Berwyn, PA.  Gerald Russello reflects on Russell Kirk’s theory of the unwritten Constitutionone in a new essay published on the Liberty Fund’s Liberty Forum.  His essay is part of a symposium that includes essays by Bradley Birzer, Gary Gregg, and yours truly.  Russello begins,

In his great work, The American Republic, written in 1866, the American Catholic political writer Orestes Brownson – who ranks with Calhoun and John Adams as among the finest political minds America has produced, and who still remains somewhat neglected – wrote this about the nation’s political order.

The constitution of the United States is twofold, written and unwritten, the constitution of the people and the constitution of the government.

The written constitution is simply a law ordained by the nation or people instituting and organizing the government; the unwritten constitution is the real or actual constitution of the people as a state or sovereign community, and constituting them such or such a state. It is Providential, not made by the nation, but born with it. The written constitution is made and ordained by the sovereign power, and presupposes that power as already existing and constituted.

Russello proceeds to weigh some of the traditional objections to Kirk’s view and the vindicates Kirk in compelling fashion.  My contribution offers a commentary on three premises introduced in Russello’s essay: a) Kirk’s theory of civilization that conceives the present as a tapestry of the past; b) his conservative theory of reason, and, finally c) the theory and scope of the Natural Law.

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James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. An award-winning scholar of philosophical-theology and literature, he has authored dozens of essays, articles, and reviews on subjects ranging from art, ethics, and politics, to meter and poetic form, from the importance of local culture to the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty. Wilson is also a poet and critic of contemporary poetry, whose work appears regularly in such magazines and journals as First Things, Modern Age, The New Criterion, Dappled Things, Measure, The Weekly Standard, Front Porch Republic, The Raintown Review, and The American Conservative. He has published five books, including most recently, a collection of poems, Some Permanent Things and a monograph, The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry (both Wiseblood Books, 2014). Raised in the Great Lakes State, baptised in the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, seasoned by summers on Lake Wawasee (Indiana), and educated under the Golden Dome, Wilson is scion of a family of Hoosiers dating back to the early nineteenth century, and an offspring of Southside Chicago Poles whose tavern kept the city wet through the Depression (and prohibition) years.  He now lives under the same sentence of reluctant exile as many another native son of the Midwest, but has dug himself in for good on the margins of the Main Line in Pennsylvania with his beautiful wife, dangerous daughter, and saintly sons. For information on Wilson's scholarship and a selection of his published work, click here. See books written and recommended by James Matthew Wilson.