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M. Stanton Evans
M. Stanton Evans
The Theme is Freedom:  Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition
ISBN: 0895264978
The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition
Mr. Evans, the author of The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition, published by Regnery Publishing, talked about some of concepts found in his book. He said that common belief about the origins of our country, institutions and freedoms are incorrect and are the product of an accepted "liberal history lesson." He stresses that the roots of U.S. liberties lie in the Christian understanding of the Bible and that modern political liberalism undermines both religion and freedom.
The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition
Program Air Date: February 5, 1995

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: M. Stanton Evans, author of "The Theme is Freedom," you start off by saying that you've dedicated this book to the memory of your father. How come? I mean, what was the motivation?
EVANS: Well, for one reason, because he was my father and a very good father, but also because many of the things that this book is about were things that I discussed with him many times and about which I learned many things from him. So sort of for both of those reasons.
LAMB: Where did you live in the early days?
EVANS: I was born in Texas, and he was at that time, and for much of his life, a college professor and a teacher, as was my mother, who is still living and very active, by the way. And he was teaching at a little school called Texas A&I in Kingsville, Texas, in 1934, before I was born. And then we moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and he taught there at the University of Chattanooga in the late '30s and early '40s. And then, in World War II, he went into the -- and he taught other schools as well -- but then he went into the Atomic Energy Commission when they were hiring at Oakridge, and became involved in a lot of political and official issues there, which had not been his field before. He was a professor of English literature. And then, after the war, they moved him and our family up here, and he worked for the AEC here in Washington. So my childhood was spent mostly in Tennessee and then in this metro area up through the early '50s.
LAMB: And the reason I ask that is that your mom was a classic scholar?
EVANS: Yes. She studied Greek and Latin at the University of Mississippi, which is where my father met her. He had been teaching there. And, as I say, she's 86 years old. She's still very active. She lives out here in Loudoun County in Virginia, and I talked with her many times in the course of doing this book about aspects of classical history and English history, of which she's quite a fan. So both my parents, each in his and her own way, contributed to this book.
LAMB: All right. Some of these names -- you know, we chatted just before we went on -- that I had to reach way back to the early days of education when you're starting to be taught Locke and Hume and Descartes and all that. What's the point of this book?
EVANS: Well, there are really two aspects of it that are sort of the epicenters of it. One is: What is our tradition? What is the American political tradition? What does it consist of? That's the first level of it. And the second level is: Where does it come from? Why do we have the tradition that we have? And the way that we are taught our history, the way I was taught it and, based on what you were saying before, apparently the way you were taught it and, I think, a lot of other people, is that our freedoms are a secular product, that they come out of the enlightenment, they come out of the period with the French Revolution, when people rejected the authority of religion and set up institutions on a purely rational basis.

And that's where you get your Locke and your Hume and your Descartes and all of that, all of which sounds awfully academic and awfully irrelevant to current events. But it isn't, because much of what we see in our political debate today is about these very issues -- the whole controversy over prayer in the schools, to take something very current -- or the controversy about the so-called religious right or abortion or many other issues which involve religious questions or religious axioms. And the standard version of those issues is that, well, religion should have nothing to do with our political system, that our Founding Fathers meant to prohibit religion from the civil order, to keep it in the closet, if you have to have it all, but don't let it influence your politics.

And that is a result of the way we're taught our history, that our freedoms result from rejecting or sequestering our religious beliefs and setting up freedom on a purely rational basis. My argument in this book is that's all wrong and that, in point of fact, our freedom, A) to go back to my two levels ofdiscussion, our tradition is a tradition of freedom and limited government, which is why I've [chosen] the title of the book. But, secondly, at the other level, those freedoms are based upon our religion: first, in terms of the very ideas of freedom that we now take for granted and, secondly, in the evolution of the institutions of freedom, such as limited government, constitutionalism, government by consent, protection for the rights of the individual. All of these ideas grew out of our religious heritage, and that's basically what the book is about.
LAMB: I don't know if you can do this. Can you give us your personal political philosophy in a couple of sentences?
