Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism

Overview

The statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729–1797) is a touchstone for modern conservatism in the United States, and his name and his writings have been invoked by figures ranging from the arch Federalist George Cabot to the twentieth-century political philosopher Leo Strauss. But Burke's legacy has neither been consistently associated with conservative thought nor has the richness and subtlety of his political vision been fully appreciated by either his American admirers or detractors. In Edmund ...

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Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism

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Overview

The statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729–1797) is a touchstone for modern conservatism in the United States, and his name and his writings have been invoked by figures ranging from the arch Federalist George Cabot to the twentieth-century political philosopher Leo Strauss. But Burke's legacy has neither been consistently associated with conservative thought nor has the richness and subtlety of his political vision been fully appreciated by either his American admirers or detractors. In Edmund Burke in America, Drew Maciag traces Burke's reception and reputation in the United States, from the contest of ideas between Burke and Thomas Paine in the Revolutionary period, to the Progressive Era (when Republicans and Democrats alike invoked Burke’s wisdom), to his apotheosis within the modern conservative movement.

Throughout, Maciag is sensitive to the relationship between American opinions about Burke and the changing circumstances of American life. The dynamic tension between conservative and liberal attitudes in American society surfaced in debates over the French Revolution, Jacksonian democracy, Gilded Age values, Progressive reform, Cold War anticommunism, and post-1960s liberalism. The post–World War II rediscovery of Burke by New Conservatives and their adoption of him as the "father of conservatism" provided an intellectual foundation for the conservative ascendancy of the late twentieth century. Highlighting the Burkean influence on such influential writers as George Bancroft, E. L. Godkin, and Russell Kirk, Maciag also explores the underappreciated impact of Burke’s thought on four U.S. presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. Through close and keen readings of political speeches, public lectures, and works of history and political theory and commentary, Maciag offers a sweeping account of the American political scene over two centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"American conservatives celebrate Edmund Burke, but according to historian Drew Maciag, the British philosopher-politician might be uncomfortable with the company he's posthumously been keeping.... Maciag finds Burke far more advanced in his thinking than previously credited."—David Luhrssen,Shepherd Express(13 March 2014)

"Edmund Burke in America is a splendid piece of work. Drew Maciag traces how Burke and his writings have fared in America over the last two centuries. In addition to being a lasting addition to Burke studies, Maciag's book is also an important exploration of American political thought in general. Maciag offers fresh and novel insights into the ideals and writings of each political figure whose work he addresses."—Isaac Kramnick, Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government, Cornell University, coauthor of The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State

"With clarity and insight, Drew Maciag restores Burkean thought to the center of the American political tradition. In the process, he tells us much about battles over Burke's legacy, especially its central and complex status for modern conservatives."—George Cotkin, author of Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick and Existential America

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801448959
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 791,846
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Drew Maciag has taught history at the University of Rochester, SUNY Geneseo, and Nazareth College. He can be contacted at: drewhist@frontiernet.net.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: In Search of Icons

1. Burke in Brief: A "Philosophical" Primer

Part I: Early America

2. Old Seeds, New Soil: The Land of Paine

3. Federalist Persuasions: John and J. Q. Adams

4. Democratic America: The Ethos of Liberalism

5. American Whigs: A Conservative Response

Part II: Transition to Modern America

6. The Gilded Age: Eclectic Interpretations

7. Theodore Roosevelt: Blazing Forward, Looking Backward

8. Woodrow Wilson: Confronting American Maturity

Part III: Postwar America

9. Modern Times: Conjunctions and Consensus

10. Natural Law: A Neo-traditionalist Revival

11. The Cold War: Existential Threat Redux

12. Contemporary Conservatives: Victories and Illusions

Conclusion: A World without Fathers

Notes
Index

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