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Harry V. Jaffa: Wikis


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Harry V. Jaffa (born 1918) is an author, Professor Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College, and distinguished fellow of the Claremont Institute, a California think tank.

He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Yale University and a Ph.D. from The New School. Jaffa's most noted book, Crisis of the House Divided examines the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

During the 1964 presidential campaign, Jaffa served as a speechwriter to Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, and is credited with suggesting that Goldwater quote in his nomination acceptance address Cicero's famous expression, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue."[1][2]

He is one of the most famous students of Leo Strauss and is the leader of what are often called the "West Coast Straussians," a branch of the Straussian movement.

Lincoln debated

Jaffa is a leading conservative proponent of Abraham Lincoln.

In the mid-1960s Jaffa debated Lincoln's meaning to conservatives in National Review, with Frank Meyer, who took a critical view on abuses of civil liberties and expansion of government power. This discussion occupied several articles, and the controversy persists to this day. Others who took a critical view of Jaffa's scholarship were Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver and Willmoore Kendall.[3]

He has also argued with Thomas DiLorenzo, who has written unflatteringly on Lincoln, and who asserts that Jaffa is overly flattering toward Lincoln to the detriment of historically documented fact.[4] [5]. DiLorenzo and Jaffa are often critical of each other. Jaffa has also debated with M.E. Bradford, a conservative critic of Lincoln.

In the mid-1990s Jaffa was in a debate with several conservative legal thinkers. In his book Storm over the Constitution he formulated a theory of constitutional law, incorporating the Declaration of Independence, sometimes referred to as Declarationism. The theory was criticized for being overly philosophical and theological, rather than legal, despite being presented as a legal argument. His approach was critical of figures including Robert Bork and William Rehnquist; Jaffa exchanged heated words on the pages of National Review with Bork.


  1. ^ William F. Buckley (1970). Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 214.  
  2. ^ Harry V. Jaffa (1984). "Goldwater's Famous 'Gaffe'". National Review 36 (15): 36.  
  3. ^ Nash, Georg H. (1998). The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, Since 1945. Wilmington, Del: Intercollegiate Studies Institute. pp. 205–210. ISBN 188292620X.  
  4. ^ DiLorenzo, Thomas Jaffa’s Hitlerian Defense of Lincoln 2002 May ;10
  5. ^ DiLorenzo, Thomas "The Indefensible Abe" - Review of Harry Jaffa's book "A New Birth of Freedom" 2001

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