EVANS: It will be tough. I am a conservative. I don't think that's any secret to C-SPAN viewers. I've been on here a number of times. But I mean by that very much the things I was just talking about. I'm interested in conserving certain themes, not just because of the status quo -- in fact, quite often I've been critical of the status quo at any moment -- but of conserving this tradition of freedom, of limited government, which is the tradition of the United States and the tradition of Western culture generally. I think that's what conservatism means, and because I believe in those values of freedom, I'm a conservative, because that's what I'm trying to conserve.
LAMB: Go back to the Founding Fathers -- the Madison, Washington, Jefferson group -- and who in that group would best reflect what you think today? Or who would you look to for guidance?
EVANS: Well, it's hard to pick any one of the founders. They were all so good and all so wise, and it's amazing how wise and good they were. If you consider that at that time this country had a population of less than three million people, and yet there must have been 300 people of the very first rank at that time who were very learned scholars of these matters, who were very good, wise statesmen, who understood this tradition that I'm talking about andbasically established the institutions that made that tradition live in America under our Constitution. So it would be tough to pick any one, but certainly John Adams; James Madison, I think, represents the center of that; but I would include Jefferson.

I'm a very strong Jeffersonian in many ways; aspects of Hamilton and, of course, Jefferson and Hamilton were supposed to be opposed, but in many ways they were not opposed -- Washington, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, James Otis, Roger Sherman. That group -- and I refer to all of them, as you know, many times in the book -- represented this consensus of ideas I was just discussing.
LAMB: You have a footnote in here, and I'm trying to find it because I underlined it -- a breakdown on all the religions that the Founding Fathers belonged to. Were they all religious people?
EVANS: No, not all of them. And, of course, being religious means different things to different people. The footnote to which you refer is a calculation by a man named W.W. Sweet, who was a scholar of these matters, who looked at the formal religious affiliations of the Founding Fathers. And this goes, again, to the question of the way we're taught our history and maybe it would be useful, if I might, just to mention what I think is the conventional view, which is that the founders were skeptics, deists...
LAMB: What is a deist?
EVANS: A deist is something a -- Voltaire, for example, was a deist -- someone who believes that there was a creator, hat the world was created at some point by God, who then just let it run of its own accord. And a deist, therefore, technically would be someone who does not believe in a providential God, a God who intervenes in history, a God that cares about what happens to you and me; simply a first cause.
LAMB: For instance, you say in the book that George Washington was thought to be a deist by some.
EVANS: It has been said that he was a deist.
LAMB: Yeah.
EVANS: Some people said that George Mason was a deist, and I say we don't know. Tocqueville said some years later, 1835, that no one can search the human heart who knows how sincere these professions were. But if you go by their public statements, go by their institutions, then these people were believing Christians on their statements and on the institutions that they established. And just to come back to what Sweet's calculations showed, he showed -- most of them, I think, were members of the Church of England, some Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, two Roman Catholics...
LAMB: Two Quakers.
EVANS: Two Quakers, John Dickinson being the one that everyone knows about. And many other researchers have shown the same thing. But the formal church affiliations don't tell you a lot. I have a note, also, there from Daniel Bushton, I think, who points out that, of the more than 100 members of the Virginia -- what was in essence was their constitutional convention in '76, although it wasn't really a constitutional convention, that only three out of more than 100 were not vestrymen of the Church of England. And in Virginia, in that day, vestrymen were basically the people who ran the society. The whole -- the church and the political system of Virginia were run by vestrymen of the Church of England.
LAMB: How long did you work on this book?
EVANS: About 30 years. Well, and I say that somewhat jokingly, but really the reading and thought of 30 years have gone into it. The writing of it took about a year.
LAMB: That's the longest number of years I've ever gotten in answer to that question. If I saw you in your environment and had all around you the books that were required to write this, to help you write this, what would I see?
EVANS: You'd see a lot of books, and indeed, people in my office did see a lot of books because they were -- that's exactly kind of the way I worked. They were stacked up all over the place. You would see lots of books that aren't even mentioned in the bibliography. For example, I talk about Jefferson quite a bit in there, and he's an interesting study in terms of the religious aspect of this, but just on the political aspect, I quote him quite a bit. And Jefferson's works -- and the memorial edition are 20 volumes -- big, thick volumes. Those were a little cumbersome to -- I own that, and I have them in my apartment, but I don't lug them around with me.
