Kirk, a sort of jack-of-all-letters (journalist, author of works on Eliot, Burke, conservatism), here ponders some history. At first glance the scope of the book seems too ambitious, pretentious -- a development of the American tradition of order, both personal and political, from biblical origins (as the author sees it) to the Greeks, through Rome, to England, and thence across the Atlantic. But as Kirk points out, his intention is not scholarly. Rather this is uplift, and aimed squarely at our Bicentennial. ""To freshen the colors of the picture,"" Kirk quotes Cicero. The theme is -- as one would expect from an admirer of Eliot and Burke -- reaffirmation of tradition, the doctrine of permanence through change (and vice versa). We are led to see the Puritans with their covenant as New World Israelites, America growing up out of a blend of English medieval custom, Protestant Ethic, Latinate theory (as with Montesquieu's balance of powers), all consolidated and set squarely upon the belief in the solidity and rightness of ""the laws of nature."" Taken separately, nothing here is new. An optimistic, sometimes refreshing, but highly elitist reading of the American tradition.