Harry V. Jaffa

Edward J. Erler, in Bruce Frohnen, Jeremy Beer, and Jeffrey O. Nelson, eds., American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006).


Harry V. Jaffa was a student of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. The principal theme of Strauss’ work was “the crisis of the West,” a crisis precipitated by modernity’s rejection of natural right. Jaffa extended Strauss’ analysis to America, devoting the bulk of his productive scholarly career to uncovering and articulating the natural right principles of the American founding, particularly as those principles are expressed in the Declaration of Independence. For Jaffa, the “crisis of the West” and the “crisis of America” are identical. Even his first book, Thomism and Aristotelianism (1952), an analysis of Aquinas’s interpretation of natural right in Aristotle, seems to have been merely prelude to his study of the American founding.

Claremont Institute [pdf]