In accepting the moral law of Moses in the Decalogue, Frostnmade justice paramount to mercy both between God andnman and for man in civil society. This meant that in his socialnand political philosophy he resolved the conflicts in whatnhe called “the justice-mercy contradiction” in favor of justice.nMercy had an important place in his philosophy, but it wasnsubordinated to justice. From this position Frost was highlyncritical of socialists and liberals and those he dubbed “NewnTestament sapheads,” Christians who sentimentalized Christ’snSermon on the Mount and made mercy supreme over justice,nnot only in religion, through belief in universal salvation, butnin every aspect of man’s secular life through politics and in society.nTo Frost such Christians were really Rousseauists andndid not know it. They believed in the natural goodness ofnman, ignored original sin, and under the impact of the everincreasingnsecularization of modern life they invariably becamensentimental humanitarians in their social and politicalnbeliefs and actions.nLike Aristotle in The Politics and like Edmund Burkenthroughout his political philosophy, Frost assumed thatnman is by his innate nature a social animal. Unlike Machiavelli,nHobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Marx, who assumed thatnorganized civil society is “artificial,” Frost believed that life innsociety is “natural,” and therefore the normal state of humannexistence. Frost was not a primitivist, and he never made annantithesis between “nature” and society. The membership ofnpersons in civil society was to him not a matter of personalnchoice or arbitrary will, not a voluntary and revocable contractualnrelationship, but rather a biological and moral necessitynand the result of a complex and extended historical inheritance.nMen are born into their society without theirnconsent, and the essential elements in their continued relationshipsnwith the basic institutions and laws of organized so- ^nciety are also beyond voluntary choices.nFrost was certainly aware of the great importance of the ancientnGreco-Roman classical civilization and the Judeo-Christiannreligious tradition in forming Western society and culture,nincluding American society. He even traced the Americanncommitment to democratic government back to ancientnAthens:nOurs is a very ancient political growth, beginning atnone end of the Mediterranean Sea, and coming westward—triednin Athens, tried in Italy, tried in England,ntried in France, coming westward all the way to us. Anvery long growth, a growth through trial and error. . . .nPut a marker where the growth begins, at the easternnend of the Mediterranean, and there’s never been anglimmer of democracy south of there.nBut unlike the religious and aristocratic European-based conservatismnof T. S. Eliot and other literary traditionalists. Frost’snsocial and political conservatism was derived directly from hisnreverence for the American Republic and its Constitution. Henrefined upon Aristotle and Burke’s principle that civil societynis “natural” by adding his own original and distinctly Americannbelief in individual personal liberty. His poetry and prosenexpresses a characteristically American sensibility, a conservativensynthesis of faith in individuals and people at large withna belief in self-government under constitutional law and limitednpower in government.n20/CHRONICLESnnnIn society the constant problem was how to resolve the ambiguitynbetween the necessary claims of institutions upon individuals,nfor duties to be performed, and the conflictingnclaims of each person to be as free and independent as possiblenwithin social customs and laws. Wherever moral or legalnauthority external to the individual existed, this perpetualnambiguity needed to be resolved. Frost believed there wasnalways some uncertainty regarding each individual’s membershipnin the institutional life of his community. The claimsnof personal self-interest and social benevolence were subjectnto perpetual adjustments, but since living together in societynwas “natural,” some final identity of interests between individualsnand institutions required that men work togethern”whether they work together or apart.” The great aim of politiesnwas to transcend conflicts between individuals and classesnby reconciling their differences and achieving harmony. Innthe conflicts between political means and social ends, thengreat and final objective to Frost was to preserve the maximumnfreedom of each individual from the arbitrary or unconstitutionalnpower of the state.nFrost perceived that a great loss in individual freedom innAmerican society was the result of the serious imbalance thatnhad developed by the early 20th century between rural and urbannlife, with more and more people living in metropolitanncenters. The poet called himself “very much a country man,”nand did not like to see the city pitted against the country,nsince both were valuable aspects of civil society and supplementedneach other. But an urbanized economy rests largelynupon the researches of science, inventions, the interdependencenof technology, assembly-line industrialization, the divisionnof labor, credit, monetary exchange, commerce and finance,nand these create a depersonalized society that destroysncommunity life and makes economic and personal freedomndepend more and more upon government, rather than uponnthe self-reliance fostered by rural life. For a socially healthynAmerica, Frost contended, “What we want is the largest possiblennumber of citizens who can take care of themselves.nWhat we need is character.” To Frost there was no questionnthat the greatest degree of self-reliance, love of freedom, reflectivenleisure, and integrity of character is found in rural life.nThe need of being versed in country things is one of the grandnthemes in Frost’s poetry. Country life is not an escape fromnthe demands of urban society, as some critics of Frost claimed,nbut a way of developing the intellectual, moral, aesthetic, andnsocial capability of free individuals. There is nothing antisocialnor anarchical in Frost’s ideal of self-reliant individualism.nThe unrestrained growth of industrialism, and the constantnshift from rural living to urban life, and the urbanization of ruralnlife itself, was to Frost one of the great social tragedies ofn20th-century America.nThe poet’s strong emphasis upon rural life included a sensenof local community as necessary for a healthy civic order. Henbelieved that the social and political freedom of Americans dependednupon “the land,” conceived as the cultural and constitutionallynincorporated geographical area lying between thenAtlantic and Pacific oceans, and between Canada and Mexico:n”What gives us our freedom is having a territorial basis,nbelonging to the land.” The legally incorporated land thatnconstituted the United States did not so much belong to thenAmerican people as they belonged to the land. Frost’s conceptionnof the United States as a nation was that it was a territorialndemocracy, not merely a democracy based upon pop-n