LAMB: Do you read all that?
EVANS: I've not read every word. There would be, in those volumes, about 10,000 pages just of Jefferson. I've pro -- in all candor, I've read maybe half of them and have reread a lot of them. But what I did in trying to keep it manageable and also togive citations that people could easily follow up was to take, for example, the modern library edition of Jefferson, which in most cases is -- is adequate for the purpose. In some cases, it isn't. And I referred to those books in the bibliography, the ones that people can easily get to. So -- but it would be a lot of books, hundreds, thousands, I guess, of books.
LAMB: How about documents? I mean, there's a chapter on the Magna Charta, for instance. How many of those kinds of documents do you cite -- did you need to go back and read? The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, what else?
EVANS: Well, the text of documents, like Magna Charta, Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, are readily available in any number of books, so I did not make any effort to go back and look at an original version, although one could do that. What was more difficult -- and in the chapter on prayer and the First Amendment -- is to find records of the Congress -- for example, the First Congress, in which Madison presented the Bill of Rights in June of 1789. This is not readily available, and so what I did was to go to the Library of Congress and there is the version of the Congressional Record of that day called Gales and Seaton's, which is available from the Library of Congress, and got Xeroxes of the actual debate on the First Amendment throughout the summer of 1789 up to the time of the passage of the First Amendment in September of '89.

And that's much more difficult to come by. So that's the kind of -- where I had anything original to deal with, it was really of that nature. Other books are very hard to find. I refer in there to a document called the Vindiciae (foreign language spoken), which was the manifesto of the Huguenots of France in 1579, which is virtually a declaration of independence but 200 years earlier. And that is almost impossible to find, even though it has been commercially published. And I spent several years tracking down a copy of that book. You go through these book-finding agencies and so on, and I finally got a copy of it many years ago, but it took me several years to get it. Sweet's book that we were talking about earlier was almost impossible to find, and a book finder got it for me after a long search. I'm not a rare book person. I'm not trying to look at and handle the original documents, but I'm a journalist, and so I'm trying to get the information.

And in many cases, it's very hard to get, because the conventional history is not interested in these things. And you can read many a history of our founding or of social contract and the Vindiciae is in -- I talk about the Vindiciae in the chapter on social contracts. You read a lot about Locke under social contract, but you won't read much about the Vindiciae. It might be mentioned, but it's never quoted or given in full. Or you won't read very much about the covenantal theology of the people that founded Plymouth Colony or Massachusetts Bay or Connecticut. So I had a lot of searching to do to find the texts of these documents. And they're not originals, but nonetheless, they're obscure, hard to find.
LAMB: What would you like to hear somebody say, after they've read your book, in a conversation? You just come across and you hear them say, "I just read Stan Evans' book, and I learned the following."
EVANS: Well, I think I would like tohear them say, "I didn't know that, and I needed to know that, and because I read this book, I now do know it."
LAMB: What, though?
EVANS: That the pedigree of our freedoms is not hostile to our religious faith, but a product of our religious faith. That is basically what the book contends.
LAMB: Why did you want to prove that?
EVANS: I didn't set out wanting to prove it. I set out trying to find out. And, again, it's the mentality of the journalist, of "What are the facts?" And I had been taught this liberal history lesson, as I call it, or conventional history lesson, just as we all were. And in pursuing that, I kept running into dead ends. I wanted to know -- I came of age at the height of the Cold War, where our freedoms -- one of the first things that really ignited my interest in politics and government was listening, when I was 14 years old, to a radio dramatization of George Orwell's "1984."
LAMB: Where were you then?
EVANS: I was in high school in Prince Georges County, right outside of Washington -- Mount Rainier High School in Prince Georges County, Maryland. If you go out Rhode Island Avenue, you'd run into Mount Rainier, Maryland. And I well remember listening to that, and it was a very frightening thing to hear what was going on in this fictionalized version of a totalitarian state. And I remember talking about this and I got the book. I read "1984." And I remember giving a book report on it in my high school class, and my teacher said, "Well, that's just fiction. It's not real." Well, what do I know? And then I remember reading, shortly thereafter, a Reader's Digest condensation of an article about Cardinal Menzenti, who was the Hungarian Catholic cardinal, who had been captured by the Communist government of Hungary and tortured, and many of the tortures to which he was subjected were very similar to those Orwell describes in "1984."

