was educated at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa., a
Quaker institution, where his father was a professor.
He studied briefly at Oxford University. With the coming
of World War I, he volunteered for the Red Cross in
the British sector of the western front. Returning to
America, he joined the Army as an officer candidate,
but was asked to leave with an honorable discharge
because he expressed too freely his views about
the war. (Free speech had mysteriously dropped off the
roster of freedoms: perhaps that was what was "new"
about Woodrow's New Freedom.) After the war, he was
returned to Oxford for further study. Having already
had a taste of journalism, he went into reporting, working
at the Baltimore Sun , where he became acquainted
with H. L. Mencken, the paper's most famous writer.
Journalism took him to China, where he had a firsthand
look at the looming Chinese Revolution and the possibility
of war between the US and Japan, both of which insisted
on economic empire in the Pacific. In 1933, Morley was
asked to become editor of the Washington Post.
He worked there until 1940, when he took up the presidency
of his alma mater, Haverford College. He left the college
in August 1945 to pursue his writing.
Like Herbert Hoover and Robert Taft, both of whom he
came to know well, Morley believed that another major
global bloodbath like World War I would only work to
the benefit of communist movements, which would promise
deliverance to societies disrupted by modern war. It
was therefore imperative to preserve the peace and,
failing that, for the United States to avoid war if
at all possible. Thus by the late 1930s, Morley, who
had been an enthusiast for the League of Nations, found
himself consulting with such anti-interventionists as
Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, Taft , and Hoover.1
WHIG, AND FEDERALIST
recounts that a boyhood attempt of his to start a supper-time
debate over the War Between the States gave rise to
an argument between his Anglican mother and Quaker father
over the Puritan Revolution. He remained impressed with
the continuity of the Anglo-American political tradition,
seeing the direct connection between Cromwell's Instrument
of Government and John Milton's Areopagita and
the American Revolution and constitution. His synthesis
of liberal republicanism and the Quaker ethic of self-restraint
are on display in his The
Power in the People (1949) and Freedom
and Federalism (1981 ). In the former
book, Morley made the important point that foreign "social
contract" theorists had somehow managed to neglect
American history, which was littered with actual
social contracts, signed by real people.2
brings us rather quickly to foreign affairs. Already
in World War I, Morley had noted the way in which modern
war centralizes power in the state and promotes socialism,
whatever the flag under which it sailed. In February
1944, Morley and Frank Hanighen launched a weekly newsletter,
Human Events, to provide comment on the news.
In the fourth issue he discussed Interior Secretary
Harold Icke's scheme to build, at public expense, an
Arabian oil pipeline, lest we run out of known oil reserves
by 1958 (as we obviously did). The project was "as
remote from the interior" of the US as possible,
was "strongly imperialistic," and would get
us "permanently involved in the perils of [the]
soon turned to the Administration's newly acquired habit
of bullying foreign neutrals. In an address to the American
Society of International Law in April 1944, he branded
Secretary of State Cordell Hull's attitude as "antagonistic
to the orderly development of international law."
"[A]n assertive American imperialism" might
result from this posture of might makes right. We should
remember that "the glory that was Greece can easily
pass over into the far more ephemeral grandeur that
was Rome." Morley who had enjoyed a classical
education of which we can now only dream recalled
the encounter between the Athenian empire and the sinfully
nonaligned island of Melos. Seeing Athenian forces massed
against them, the Melians said, "We see you are
come to be judges in your own cause." To this,
the Athenians sounding like polite versions of
Albright, Berger, and Talbot replied, "You
will not think it dishonorable to submit to the greatest
city in Hellas, when it makes you the moderate offer
of becoming its tributary ally, without ceasing to enjoy
the country that belongs to you."
soon saw how much the newfangled American "idealist"
leadership sought to be judges in their own cause. Unconditional
Surrender was one example that drew his ire. He saw
attempts to justify the atomic bombing of Japan
in our day ritually defended by "conservatives"
every August like clockwork as "the miserable
farce put on by those who try to reconcile mass murder
of 'enemy children' with lip service to the doctrine
that God created all men in his image." The atomic
bomb was appropriate to a totalitarian order with no
fixed moral standards. In Thomistic terms it was "the
return to nothingness."
