Mandeville, LA – Orestes Brownson was one of the most celebrated and controversial statesman of the last half of the 19th century. He was born on September 16, 1803 to Sylvester Augustus Brownson and Relief Metcalf. Around 1830 Brownson began a long publishing & ministerial career that included his conversion to Catholicism in 1844. Brownson remains controversial today, Historian Joseph Stromberg commented, critically on Brownson, at Anamnesis.
Brownson cared deeply about order. Locked in combat with a world of rebels without proper causes (Confederates, workers, socialists) he became, beyond all necessity, an apologist for centralizing sovereignty. Integral nationalism was his cornerstone and his nationalist conservatism ran on New England lines. But a faulty New England history of Americans’ revolutionary and founding era may not suffice, even when propped up with Hegel and De Maistre and sprinkled with holy water. With such foundations, Brownson’s system may have been no conservatism at all. There may be a case for a sacral state on Roman or Catholic grounds (the two are not the same), but Brownson has not made it; nor does it seem likely that the United States are, were, or ever will be any such thing. There are more concrete and prosaic explanations for the course of American history, through Revolution, federation, salvation through violence, on down to World Empire.