Commentary

The Jaffa-Berns Feud Revisited

– Steven F. Hayward, Powerline, September 11, 2015. Remarks from Claremont Institute APSA panel, September 2015.
Excerpt: Berns inclined toward a Hobbesian reading of Locke while Jaffa worked out an Aristotelian reading of Locke. Jaffa thought America the best regime, in the classical sense. Though he never declared himself directly on the question as Jaffa did, Berns… More

Berns on Free Speech

– Bradley C. S. Watson, remarks from Claremont Institute APSA roundtable, September 2015.
Excerpt: Like few others, Walter Berns made it his life’s work to remind us of the reciprocal relationship between rights and duties, individualism and the common good, civil liberties and political liberty. And that we play a zero sum game when we try… More

Courts and Character

– Rainer Knopff, remarks from Claremont Institute APSA panel, September 2015.
Excerpt: I am honored to be here to discuss the life and work of Walter Berns – a wonderful teacher, a superb scholar, a beautiful writer, and, quite simply, one of the finest men I have known. Harvey Mansfield has aptly described Berns as “a man with a… More

The Political Thought of Walter Berns

– Harry Clor, Library of Law and Liberty, March 2, 2015.
Excerpt: It is fair to say, I think, that constitutionalism and patriotism are the predominant themes in Berns’s thought—at least in his later years. His central idea on constitutionalism is that it is largely a matter of devotion to “forms” or… More

Country Before Faith

– Gerald J. Russello, American Conservative, February 25, 2015.
Excerpt: Among the most vexing problems Berns addressed over his long career was that of religion in the American polity. An Episcopalian of the old school, Berns thought religion important but something that, in James Madison-like fashion, must be kept under… More

Scholars of American Politics

– Harvey Mansfield, The Weekly Standard, February 9, 2015.
Excerpt: Among followers of Strauss, one issue is the importance of politics in the relationship of politics and philosophy. Politics thinks it is the most important human activity because it decides who rules in the world. Every human activity, including… More

The Gentleman Patriot

– Jeremy Rabkin, The Weekly Standard, January 26, 2015.
Excerpt: Aristotle says nature intends the gentleman to be physically imposing but does not always achieve this intention. Nature delivered for Walter Berns. Or anyway (which may have been Aristotle’s point), Berns made the most of nature’s gifts. He was… More

Freedom, Virtue, and Walter Berns by James Ceaser

– James W. Ceaser, The Weekly Standard, January 26, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, a leading figure in the study of constitutional law for nearly half a century, enjoyed an advantage over most other scholars in this field: He never attended law school. Unburdened by this professional training, Berns brought to his… More

Walter Berns: Teacher, Scholar, Inspiration

– Kishore Jayabalan, The American Spectator, January 15, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, professor emeritus of government at Georgetown University and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, died Saturday, January 10, 2015, at the age of 95. Commentators have noted that the coincidence of his death with… More

Walter Berns (1919-2015) and Harry Jaffa (1918-2015): A Canadian’s Appreciation

– Rainer Knopff, University of Calgary School of Public Policy, January 15, 2015.
Excerpt: Two intellectual giants died within hours of each other on January 10. Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa, both students of Leo Strauss, wrote prolifically and influentially over very long careers and on a wide range of subjects. This appreciation of their… More

Walter Berns, Political Scientist and Philosopher, Dies at 95

– Emily Langer, Washington Post, January 14, 2015.
Excerpt: Part historian, part political scientist and part philosopher, he sprinkled his writings with references to the Bible, Shakespeare, Camus and Lincoln. Much of his work, the legal scholar Jeremy A. Rabkin wrote in an overview of Dr. Berns’s career,… More

Walter Berns

Intercollegiate Review, January 14, 2015; reprinted from American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (ISI Books, 2006).
Excerpt: Berns is best known for his analysis of First Amendment adjudication—especially concerning the so-called “religion clauses”—and for his more general interpretation of the role of religion in the American founding. America is essentially… More

Walter Berns, a Catalyst of the Neoconservative Movement, Dies at 95

– Sam Robert, New York Times, January 14, 2015.
Excerpt: It was not for nothing that Cornell was widely known as the Big Red during the 1960s, when passions over civil rights and the war in Vietnam provoked convulsive student radicalism. But the backlash to those campus revolutionaries also sparked the… More

Professor Walter Berns Remembered

– The Fund for American Studies, January 2015.
Excerpt: In 1993, when TFAS launched its Prague-based American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES), Berns lectured on political philosophy and the U.S. Constitution. It was fitting that this great scholar of philosophy and constitutional law… More

Remembering Walter Berns

– Steven F. Hayward, The American, January 13, 2015.
Excerpt: There are limitless examples of Berns at his blunt but clarifying best. My favorite is his summary judgment of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who for some reason seems to have every would-be jurist bamboozled. Contrary to Holmes’s popular reputation as… More

The Feud That Revived Conservatism

– Steven F. Hayward, Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2015.
Excerpt: Berns and Jaffa saved conservatism by drawing our attention to and deepening our appreciation of the specifically American aspects of our political foundations, and thereby providing a more robust way of opposing modern liberalism.