Hoover and Taft, Morley feared communism. But these
old right figures had never had any great illusions
about our heroic Soviet ally and were, therefore, not
thrown into interventionist hysteria when World War
II ended in a civilizational train-wreck. They had expected
it. Keeping their balance, they made out a critique
of the emerging cold war.
December 1944, Morley asked how the British could prove
"to a large number of Greeks that while they were
'patriots' to resist a German puppet government they
become 'gangsters' if they oppose a British puppet government."
In March 1947, when President Truman proposed that the
United States take over the British role in Greece,
Morley wrote that "[i]t is a reality attested by
all history that if a republic assumes imperial functions
it will not remain a republic." Inflation, conscription,
higher taxes lay down that road. We would see "our
Federal Republic" become "a strongly-centralized
year later, Morley stated that "the so-called isolationists
were essentially right. They knew that American
can run its own affairs reasonably well. They knew that
in pontifically declaiming on the world stage we would
be likely to prove ourselves blundering fools."
Our system rested on "foregoing the path of empire,
on developing those private ventures in which the American
genius is brilliant
." Of Truman, he said:
"It is not unnatural for a ward politician to be
President of the United States. But it becomes grotesque
when a man of parochial outlook, inferior training and
deficient ability attempts to push a reluctant people
down the dangerous road of imperial rule." It was
a bitter thing to realize that "during the past
few years, [America] has led the world in smashing the
fabric of civilization"; we had dismantled German
factories but also "the whole structure of American
FEDERALISM, AND 'ISOLATIONISM'
a speech before the Conservative Society of Yale Law
School in November 1954, Morley developed several themes.
For the American constitution to function properly,
we must shrink back from an activist foreign policy,
which necessarily strengthened executive power. Charles
Pinckney of South Carolina had told the constitutional
convention that "[c]onquest or superiority among
Powers is not, or ought not to be, the object of republican
systems." Morley doubted we could disprove Pinckney's
assertion by somehow running "an Empire under Republican
forms." If we made the attempt, our institutions
the constitution, federalism, the 10th amendment
would yield to the logic of centralized power.
Post-constitutional agencies were already working "in
the deepest secrecy" and Congress seemed happy
to be "more and more of a rubber stamp for undisclosed
summer 1957, sounding like new left sociologist C. Wright
Mills, Morley wrote that "we have a vested interest
in preparation for war." Whole sectors of industry
were massively dependent on maintaining cold war levels
of defense spending and "if we stopped preparing
for war the effect on the economy would be disastrous."
One result was a lack of willingness to undertake serious
negotiations with our international opponents. Another
result of permanent mobilization war-in-peace was
the rise of "a self-perpetuating managerial elite."
The logical result of centralizing most decision-making
in Washington was that "we are losing the substance
1959, Morley again noted continuing US hostility to
other nations' neutrality. With this came a tendency
"to dilate in grandiose terms about [the empire's]
blessings for mankind." At the same time, it was
widely held that "there should be no political
debate over foreign policy."3
conservative classical liberalism and republicanism
sprang from his membership in a genuine American
elite. It was "bourgeois" but cherished classical
education and civilized values which gave a larger context
to the market economy. It had, as one of its selection
mechanisms, "little colleges" like Haverford.
It was of course white, Anglo-Saxon, and
largely Protestant. This utterly horrifying set of facts
puts many post-moderns on edge. I suppose they can rent
a time machine and go back and sue someone. I'm
sorry, I guess they already have.
point is that the vanishing bourgeois elite justified
its existence precisely by producing people like Felix
Morley who understood the old republic, the constitution,
peace, and free markets, as well as their opposites,
empire, lawless rule, war, and generalized statism.
