Congress and the American Tradition

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers, 1959 - History - 363 pages

Most Americans would probably be surprised to hear that, in 1959, James Burnham, a leading political thinker questioned whether Congress would survive, and whether the Executive Branch of the American government would become a dictatorship. In the last decade, members of Congress have impeached a president, rejected or refused to consider presidential nominees, and appear in the media criticizing the chief executive. Congress does not exactly appear to be at risk of expiring. Regardless of how we perceive Congress today, more than forty years after Congress and the American Tradition was written, Burnham's questions, arguments, and political analysis still have much to tell us about freedom and political order.

Burnham originally intended Congress and the American Tradition as a response to liberal critics of Senator McCarthy's investigations of communist influence in the United States. He developed it into a detailed analysis of the history and functioning of Congress, its changing relationship with the Executive Branch, and the danger of despotism, even in a democratic society.

The book is organized into three distinct parts. "The American System of Government," analyzes the concept of government, ideology and tradition, power, and the place and function of Congress within the American government. "The Present Position of Congress," explores its law-making power, Congressional commissions, treaties, investigatory power, and proposals for Congressional reform. "The Future of Congress," discusses democracy and liberty, and ultimately asks, "Can Congress Survive?" Michael Henry's new introduction sheds much insight into Burnham's writings and worldview, combining biography and penetrating scholarly analysis. He makes it clear why this work is of continuing importance to political theoreticians, historians, philosophers, and those interested in American government.

James Burnham (1905-1987) began his career as a professor of philosophy at New York University. He co-founded, with William F. Buckley, Jr., The National Review. His books include The Managerial Revolution, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, and Suicide of the West.

Michael Henry received his advanced degree in political theory. He has been teaching philosophy at St. John's University in New York since 1977.

 

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Contents

The Miracle of Government
3
Ideology and Tradition
16
The Paradox of Sovereignty
34
The Diffusion of Power
45
Power and Limits
62
Public and Private
75
The Place of Congress
91
The Traditional Balance
103
The Escape of the Treaty Power
205
The Investigatory Power
221
The Attack on Investigations
236
Theoretical Gravediggers
253
The Case Against Congress
262
The Reform of Congress
271
Democracy and Liberty
281
The Logic of Democratism
290

The Fall of Congress
127
The LawMaking Power
140
The Rise of the Fourth Branch
157
The Purse
169
And The Sword
184
The Problem of Treaties
194
Conditions of Liberty
301
What Is a Majority
311
Leader of the Masses Assembly of the People
317
Can Congress Survive?
333
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Page 15 - Take but degree away, untune that string, And, hark what discord follows! each thing meets In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores And make a sop of all this solid globe: Strength should be lord of imbecility, And the rude son should strike his father dead: Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong, Between whose endless jar justice resides, Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
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Page 7 - NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.
Page 18 - If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

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