraham Lincoln's vice-president and would [...]

Dual Citizenship

This weekend, we Americans celebrate 234 years of national independence. For most of that time, we rejoiced that two broad oceans protected us from foreign wars and enemies. No more: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, removed forever any doubt on that score.   What is the appropriate response? To that question there is [...]

Listening to the Laity

  My last month's column, on the subject of polarization in American Catholicism, touched off a lively and substantial discussion. My thanks to all who took part. I don't propose to respond here to what was said, but simply to expand on an issue I raised originally but didn't really develop.   Near the end [...]

Let’s Be Strict with Strict Construction

Roy Moore, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, became perhaps the nation's most controversial spokesman for "strict construction" and "original intent" in interpreting the Constitution in his celebrated stand on the display of the Ten Commandments. The judge made two important points: First, that two clauses in a single sentence in the [...]

The Frustrated Constitution

An original copy of the United States Constitution is on display in the rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, it rests in a preservative display case filled with argon. When the building closes for the night, the case moves onto a conveyance system [...]

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