And I remember marching back into my class, saying, "You said this wasn't real, and yet this is the same thing, and this is not fiction." And that made me wonder would our society go that way, would we end up in the straits, which is what Orwell's vision was, that the whole world would be ruled by totalitarian powers? I was just a kid. I didn't know anything, really, and so I then went to college and studied some of these things and ran into these same questions. And the main question was Where does our freedom come from? Why do we have it? Why is this system free and other systems not free? And the answers I was receiving in college in the classes I took were not satisfactory. They would keep talking about the Renaissance, which is something else I mention just in passing in the book, but if you read the histories of Renaissance, this was not a period of freedom. It was another period of torture and despotic government. One of them -- one of the most famous books on the Renaissance, by John Addington Symonds, is called "The Age of the Desperates," which is a title I borrowed for my chapter on totalitarianism. And I kept running into this roadblock that, when you tried to track where freedom came from, the conventional history didn't provide the answers.

And so over the years -- and that's why I say it took 30 years -- I'm 60 years old now, and I've been noodling with these things at least since I was 30 and maybe earlier. And that's why I wrote the book.
LAMB: Where did you go to college?
EVANS: I went to Yale.
LAMB: What did you study?
EVANS: I studied English literature, and then I did some graduate work in economics at New York University after I got out of Yale.
LAMB: What did you do after college?
EVANS: I became a journalist. If you're an English major and you want to make a living, there are only really two ways to do it. One is to teach English, which I didn't want to do and don't think I would have done very well; the other is to become a journalist. So I went into journalism and worked on a number of magazines and then went out to Indianapolis and worked on the paper out there.
LAMB: When did you leave? You were the editor there.
EVANS: Yes, well, I didn't go...
LAMB: Indianapolis News...
EVANS: ...out there as the editor, but I became the editor, which meant editor of the editorial page.
LAMB: And I can remember growing up in that state andyou were the youngest editor of any major daily in the United States.
EVANS: Well, you're giving away a lot about both of our ages there, Brian...
LAMB: Yes.
EVANS: ... because that was a long time ago.
LAMB: I know it was, but isn't that true? Wasn't that what you were called?
EVANS: Yes. Yes, I was 20...
LAMB: You were, like, 26.
EVANS: I was 26. Yeah.
LAMB: How did you ever get to be editor of a major newspaper at 26?
EVANS: Well, I remember Time magazine wrote an article about that, and the first thing -- these papers, for the benefit of your viewers -- are the newspapers of the Pulliam family, which is the Dan Quayle family. And Eugene Pulliam Sr. was then the publisher of those papers. And when I got made editor of the editorial page, and that's an important distinction, I got a call from Time magazine, which wrote an article about it at that juncture, and the first question they asked me was, "Are you related?" They just assumed that I must have been a relative of the publishing family to have gotten this job.

And I wasn't related. What happened was I had been working there -- it was just an odd situation in which the person who had been the editor had retired, and they had been casting about for somebody to fill the job and had not filled it. And I went out there as an editorial writer in '59 and worked there for about a year and a half, and Vermont Royster, who was then the editor of The Wall Street Journal, called me and asked me to come to New York and offered me a job at The Wall Street Journal as an editorial writer there. And I had decided to accept it and went back to Indianapolis and went in to see Mr. Pulliam and said -- this would have been September of 1960, roughly -- and said, I've really enjoyed my stay here" -- which I did; they were wonderful people to work for -- and told Mr. Pulliam that I was going to leave and go to work for The Wall Street Journal.

And he said, "Well, I want you to be the editor of this paper." And I thought, "Well, another 10 years from now will be fine." I said, "Well, I appreciate that, Mr. Pulliam." He said, "No, I mean now." And so I was sort of taken aback, but naturally accepted. And so that's how it happened. And it was just a matter of the job being vacant at that particular point and I'd been there just long enough for him to realize that I wasn't completely irresponsible at that age. And since I was going to leave otherwise, he went ahead and offered me the job.
LAMB: You talk about both your parents being scholars and professors.
