Author: John Willson (John Willson)

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Thornton Wilder’s Depression
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Thornton Wilder’s Depression

From the November 2011 issue of Chronicles. Thornton Wilder met Sigmund Freud in the fall of 1935.  Freud had read Wilder’s new novel, Heaven’s My Destination.  “‘No seeker after God,’” writes Wilder’s biographer (quoting Freud of himself), “he threw it across the room.”  At a later meeting Freud apologized.  He objected to Wilder’s “making religion...

The Loss and Recovery of Truth
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The Loss and Recovery of Truth

“Philosophy of history is a concept coined by Voltaire,” Gerhart Niemeyer said to me in the spring of 1977, repeating the first sentence of his lecture, “The Loss and Recovery of History,” delivered at a Hillsdale College seminar a few weeks before and later published in Imprimis (October 1977).  He went on to say that...

The Chief and His Men
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The Chief and His Men

On June 1, 1945, Pope Pius XII met for three hours in private audience with his co-conspirator, the German lawyer Josef Müller.  “I had hardly crossed the threshold into his study when the Holy Father approached me, and embraced me,” Müller later wrote.  “The Pope said,” writes the author of this remarkable tale of spiritual...

His Land, His People
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His Land, His People

“Dickinson was, in truth,” writes William Murchison, as much philosopher as writer, a man to whom God had imparted the gifts not merely of expression but also of examination and reflection.  Among the large fraternity active in the cause of independence, he gave place, intellectually, to no one. That being indisputably the case, Dickinson’s inclusion...

The Person Is Always Becoming
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The Person Is Always Becoming

Everyone in the Western world writes from left to right, so Michael Novak’s title is more cute than revealing.  The subtitle, on the other hand, makes a claim: that he moved from at one point in his life being a liberal to an admission that, sometime before he reached his present octogenarian state, he was...

Out and About
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Out and About

The American Empire has been on the minds of at least some conservatives for about two decades, ever since the sudden collapse of the Soviet Empire caught us all by surprise.  It isn’t that Americans haven’t argued about empire before: From the 1890’s until December 7, 1941, there was an on-again, off-again but very lively...

A Difficult Decade
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A Difficult Decade

James Patterson’s controlling idea is that the 60’s became the 60’s in 1965, and that this represented an “Eve of Destruction.”  One struggles for about 300 pages trying to find out . . . destruction of what? The title comes from a long-forgotten song by a long-forgotten singer, Barry McGuire.  “Eve of Destruction” did get...

J. Evetts Haley, American Cato
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J. Evetts Haley, American Cato

According to family records, ten of Great-Grandma’s twelve sons died in the Civil War.   Thus it was that Allie Johnson Puett, the girl who became my Grandma Evetts, learned the lessons of self reliance, the duty of the defiance of illegitimate authority, the comforts of firearms, and the necessity of knowing how to shoot—wherein...

The End of a Myth
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The End of a Myth

“Economy, n.  Purchasing the barrel of whiskey that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.” —Ambrose Bierce   “That was the summer of seventy-three,” writes Forrest McDonald.  “Remember it well, and cherish the memory, for things will never be that good again.”  This is from his little book...

Thornton Wilder’s Depression
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Thornton Wilder’s Depression

Thornton Wilder met Sigmund Freud in the fall of 1935.  Freud had read Wilder’s new novel, Heaven’s My Destination.  “‘No seeker after God,’” writes Wilder’s biographer (quoting Freud of himself), “he threw it across the room.”  At a later meeting Freud apologized.  He objected to Wilder’s “making religion a theme for amusement.”  “Why should you...

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Peter Stanlis, R.I.P.

Peter Stanlis sometimes seemed stiff and formal; and he was, because he practiced his whole life the arts of a gentleman.  This required a certain reserve, but one that never covered heavily the kindness of his Christian nature.  Part of being a true gentleman is to understate one’s sense of humor, at least partially, but...

A Life Rediscovered
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A Life Rediscovered

ISI Books, the publishing arm of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is doing a great service by putting out the Lives of the Founders series, emphasizing “important but unjustly neglected figures of the American Founding.”  Leaving aside for a moment the problems inherent in thinking about the last quarter of the 18th century as an “American...

Academic Sins
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Academic Sins

Frank: “They threw me out for plagiarizing.” Ernest: “You were stealing songs?” Frank: “No, I was taking notes.” —from a Frank and Ernest cartoon (Frank has been expelled from music school)   A graduate student asked if he could take a reading course; sitting at my feet, I thought, talking with the rabbi.  He was...

Bear
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Bear

We were driving back to Michigan after a conference on Herbert Hoover that I had organized for the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, in 1984.  After you get past Hammond and Gary, Indiana is flat but quite nice.  Our beautiful Buick 225 Ultra blew the head gasket on the Indiana Toll Road near...

