Victor Nuovo

10/10/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 38th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. The Louisiana Purchase (1803), concluded by Thomas Jefferson, marks the beginning of the age of American territorial expansion. By 1850 it was nearly complete; the United States of America had become a continental power extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, “from sea to shining sea.” This is a fact that most Americans tend to take for granted. It is enshrined in the well-known anthem “American the Beautiful.” But the means by which this great expansion was...
10/03/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 37th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. If this nation were endowed with a national religion, its name would be “democracy”; its foremost prophet, Walt Whitman (1819-92); its bible, “Leaves of Grass”; its original sin, slavery; and its redeemer, Abraham Lincoln. “Leaves of Grass” is a collection of poems, or better, one long poem with many parts, each one integral to the whole. It was published in 1855, and was revised and enlarged five times, the final or “deathbed edition” appearing in 1892. In the preface to the...
09/26/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 36th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” rightly belongs among the founding documents of this nation. It complements the “Declaration of Independence.” It adds something altogether new to political thought, and therefore should be counted as a world classic. In the first instance, like the “Declaration,” it was a declaration of independence, as fundamental in its resolution and its consequences as its predecessor. In 1776, the American colonies declared their independence...
09/19/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 35th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. American civilization would be much diminished if Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) had not gone to live “alone, in the woods,” by the shore of Walden Pond, for two years, two months and two days, in a house built by himself, subsisting on simple fare: fish, wild fruits and beans and other vegetables grown in a garden that he planted and tended.  He did not go simply to be alone. Thoreau was a writer and he wanted to be in a quiet place to finish writing a book. The book he...
09/12/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 34th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s earliest writings, on which the previous essay was based, portray a mind infused with a sunny confidence. In his later works his mood darkens; moments of doubt and uncertainty cloud his vision. This emergent mood is given somber and poignant expression in the essay “Experience.” Emerson does not say what caused this change of mood. He mentions the recent death of son Waldo from scarlet fever. He was only five, an innocent child, and Emerson dearly loved...
09/05/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 33rd in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. Reading Emerson may be compared to taking a shower. Instead of streams of water falling gently and pleasantly over one’s body, there is a steady flow of words that infuse the mind and cleanse it of the grime and mire of the vulgar world, of common opinions and fashionable novelties and their grinding effects. His words elevate the mind to a consideration of nobler, purer things; they awaken in the conscience a longing for perfection; they induce in consciousness a sense of...
08/29/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 32nd in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. Margaret Fuller (1810-50) was born in Cambridge, Mass.; she was a prominent member of the Transcendentalist Club. In her short life she produced a remarkable body of writing: literary, philosophical and journalistic. She was homeschooled by her father, who early recognized her genius. She read Latin by the age of six, and by her teens was well read in the Latin Classics. She also became fluent in Greek, French, German and Italian. This was not an altogether happy time for her...
08/22/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 31st in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. After reviewing the previous essay, I realized that my account of the philosophical background of American Transcendentalism was incomplete. Its historical roots reach back in history well beyond Kant, to Greek antiquity. If we can believe Plato, Socrates was the first transcendental philosopher, and on his own account, he was taught by a woman, Diotima, a prophetess from the Greek city of Mantinea. To learn about this, one must read Plato’s Symposium. This will not be an...
08/15/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 30th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. “Transcendentalism” signifies the flowering of culture in New England during the first half of the 19th Century when it threw off the burden of Calvinism, indeed of all institutional religion — even Unitarianism was felt to be too limiting. Among its leading figures were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller, who will be featured in this series, and there was a host of others. It was a powerful cultural movement; its influence has been broad and deep;...
08/08/2019
Editor’s note: This is the 29th in a series of essays on the history and meaning of the American political tradition. The Constitution of the United States provides for three branches of government, each exercising a separate power: legislative, executive, and judicial. Legislative power is the power to create laws; executive, the power to carry them out. Judicial power is the power of judgment. The term is derived from the Latin word “judex,” a judge, a public official who decides what is right, equitable, or good, in accordance with fundamental law. Article III of the Constitution provides...

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