Christendom College welcomed Richard Reinsch, founding editor of Law and Liberty, to campus to deliver a talk titled, “Orestes Brownson’s Unwritten Constitution” on Monday, March 22. Sponsored by Christendom’s Tocqueville Forum on Liberal Democracy, the talk educated students on the importance of Brownson and how his thought can provide solutions to today’s challenges to American Constitutionalism.
Reinsch, who also hosts the podcast show “Liberty Law Talk,” is the co-author of A Constitution in Full: Recovering the Unwritten Foundation of American Liberty, among other works. His talk drew on that work and others, as Reinsch made the case for the importance of Brownson in the twenty-first century.
“Brownson is unjustly neglected — he is one of the best Catholic thinkers America has ever produced,” said Reinsch.
Brownson, who was a nineteenth century thinker, wrote on the importance of the Constitution in light of the American Civil War and how the nation could be brought together again. In 2021, his thought is just as important as ever, according to Reinsch, because he presents a third way of looking at American Constitutionalism, as opposed to the two most prevalent views in modern political thought.
“What challenges does American Constitutionalism face today?” asked Reinsch. “Progressivism, for one. It’s been going on now for over a century, posing challenges to foundational ideas in our Constitution, such as freedom of speech and religious liberty…on the other side, you have modern conservative thinkers who blame not progressivism, or modern ideological errors, but the constitution itself. According to this group, the American founding is just a set of interchangeable Hobbesian and Lockean ideas that invited a militant secularism.”
Reinsch sought to present a different view throughout his talk: “could we not rather seek to save the American founding and preserve it?” For Reinsch, Brownson’s thought, illumined by his Catholic faith, presents the best way forward for defending American Constitutionalism.
Christendom’s Tocqueville Forum strives to foster an enriched understanding of America’s political principles and encourage informed civic engagement. Launched in 2020, as a partnership between the Department of Political Science and Economics and the Jack Miller Center, the forum offers an annual series of lectures, seminars, reading groups, and other programming which advances a deeper knowledge of America’s fundamental political commitments to liberty and equality.