An interior bond ties me to America, where one of my grandfathers is buried. He tried the adventure of emigration, without ever rooting himself in a regular job and without managing to send a penny to the family in Italy, until he died almost certainly in an almshouse. My other grandfather crossed the Atlantic in 1902. He was a lumberman in Michigan, and afterward went to New Jersey to work as a miner. From 1906 to 1912, my father attended elementary school in Trenton and then returned to Trentino, Italy, with his mother and a sister who had been born in the United States. In 1920, the family was united again, even poorer than when they left for America, because the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had destroyed the entire value of their savings on deposit with the Bank of Vienna.

I bring up these personal matters in order to show that the destinies of men are always interconnected, that our vocations stem from the experiences of our own fathers and forefathers. America has always been in my heart, and for that reason I have studied the history of the United States in colonial times, as well as 20th century American conservatism.

On the cultural plain, the bonds between Italy and the United States in the 1850’s were very strong, the few Italians living in America notwithstanding. American poets and philosophers kept Italy in mind as an historical example and a source for European literature.

Edgar Allan Poe was the first American reviewer of the English edition of the great romance of our best writer of the 19th century: Alessandro Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi, which had the title The Betrothed in the United States. Poe wrote his poems and tales as he traveled from Richmond to the Northeast; but though the landscape was American, Poe’s mind ran to Europe, above all to Italy, as we see in his poem “The Coliseum”:

Type of the antique Rome! Rich

Of lofty contemplation left to Time

By buried centuries of pomp and

At length—at length—after so
many days

Of weary pilgrimage and burning

(Thirst for the springs of lore that in
thee lie,)

I kneel, an altered and an humble man

Amid thy shadows, and so drink

My very soul thy grandeur, gloom
and glory!

The poet asks the ruins whether their lesson is lost forever:

“Not all” the Echoes answer me —
“not all!

Prophetic sounds and loud, arise

From us, and from all Ruin, unto
the wise,

As Melody from Memnon to the

We rule the hearts of mightiest
men—we rule

With a despotic sway all giant

We are not impotent—we pallid

Not all our power is gone—not all
our fame—

Not all the magic of our high

Not all the wonder that encircles

Not all the mysteries that in us

Not the memories that hang upon

And cling around about us as a gar

Clothing us in a robe of more than

In “To Helen,” Poe recalls the past of our common civilization:

Thy Naiad airs have brought me home

To the glory that was Greece,

And the grandeur that was Rome.

While Poe lived out his sad existence, another American, the philosopher and polemicist Orestes Brownson, was going through a spiritual journey from Emerson’s transcendentalism through Robert Owen’s socialism and all the way to the Catholic Church. Brownson chose as his teacher and inspiration one of the greatest Italian philosophers of the 19th century: the Abbot Vincenzo Gioberti, born in Turin in 1801. The Italian scholar served as a political inspiration in the heated discussion that began in those years regarding the Risorgimento, or the unification of Italy as a nation. Gioberti proposed to create a confederation of states in Italy under the leadership of Pope Pius IX, the bête noire of mid-19th century European revolutionaries.

I mention Edgar Allan Poe and Orestes Brownson to show that the cultural relations between our countries were very close. Italy was still a creator of universal culture. Gioberti expressed the significance of Italy in a famous book titled Del primato morale e civile degli italianiAbout the Moral and Civil Supremacy of Italians. This supremacy has been, in the second half of the 20th century, one of the pillars of the thought of our greatest philosopher (my mentor and friend), Augusto Del Noce. Del Noce was the author of many works, including The Suicide of Revolution (1978) and his masterpiece, The Problem of Atheism (1964). In the last ten years of his life (he died in 1989), when Soviet communism was collapsing, Del Noce saw the need to establish a European balance of power and friendship between East and West. Russia had to be accepted in our common tradition and must not be humiliated. The opposite, in fact, is happening today, as globalism sweeps away historical and intellectual diversities and identifies, homogenizing all people under the shield of a West that we do not know anymore.

Some of these developments were anticipated by Henry Adams, who, at the end of the 19th century, foretold the events of the 20th century with great vision. Particularly insightful are his letters during the years when William Jennings Bryan was waging his unsuccessful campaign for a different, non-imperialist America.

On June 5,1895, he wrote to his brother Brooks from Washington: “I fear Russia much! Why can one never penetrate that polar mystery? . . . Our true point of interest is not India but Russia, yet Russia is impenetrable, and any intelligent man will deal with her better the less closely he knows her.” In September 1895, writing to Brooks from Paris, he foretold the disintegration of Western civilization “with Russia for the eccentric on one side and America on the other,” outlining an analogy with the decline of the Roman Empire. In a letter to Elizabeth Cameron from Venice on July 15, 1896, Adams again wrote about the decay of the Roman Empire:

[M]y brother Brooks and I . . . have been greatly exercised by the fact that the Roman Empire, one day, about the year 400, dropped to pieces without any apparent cause. It “decaded.” . . . Yet it showed very curious energy for a corpse. It adopted a new and very strong centralized religion just at that time. At Byzantium, which happened to survive, Justinian, a hundred years later, codified the law in a way which still serves as the foundation of European jurisprudence. He also built the church of S. Sofia, in an entirely new form of architecture which is still our admiration. The empire did many other things not usual for corpses to do, and among the rest, built Ravenna, which was the reason I wanted to see it.

In January 1904, he wrote: “I am half crazy with fear that Russia is sailing straight into another French revolution which might upset all Europe and us too.” The prophecy came true and plunged European and world politics into a bloody civil war from 1917 until 1989.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutionary theories have been revealed—not as mistakes, but as lies. A new relationship must be established, binding America, Europe, and Russia all large Christian entities) in friendship and peace. Instead, NATO has expanded into Eastern Europe, leaving Russia humiliated and threatened. NATO has also changed from a defensive pact to an offensive one, as we saw last year with the terrible bombing of Serbia, the faults of that nation notwithstanding.

Russia has always been a rampart against the menace of barbaric Asia: the Mongols of Genghis Khan in the 12th century, the hordes of Tartars and Mongols of Tamerlane in the 14th century. In the following centuries, Russia defended Europe from the Muslim menace in the Caucasus.

Now that the revolutionarv ideologies have fallen, Europe, America, and Russia have a common future which does not rest on Atlanticism but on the solid ground of the American plains, the numerous nations of old Europe, and the dignified civilization of Russia, which has produced the universal culture of Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Soloviev, and Florenskij.

While globalism is creating a general nihilism, we must respond by offering the historical memory of the old frontiers of our civilization: Tennessee, Scotland, l’Ile de France, Swabia, Sicily, Serbia, Poland, Muscovy, and hundreds of other diversities that enrich the tradition of our Christian world.