From the President’s Desk

Dear Friend:

On September 17, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) celebrated its tenth anniversary. AHI Charter Fellow Douglas Ambrose delivered the Tenth Annual David Aldrich Nelson Lecture on Constitutional Jurisprudence, an electrifying performance to a packed house on “Revisiting the Idea of a Godless Constitution.”

As the holiday season approaches, all of us involved with AHI have much for which to be thankful.  Let me whet your appetite for what is ahead by informing you that in early January we will have important news about the future of AHI and how we intend to ensure that it becomes an enduring edifice of academic excellence and higher educational reform.

To attain our goals, we need your support. AHI is a tax-exempt organization within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Accordingly, contributions are deductible to the fullest extent provided by law and can easily be made by accessing AHI’s website.

If you have already made a tax-deductible contribution to AHI this year, we thank you for your generosity. We ask those who have not yet contributed to please help us extend our ever expanding list of programmatic activities and initiatives.  AHI, an independent organization, unaffiliated with Hamilton College, is supported exclusively by the private sector. On principle, we receive no funding from the government.  Most of the wonderful people who support the administrative side of our operation, volunteer their services so that the overwhelming majority of our funding goes into student programming.

For the past ten years, AHI’s programming has offered a wide range of activities: lectures, social events, conferences, tutorial assistance, leadership dinners, reading clusters, a student newsletter devoted to free markets and free enquiry, and summer internships. We encourage you to go to the calendar on our website to see the frequency of our activity during the fall semester, 2017, alone. AHI now sponsors or co-sponsors events coast to coast, at such institutions as the University of Missouri, Skidmore College, Dartmouth University, Colgate University, Baylor University, Trinity College, Loyola University Maryland, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Our alums enter elite law schools and graduate universities; they work in government and at the nation’s finest think tanks and Fortune 500 companies.

AHI specializes in nurturing undergraduates in great books in history, economics, law, literature, philosophy, and political science.  AHI reading clusters for the fall 2017 focused on Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944), and Mark Noll’s America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (2005).  The last group marked the kick-off of AHI’s Alexander Hamilton History Initiative, an effort to deepen students’ knowledge of both history and of historical method at a time of serious corruption of the discipline.  Each semester AHI also sponsors a continuing education course for adults, taught by AHI Resident Fellow David Frisk.  During the fall semester, the course “Abraham Lincoln: Leader and Legend” drew a record number of more than seventy persons to AHI headquarters.

Additional highlights for 2017:

Thanks in large part to AHI alum Dean Ball, who now works at the Manhattan Institute, we sponsored Kimberley Strassel, editor of the Wall Street Journal, to speak at Hamilton College on her book The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech (2016).

More than 100 people, including 60 students, attended the Tenth Annual Carl B. Menges Colloquium, “Western Civilization, Diversity, and the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century.” The event in April at the Hilton in Hartford Connecticut inaugurated an AHI affiliate, the Churchill Institute, directed by Dr. Gregory Smith, which will attempt to bring greater intellectual diversity and rigor to Trinity College. The colloquium featured an opening address by Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and founder of the James Madison Program.

On March 31-April 1, AHI co-sponsored with Colgate University’s Center for Freedom and Western Civilization the Annual Undergraduate Conference on the American Polity. Outstanding undergraduates from across the country delivered papers, commented on by professors, in such fields as economics, history, philosophy, political science, and sociology. Michael Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University, provided the keynote address and served as an active participant throughout the two-day event.

The Annual AHI-Baylor University Summer Conference attracted its largest audience to listen to and converse with James W. Ceaser, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.  He led more than a dozen panelists in a two-day seminar on “Defending the Constitution: The Federalist.”

AHI Senior Fellow Mary Nichols, Professor of Political Science, Baylor University, helped kick-off the Thucydides reading cluster with a lecture “Leaders and Leadership in Thucydides’s History” to a full auditorium at Colgate University.

Paul Gottfried, Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, spoke at Hamilton College in a history course on Nazi Germany and in a government course on Modern Conservative Politics.  Gottfried discussed his recent book Fascism: The Career of a Concept (2016) in the former class and the meaning of the so-called “alternative right” in the latter.