Walter Berns: Reminiscences

– Karlyn Bowman, Gary Schmitt, and Scott Walter, AEIdeas, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: I’ve “known” Walter Berns since the early 1970s.  As an undergraduate and graduate student studying political science at, respectively, the University of Dallas and the University of Chicago, I had read any number of pieces by Walter by the… More

The Great Walter Berns

– Quin Hillyer, National Review Online, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: “Gov’t can rule only by laws, not by decrees.” “The Last paragraph Fed 10: (first object of gov’t: protect the unequal faculties of acquiring property.) [arrow to next sentence:] “To secure equal rights is to secure rights of unequally… More

Remembering Walter Berns

– Michael S. Greve, Library of Law and Liberty, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: This past Saturday, Walter Berns died at the age of 95. Walter Berns was one of the truly great constitutional scholars and political theorists of his generation, or any generation since. A student of Leo Strauss’s, he taught at Louisiana State… More

Walter Berns — A Tough Start to 2015

– Tevi Troy, Ricochet, January 12, 2015.
Excerpt: 2015 may be less than a few weeks old, but already we have lost three of the most important intellectual figures in the modern conservative intellectual movement: Martin Anderson, Walter Berns, and Harry Jaffa. Many people, including Yuval Levin,… More

Walter Berns and Harry V. Jaffa, RIP

– Steven F. Hayward, Powerline, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: By an extraordinary coincidence that summons up the idea of Providence, Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa both passed away yesterday. These two intellectual giants, graduate school classmates and students of Leo Strauss, carried on a long-running and… More

Reminiscences of Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa

– F. H. Buckley, American Spectator, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: People here in D.C. who remember Walter will recall a witty and learned scholar, but they also remember an indefatigable dancer who, well into his 80s, energetically twirled his lovely wife, Irene, around an AEI ballroom. I recall a talk he gave… More

Remembering my First Law Teacher: Walter Berns 1919-2015

– Robert Howse, Prawfsblog, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, with whom I studied American constitutional law as undergraduate, passed away Saturday.   He was a student of Leo Strauss, and a conservative, who supported capital punishment and opposed transnational governance.  Even if, as I argue… More

Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa

– Peter Augustine Lawler, National Review Online, January 11, 2015.
Excerpt: Berns and Jaffa, two legendary teachers and scholars, died last Saturday within hours of each other. What tied them together is they were both students of Leo Strauss, and all of their writing was fundamentally indebted to “disruptive… More

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

– Yuval Levin, National Review, January 10, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the great political theorist, constitutional scholar, and teacher and mentor to generations of students, passed away on Saturday at the age of 95. Berns taught at Cornell, Yale, Georgetown, the University of Toronto, Louisiana State,… More

Walter Berns, 1919-2015

– William Kristol, The Weekly Standard, January 10, 2015.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the great constitutional scholar and defender of the American republic, died today. He was 95. Generations of students have learned from his work, and will continue to do so. Those of us who knew him looked up to him and admired him… More

Walter Berns, Teacher and Patriot by Leon Kass

– Leon R. Kass, The American, September 27, 2011.
Excerpt: It is absolutely fitting and proper to honor Walter Berns in connection with Constitution Day. The U.S. Constitution, and the underlying ideas and ideals of “constitutionalism,” have been the central focus of Walter’s intellectual life. In… More

Walter Berns’ Constitution by Christopher DeMuth

– Remarks by Christopher DeMuth at a Constitution Day seminar in honor of Walter Berns, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, September 20, 2011.
Excerpt: In America today, the Constitution has come to mean constitutional law. Most Americans venerate their Constitution and realize that it is an important source of their liberties and of their nation’s success. But when they talk about it, or hear… More

Cornell ’69 And What It Did

– Donald A. Downs, Minding the Campus, April 20, 2009.
Excerpt: Forty years ago this week, an armed student insurrection erupted on the Cornell campus. I was a sophomore on campus at the time and later wrote a book on the events, Cornell ’69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University. To some the… More

Walter Berns: The Virtuous Republic

– In Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth About Leo Strauss (The University of Chicago Press, 2006).
Selection from “The Emergence of the Straussian Study of America,” Chapter Six in The Truth About Leo Strauss (The University of Chicago Press, 2006).

Walter Berns, 2005 National Humanities Medalist

– Cynthia Barnes, National Endowment for the Humanities, January 2005.
Excerpt: As a boy in 1920s Chicago, Walter Berns watched survivors of the Indian Wars march down Michigan Avenue during the Memorial Day parade. At school, he memorized the Gettysburg Address and revered Abraham Lincoln as “a genius . . . our greatest… More

Interview with Walter Berns

– Peter and Helen Evans, RenewAmerica, August 4, 2004.
Excerpt: Helen: Let’s talk about your book, Making Patriots. What do you think the alternative to waving the flag at our Independence Day celebrations would be for that person? In your book you speak about various cultures having different allegiances.… More

Can Patriotism Survive Democracy?

