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John Devanny

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The Federalist Crucible

From the 2004 Abbeville Institute Summer School. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have dinner. It looks like funding an assumption of State debts by the general government is not going to go through, and Hamilton’s very worried because U.S. stock is plummeting in the international finance markets. So, a deal is struck. Jefferson will put pressure on his people to…
John Devanny
September 16, 2022
BlogReview Posts

Confessions of a Copperhead

A review of Confessions of a Copperhead: Culture and Politics in the Modern South (Shotwell Press, 2022) by Mark Royden Winchell The concept of the South as a peculiar and singular region of America, indeed not quite American except in its vices of racism and violence, is something of an industry in the halls of academia. Numerous university centers and…
John Devanny
August 18, 2022
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Neo-Abolitionist Historiography

  From our 2008 Summer School, Northern Anti-Slavery Rhetoric In some respects, the title of this lecture, “Post 1960’s Neo-Abolitionist Historiography,” is a lie.  I’m actually going to start earlier than the 1960’s, but I promise you we’re not going to lengthen it out any more than that. A lot of this is going to be a cautionary tale for…
John Devanny
March 31, 2022
BlogReview Posts

What We Have to Expect

A review of How Radical Republican Antislavery Rhetoric and Violence Precipitated Secession, October 1859 - April 1861 (Abbeville Institute Press, 2022) by David Jonathan White. One of the tragic casualties of America’s long culture war is the distortion of the country’s central event, The War Between the States. During the 1950s, historians such as Avery Craven began to question the…
John Devanny
February 15, 2022
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Remembering John C. Calhoun

Though John C. Calhoun was a distinguished American statesman and thinker, he is little appreciated in his own country. Calhoun rose to prominence on the eve of the War of 1812 as a “war hawk” in the House of Representatives and was the Hercules who labored untiringly in the war effort. While still a congressman, he was the chief architect…
John Devanny
October 26, 2021
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What Can Be Done?

The year 2020 was brutal for the friends of the South.  Monuments and statues of Southerners, not just Confederates, disappeared from the urban areas of the Southand beyond.  The lockdowns imposed by the authorities weighed heavily upon the region’s and the country’s remaining small farms and small businesses.  In larger urban areas such as Atlanta, what the lockdown did not…
John Devanny
February 3, 2021
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Who Owns America Now?

From the 2020 Abbeville Institute conference on "Who Owns America?" October 16-17, 2020 in Charleston, SC. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5G4NWbkjJA&feature=youtu.be
John Devanny
December 28, 2020
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The Blundering Generations and the Crisis of Legitimacy

Crises of legitimacy are rarely resolved without some resort to violence. The European experience in the seventeenth century is generously populated with examples: The English Civil War, Le Fronde I and II, The Thirty Years War, The Great Deluge that rocked Eastern Europe and the Polish Commonwealth. Even the Glorious Revolution, that peaceful coup launched by Anglicans and Whigs against…
John Devanny
December 18, 2020
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Who Owns America Today?

The chief conflict in American history was and remains the conflict between the center and the periphery.  Geographically, this conflict plays out as a powerful antagonism between the large, urbanized, metropolitan areas of America and their satellite college and university towns, and the less densely populated small towns and rural areas.  In the political and financial realms, the conflict is…
John Devanny
November 23, 2020
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Pietas in the Era of Revolution

Pietas, the most Roman of virtues, referred to the duty owed to one’s country, parents, kin, and ancestors.  It is from pietas that patriotism, not nationalism, springs forth.  It is a virtue once esteemed by Americans, for once upon a time Americans were formed by classical learning, and most especially they were formed in their political and literary imaginations by…
John Devanny
July 13, 2020
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Secession and Its Discontents

The American story is a story of secession, or better still secessions.  The first permanent settlements of Europeans in North America were the result of a series of secessions from primarily the British Isles.  Religious motive, political persecution, economic distress all play their part in impelling movement from the homeland into a new world, and it does so with a…
John Devanny
February 12, 2020
Review Posts

