It is always a pleasure to read Ross Douthat. This article is another example of his providing singular information, context and analysis. A pity he is ensconced in the pages of the NYT where his talents are lost on a readership that wears blinders to better travel at high speed down the road of progressive causes, while those of us who appreciate his writing and analysis have sought the broader vision of more honourable publications. Perhaps Unherd could tempt him to immigrate to different (virtual) pages?
The NYT did not advertise “The City and The Pillar”
No Gore Vidal was not a small r Republican
he was a democrat.
It’s a shame the current US leadership don’t seem to be as familiar with ancient Roman history as the Founding Fathers doubtless were.
One lesson they would know, from the career of Julius Caesar among others, is that threatening charismatic and popular politicians with law suits and in effect trying to “destroy” them politically, may force them or their followers to resort to more extreme measures if only for their own defence.
Also, making a big long drawn out meal out of political demonstrations simply entrenches differences and keeps them fresh in peoples’ minds. One day the Roman forum would be littered with bodies and running blood, but a week later everything was back to normal and no more was said about the earlier unpleasantness.
In the 1790s the British Prime Minister William Pitt Jr out walking in London was chased by a mob baying for his blood, and only narrowly escaped with his life. But as far as I know, there were no elaborate enquiries or prosecutions subsequently. Everyone, including Pitt, just moved on.
If only these foolish Democrats, dwelling on what by any standards was clearly a very small element of misbehaviour in an overwhelmingly peaceful demo, were as pragmatic. In the long run, all their legalistic pompous posturing and carry on will obviously do more harm than good.
The Pitt you’re referring to wasn’t a “junior”; he was his father’s second son. Therefore, he was known in Parliament as Pitt the Younger. And, I have it on good authority that he wrote dreadful poetry, wondered why nice girls hated him, and endured hot crumpets between his lower cheeks . . .
He also “liked the bottle” as we say!
Yes they think the Rubicon is a Jeep !o!
Hamilton was always my least favorite of America’s Founding Fathers. While the Federalist Papers are lauded over in the American political sphere, the Anti-Federalist Papers written by those who opposed the creation of a powerful central government were just as important. The vison of Hamilton and Madison would have looked nothing like the United States system of government. The Anti-Federalists and their stiff opposition against a federal government are responsible for much of the checks and balances in the American system of government as well as the Bill of Rights. The two are essential reading if you want to understand the United States system of government (as opposed to revisionist garbage like the 1619 Project). If you want to read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers I would recommend finding a free audio version online (they are long) and alternating between the two of them so you can enjoy the two sides arguing at one another. Also, the oh so polite and oh so creative ways they constantly find to insult each other are great.
If you want to find out more about Hamilton’s shadier side I would recommend The Hamilton Hustle by Matt Stoller
I’d say the point about the Founders is that everyone of them is indispensible. Washington as the man on the white horse that went home, twice. Madison the architect of the Constitution. Hamilton the guy that understood central banking and set up the National Debt. Jefferson the guy with the pretty words. Franklin the guy that picked the pocket of the French government.
But Burr? I’d say his claim to fame is that, if Hamilton had lived, our Alexander might have got himself into a bit of insurrectionary trouble down the road. And as we all know, that is the worst thing in the world.
An apposite essay, thank you.
Here in the UK Madison is chiefly remembered as the slaver who idiotically provoked the disastrous War of 1812. His performance during the war was abysmal, famously deciding to leg it’ after the Battle of Bladensburg, thus allowing the British Army to famously burn the White House and all other public buildings in DC to the ground.* In mitigation it must said that the rest of US Army did likewise, so much so that ‘we’ normally refer to it as the “Bladensburg Races”, rather than a proper battle.
Hamilton, happy enough to marry into an affluent (Dutch) major slave owning family is chiefly remembered for being a rotten shot. In his testosterone fuelled duel with Mr Burr he only managed to hit a tree, whilst the steadier Burr hit him in the liver. Of such stuff are our heroes made.
(* Anniversary, next week, the 24th August,)
I read ”Burr” back in the 70s when I was a curious kid. Vidal’s fiction was fun back then (“Myra Breckinridge”, anyone?), but drawing anything other than utter, poisonous disdain for the United States and its founders from this malicious man is akin to getting history from Hollywood. Why Douthat chose “Burr” for his Caesar analogy is odd, since Vidal wrote a much better book, about an actual Caesar, Julian, who tried to save Rome from the horrors of Christianity – an emperor of whom Vidal heartily approved.
Yes, the Apostate, a great loss indeed.
Vidal was a republican (small R) and often despaired of the imperial direction his country had taken. Yes, he grew more cantakerous with age, but that shouldn’t overshadow his work.
He actually had a lot of time for Lincoln, who in many ways was the ideal republican politician: willing to seize power and use it to protect the republic, but prepared to hand it back again.
I keep running into this idea that Trump was a “populist”. Why is that? He only won an electoral victory, didnt he? Is it because “populist” has become a polite form of plebian? Or hoipolloi? Obama was more popular. Why isn’t he a populist President?
Populist is not the same as popular. Populist refers to a politician or movement which seeks power on the basis of a claim to represent the interests of the (virtuous) populace against a (corrupt) elite. Thus, both Trump and Bernie Sanders are characterized as populist. There are even suggestions that Boris Johnson was (is) a populist, a view shared by a lot of “Red Wall” voters who voted Tory for the first time in their lives in the last British general election, at least if the word is shorn of the negative connotation it usually has when uttered by supporters of the status quo..
Gore Vidal left to live in Italy.
“Lincoln” is his Amerikan Caesar novel.
It is all so ‘katty’ behind the scenes in DC not intelligence.
The new ‘Gaslit’ film also reflects this
Aaron Burr was a man of action.
The rest were men of Letters.
Most Americans think that Caesar was the guy who invented a salad and a Vegas casino, like they cannot understand how the Brits built Windsor castle in the Heathrow flightpath…
We get it, you hate Americans. But your repeated arrogance and condescension grow tiresome.
Yes! I’ve noticed quite a bit of anti American sentiment here. What is at the root of that? Anyone care to hazard a guess?
You “rise too easily to the bait”, he’s only ‘winding you up’. I’m sure no malice is intended.
Charles, I had actually considered after posting my comment above that he was joking in that way the English do; they say something that sounds offensive and then you are supposed to hit the ball back with some witty reply. And yes there is no malice in this English way but for me I find it exhausting, TBH.
Yes it is a bit tedious, you have to have been trained from birth to understand it.
A riposte to N S-T might have been: “Perhaps, but had it not been for Lend-Lease you would all be speaking German”.
You already bow to a German queen.
It’s banter Tanya! Or bantz as the youngsters call it these days apparently.
At its most vicious when engaging with your best mates. Love it – I goad my Remainer friends every time I meet them, trying to get a decent debate going. Women often seem to think it’s needlessly antagonistic but I see they’re getting into it these days too.
You’re certainly proud of your bigotry, so I guess that’s something.
If it hadn’t been Heathrow it would have been Heston of Chamberlain fame.
I gotta admit, the Windsor Castle thing still baffles me.