The Gentleman Patriot

Jeremy Rabkin, The Weekly Standard, January 26, 2015.


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 imposing.

Berns taught constitutional law in political science departments—at Cornell in the 1960s, at the University of Toronto in the 1970s, at Georgetown in the 1980s and ’90s. He did not do the sort of Socratic questioning favored by law professors. It would probably have provoked too much whimpering while the questioned students squirmed under his gaze.

Mostly, Berns lectured and students listened. Perhaps they didn’t agree with his various judgments, condemning this decision or that justice, lauding others. But most students came away with the sense that this was a serious subject, because Berns took it seriously—and he was self-evidently a serious man.

The Weekly Standard