Buckley and Sowell

Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

Thomas Sowell



First broadcast on November 12, 1981.  A high school dropout at 17, Sowell was drafted into the Marine Corps during the Korean War.  After the war he attended Harvard, earning a BA in Economics in 1958.  He would go on to earn a Master’s Degree in Economics from Columbia and a Phd in Economics from the University of Chicago.  A Marxist in his twenties, a brief stint working for the Federal Government, and seeing governmental mismanagement up close, turned him into an advocate of free markets.  His books on economics and race are masterpieces of taking complex subjects and making them accessible to a broad audience.  He will be 90 this year.  If, Heaven forbid, he were to die this year, he would have died far too young.


Published in: on January 20, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 19, 1861: Georgia Secedes

On January 19, 1861 Georgia approved an ordinance of secession, joining South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama in attempting to exit from the Union.  On January 29, 1861 Georgia issued a Declaration explaining why secession was necessary.  It is worth reading because it is a thorough representation of the Southern view that slavery was imperilled by the election of Lincoln and the rise of the Republican party, and that in order for slavery to be preserved, the Union could not be.  Compare and contrast with the unintentionally hilarious video from the Sons of Confederate Veterans video (Lincoln as the “Big Government” candidate!), which manages the feat of discussing Georgia secession and not breathing a word about slavery . (more…)

Published in: on January 19, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Glory: Final Song


Something for the weekend.  The closing song from Glory (1989), the rousing tribute to the men of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first of the Negro Union regiments to see combat in the Civil War.

Bonus: the most moving scene in the film:


Published in: on January 18, 2020 at 3:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Liberty and Union

In the movie The Devil and Daniel Webster  (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet Daniel Webster beats Satan in a jury trial and saves the soul of Jabez Stone.


Stories not unlike this sprang up about Daniel Webster during his life.   He was acknowledged to be the finest American orator of his day, a day in which brilliant speech making was fairly common on the American political scene, and his contemporaries often referred to him, blasphemously, as “the god-like Daniel”.  Perhaps the finest example of Webster’s oratory is his Second Reply to Senator Haynes of South Carolina during the debate on tariffs which took place in the Senate  in January of 1830.  In the background lurked the nullification crisis and possible secession, a crisis which would build over the next three decades and explode into the attempted dissolution of the union in 1860.  The ending of this speech was once known by every schoolchild:   Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!   Here is Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne: (more…)

Published in: on January 17, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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From Underground Railroad to Confederate General

The Civil War is often described as the North against the South.  That is somewhat inaccurate as plenty of Southerners fought against the Confederacy, and the Confederacy had a fair number of sympathizers in Union states.  Of the generals who led the armies, a few Southerners, George “Pap” Thomas is a prime example, fought for the North, and a few Northerners fought for the South.  Of those Northerners who donned rebel gray, none had a more unusual biography than Bushrod  Rust Johnson.

Born in Belmont County Ohio, on October 7, 1817, Johnson’s family were Quakers, pacifists and strongly opposed to slavery.  Prior to attending West Point, Johnson worked with an uncle on the Underground Railroad, smuggling slaves to freedom.

Graduating with the class of 1840 from West Point, Johnson served in the Seminole and Mexican Wars.  In 1847 his military career was cut short when he was dismissed from the Army for selling contraband.  Academia being less choosy usually than the military, Johnson taught as a Professor of Chemistry and Philosophy at the Western Military Institute in Georgetown, Kentucky and went on to be Professor of Engineering at the University of Nashville.  Throughout this time period Johnson was active in the Kentucky and Tennessee state militias. (more…)

Published in: on January 16, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Buckley and Thatcher

Broadcast on July 25, 1977 prior to Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in 1979.   This is one of over 375 episodes of Firing Line now made available on YouTube by the Hoover Institute at Stanford.

Published in: on January 15, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Buckley and Big Sister

William F. Buckley on Ayn Rand.  During his lifetime Buckley functioned as a gatekeeper for the conservative movement.  Get on the wrong side of Buckley and a group on the right could quickly find itself relegated to the fringes of American life.  So it was with Ayn Rand and her Objectivists, a movement whose main tenet seems to have been to say “Yes Ma’am!” to anything that came from her mouth or pen.  Rand made her reputation and fortune by writing two novels:  The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).  The poorly written novels, with stick figure characters, were immense financial successes, combining Rand’s anti-collectivist libertarianism with heaping helpings of, for the time, explicit sex, her heroines, always Rand think-a-likes, having multiple lovers.  Between the sex Rand specialized in long, bloviating, didactic speeches:

“Did you want to see it used by whining rotters who never rouse themselves to any effort, who do not possess the ability of a filing clerk, but demand the income of a company president, who drift from failure to failure and expect you to pay their bills, who hold their wishing as an equivalent of your work and their need as a higher claim to reward than your effort, who demand that you serve them, who demand that it be the aim of your life to serve them, who demand that your strength be the voiceless, rightless, unpaid, unrewarded slave of their impotence, who proclaim that you are born to serfdom by reason of your genius, while they are born to rule by the grace of incompetence, that yours is only to give, but theirs only to take, that yours is to produce, but theirs to consume, that you are not to be paid, neither in matter nor in spirit, neither by wealth nor by recognition nor by respect nor by gratitude—so that they would ride on your rail and sneer at you and curse you, since they owe you nothing, not even the effort of taking off their hats which you paid for? Would this be what you wanted? Would you feel proud of it?”