– Jeremy Rabkin, Azure 5763:15 (Summer 2003).
Excerpt: The title is misleading. If you are seeking instruction on how to make people patriots, you will find Walter Berns’ Making Patriots disappointing. What it presents, rather, is a meditation on why patriotism is hard to sustain in a modern liberal… More

Patriot Practitioner

American Enterprise, September 1, 2002.
Excerpt: World War II Navy veteran, scholar of Constitutional law and political philosophy, prolific author, patriot, and gentleman–those are just a few terms to describe AEI’s old-school resident scholar Walter Berns. Mr. Berns sat down with TAE… More

Imperishable Insights by Bill Buckley

– William F. Buckley, New Criterion (September 2001).
Excerpt: This (too) short book grew out of an essay written by the distinguished political philosopher Walter Berns for The Public Interest. What it does is to probe into American history in search of the meaning and implications of the Declaration of… More

America—Idea or Nation?

– Wilfred M. McClay, Public Interest (Fall 2001).
Excerpt: At first glance, American patriotism seems a simple matter. But it is simple only until one actually starts to think about it, inquire after its sources, and investigate its manifestations. Consider a small but significant case in point, an… More

To Honor My Country

– Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, July 4, 2001.
Excerpt: A mark of the times is that we have stripped most of our patriotic holidays of their patriotism. We no longer celebrate Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays on their actual birthdays, nor Memorial Day on May 30. These commemorations have… More

Complexities of Patriotism

– George Will, Washington Post, May 27, 2001.
Excerpt: Decoration Day, as it was called when Americans still vividly remembered what it was they were supposed to be remembering, used to be May 30, no matter what, never mind the pleasures, commercial and recreational, of a three-day weekend. An upstate… More

Is Patriotism Dead? by David Brooks

– David Brooks, Weekly Standard, May 21, 2001.
Excerpt: Noah Webster didn’t just produce a dictionary; he also wrote one of the most influential school textbooks in American history. It was called An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking, and it went through seventy-seven editions… More

A Country to Die For

– Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post, May 17, 2001.
Excerpt: This slender but closely argued explication and defense of patriotism is in most respects admirable and welcome, but it proceeds from a somewhat shaky premise. In the academic precincts where Walter Berns has spent his long, distinguished career,… More

Liberal Democracy and Justice in the Constitution of Walter Berns

– Richard G. Stevens, The Political Science Reviewer 22 (1993).
Excerpt: Walter Berns admits in the preface to his book by that very title that he had all along been writing in defense of liberal democracy. This is not simply a post litem motam declaration, but it does constitute something of a refinement of his earliest… More

Taking the Framers Seriously

– William Michael Treanor, The University of Chicago Law Review 55:3 (Summer, 1988), pp. 1016–40.
Abstract: This review focuses on three of the key historical points that Walter Berns makes: his arguments that the Declaration of Independence is a Lockean document; that the Constitution encapsulates the political philosophy of the Declaration; and that the… More

No One Blushes Anymore

– George Will, Washington Post, September 15, 1985.
Excerpt: Walter Berns, the political philosopher, asks: What if, contrary to Freud and much conventional wisdom, shame is natural to man and shamelessness is acquired? If so, the acquisition of shamelessness through the shedding of “hangups” is… More

In Defense of Political Philosophy: Two Letters to Walter Berns

– In Harry Jaffa, American Conservatism and the American Founding (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1984)
Excerpt: IN HIS ‘REPLY TO Harry Jaffa” (National Review, January 22, 1982), Walter Berns writes: There is no substance to Harry Jaffa’s criticism of me. In 1972, he wrote that the Declaration of Independence displays an “openness or vagueness” as to… More

Killing & the State

– Peter L. Berger, Commentary, August 1979.
Excerpt: In the case of this book, the title and subtitle give, for once, an accurate idea of the contents. The book is a frank plea in favor of capital punishment.

The Role of the Court

– William J. Bennett, Commentary, May 1977.
Excerpt: The recent First Amendment decisions of the Supreme Court have met with criticism both from those who think the Court has gone too far and from those who think it has not gone far enough. Walter Berns, who on the whole belongs to the former group,… More

The First Amendment and the Future of American Democracy

– William J. Bennett, Commentary (May 1977).
Abstract: The recent First Amendment decisions of the Supreme Court have met with criticism both from those who think the Court has gone too far and from those who think it has not gone far enough.

Book Review: The First Amendment and the Future of American Democracy

– Jeremy A. Rabkin, American Spectator (March 1977).
Excerpt: In the late 1930s, the Supreme Court largely abandoned its traditional defense of property rights and also gave up its long struggle to maintain a balance in the federal system by keeping Congress within the bounds of the interstate commerce clause.… More

Book Review: Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment

– Rene de Visme Williamson, Louisiana Law Review 18:2 (February 1958).
Excerpt: In an age when conflicting ideologies are competing for the support of mankind and when constitutional issues regarding civil liberties are dividing the American people in opposing camps, there is likely to be a renaissance of critical and… More