EVANS: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: But you also say that you got the classical liberal education. Did they not teach you some of this?
EVANS: We did not have -- particularly when I was growing up, I was not particularly bookish or learned, although I did my school work, but I was like most kids. I was out the door. I was playing baseball. I played the version then -- we didn't have Little League back then. We had something here in Washington called the Walter Johnson League. I played in that, and I loved to play sports. And I did all the things that most people do when they're adolescents. So I was not sitting around talking politics with my parents, and at that time, I'm not sure how conservative my parents were. They were -- my father in 1932 voted for Norman Thomas. He was, I think, a fairly typical intellectual of that period.
LAMB: A Socialist.
EVANS: Well, I don't think he ever was a Socialist.
LAMB: I mean, Norman Thomas was a Socialist.
EVANS: He voted for the Socialist candidate Norman Thomas, and then he became more conservative in later years. So it was not a matter so much of my parents sitting down and saying, "You must believe all these things politically." They never did that. But it was a matter, I think, of maybe some fundamental attitudes that they had imparted to me, that when I went out into the world, made me look at things in a certain way. I think maybe that's the way it worked.
LAMB: Back to the book andall the references to the John Stuart Mills and the Edmund Burkes and all that, take yourself as a conservative and you're on one side of the room and you have a liberal on the other side of the room, and you pick your five books that most represent what you believe. Name those and pick the five in history that you write about that the liberal might sit there and believe in.
EVANS: Wow. That's a little bit tough. Certainly, in my bibliography, I name the good guys. I would certainly start with Burke.
LAMB: Edmund Burke. I...
EVANS: Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France."
LAMB: And who was he?
EVANS: Well, Burke was the leading spokesman for the "old Whig position," what we would call conservative, in the British Parliament of the late 18th century. And he was -- it's very interesting that he was a very, very strong friend of America and delivered two very famous speeches in our behalf on conciliation with America and taxation of the colonies, in which he made a very eloquent statement of the case for the British not taxing us. And so he was very pro the American Revolution or what became the American Revolution, but he then was a great critic of the French Revolution. And it's that distinction, really, that this book is kind of about: that our revolution was not like the French Revolution.
LAMB: What's the major difference?
EVANS: Their revolution -- well, first of all, religion was a big difference. Their revolution was based upon a purely secular rationalist basis, and I really couldn't get into it very much in the book, but I compared their Declaration of the Rights of Man with our Declaration of Independence. Ours is openly theistic. `We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... endowed by their Creator' -- and there are four references to a providential God and the declaration was finally adopted.
LAMB: The French Revolution came when?
EVANS: The French Revolution was 1789 and for several years thereafter. Their Declaration to the Rights of Man puts the rights on a purely rationalistic basis: that we proclaim these rights just as if they're so obvious and self-evident, without a theistic basis, that anybody would agree with them. That's one distinction. The other distinction was that our revolution was about limiting governmental power. And the fight with England was over essentially whether or not the Parliament could do whatever it wanted to. The British position was and is to this day that Parliament is omnipotent; that is not limited by any exterior constitutional principle; whatever it says is the constitution. Our founders did not believe that, and they -- and I cite chapter and verse on this in the book. They said over and over again, no, Parliament isn't omnipotent, that there is a higher law above Parliament, and Parliament cannot itself violate the constitutional principles or there's no freedom. And that was the fundamental constitutional issue in which the revolution was formed.
LAMB: All right. On your side, you've got selected readings of Edmund Burke on the table.
EVANS: Burke.
LAMB: Now let's go to the other side just for a moment.
LAMB: What would be a book that a liberal would have sitting there on top?
EVANS: Well, from that era, I would say Rousseau -- "The Social Contract" by Rousseau. It sums up almost every fallacy of left/liberal thought of the entire modern era, regardless of the ...
LAMB: Every fallacy?
EVANS: Just about every fallacy, as I see it, in the sense that what Rousseau argues -- he begins, first of all, from the idea of natural goodness of man -- is the typical left/liberal assumption.
LAMB: But the liberal's sitting there with Rousseau, saying, "This is what I believe."
EVANS: Well, I'm not sure at this day, they would say that, but certainly over the years they have. And Rousseau is treated as some great guru in the conventional history lesson, and yet, if you read what he actually said, it's appalling. But...