Atlas Shrugged, page 453

Buckley assigned Whittaker Chambers to review Atlas Shrugged.  His review, entitled Big Sister is Watching You, appeared in the December 28, 1957 issue of National Review.


Several years ago, Miss Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead. Despite a generally poor press, it is said to have sold some four hundred thousand copies. Thus, it became a wonder of the book trade of a kind that publishers dream about after taxes. So Atlas Shrugged had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies. It appears to be slowly climbing the best-seller lists. (more…)

Published in: on January 14, 2020 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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History: Great Events or Great Men and Great Women?


One of the abiding debates in History is whether it is shaped primarily by vast forces at work in human civilizations or by great, the term is not used in a moral sense, men and women who shape the times in which they lived.  It is tempting to fudge the question and say both, an easy answer and partially true.  Napoleon would doubtless have ended his career on half pay as a Major serving in the Royal artillery of France but for the French Revolution.  However, it is impossible to see the French Revolution morphing into the French Empire without the drive, extreme military genius and grandiose vision of Napoleon.  I think it is also impossible to see the French Revolution occurring or prevailing except for Louis XVI, a good man and perhaps the most incompetent of French monarchs being, on the throne of France in 1789.  No, I am fully in the camp of historians who believe history is shaped mostly by great individuals.  Behind the scenes of course all of this is being stage managed for His purposes, within the limits of human free will, by God, but that is to leave History and enter the realm of theology.

Recently I read the book Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the Twenty-First Century (2013) by Christian Caryl.  It is an astonishingly good book and shows how four figures:  Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Deng Xiaoping, Ayatollah Khomeini, each, in their own way, led counter-revolutions against the drift towards Socialism that was the dominant theme of the world post World War II up till 1979.  Of course there was a fifth figure at that time, perhaps the most important of them all, who was preparing a campaign which would drive from power an incumbent President and alter the course of American, and world, history, Ronald Reagan.  Reagan is a large figure in Caryl’s chapters on Thatcher, but I think he explored the other four individuals in making his argument, because they are much less well known, with the possible exception of Pope John Paul II, to most Americans than Reagan.

Thatcher made an odd Prime Minister of Great Britain, and not primarily because of her sex.  As she climbed the greasy pole of British politics, her opponents sneered at her lower middle class origins, calling her “the grocer’s daughter”.  I doubt if Thatcher minded.  Most of her world view she acquired from her father, an intensely religious and conservative man, who treasured hard work and drive, and preached the need for limited government and the importance of the free market.  He taught his daughter never to follow the crowd and to stand unhesitatingly for what she thought was right.  In her radical embrace of free markets and her intense Euro-skepticism, Thatcher stood in sharp contrast to the well bred elites who tended to dominate the Conservative Party.  What Thatcher proclaimed, they argued sotto voce, was well enough to say when stumping for votes, but to actually govern that way would be a disaster.  She proved them wrong and they never forgave her for it, ultimately replacing her in 1990 with the colorless non-entity John Major, who would lead the Tories to their worst electoral defeat ever in 1997 at the hands of Tony Blair and his more market oriented New Labor.  Thatcher died in 2013, her passing marked by displays of raw hate by the far Left in the UK.  (I suspect that Thatcher would have viewed these grotesque displays of bile as the finest tribute paid to her!)  The hatred was well earned.  Thatcher had planted well.  No British government could return to pre-Thatcher Socialism and her Euro-skepticism was prophetic of the Brexit vote in 2016.  Rather than being shaped by her times primarily, Thatcher shaped the times to come.


January 12, 1865: Davis Note to Blair

Lincoln v. Davis

 Go here to read about the peace initiative of Francis P. Blair who travelled to Richmond to meet with President Davis.

Jefferson Davis was a very shrewd man, much shrewder I think than most historians have given him credit for being.  He realized that little could be expected from negotiations with Lincoln because Lincoln would never agree to Confederate independence, the one non-negotiable issue as far as both Lincoln and Davis were concerned.  Additionally, he regarded a joint Union Confederate war against the French in Mexico, the core of the Blair initiative,  to be a fairly bizarre proposal.  However, he was eager to negotiate.  The Confederate military situation was beyond dire.  If the negotiations led to Confederate independence, victory would be snatched at the last instant.  If, as Davis expected, the negotiations led to nothing, he could tell his people that he had attempted negotiations and the Union would not negotiate in good faith, and all that remained was a last ditch struggle to secure on the battlefield what the North would never concede on the negotiating table.   Here is the note that he gave to Blair to take back to Lincoln:  (more…)

Published in: on January 12, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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An American in Paris

Something for the weekend.  An American in Paris (1928).  One of the deathless masterpieces completed by George Gershwin in a brief life of 38 years.  If there is anything to the concept of alternate realities, I hope in one of them Gershwin lived a very long and productive life.

Published in: on January 11, 2020 at 7:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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