Tuesday, April 15, 2014

James Iredell: Neglected Southern Federalist

James Iredell 2
Born in Lewes, England (October 5, 1751), Iredell spent his childhood in Bristol. The eldest of five sons born to Francis and Margaret McCulloh Iredell, he was forced to leave school after his father suffered a debilitating stroke in 1766. With the assistance of relatives, Iredell came to America in 1768 to accept an appointment as Comptroller of the Customs in Port Roanoke in Edenton, N.C. The young man’s salary was sent directly to his parents. As a gregarious person, Iredell quickly made friends, including many of the most talented citizens of Edenton. He began legal studies under the tutelage of Samuel Johnston (1733-1816), who would later serve as governor of North Carolina. Iredell also married Johnston’s sister, Hannah, in 1773.
In 1770 Iredell was licensed to practice law in the lower courts of the colony, and in 1774 he was allowed to practice law in the superior courts. In 1774 he was also promoted to Collector of the Port at Edenton. During this period Iredell published various tracts urging a healing of relations between England and America, while expressing concern about the violation of the colonists chartered rights as Englishmen. With great precision and restraint Iredell presented a series of thoughtful commentaries that served as a defense of the American position. The central problem of the English system, according to Iredell, was a weak judiciary, unable to defend the constitution against the usurpations of Parliament and the Crown.
Iredell was appointed to serve on a committee to revise the statues of North Carolina in 1776, and elected by the general assembly to serve as a superior court judge, the equivalent of a state supreme court judicial post, in 1777; he served is this capacity for six months. After serving as North Carolina’s attorney general, Iredell returned to his law practice, and continued to defend colonists’ position in his speeches and writings. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, Iredell was a highly respected jurist and legal theorist.
Iredell proceeded to serve as President of the Council of State, and was elected as a delegate to the North Carolina’s first ratifying convention. Under the pseudonym “Marcus” Iredell had already published an essay entitled “Answers to Mr. Mason’s Objections to the New Constitution,” defending the Constitution as a moderate document that would correct the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. He was one of the most articulate and influential of the Federalist advocates of the Constitution; however, as Iredell had anticipated, the initial attempt at ratification failed. A second convention was held in November 1789 and the Constitution was ratified. In defense of the Constitution, Iredell stated that “no power can be exercised but what is expressly given.” For Iredell, the adoption of the Constitution was an improvement because it provided for a separation of powers and affirmed state sovereignty. His thoughtful defense of the need for ratification attracted many admirers, including President George Washington, who appointed Iredell to the Supreme Court on February 10, 1790.
As an associate justice Iredell was an original thinker and representative of Southern Federalism. In his decisions and legal analysis he differed substantially from his colleagues, including Chief Justice John Jay and Justice James Wilson. In the case of Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), the judiciary’s first re-evaluation of the federal arrangement after ratification, Iredell provided the lone dissent, arguing that a citizen of one state could not sue another state in federal court. The other justices claimed the plaintiff had a right to be heard. Iredell suggested that “each state in the Union is sovereign as to all powers reserved.” In 1798 the states ratified the Eleventh Amendment, which overturned the Chisholm decision and affirmed Iredell’s criticism of implied power and defense of state authority. As the first justice of the Supreme Court to articulate a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, Iredell was a representative of a school of interpretation that continues to influence judicial decision-making. Iredell died in his beloved Edenton, North Carolina, on October 20, 1799.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Separation of Powers Affirmed


Cameron, Maxwell A.  Strong Constitutions: Social-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

In this imaginative and readable book, Cameron (University of British Columbia) provides a learned defense of the separation of powers.  While not disputing the importance of the separation of powers as a source of restraint in democratic theory, the author contends that the concept allows for collective action, which can promote and sustain democratic regimes.  Other conceptions of the separation of powers are integrated into his critique, as well as the importance of divided power in promoting the survivability of any government.  The separation of powers, if rightly understood, actually strengthens regimes.  The refinement of democratic institutions is also based on the “social-cognitive” aspects of politics, especially the use of language that encourages “collective organization” (p. 19); and, the value of a written constitution is yet another extension of this analysis.  Other factors in addition to language, including collective bargaining and “democratized” technologies (p. 51), can aid the evolution of the “social-cognitive” contribution to the separation of powers.  For the non-specialist, the book also contains many useful assessments of a wide range of political thinkers, from Aristotle to F. A. Hayek.  The tome is one of the most useful defenses of the separation of powers to appear in many years.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thinking about King the Preacher and Boston Personalist Philosopher

Here is one of my three or four published defenses of Dr. King, or more specifically, as Richard Lischer describes him, the "Preacher King." And even more to the point, I prefer the Philosopher King, the Boston Personalist (Methodist-influenced) thinker. He does not need my affirmation, and I am from a different theological and religious tradition, but I share some common ground with him.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas With A Point

We need not assume the mantle of an anti-materialist to appreciate that a certain degree of social equilibrium is dismissed or ignored during the holidays, allowing for a lack of societal and personal restraint.  Many otherwise normal considerations are subsumed into the pursuit of a "happy" holiday.  All too often this demands we forgo normal obligations and long-held practices in the pursuit of temporal exuberance.  Of course, the holy seasons of Advent and Christmas are typically approached with a spirit of reverence and excitement, but when inherited customs are displaced, we provide an opportunity for other influences to prevail.  A cherished, but potentially wearisome tradition that can become corrupted is the giving of gifts.  The best gifts should encourage the family member or friend to live life to the fullest extent possible, while also pursuing the higher potentialities of their existence and their faith. 

