More on Merrill on Jaffa

I second Laura’s recommendation of Tom Merrill’s review essay at The Bulwark. And I, too, want to highlight this passage from his review: “There are other parts of Jaffa’s legacy that could be useful to us today as well: his resolute anti-racism; his understanding that alongside the doctrine of human equality in the Declaration of Independence, the United States has persistent traditions of racial subordination, traditions that by no means died in 1865; and his recognition of the continuing need for political agency and choice on the part of statesmen and citizens.” Jaffa, recall, was making these arguments in the late 1950s, when other conservatives—William Buckley comes to mind—were defending racial subordination by law. In Crisis, in particular, Jaffa pointed to America’s imperfect founding. As he argued there, “when Lincoln said that the policy of the Founding Fathers was to place the institution of slavery where the public mind might rest in the belief that it was in course of ultimate extinction, he was also stretching their attitude to fit his theory rather than theirs.” In this, Jaffa argued, Lincoln’s was “a creative interpretation, a subtle preparation for the ‘new birth of freedom.’” It was, in essence, a second founding that improved on the first. 

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