I’ve been noting lately that “conservative” treatments of the Constitution, to which well-meaning Americans turn because they (correctly) distrust the left-wing version, have their own problems: apologias for executive power, an entirely conventional belief in nationalism as an unquestionable value (e.g., “Union forever!”), a bizarre confidence in federal judges, etc. Russell Kirk said Alexander Hamilton did not qualify as a conservative, but it is to Hamilton that these conservatives refer. Jeffersonian decentralism strikes them as backward, inefficient, and not likely to get them favorable mentions in the New York Times. They have never read Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community, or they would be embarrassed at the leftist principles they have unthinkingly adopted.
This is why Kevin Gutzman’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution is so valuable: it looks at the Constitution not through the preposterous Hamilton/Marshall/Webster lens that law students study, but through the lens of the ratifying conventions and the compact theorists whose views actually make sense. And again, it’s why I commissioned this course, which is neither Hillsdale nor leftism.
Today on Twitter I got this tweet, from someone who is both (a) a law student and (b) with the Heritage Foundation. You’ll never guess: John Marshall is a hero, and everyone else is a crank.
— Inez Feltscher (@InezFeltscher) March 25, 2013
Her tweet reminds me of what Professor Gutzman recently said: “Once I graduated from a top-ten law school, I entered UVA’s PhD program to get an education.”