LAMB: What did he say -- go ahead. Go ahead.
EVANS: Well, what he says basically is that government can just do anything it wants to and that the social contract -- and I quote the language in the book -- is that we alienate all of our rights tothe general will, tothe community with no reservation of freedom whatsoever, and that people then who violate the general will, will, quote, "be forced to be free" and that this authority that supposedly sums up the community can do anything it wants to. That's the premise of all the totalitarian movements of the modern era, and it's totally destructive of freedom.
LAMB: Let's find another book on your side that sits there on that...
EVANS: Tocqueville, "Democracy in America."
LAMB: Now would the liberal ever have Tocqueville?
EVANS: Yes. Yes. And one of the things here, and that's why it's -- todivide it this sharply is unfair because -- and one of the -- I have a chapter about the nature of modern liberalism in my book. Many liberals, including John Stuart Mill -- I mean, Mill reviewed Tocqueville fairly favorably when -- when "Democracy in America" came out.
LAMB: When did it come out, by the way?
EVANS: 1835. Tocqueville and another French colleague had been here in America for a couple of years in the early 1830s, went back to France and wrote "Democracy in America," which is just -- I mean, if you read it to this day, it is so full of insight about freedom, power, the nature of our system, the nature of constitutionalism. It's a marvelous book, and I would urge anybody to read it to this day.
LAMB: And you hear him quoted so often by so many politicians in this country.
EVANS: Well, first of all, he was a wonderful writer, as was Burke. And so they were phrasemakers and had a marvelous way of saying things. And one of the -- I didn't say this in the book, but I certainly felt it, that writing this kind of book, as a journalist, and spending a lot of time reading Burke and Tocqueville or Lord Acton, who's another one I cite, I compare to thinking -- singing in the shower and thinking you can sing, but Pavarotti is in the next shower -- gives you a humility about writing to read these marvelous writers, such as Burke and Tocqueville and Acton; these people were geniuses.
LAMB: Now who was Acton?
EVANS: Lord Acton was a British historian of the latter part of the 19th century, whose main thesis was precisely the thesis of my book, which is that the -- our religious heritage and our freedoms are a unity. And he was a very devout Catholic who was dismayed by the division in the 19th century between the forces of authority and morality, on the one hand, which became very prominent on the continent, and the forces of liberalism, in the old sense, on the other -- Herbert Spencer-, John Stuart Mill-type liberalism, which rejected religious authority and tried to base a system of freedom purely on a rational foundation.
LAMB: Now would you have Edmund Burke and Tocqueville, and then Lord Acton?
LAMB: Would they be in that order, the three of them?
EVANS: They will. Yes. Those three are the -- if you have to go just to people writing about politics, as opposed to philosophy and so on.
LAMB: Now on the other side, you started with Rousseau. Do you have John Stewart Mill right away? Or do you...
EVANS: No, I don't, because I discuss Mill as a kind of problem, as a kind ofsymptom of what's the underlying weakness of the liberal position. Mill started out as an advocate of freedom, and most of us, if we've read any Mill, have read "On Liberty," which is the famous manifesto that he wrote about freedom of speech and so on. But by the end of his career, Mill was a Socialist, so he migrated from a free-market position and freedom position to a Socialist position.
LAMB: When did he live?
EVANS: Mill was born in 1806 and died in 1873.
LAMB: How do you remember something like that?
EVANS: I don't know. You asked me the question, and I just pulled it up, but I was just...
LAMB: But have you known it all your life? Or is this something...
EVANS: No. No. I haven't. Idon't know why I even know those numbers, but that -- I believe that's correct. And so he was a Victorian, basically, and ...
LAMB: Just a writer?
