A Southern Historian Takes His Stand

It would be a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to sit down with Prof. Clyde Wilson, perhaps on his back porch, shaded by a large magnolia or tulip tree, and visit. Two fingers of Jack Daniels and a decent cigar-if the good professor has no objection to the use of tobacco-would service the conversation with a mild fragrance and good temper. There is much to learn from this gentleman.

Prof. Wilson is an obstreperous soldier in the great Jacobin wars that have plagued the nation almost since its birth. His forces have been overrun, cut to pieces, and forced to retreat. Still he fights on, “foot by bloody foot.” But the professor has stolen a march on his enemies, advantageously positioned his 20-pound Parrot rifles to do good service, and executed a magnificent “fire by battery,” that will surely strike the walls of fortress Oligarchy!

Clyde Wilson’s new book, from Union to Empire, Essays in the Jeffersonian Tradition, is an eclectic compilation of his writings-essays, articles, biographical sketches, and book reviews-covering the years 1969 through 2001. The book succeeds magnificently because every offering is either a well-written historical study or a closely reasoned political polemic. And, his historical thesis comes to us from, what will be for the general reader, an unusual perspective. That is, Prof. Wilson, is a republican (please, note the small “r”).

For Clyde Wilson republicanism is not only an ideologly, it is the only political system that can guarantee the intrinsic needs of men: “liberty, order, and popular rule.” He has studied America’s republican founding, taught the subject to a phalanx of young men and women, arming them for the Jacobin wars, and defended the true republican history of this country. He is intimately aware that the nation has devolved into an effete social democracy where elitists, bureaucrats, job stockers, communists, and capitalists alike have all fastened themselves onto government like some parasite sucking the lifeblood out of the American people. And, before we grieve too much for the “American people,” let us remember that it was Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation that gave us FDR, LBJ, and state sponsored socialism. Mencken was right: we truly do get the government we deserve!

Many of Professor Wilson’s essays illustrate the sophistry of “court” historians: George Bancroft, Henry Adams, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, and a coterie of lesser lights. He details their efforts at altering the history of the founding republican experiment in order to sanctify contemporary political requirements and the aberrant political philosophies that emanated from Massachusetts. All of which resulted in the pernicious, anti-republican “messianic democratic universalism” best exemplified by Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to “make the world safe for democracy.” Every administration in the modern era has focused its foreign policy on the exportation of capitalist democracy. Indeed, we are now ensconced in Iraq, and our primary military objective is to make Iraq “safe for democracy,” rather than the destruction of Islamic terrorism!

Wilson defends Jeffersonianism with an ardor worthy of St. Paul. While he is, for the most part, tolerant of statist historians who provide accurate information and reasonable discourse, he does not suffer fools gladly. That “damned foreigner,” Conor Cruise O’Brien, gets a good canning in his review of the Irishman’s book: The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution. And, utilizing erudite scholarship, Wilson has discovered that not all the Virginia founders are worthy.

“Little” Jimmy Madison takes it on the chin in the professor’s review of Drew R. McCoy’s book: The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy. It seems “little Jimmy” was an “artful dodger” and a draft dodger as well. He was conniving, cunning, and duplicitous; something of the proto-typical American politician.

The author’s biographical sketches of some of the lesser-known, Southern, founders make for excellent republican history. Wilson’s section on “Cons and Neo-cons” provides provocative essays, reviews of interesting books for further reading, outlines of contemporary political figures, and a touching tribute to an old friend.

The book is appropriately dedicated to his old comrades “in the great struggle,” Murray Rothbard, M. E. Bradford, and Russel Kirk, all of whom have passed away.

Professor Wilson, through his life’s work, exemplifies Jefferson’s comments to James Madison in 1787: “I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

His book is must reading for every American interested in the true principles and virtues of republicanism.