The Roots of American Order

The Roots of American Order

Full Title:  The Roots of American Order

Author: Russel Kirk (1918 – 1994)

Published: April 8, 2014 (4th Edition)

Publisher:  Intercollegiate Studies Institute

From the Publishers Description:

“What holds America together? In this classic work, Russell Kirk describes the beliefs and institutions that have nurtured the American soul and commonwealth. Beginning with the Hebrew prophets, Kirk examines in dramatic fashion the sources of American order.

His analytical narrative might be called “a tale of five cities”: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia. For an understanding of the significance of America at the dawn of a new century, Russell Kirk’s masterpiece on the history of American civilization is unsurpassable. This edition includes a new foreword by the distinguished historian Forrest McDonald.”

Submitter’s Notes

This book was originally published in 1974. The Fourth edition was issued in 2003 by Russell’s surviving wife; Annette Kirk, and the fifth, and most current printing, was in February 2014.

Kirk’s objective with this book was “to assist in renewing an appreciation of America’s moral and social order among the general public and as well among the university and college students”.

Kirk’s ability to provide easily understood composition from the most complicated subject matter is a unique aspect of his writing. 

But among Kirk’s most elucidating observations was his portrayal of Lincoln. Many had adjudged Lincoln as a bumbling ignoramus, but as Kirk points out it was near the end of Lincoln’s life that the real Lincoln showed his worth. Lincoln called Charles Francis Adams, son of the humorless John Quincy Adams, to his office to appoint him to be Minister to England. Francis Adams would recall his first impression of Lincoln as the boorish and inane chief officer of America. As the formal appointment of Francis Adams proceeded, Lincoln was in his bedroom slippers, and as sort of an aside Lincoln turned to one of his cabinet members to discuss a postmastership, while the new Minister to England had to stand there and wait.

Lincoln was a puzzle, as Kirk pointed out. Furthermore, most of his party detested him, or despised him, or thought he would be the ruin of the Republican party.  And as Kirk also pointed out, nearly all his advisers were surprised that he won the nomination to be President, and were as well totally surprised that he won the presidency with a plurality.

And among Kirk’s many observations, from the first chapter to the last, Kirk points out that the most important and critical aspects of America is the peace and stability and particularly the enduring order which Kirk points out is the first necessity in a society.

So, this book becomes a reminder for us of the importance of learning about America’s inheritance which help create America’s stability and freedom.

 This massive book is highly recommended for both the student who is faced with a class in Western Civilization or the retiree who wants to refresh their memory of America’s roots.

Although readily available, in hardcover this is an expensive work.  In electronic version it is modestly priced and available on many sites such as Amazon.