ent. First there was Lyman Beecher, thenleading Calvinist theologian of his day,nwho was instrumental in spreading thengospel to the West. (The “West” in NewnEngland parlance referred to areas northnof the Ohio River settled by New Englanders.nNothing else counted.) AmongnLyman’s numerous children were CatherinenBeecher, a pioneer feminist; HarrietnBeecher Stowe, “the little womannwho made the big war,” in Lincoln’snphrase; Henry Ward Beecher, the mostnadmired and highest-paid preacher ofnhis day; and a raft of other sons, all ofnthem reformist clergymen.nThis intimate review of the Beechersnnot only helps one understand the 19thncentury, but it has a more urgent pertinencenas well. Let us assume that in thenfuture some scholar will wish to write annobjective history of the 1960’sand 1970’snin America. (It is optimistic, I know, tonhope that anyone will survive our educationalndebacle and declining opportunitiesnfor free speech with sufficient intellectualncuriosity and ability.) The mostndifficult problem such a historian willnface in understanding these two decadesnwill be this: How did it happen that duringnthat epoch such a large number ofnpeople with low ethical and moral standardsnand transparently self-interestednand destructive motives managed to passnthemselves off as the moral leaders andnbenefactors of society?nThis question can be answered only bynlooking back to the reformist movementsnof the 19th century and to the precedentsnand parallels they provided for our morenrecent ravagings of order and decency innthe name of moral vision. The 1960’snand 1970’s resemble no period in Americannhistory so much as the 1850’s. Thenkeynote of both eras is irresponsible destructionnand aggression in the name ofndemocratic fulfillment. The earlierncrusade, though now long hallowed bynsuccess, can be seen, when viewednthrough the medium of the Beechers, tonhave been as ambiguous in motivationnand results as the later one.nThe closest resemblance of the twonperiods is in the presence of that now-nfamiliar intolerance and the extravagancenof rhetoric and action that kicksnover the traces of normal political life andnpostulates goals so self-evidently righteousnthat disagreement is sin, explicablenonly as the work of the devil. This style ofnpolitics demonizes the opposition andndeifies itself. Anyone who has observednpolitics in this country in the last fifteennyears or so understands the extent tonwhich such violent and antirational posingnhas held sway in public discourse.nThe 1830’s supply the model. From thenimposing authority of his pulpit, HenrynWard Beecher exhorted young men tondepart for Kansas and kill Southern settlers.nThis rhetoric represented morenthan the momentary and overwroughtnemotions of one man: it reflected thenbehavior of a large number of people andnspilled over into private, apolitical matters.nWhen Harriet visited the South for thenfirst time—after the war—she was quitenastounded to encounter families whonwere kindly, cultivated. Christian andnmilitant rebels. Rugofif comments: “Shenhad seen the barbarous enemy—the facenof evil—and found that his sins had leftnno mark on him.” But the Puritan ritualnof demonization had already done itsnwork. It is not the Beechers’ desire fornsocial improvement that should ttoublenus, but the self-aggrandizement and disregardnfor consequences with which itnwas pursued. From the phenomenon ofnbusing, as with other social issues, we,ntoo, have grown familiar with absenteenmoralism. Henry did all he could tonhasten the onset of the conflict, but duringnthe war which he had helped to producenand in which over 600,000 menndied, the famous clergyman lived in luxurynin Newport and Europe.nRecall also the 1970’s, when philosophicalnand psychological weirdnessnsprouted constantly from the same soil asnliberal politics. Again the parallels andnprecedents are evident. The Beechersnwere almost all involved in spiritualism.nProfessor Stowe, Harriet’s husband, hadnfrequent “visions.” Harriet, in responsento the remark that the creator of UnclennnTom had never been to the South, said:n”No, but it all came to me in visions, onenafter another, and I put them down innwords.” “There is no arguing with pic^ntures,” she explained on another occasion,na sentiment that would doubtlessnplease our electronic journalists. Onendoes not have to be a latter-day defendernof slavery to recognize the disastrous consequencesnthat ensued when people likenthe Beechers took slavery out of the arenanof political realities in which the FoundingnFathers had dealt with it and placed itnin the realm of fiction, propaganda, sentimentaUtynand emotional self-indulgence.nBy now we are all familiar with the extentnto which the Great Society and itsnvarious attendant crusades for justicenprovided a cover for private pocket-lining.nOne recalls various political figuresnwho were simultaneously great civilrightsnadvocates and outright crooks.nThere seems an inescapable affinity betweenna certain kind of politically mobilizednmorality and dishonesty. BothnHenry and Harriet became wealthy becausenof their antislavery positions. Harriet,nfor example, purchased a confiscatednFlorida plantation for a pittance.nHenry’s favorite money-maker was anmock slave auction that he staged overnand over again. On every occasion then”slave” was young, attractive, femalenand almost white; there is no recordedninstance of an “auction” of a male, childnor ugly female “slave.”nXo draw a close to our catalog of precedents,nthere is a high correlation in bothnthe 1850’s and our own era between reformistnpolitics of the Puritan stripe andnsexual promiscuity and opportunism.nWe all know now that the New Frontier-nGreat Society epoch was marked by ancynical jettisoning of traditional sexualnmorality by the occupants of the seats ofnpower, and that much of the elan thatnfueled the New Left in the stteets, and itsnfellow travelers in positions of power,nresulted from the euphoria of the earlynstages of sexual license. The rhetoric,nhowever, was mostly about peace andnSeptember 198Sn