Real Southern Sport

A review of Maxcy Gregg’s Sporting Journals, 1842-1858 (Green Altar Books, 2019) Suzanne Parfitt Johnson, Editor. Foreword by James Everett Kibler, Jr. The exploration of everyday life in a given historical period is often based upon the letters, diaries, and business ledgers and journals of the past.  Historians in the last four to five decades have also incorporated the findings…
John Devanny
December 10, 2019
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Poison Under the Wings

The beginning of the American political order goes much further back than the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.  Political scientists and political theorists are understandably fixated on the Constitution and the convention that produced it.  Eric Voegelin, Willmoore Kendall, and a few others go even further back searching for a continuity in the political symbolization present in some certain select, but…
John Devanny
November 20, 2019
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Southern Populism and the South’s Agrarian Identity

In what passes for political and cultural discourse today, the term “populist” is something of a pejorative, conjuring up images in the mind of the cultural and academic elite of dangerous folks with pitchforks and guns riding about in pick-up trucks looking for an uprising to foment.  This of course is nonsense.  What the tsars of public opinion describe as…
John Devanny
September 2, 2019
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Where the Grapes of Wrath are Stored

This essay was presented at our 2019 Summer School on the New South. Fundamentalism is often viewed as the most Southern of religions. Yet this is not so.  It was an alien seed planted in ground razed by war and harrowed by Reconstruction.  The harrowing, or Reconstruction if one prefers, was not merely an updating of the constitutional and political…
John Devanny
August 14, 2019
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The Limits of a Politics of Tolerance

Secession, nullification, and interposition, like the poor, we shall always have with us. These are as American, indeed more American, than apple pie and baseball. Our new federal union, outlined in the Constitution written at the Philadelphia Convention and ratified by the independent states in their separate conventions, was barely out of the gate before the first constitutional crisis hit…
John Devanny
June 10, 2019
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John Randolph of Roanoke and the Formation of a Southern Conservatism

One of the great issues of American political history is whether an authentic American conservatism exists.  This is a crucial question for Southerners, as the South is historically viewed as the most conservative of the regions of the United States. Louis Hartz, a prominent political theorist during the middle of the twentieth century, answered no, American conservatism does not exist. …
John Devanny
May 13, 2019
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Modern Monetary Theory: A Jeffersonian Critique

The chattering class’ newest obsession, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has seized the policy initiative from the Democratic Party’s geriatrics by promoting a “Green New Deal.”  T’is clever branding to combine left-wing eco virtue signaling with FDR’s version of “down home” fascism. (If one doubts me on this last point, I refer you to John Garraty’s seminal article, “The New Deal, National Socialism,…
John Devanny
March 4, 2019
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Contested Ground: Southern Identity and the Southern Tradition

In the popular imagination the South is viewed as a region typified by racism, poverty, and ignorance save a few special islands, such as Chapel Hill and Charlotte, which lay in the archipelago of enlightenment.  There are some cracks in this edifice of Yankee bigotry, but when political and cultural wars become heated, the edifice is trotted out once more…
John Devanny
February 18, 2019
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Hamilton on Steroids

“The revenue of the state is the state.”  Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution Washington D. C. finds itself in the midst of an entertaining, nay consuming, Kabuki theatre.  The federal government has “shut down” its non-essential functions, re-opened the same, and promised to do it all over again in a few weeks, raising the question as to why…
John Devanny
February 7, 2019
Review Posts

Catholics’ Lost Cause

A review of Catholics’ Lost Cause: South Carolina Catholics and the American South, 1820-1861 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018) by Adam L. Tate Some thirty odd years ago, scholars began to peer into the world of immigrants in the South with not a little attention devoted to Catholics.  What they found surprised them.  Immigrants in the South adjusted to…
John Devanny
January 15, 2019
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The Neo-Puritan War on Christmas

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” – H. L. Mencken “Let any man of contrary opinion open his mouth to persuade them , they close up their ears, his reasons they weigh not . . . . They are impermeable to argument and have their answers well drilled.”  – Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical…
John Devanny
December 19, 2018
Review Posts

From Founding Fathers to Fire Eaters

A review of From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South (Columbia, SC: Shotwell Publishing, 2018) by James Rutledge Roesch. Mr. James Rutledge Roesch is doing God’s work with the publication of his book, From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South.  Riding to the sound…
John Devanny
October 30, 2018
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Justice Kavanaugh and the Triumph of Symbol over Reality