EVANS: No, he worked -- I think he worked for the East India Company. He had a bureaucratic job -- day job and did his writing around the edges. He was in the forefront of the whole so-called utilitarian philosophic radical movement, Bentham, the Reform -- the Reform Act. His father, James Mill, was very active in this. He was sort of the prototypical, classical liberal of the 19th century. Herbert Spencer's the other one that I talk about. And the whole idea was to base a system of freedom on a purely rational foundation without any religious axioms involved. And Mill -- he was a little ambiguous about that, but that was basically his position, which I quote in the book. And if you adopt that position, and many chapters refer to this -- if you do not have fundamental axioms, moral axioms about the precious nature of every individual life, about the importance of protecting individual freedom from compulsion or the need to limit the coercion that can be exercised by government against people, unless you have very strong axioms that tell you that is right, then you slip into this relativist mode where you say, "Well, it's all relative." Who's to say -- maybe in other societies they enslave people, which they do. Maybe that's not so -- who can say that's wrong? It's the moral, cultural, historical, relativist position, which was the underpinning of all of the totalitarian movements of the 20th century. And I have a chapter just about that.
LAMB: By the way, go back to the educational system of the United States. You talk about -- when you go through education today, can you read Edmund Burke? Will you read Tocqueville? Will you read Lord Acton?
EVANS: I cannot say what is read in the elementary and secondary schools today. I would be very surprised if such things were being read at that level.
LAMB: Did you read them when you were going through school?
EVANS: No. LAMB: Did you read Rousseau and John Stuart Mill?
EVANS: Not at that level. I certainly read Rousseau and Mill when I was in college -- some Burke. I made a point, by the way, when I was in college and taking courses -- for example, in Marxism, there was a course -- it was not a Marxist course. It was a course about Marxism. And I took a course in Marxism and spent a lot of time studying Marxism academically when I was in college, which I think is a good thing to do, by the way. I think people certainly needed to know then, maybe less now, what Marxism was all about. And so most of my reading was not of the people I'm recommending. I don't recall in my course work having that handed to me to read. I've certainly ran across references to Burke and Tocqueville, Acton less so, when I was in college. But most of my reading in these matters was long after I got out of college.
LAMB: Are you religious?
EVANS: I certainly am a believer. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a particularly pious person, and I don't consider myself to be a particularly good Christian. I am a believing Christian, but the book is not really a book of piety or theology. It's a book about politics.
LAMB: How much of your own religious beliefs led you to write the book?
EVANS: I guess my religious beliefs led me to ask a lot of questions. Let me cite something which is not political at all. When I was in college also, my grandfather was a Methodist minister, as was my uncle, and I'm sure some of that has some impact on what I believe to this day, and I was raised on Christian belief. However, I never really brought that into confrontation with other things in the society. It was something -- we went to church, or -- etc., and we heard these things, and then other things were taught in other places. And I never thought about conflicts or contradictions.

And I remember I had a course in geology when I was in college, and it was historical geology. And so they taught the whole -- the dinosaurs, and we went and looked at Yale, they had the eohippus, the little horse evolving into the big horse, and all of that. And I believed all of that. It was taught by my professors -- seemed perfectly true. It never occurred to me at that time that this challenged my religious beliefs at all. I accepted both. And it was only later that someone said, "Well, if you believe this, then you can't believe in your religion," which that implication was not drawn in the classroom. And so I never felt any compulsion because of my religious beliefs to challenge whatever was being taught. I just trusted adults who were telling me different things.

It was only after I started this inquiry, really in my own mind, about, well, where does freedom come from? that I kept running into these contradictions. Anyone who can read Rousseau and think that our freedom comes from that -- I don't know how they can do it. Or read Aristotle. Now all of us are taught that -- or were taught -- I don't know what's taught today -- that the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans were the source of our culture and our civilization. In fact, a lot of people on the left complain about this, the so-called canon of dead white European males, all of that, complaining that that's all we're taught.

I had never actually read, say, Aristotle when I was taught this. I mean, if you're going to read Aristotle, there's no freedom in there -- none. Aristotle says that some people are born to be slaves and that other people are born to rule over them and that this is perfectly proper. And he says that the state is the be all and end all, and that the citizens should be shaped and molded to suit the design of the state under which he lives. He says, "Do not suppose that any of the citizens belong to themselves. They all belong to the state" and other quotations to similar effect. That's all in the politics. That isn't freedom. So when I read that, I said, "Well, we couldn't have possibly come out of that. Where did we come from?" And then I quote biblical passages, which are of a very different tenor; the book of Samuel about the danger of kings and so forth. And so it was through that process of actually backtracking, of saying, "Well, wait a minute, we have this freedom. Where did it come from?" that I was led to a totally different interpretation or intellectual history from that which I, myself, had been taught.