After decades of giving presents that were usually dispensed with, or discarded in a few days, or "regifted" to aid another's frenzied pursuits, I became determined to give gifts with a point, or at least gifts that would connect the recipient with the larger social and political tradition of which they are part.  The gifts that are most likely to endure and fulfill the stated goal are books and fountain pens.  Gissing’s Ryecroft preferred books to food, a great book as a gift can provide sustenance that no other gift can.  A fountain pen reminds us of the power of writing, allows the writer to engage in his or her craft with a closeness unmatched by a keyboard or ballpoint, and is a novel and exceedingly pleasurable gift for anyone.  Here are some gifts with a point you might want to consider:

1-AndrĂ© Gushurst-Moore’s The Common Mind (Angelico Press, 2013) provides an elegantly written and philosophically convincing survey of the worldview Burke inherited and that he helped transmit to posterity.  The common mind, or Christian humanism, is understood from both the perspective of a philosophical inheritance and as a perpetual challenge to contemporary life as well; as a social and political tradition dependent on the ennobling of the good, the true, and beautiful; and, the exhibition of personal restraint, and an affirmation of the transcendent nature of existence.  Gushurst-Moore begins his defense of this tradition by engaging in a process of retrogression, examining the central figures who affirmed the common mind, beginning with Thomas More and concluding with Russell Kirk.
2-The new edition of Russell Kirk’s Prospects for Conservatives, the first imprint of ImaginativeConservative Books, should be on every Christmas list!  The tome contains a new introduction by Dr. Brad Birzer, and a new subtitle.   As one who possessed the largest and last remaining collection of the earlier version of this book, A Program for Conservatives, and shared the books with his Duke Divinity School colleagues in the early 1980s (much to their dismay),  this republication is an event of great and enduring importance.  (For the record, I gave the remaining hundred copies of the book that I purchased from a centenarian in California to the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.)

 3-Of interest to students of theology, regardless of one’s persuasion, is yet another monumental contribution by Thomas C. Oden.  John Wesley’s Teaching: Volume 3, Pastoral Theology (Zondervan, 2013) affirms Wesley as a central figure in the Reformation, but more importantly, as a defender of classical, consensual Christianity.


4-If you seek to recover the lost world of prudential political rhetoric, and a time when statesmen outnumbered politicians, you might want to take at Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought (Lexington Books, 2013).  The disputed election of 1824 was one of the most important presidential elections in American history. After an indecisive electoral college vote, the House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams as president over the more popular war hero, Andrew Jackson. As a result, John C. Calhoun ended up serving as vice-president under Adams. Neither man was comfortable in this situation as they were political rivals who held philosophically divergent views of American constitutional governance. The emerging personal and philosophical dispute between President Adams and Vice-President Calhoun eventually prompted the two men to take up their pens, using the pseudonyms “Patrick Henry” and “Onslow,” in a public debate over the nature of power and liberty in a constitutional republic. The great debate thus arrayed Calhoun’s Jeffersonian republican vision of constitutionally restrained power and local autonomy against Adams’s neo-Federalist republican vision which called for the positive use of inherent power—a view that would become increasingly compelling to future generations of Americans. In the course of this exchange some of the most salient issues within American politics and liberty are debated, including the nature of political order, democracy, and the diffusion of political power. The level of erudition and insight is remarkable.

 5. The Noble Fountain Pen.  My most pointed recommendation concerns the gift of a fountain pen during this holy season.  I prefer vintage pens, especially the old American varieties, Sheaffer, Waterman, and Parker among many others.  There are many traditional pen stores throughout the country that deserve commendation, and one of the best kept secrets in the Southeast is Joe Rodgers Office Supply in Cleveland, Tennessee, in the Chattanooga suburbs.  The owner, Greg Serum, offers the best supply of fountain pens and supplies you will encounter.  On-line sites worth visiting include:

Penhero.com has an encyclopedic list of pen-related links as well that are of great assistance to anyone interesting in fine writing instruments: http://penhero.com/PenBookmarks.htm.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Celebrating Russell Kirk's Conservative Mind!

The Conservative Mind’s Continuing Relevance at Sixty

by H. Lee Cheek
The Conservative Mind by Dr. Russell Kirk, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, still exerts considerable influence over the intellectual elements of American Conservatism. Dr. H. Lee Cheek delivers a lecture on this book as a for The McConnell Center at the University of Louisville's "Milestones of the 20th Century: Democracy in America" lecture series.
This is part of a series The Imaginative Conservative is publishing in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. Essays in the series may be found here.
Books mentioned in this lecture may be found in The Imaginative Conservative BookstoreRead more of this post

Lee Cheek | October 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm | URL: http://wp.me/p3FGHd-7Kz