“History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Attributed to Mark Twain Americans at their best are a pragmatic “can do” folk, be it “Yankee ingenuity” or good old fashioned “get ‘r done.”  We are at our worst when we stray from this pragmatic bent into the misty fields of sacerdotal ideology, which is to say when we ascribe…
John Devanny
October 17, 2018
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Rhetoric, Reality, and the Late Unpleasantness

The 1850s is viewed by most scholars as the crucial decade of the sectional crisis that resulted in the War Between the States. The Great Triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster had passed from the scene.  These giants were replaced by lesser lights, and “the war came” as Mr. Lincoln claimed.  As historical explanations go, there…
John Devanny
September 24, 2018
Review Posts

A Society With Slaves

A review Slave and Free on Virginia’s Eastern Shore by Kirk Mariner (Onancok, VA: Miona Publications, 2014). The book can be purchased by emailing Miona Publications. One of the ironies that plague the proponents of the “South is about slavery and slavery is about the South” school of history is the lack of knowledge we possess regarding the everyday lives and social…
John Devanny
August 21, 2018
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The Late Unpleasantness: Memory, Meaning and Understanding

The War Between the States is called by many names, the most genteel being “The Late Unpleasantness.”  The low country districts of South Carolina, including the environs of Charleston, is the geographic origin of this title for America’s most bloody and divisive conflict.  There is a deeper significance to the term than a polite and refined attempt to soften an…
John Devanny
July 27, 2018
Review Posts

Zombies No More: Secession, Nullification, and the Academy

A review of Nullification and Secession in Modern Constitutional Thought. Sanford Levinson, ed. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2016. The undead walk among us still, or so asserts Sanford Levinson, the editor of an important collection of essays on nullification and secession.  Levinson and company are as mainstream a group political scientists, law professors, and historians as one might…
John Devanny
April 17, 2018
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Sectionalism Returns

Recently Michael S. Greve of George Mason University Law School wrote an insightful article which contends that sectionalism has reared its head again. This new sectionalism is dividing the states along the lines of economic interests, which also happen to be aligning nicely with current ideological and partisan fault lines as well. Professor Greve rightly points out that the states…
John Devanny
January 29, 2018
Review Posts

Lincoln vs. Davis

A review of Brian R. Dirck, Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 1809-1865 (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2001). Mr. Dirck’s comparative analysis of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis promises much.  Friendly reviewers have found his work “intellectual history at its most stimulating,” or “psychologically sophisticated.”  Alas, I confess that I do not see it.  To be fair to Mr.…
John Devanny
October 31, 2017
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A People Without Honor

Back in my days as a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, I and some fellow graduate students were involved tangentially, very tangentially, in the great Confederate flag debate in Columbia, SC.  During the 1990s the  Confederate flag flew over the capitol in Columbia, SC.  Various civil rights groups began to snipe at the flag, viewing it as…
John Devanny
October 13, 2017
Blog

Southern Identity and the Southern Tradition

In the popular imagination the South is viewed as a region typified by racism, poverty, and ignorance save a few special islands, such as Chapel Hill and Charlotte, which lay in the archipelago of enlightenment.  There are some cracks in this edifice of Yankee bigotry, but when political and cultural wars become heated, the edifice is trotted out once more…
John Devanny
July 5, 2017
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Yankee Finance Capitalism Part III: The Creature from Jekyll Island

The endurance of the system of Jeffersonian finance based upon the Independent Treasury system was remarkable given the post war transformation of the United States from an agrarian country to an industrial one.  Tariff rates had increased, large subsidies were being awarded to the railroads, and the federal government drifted slowly but inexorably toward imperialism.  The last major Jeffersonian edifice,…
John Devanny
June 16, 2017
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Yankee Finance Capitalism Part II: The Jeffersonian Triumph

“The revenue of the state is the state.” Edmund Burke The rise of the modern nation state in the 1600s was founded upon monarchies securing independent sources of revenue to pay for the royal armies that secured their dynasties.  Jacques Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, designed a system of state monopolies, internal free trade districts, tariffs and internal taxes…
John Devanny
June 9, 2017
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Yankee Finance Capitalism Made Simple

