The Corner

Schlesinger

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s Age of Jackson sits on a shelf next to my desk. I probably consult it once every two or three weeks. It is packed with anecdote and detail, and is well written (an uncommon virtue). It is also a political tract, showing how Old Hickory began the New Deal. Its distortions are less serious concerning its heroes than its villains–Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams–who are simply ignored, along with certain inconvenient truths (chiefly slavery). Schlesinger performed a similar operation on the Republicans who were the mothras and godzillas of his twentieth century hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

For many years, a third important strand in his thought was liberal anti-Communism, as represented by The Vital Center. But he abandoned that once the Vietnam War became difficult.

He was an eminence as well as a historian–not, generally, a good thing for a historian to be. But let us take the sweet with the bitter–he enjoyed life, and had his fatal heart attack in a restaurant. Way to go. R.I.P.

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

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