CONTRA MUNDUM by Willmoore Kendall


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A verbose, irascible student of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, William Kendall is hailed in the introduction to this posthumous miscellany as ""the rediscoverer of the historic American political orthodoxy."" The orthodoxy consists of subordinating the ""supposed 'right' of free speech"" to domestic tranquility because Jefferson, Madison. Adams, et. al. never intended the Republic to turn into an ""open society."" Also included is a conventional affirmation of states' rights and the virtues of local government and some sarcastic denunciations of the pretensions of the Executive and, especially, that miserable rat-pack of Liberals, the Supreme Court. But this particular restatement of the stance of the National Review (Kendall was, for a time, their book editor) is embedded in a tangle of crypto-erudition with Plato, Milton, Locke and Rousseau summoned forth to support Kendall's teachings. It turns out, for example, that the true lesson of Plato's Crito, was the right, nay the wisdom and the duty, of the Athenian Assembly to put to death Socrates -- subversive blasphemer that he was. Kendall gives the First Amendment a vigorous working-over (the right to be heard does not go on ""ad nauseam"") demonstrating that it does not say what it says and the Founding Fathers didn't want it anyhow. Today HUAC carries on the noble work of the Athenian Assembly and a good thing too, because the Communists are everywhere ""exaggerating the misery of Southern Negroes"" and snagging the none-too-sound minds of intellectuals. The cantankerous spleen is not solely for the Liberals however; the conservatives, who should know better, are suffused with ""relativism and positivism"" (Russell Kirk) and counseling ""prescriptions for self-betrayal and suicide"" (Clinton Rossiter in The Conservative Mind). Kendall does not really like anyone very much.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1971
Publisher: Arlington House