Part One: Definitions and Origins Money is a great mystery.  In my years of teaching economics courses and economic history nothing so confuses students, and their elders, as the subject of money.  Or rather I should say the subject of money and currency.  Some of this confusion is a result of the failure of economists to agree on standard definitions…
John Devanny
June 2, 2017
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Jefferson the Man

Thomas Jefferson, Revolutionary: A Radical’s Struggle to Remake America. Kevin R. C. Gutzman (New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 2017). The challenge a historian faces when writing about Thomas Jefferson is which Jefferson does one choose?  The choices of “Jeffersons” include: Jefferson the radical, Jefferson the democrat, Jefferson the philosophe, Jefferson the scientist, Jefferson the statesman, and Jefferson the planter, just…
John Devanny
March 20, 2017
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Tidewater Wit and Wisdom

An honest man can never be outdone in courtesy. A sensual life is a miserable life. The contempt of death makes all the miseries of life easy to us. -Taken from Seneca’s Dialogues, a primer for young men in Tidewater Virginia and Maryland   Fear God. Reverence the parents. Imitate not the wicked. Boast not in discourse of thy wit…
John Devanny
February 6, 2017
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Musings of a Southern Antifederalist on the Presidential Election

The one consolation of the Antifederalist persuasion is telling everyone you meet “I told you so.”  Granted, this does not go down well in most circles, be they progressive, socialist, conservative, neo-conservative, constitutionalist, et al.  At best, some of these folk will agree that the Antifederalists were correct about the consolidation of power in the federal government, the excesses of…
John Devanny
July 8, 2016
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The South: Land of Heavyweight Boxing Champions

The South in the twentieth century has embraced any number of northern athletic imports and made them her own. Arguably, the South has produced the premier basketball player in Michael Jordan, the top baseball player in Ty Cobb, and the greatest football player in Jim Brown. Boxing, however, is not a sport that one associates with Southern bred champions. The…
John Devanny
July 1, 2016
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Secession of the Heart

A dear friend of mine, a Harp like myself but born and raised in the Deep North, repeated to me for the umpteenth time one of the most persistent of all Southern stereotypes, the duplicitous Southerner. This type is all smiles and sweetness, until the proper time comes to lower the boom. As my friend put it, “No, we are…
John Devanny
May 6, 2016
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Vale Res Publica

Once again, it is politicking time in the good ol’ US of A.  The Democrats, the party of youth, vision, and vigor, present to the country a senile old socialist who doesn’t believe that poor white people exist, and a former first lady rejected by Netflix central casting for a role in  House of Cards (It was the looks, not…
John Devanny
March 24, 2016
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Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee betrayed the literary establishment and many of her readers with the recent publication of her novel, Go Set a Watchman.  The novel was originally written before the acclaimed, To Kill a Mockingbird and when it was published last year the literary public, readers and critics, were most impatient to read it. Many of them had reactions ranging from…
John Devanny
January 11, 2016
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The Last Southern Democrat

“Daddy was a veteran, a southern democrat, They oughta get a rich man to vote like that.” Bob McDill, “Song of the South” The presidential candidacy of Jim Webb marks, perhaps, the last gasp of that nearly extinct species of politician populus austrinalus, the southern democrat. Webb, a native Missourian, has an impressive record of public service: a marine officer…
John Devanny
October 19, 2015
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M.R. Ducks

Years ago I was introduced to my wife’s grandmother. This small but formidable woman lived in Columbus, Ohio, a descendant of tough, blue collar shanty Irish. We got to talkin’ about the experience of the Irish in America, the Democratic Party’s abandonment of regular folk, why you never can really trust a Republican, and wouldn’t it be great if Pat…
John Devanny
September 7, 2015
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The Flag Controversy: We Did It To Ourselves

Who looks at Lee must think of Washington; In pain must think, and hide the thought, So deep with grievous meaning it is fraught. Herman Melville, "Lee in the Capitol," April 1866. “Be of good cheer: the flag is coming down all over, and it’s coming down because Rand Paul is right: it is inescapably a symbol of bondage and…
John Devanny
June 26, 2015
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The Prophetic Sage of Roanoke

