In a previous Uncommon Knowledge interview, Jaffa discussed his classic Crisis of the House Divided. In this interview, Jaffa returns to discuss the sequel, A New Birth of Freedom.
He begins by making a critical point: whereas the Founders had expected slavery simply to wither away, by the middle of the nineteenth century the peculiar institution had done no such thing. The Civil War, Jaffa insists, was a necessary war—an unavoidable war -- not a war of choice. When the war broke out, anyone who had engaged in a cool calculation of the odds would have put his money on the Confederacy, not the Union.
Commenting on contemporary America, Jaffa points out the distinction between the "immutable principles of private morality" that President Washington spoke of and the "fundamental American values" that President Obama speaks of today.
"Values are moral choices, which have no object or basis," Jaffa asserts. "The value is a subjective desire, not an objective truth. A hundred years ago, nobody would have spoken about our principles as being values."
Harry V. Jaffa, a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute, is the author of numerous articles and books, including his widely acclaimed study of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (University of Chicago Press, 1959).
Jaffa is Professor Emeritus of Government at Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate School. He received his B.A. from Yale, where he majored in English, in 1939, and holds a Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research.
Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits the Hoover Institution's quarterly journal, the Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover's television program, "Uncommon Knowledge."
Robinson is also the author of three books: How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life; It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP; and the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.