Of course it was other members of that same elite who
pursued the Open Door and set us on the path of empire.
If Morley's analyses hold true, it was these clever
fellows who began, however unintentionally, the unraveling
or deconstruction of authentic American life. Their
descendants pursue the good work intentionally. You
can't have everything. Yet one shudders at the prospect
of being ruled, even for a week, by the sort of "elite"
which current US "education" might produce.
We shall not be in suspense for long. If there are bulbs
dimmer than those in the present administration, the
Republicans will find them and nominate them for high
Through it all, Morley an educated man who knew
how to educate others could see the centrality
of real education. He once shocked the dean of a journalism
school by recommending that the students study mathematics
and the classics: "The Dean came hotfoot to Washington
to see if I were crazy
. He talked a lot about
'relevance' in education and didn't like it when I said
that what he meant was vocational training, which
will never maintain a threatened culture."4
Morley's observations on education remind one of Russell
Kirk at his best.
life reminds us of a better America. In that America,
as he put it, "[n]ot one member of the class of
1915, at Haverford, was planning to enter government
service, national, state or local."5
Still writing in his eighties, he noted that "[t]here
has been a direct and causal connection between
the increasing exaltation of the state and the increasing
demoralization of society." I sure hope the sociologists
will look into it. I know the feds will look
into it and will doubtless solve it by giving us "villages"
to live in, as an outreach program of US imperialism.
The villages will probably be compulsory. Morley
unlike the gang of new right conservatives understood
one of the most important "causal connections":
"Total war, arriving in our lifetime, is the perfected
means for building the totalitarian state."6
us grant that the Seattle protesters are doubly wrong
about the WTO: they think that free trade is the source
of the world's ills and they think that the WTO has
something to do with free trade. On the other hand,
they are probably right to raise the issue of national
sovereignty. They have noticed that "international"
bodies whether mainly controlled by the US elite
or not are centers of irresponsible power.
This is an important problem in republican theory. So
far so good.
does any of that have to do with the recent events in
Seattle? Goggle-eyed Tom Brokaw went on at length that
a handful of hooded so-called "anarchists"
were causing major property damage and disruption. Quite
possibly. If so, were those fellows ever arrested or
even inconvenienced? Preliminary reports suggest that
the police spent most of their efforts on gassing and
shooting rubber bullets at the peaceful demonstrators.
The whole thing seems a bit orchestrated, which might
be wrong but such suspicions come naturally after years
of noticing how governments conduct themselves in this
"fair land of freedom." Does the conduct of
the police reflect the militarization problem to which
I recently referred? Have we been misinformed about
the police's choice of targets, or do we have here a
domestic analogue of the US military's preference for
"soft targets" overseas? I frankly don't know
but I hope we find something out soon.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Miami Herald has a front-page story which calls
the situation in Columbia "The Kosovo Next Door."
Oh, good. We were needing one of those. As Joseph Schumpeter
used to say, "cui bono" who
stands to benefit?
 See Felix Morley, For
the Record (Southbend: Regnery/Gateway, 1979),
a very entertaining autobiography.
 See Leonard P. Liggio, "Felix
Morley and the Commonwealthman Tradition: The Country
Party, Centalization and the American Empire,"
of Libertarian Studies, 2, 3 (Fall 1978), p.
 The quotations in these three sections can be found
in Joseph R. Stromberg, "Felix
Morley: An Old Fashioned Republican Critic of Statism
and Interventionism," Journal
of Libertarian Studies, 2,3 (Fall 1978), pp.
 Morley, For
the Record, p. 37 (my emphasis).
 Ibid., p. 44.
 Felix Morley, "State and Society" in Kenneth
S. Templeton, Jr., ed., The
Politicization of Society (Indianapolis: Liberty
Press, 1979), p. 68 (my emphasis) and p. 77.
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