There is no more singular statesman or person in the history of American politics than John Randolph of Roanoke. Eccentric in the extreme, volatile, and often ill-tempered, this Saint Michael of the South, this scourge of corruption, was also capable of passionate attachments to his friends, his slaves, and his country, that is Virginia. The same man whose piercing gaze…
John Devanny
June 2, 2015
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“…The Patriotic Gore, That Flecked the Streets of Baltimore?”: Musings on the Baltimore Riot by a Native Son

The recent riots in Baltimore gave most Americans pause as they struggled to make sense of the violence that tore at the fabric of some of the city’s most impoverished and desperate neighborhoods.  President Barack Obama moved swiftly to enlighten Americans that the origins of the violence in Baltimore could be traced back to the days of Jim Crow and…
John Devanny
May 15, 2015
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Tommy, We Hardly Knew Ye

Mr. Jefferson is quite passé these days, but ‘twas not always so. When I was a young lad, Mr. Jefferson was still firmly fixed among the America’s heroes, the great defender of the liberty of the states and the individual citizen, now not so much. Jefferson lost his luster among the members of the political Left over slavery, but perhaps…
John Devanny
April 16, 2015
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Guns, Yankees, and Such

The antipathy of many urbanites who reside in Greater New England (think Old New England and the Midwest) toward firearms and their possessors has always left me puzzled. Aside from editorials and the parade of talking heads, I have come face to face with firearms aversion among some of my wife’s kin. And, being a “nat’ral born durn’d fool” I…
John Devanny
March 6, 2015
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How ‘bout a Little Bourbon with Your Philosophy?

What exactly makes the South, the South? Hosts of scholars have puzzled mightily over this one. Historians might point to the old Confederacy, human geographers might look for the proliferation of Southern Baptist Churches, as well as clusters and distributions of BBQ joints and firearms ownership, while linguists ponder over the prevalence of “y’all” and other Southern speech patterns. The…
John Devanny
February 26, 2015
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Gentleman Bob and the Decline of the South

Coal miners have their canaries; we have colinus virginiánus, the bobwhite quail. Like the canary that goes silent as the oxygen levels in a mine drop, so too has the quail gone silent in large swaths of the South. The decline of Gentleman Bob has been attributed to any number of factors. Wildlife biologists blame the loss and destruction of…
John Devanny
February 9, 2015
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All Slavery, All the Time*

*Apologies to Jon White from whom I sole the title for this piece. Invariably, any discussion regarding the causes of the Late Unpleasantness brings forth the tortured issue of slavery. Back when I was a graduate student in the 1990s, there was still some room, though not much, for a multi-causational interpretation of the War, not so much anymore. Much…
John Devanny
November 12, 2014
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Football and the South

Are you ready? Hell yea! Damn right! Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, Who the hell are we? HEY! Flim Flam, Bim Bam, OLE MISS BY DAMN! WARNNING: Blasphemy ahead. College football has long cast a powerful spell upon the minds and hearts of the people below Mason’s and Dixon’s line. Team flags fly from cars and porches openly declaring the citizenship…
John Devanny
October 20, 2014
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Fall Planting

The fall vegetable garden is a delight in the Mid-South. The greens and reds are vivid. Fresh lettuce and beans will grace the table until the first heavy frosts; perhaps even beyond if we are fortunate and blessed. Spinaches, cabbages, broccoli, collards and radishes will yield through the Christmas season. Garlic, onions, and shallots will repose through the winter, then…
John Devanny
September 5, 2014
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Musings on Dislocation

Dislocation brings with it a multiplicity of dissonance. Moving disrupts the consonance of time and place, of family, friends, parish, and all the landmarks and milestones that speak to us of our country; that is our homes. On the Feast of the Holy Family (old calendar), December 29, 2013, this reality of dislocation and dissonance intruded upon my family and…
John Devanny
July 17, 2014
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Getting Right with Mr. Hamilton?

“…the borrower is servant to him that lendeth” (Proverbs 22:7) “There is an elegant memorial in Washington to Jefferson, but none to Hamilton. However, if you seek Hamilton's monument, look around. You are living in it. We honor Jefferson, but live in Hamilton's country . . .” (George Will, Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy, 1992)…
John Devanny
April 6, 2014