Immigration: A History Lesson
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Immigration: A History Lesson

“The United States is a nation of immigrants” is a meaningless statement, but that is not to say that it has no meaning.  It is one of the lead lines for the Democratic/liberal/progressive agenda, and has been ever since Israel Zangwill used the mythic term “melting pot” as the title of his thankfully forgotten play...

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It’s the Jobs

Which presidents of the United States have done a job of work?  This little survey is limited to those born in the 20th century.  Before that, everybody worked. Let’s start with our present leader.  He has never lifted a shovel or driven a truck or had to make a payroll.  He has never grown a...

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Adams’ Federalism

In 1786, John Adams wrote in his diary that a friend, “lamenting the differences of character between Virginia and New England,” welcomed from Adams a recipe for a Chesapeake makeover: “I recommended to him town meetings, training days, town schools, and ministers”; these “are the scenes where New England men were formed.”  Because Adams started...

City Mouse, Country Mouse
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City Mouse, Country Mouse

We whose parents read to us the Bible, the Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose, Hans Christian Anderson, Reynard the Fox, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Aesop’s Fables know almost by heart the story of “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse.”  This is the version translated by the English scholars George Tyler Townsend and Thomas James: Once upon...

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Frummie’s Song

Frummie and his friends were beside themselves a few months ago over the nerve of Vanity Fair.  It quoted them!  And they were surprised that Vanity Fair was . . . unfair.  “Out of context!  Out of context!”  Context, I think someone said, is the last refuge of the scoundrel.  Some of the neo-neos felt...

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Umpires

Mike Carey was the first “African-American” to head a crew that refereed a Super Bowl—the one in which the sainted Tom Brady got his butt kicked by the lowly Giants.  The term African-American offends me, and should offend all patriots, and probably offends Mike Carey, who is an accomplished entrepreneur and inventor, the CEO of...

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The Ultimate Insider

Who are the spear-carriers of government policies? This is a tale that puts pieces together over the course of a few decades. Neocons eat stories like this for breakfast. Like most teachers, I have learned at least as much from my students as they have learned from me. An Argentinian graduate student at St. Louis...

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The Ultimate Insider

Who are the spear-carriers of government policies?  This is a tale that puts pieces together over the course of a few decades.  Neocons eat stories like this for breakfast. Like most teachers, I have learned at least as much from my students as they have learned from me.  An Argentinian graduate student at St. Louis...

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Who Votes Catholic?

Quite a few years ago (1977, to be exact), a colleague tried to convince me that the best way to make our college conservative was to set up a curriculum and a program in Christian studies that would appeal to conservative Catholics.  There are lots of Catholics who are fed up with the “R.C. lite”...

He Got Them First
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He Got Them First

“Traitors’ words ne’er yet hurt honest cause.” —Scottish Proverb The destruction of Sen. Joe McCar­thy, says M. Stanton Evans, was never about what he did: The real issue has always been the larger question of what happened to America—and the world—at the midpoint of the twentieth century, what it meant, and who was responsible for...

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A National Championship for Duke

Probably, we should drop the whole Dukie mess.  After killing enough trees to paper over the Western world and using up enough nonrenewable energy to fight at least a little war someplace, nothing has changed in the Research Triangle.  Duke is still as expensive as ever, as “highly rated” as ever, and its lacrosse team...

The Gospel That Nobody Knows
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The Gospel That Nobody Knows

“Out of the sacred space the sacred text would grow,” says Mr. Boritt.  He’s right; those of us who grew up as Yankees know in our bones that our country is sacred ground.  I took my wife to Gettysburg on our honeymoon.  My uncle Joe (a federal judge appointed by Eisenhower) made a pilgrimage there...

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Memories of Mr. Lytle

Almost nobody thinks that Yankees can possibly understand agrarians.  But one of the great pleasures in my life is that I was, at least at one time or another, Mel Bradford’s favorite Yankee.  And because Mel introduced me with great good manners to Mr. Andrew Nelson Lytle, I became one of his favorite Yankees, too....

Our Little Brown Brothers
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Our Little Brown Brothers

The History Book Club has done us a good service by reprinting Leon Wolff’s Little Brown Brother, published originally in 1960, before we had learned to be politically correct or had figured out that we were building an empire.  In fact, in 1960, most of us had not realized that our foreign policy had been...

There Once Was a New England
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There Once Was a New England

A few years ago, I was talking about Timothy Dwight to an audience of people old enough to appreciate both his Christian orthodoxy and his old-fashioned patriotism.  When I mentioned Dwight’s passion for farming and his devotion to agriculture as a way of life, a man from Dwight’s adopted state of Connecticut informed me that there...

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Thirst for Empire

Tacitus, writing about Caesar Augustus and the beginnings of the Roman Empire, says, “How few were left who had seen the republic!” How few are left.  Tacitus also mourns that the “State had been revolutionized, and there was not a vestige left of the old morality.”  John Dickinson, who, like many of the founders of...