In Defense of the Permanent Things

On August 25, 1829 Joseph Story, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, delivered his inaugural address as the Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University (a post he would hold concurrently with his seat on the highest court).  Story took the opportunity in his lecture on "The Value and Importance of Legal Studies" to remind the great and the good there gathered in Cambridge of just how fragile were the foundations of republican governments.  Rather than fearing conquest by the "arms of conquerors" or by the military force of "daring usurpers" or other "insidious foes," republics had something far more subtle and pernicious to confront.  The "more common and fatal disease" facing them was a kind of internal,  intellectual "dry rot, which eats into the vitals, when all is fair and stately on the outside."  As a result, Story insisted, in republics it is especially necessary to...(Read Full Article)