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In the new biography American Cicero , Bradley J. Birzer examines the life of an American founding father he calls “an exemplar of Catholic and Republican virtue.” (And, in the title of the first chapter, a “liberally-educated bastard.”)

Birzer, who holds the Russell Kirk chair in history at Hillsdale College, argues that Charles Carroll has been misunderstood, dismissed as a minor figure and  an elitist and aristocrat (these seen as bad things), who despite his early revolutionary sympathies came undemocratically to fear democracy and the people. He was a more influential, weightier, and more prescient figure, Birzer writes.

As Charles Carroll wisely knew, while man is endowed with natural rights and the faculties to recognize and appreciate what is true, good, and beautiful, he is also a fallen being in a fallen world. For liberty to be secured, order and virtue must reign in the individual soul and in the commonwealth. When the citizens of a republic or a civilization become merely self-interested (or equally worse, interested in nothing at all) the center fails, and chaos conquers—until a man rides in on a white horse and reestablishes an order based not on nature or on God’s will, but on his own subjective vision of the world. Then, true despotism and tyranny reigns.

As to the role of the aristocrat,
A true aristocrat, in Carroll’s vision, offered everything he possessed or commanded—his wealth, his time, and his talents—for the stability and order of the community (the res publica ) and its citizens.

Ignatius Insight recently interviewed Birzer about the book . Among the scholars who recommend the book is James R. Otteson of Yeshiva University, who calls it “a compelling portrait of a man Americans need to know and remember.”

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