Colonel David Maxwell, Associate Director of the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program, Georgetown University, delivered the Fifth Annual General Josiah Bunting III Veterans Day Lecture on “Security Situation on the Korean Peninsula and the Way Ahead.”

AHI Senior Fellow Joe Fornieri, Professor of Political Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, held an annual symposium for secondary school teachers. It attracted scores of teachers from throughout the country.  Sponsored by the Center for Statesmanship, Law, and Liberty, an affiliate of AHI, the three-day event in November focused on the antebellum reform movements that swept upstate New York during the antebellum period.  In addition to the panels, attendants enjoyed guided tours of the Women’s Rights National Museum at Seneca Falls and of the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester.

AHI Charter Fellow Douglas Ambrose published the unfinished manuscript The Sweetness of Life: Southern Planters at Home by the late Eugene D. Genovese, one of the most influential historians of his generation and a charter member of AHI’s academic advisory board.  AHI Executive Director Robert Paquette and Le Moyne College historian Douglas Egerton published The Denmark Vesey Affair:  A Documentary History, a volume of almost 1000 pages on a major event that helped propel the antebellum South to secession.

Thanks to Senior Fellow Juliana Pilon, AHI now sponsors an annual national security program in Washington, D. C.  Students from across the country competed for about twenty seats, and their evaluations of Dr. Pilon’s second annual program could not have been more laudatory.  “I wanted to send my sincere thanks for an amazing experience with your program,” said Katie Tenefrancia from Hamilton College.  “You truly created an opportunity of a lifetime, and I know we all left the program with greater understanding of national security issues as well as a stronger passion for whatever it is we hope to accomplish. The experts were all extraordinarily engaging and reflect your commitment to creating an enriching program.”

Looking ahead, AHI is partnering with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation for a special event: “Hamilton v. Jefferson: On History, Freedom, and Republican Government,” to be held at Monticello, November 15-17, 2018.  AHI Executive Director Robert Paquette and Dr. Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, Vice President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, are organizing the event, which will bring more than a dozen Hamilton and Jefferson scholars to Monticello for two days and five sessions of conversation and debate.

If after reading through this sampling of activities, you would like to further our efforts, please consider a financial contribution of $100, $200, $300 or more to further our mission of educational reform. We accept donations directly via our website, or if you wish to mail a donation it can be sent to:

 The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization
21 W. Park Row
Clinton, NY 13323

AHI, early in its history, sponsored as one of its first major events a panel discussion at Hamilton College on “Illiberal Education.” Student activists ensconced in the front row of the auditorium attempted a hecklers’ veto of the event by coughing loudly and frequently as well as by snapping fingers. Both the president of the College and its dean of the faculty were present.  Neither one uttered a sound of dismay. It took one of the panelists, Adam Kissel, to bring order to the room by dressing down the disrupters as infants.  Sad to say, a similar atmosphere pervades many of our country’s leading colleges and universities, and it appears to be getting worse.  The very precepts that underwrote institutional commitment long ago to academic freedom are under siege.

Ask yourself.  What precisely is the purpose of a liberal arts college in the 21st century?  Is there currently a crisis of purpose, a destructive cacophony of voices in higher education rather than a creative polyphony, and, if so, what explains it?  Does not a required core of study through basic disciplines, properly and honestly taught, aim at liberating students by teaching them to think for themselves, to confront as citizens the complexity of reality with the freedom to choose?  How can elite institutions address the glaring lack of intellectual diversity when their strategic plans never identify it as a problem or their trustees stand silent, publicly refusing to acknowledge the problem exists? What is the likelihood of change in the academy when the very ideas and institutions central to Western civilization and culture and the American founding are either not taught at all or taught by professors who caricature the history? Do elite colleges even require American history of its history majors?

If your answers coincide with ours, then you know why your support is needed.

May you, your family, and other loved ones have a memorable holiday season.

Sincerely,

Richard Erlanger, President
Robert Paquette, Charter Fellow and Executive Director
Douglas Ambrose, Charter Fellow
James Bradfield, Charter Fellow

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