have escaped the poison.rnUnlike the French and Communist Revohitions, AmericanrnJacobinism has yet to degenerate into its own large-scale reignrnof terror—although the Branch Davidians might disagree. Onrnthe contrar)’, we never seem to hear the end of our success storrn—the booming economy, continually falling crime and illegihmacyrnrates, our children’s improving test scores. It is still difficultrnfor us to imagine U.S. tanks rolling down the streets andrnover dissenters in Chicago or Detroit, despite their presence inrnYugoslavia or Iracj. What accounts for the steady success of Jacobinismrnin America, in light of its violent rise and decline inrnthe rest of the world?rnThe frog-in-the-ketde analog}’ ma- be the answer. Ratherrnthan emplo’ing the guillotine or the Red Army, for a centur}’rnand a half, our ruling elite brought the countr’ to a slow simmerrnthrough a steady process of centralization, while preserving thernillusions of progress, prosperity, and moral decency. Each timernthe slow slouch toward Robespierre has progressed, it has donernso draped in the language of traditional religion and Christianits’.rnLincoln excused the slaughter of a generation of Southernrnmen bv appealing to tiic myth that our one nation “under Cod”rnw as originally “dedicated to the proposition that all men arc createdrnequal.” FDR, in his 1933 inaugural address, paved the wayrnfor the Jacobin New Deal program of Social Securih’ with thernfollowing statement: “The money changers have fled from theirrnhigh seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restorernthat temple to the ancient trutiis. The measure of the restorationrnlies in the extent to which v’e apply social values morernnoble than mere monetary profit.” In the 2000 presidentialrnelection, one candidate appealed to “John 16:3” while the otherrnclaimed Jesus was his favorite philosopher.rnIn the cases of Lincoln and Roosevelt, there were valiant oppositionrnmovements. Now that the two ruling parties havernmerged in tiie “center,” the paleoconsei-yatives have emerged asrnthe lone voice of resistance against bipartisan Jacobinism.rnNone within the movement is naive enough to assume that hisrndissension will bring about a second American revolution thatrncan reclaim the tradition of English common law and Americanrnconstitutionalism (let alone Western Christendom) thatrnwas once the birthright of the people. But each convert is onernmore who will die proudly in the Colosseunr, ratiier than sit inrnthe stands and cheer.rnPalcoconsen’atism is the last remaining barrier in Americarnthat successfully blocks a few unsuspecting viators on the pathrnto the Terror. It does so by insisting w itii reactionan,’ confidencernthat students of the past can see meaning for the present andrnhope for tiicir own future, not through the lens of an enlightenedrnphilosophe or his Book of Virtues, but through the illuminationrnof Scripture and tradition, as embodied in the greatestrnworks of our now languishing civilization. The more tiiat wcrncelebrate theologians, painters, and poets, the more such Jacobinrnabstractions as “libcrts’, equalih’, and fraternit’,” “bridgernto the 21st Centur)’,” and “a thousand points of light,” seem vacuous.rnOnly those who are outside die paleoconscrvative ark willrnallow themselves to be enslaved b’ false confidence in the insipidrnsentiments of politicians and parties who flatter fliemselvesrnwith adjectives such as “compassionate.” The trufli, indeed,rndoes set one free. crnc3t53(SKsrnThe Litmus Test for American Conservatismrnby Donald W. LivingstonrnA braham Lincoln is thought of by many as not only thern1 greatcst American statesman but as a great conservative.rnFie was neither. Undcr.standing this is a nccessarv’ condition forrnany genuinely American conservatism. When Lincoln took office,rnthe American polit}’ was regarded as a compact behvccnrnso’creign states which had created a central government asrnflieir agent, hedging it in b’ a doctrine of enumerated powers.rnSince the compact between the states was voluntary, secessionrnwas considered an option by public leaders in even’ section ofrnflic Ihiion during Hie antebellum period. Given this traditionrn—deepK’ rooted in the Declaration of Independence —arngreat statesman in 1860 would have negotiated a setflemcntrnwifli die disaffected states, even if it meant the withdrawal ofrnsome from the Union. But Lincoln refiised even to acceptrnConfederate commissioners, much less negotiate wifli them.rnMost of the Union could have been kept together. Virginia,rnNorth Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas ‘oted to remain inrnthe Union even after die Confederacy was formed; they reversedrnthemsehes only when Lincoln decided on a war of coer-rnDavid VV. Livingston is a professor of philosophy at Einor)’rnVniversit}’, author of Philosophical Melancholy and Deliriumrn(Universit)’ of Chicago Press), and director of the l£ague of thernSouth Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and Histon’.rnJANUARY 2001/1 7rnrnrn