The Catholic Writings of Orestes Brownson
452 pages, 7.00 x 10.00
Hardcover | 9780268104573 | November 2018
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268104597 | November 2018
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268104603 | November 2018
This collection of thirteen original essays by Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803–1876), a major political and philosophical figure in the American Catholic intellectual tradition, presents his developed political theory in which he devotes central attention to connecting Catholicism to American politics. These writings, which date from 1856 to 1874, cover not only his conversion to Catholicism after experimenting with a variety of religious and political beliefs but also slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the era of Jacksonian democracy, and a host of social, political, and economic issues. During this time, Brownson became one of the nation’s leading thinkers and critics. Although faced with a dominant Protestant culture, Brownson argued for a political and social culture influenced by his deeply held Catholic faith. He defended Catholicism from the common charge that it was incompatible with American constitutionalism and, in fact, argued that it was the only spiritually viable foundation for American politics. He defended the political theory and institutions of the American framers, applauding their realistic view of human nature and the importance of both virtue in political leaders and checks and restraints in their constitutional structures. He opposed the rising influence of populist democracy by explaining its flawed assumptions about human nature and the possibilities of politics. Michael P. Federici's well-written introduction situates these essays within a coherent theme and explains how these essays are especially relevant to contemporary debates about populism, race, American exceptionalism, and the relationship between religion and politics. The book will interest students and scholars of American political thought, as well as those with an interest in religion and politics.
Michael P. Federici is professor of political science and international relations at Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author, editor, and co-editor of a number of books, including The Culture of Immodesty in American Life and Politics: The Modest Republic and The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton.
"Orestes Brownson was one of the most prolific political philosophers in American history and one of the most brilliant. To summarize the philosophy of such a productive, complex, and sometimes contradictory figure is a daunting task, which Michael Federici nevertheless accomplishes surprisingly well in the introduction to this volume. Federici has a gift for synthesis and a clear expository style that renders deep philosophical issues accessible to nonspecialists, not to mention undergraduates." —Walter A. McDougall, Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations and professor of history, University of Pennsylvania
"Michael Federici has perceptively put his finger on what is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Orestes Brownson's thinking—the paradoxical combination of conservative and radical impulses. Brownson combines the chastened view of human nature derived from a belief in man's fallenness with the zeal of a meliorist humanitarianism." —Ryan Robert Holston, Virginia Military Institute
"Brownson's argument is compelling on two grounds: first, for how it interprets the federal system itself, refusing to see the states as merely subordinate to the federal government . . . and, second, and more importantly, for Brownson's refusal of the contract or compact theory that is the foundational error of all modern political thinking. Brownson returns to Aristotle, understanding the state as a natural eventuation and means to the fulfillment of man's political nature. . . . [Brownson's thinking] serves as a wonderful and generous guide for those modern political philosophers who have returned to ancient and medieval theories of political life." —James Matthew Wilson, Villanova University
"Reading Brownson is indeed bracing, and Federici’s volume is well worth the time, if only to remember a day when intellectual life in America grappled with our deepest moral, intellectual, and theological questions with an optimism, indeed faith, that the American project had much to offer both its own inhabitants and the world." —The Review of Politics
“Michael P. Federici’s detailed introduction and selections reveal Brownson’s most important Catholic writings, including long excerpts from Brownson’s own conversion narrative. . . . Brownson’s contributions to American political thought are significant because he raised essential questions regarding political order and provided insights into the United States’ spiritual foundations.” —Reading Religion
“Federici’s thoughtful introduction and his wise selections make available Brownson’s thoughts on religious freedom, America’s purpose, the role of Catholics in America, American constitutionalism, the Civil War and the Reconstruction Amendments, as well as his conversion to Catholicism and his incisive critique of humanitarianism.” —University Bookman
“The Catholic Writings of Orestes Brownson is a collection of thirteen essays that articulate the political and religious thoughts of a pioneer thinker. . . . Michael P. Federici has carefully selected and edited these classic Brownson texts as a brilliant general introduction to the material.” —Catholic Library World