The Corner

Conor Cruise O’Brien, R.I.P.

I met Conor after he wrote for NR about Burke, thanks to John O’Sullivan, and I came to know him better in connection with his Jefferson book, The Long Affair. The Long Affair goes too far, and it was wrongly harsh on Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone, but it is a useful corrective to Jefferson myth-making on an important point, often slighted by American biographers–Jefferson’s Jane Fonda-ish attitude toward the French Revolution. Only Tom Paine and the now-forgotten poet Joel Barlow of adoptive or born Americans went further: At least Jefferson bailed out with the advent of Napoleon; Paine sent the Corsican suggestions for how to invade England, and Barlow died on the Moscow campaign.

I remember one editorial dinner at Van Galbraith’s (WFB must have been out of town). Much wine had been served, and Conor was declaiming against the third president. He banged his fist on the table and cried, “Jefferson was a sh*t! Jefferson was a sh*t!” I told this some time later to Dorothy Twohig, a wonderful historian and a gracious lady, who was working on the Washington Papers at the University of Virginia. She laughed, and then added sweetly, “Well, sometimes he was.”

Since then I have divided latter-day Federalists into two categories: the he-was, and the sometimes-he-was.

Richard Brookhiser — Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular


If Amy Wax Is Wrong, Let’s See the Data

Regarding the kerfuffle Jason Richwine addressed here earlier, the economist Glenn Loury has posted an impassioned plea to his Facebook page. Loury, you may recall, hosts the video blog where Wax made her controversial claim that black students at Penn Law School rarely graduate in the top half of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

San Francisco Bans Fur Sales

San Francisco has banned the sale of fur. From the CBS-SF story: San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of fur clothing and products. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure that prohibits the sale of fur clothes, accessories, even souvenirs in stores and ... Read More

For the First Time in Weeks, Relief Sweeps over Austin

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Austin bomber is done in by one of his own devices; some new numbers suggest that a small but significant portion of Trump voters are tiring of the chaos and aren’t showing up to support other Republicans in 2018; and the mixed news for conservatives coming out of the ... Read More

The Baleful Effect of #MeToo on Campus

Remember the series of hurricanes that pounded the Caribbean last summer? Something like that has been occurring on college campuses, as they're hit by one destructive mania after another: diversity, Title IX, anti-speech protests. Now it's the #MeToo Movement. In this Martin Center article, British academic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

A Time for Choosing

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was controversial. Invitations to European nationalist populists such as Nigel Farage and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (the niece of Marine Le Pen) caused many longtime conservatives to question whether they still belong to the conservative movement. Vocal critics ... Read More