LAMB: How did you sell Regnery Gateway on doing this book?
EVANS: Well, I'm not sure that I did. I've known the Regnery family for a long time. Henry Regnery was the founder of the firm that published my first book back in 1961, and Henry is still with us, thank goodness, and encouraged me on this book. His son, Al, who now runs the firm, is also a friend of mine, and I had discussed these issues with him, as well with other people. There have been a number of people [who] have encouraged me to do this book or do a book like this. So it kind of evolved from the concern that many people, including myself, have had about these questions of where does our freedom come from and to what degree is our freedom compatible with our religious heritage, and to what degree is the conventional history lesson wrong or right in saying that religion and freedom are in conflict? So the book kind of grew out of that.
LAMB: One of the people you cite in the book is Ralph Bennett.
LAMB: I know he's big on this book and that the condensed version in Reader's Digest...
EVANS: That's correct.
LAMB: Did you ever think back in -- what was it? -- '48, when you read...
EVANS: About Cardinal Menzenti?
LAMB: ... yes -- in the Reader's Digest, that someday you would be condensed in the Reader's Digest?
EVANS: No, it never crossed my mind. I did not even think in that day and age about becoming a writer of any type. If I'd had my druthers in 1949, I would have played left field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it is interesting how things come full circle. And I might say Ralph Bennett indeed, is someone who encouraged me strongly to do this book and from whom I've learned quite a bit in the course of many conversations.
LAMB: We've had you on this program many times, and everybody that watches know you've started the National Journalism Center.
EVANS: Right.
LAMB: Tell us what that is, and are you still doing it?
EVANS: Yes. The National Journalism Center is a program, sort of a graduate school for journalists, who do internships here in Washington for 12 weeks, who are vocationally oriented. It's not an academic setting. It's very much learning by doing. And we try to place them in the job market once they're finished with the program.
LAMB: At any given time, how many do you have there at the...
EVANS: We have about 70 to 75 a year.
LAMB: Who pays for it?
EVANS: I like to say that, Brian, we make our money the old-fashioned way: We beg for it. We ...
LAMB: Is it hard?
EVANS: Yes. It's a constant effort. I spend a lot of time doing that, writing letters to foundations and donors of all types who are interested in these issues about the media, and raising the money to run it.
LAMB: Do you teach people how to become a conservative journalist?
EVANS: No. No. It is not political at all. And that's a misunderstanding a lot of people have when they come to the program. We try to teach them to be good journalists -- that is, to get the facts, not to go to only one side, not to put a spin on it, not to try to correct liberal bias by introducing conservative bias. We try to teach them to be reporters, and good reporters. And I say that and we get a lot of conservatives in the program, as you might imagine, and I say to them that, "I'm conservative. You're conservative. That's fine. And if you believe in what you believe you should have no -- if you really believe it, you should have no fear of the facts. Are the facts going to disprove what you believe? And if they did disprove it, then maybe you should make some adjustments in what you believe." So we really try to teach them good reporting.
LAMB: How old is the National Journalism Center?
EVANS: This is its 17th year.
LAMB: Any way of telling us how much it costs you a year to run it?
EVANS: It costs about $1/2 million a year for the whole program.
LAMB: Is it as solid today as it was when you started or...
EVANS: Yes. It's more so, but it's tough. It's very hard to raise money for it, particularly in a political year where people are looking for short-term turnarounds. This is an investment in the future. To invest money now to train a journalist whose career may not get going for another five or 10 years requires a long time horizon. Not all donors are interested in that. They want something right away.
LAMB: Anybody that's followed your career has known that your name is M. Stanton Evans. I have no idea, and I've never asked you. What does the M stand for?
EVANS: Medford. It was my father's name.
LAMB: And why did you choose to do M. Stanton Evans?
EVANS: Well, because I've always been called Stanton, and when I went to college, they needed your first initial to alphabetize you. And so, for example, I had a classmate named Steve Evans, and I had another one named David Evans, so we would all sit -- in fact, during geology class, we were all in that together, so they needed my first name to alphabetize me, and so they were calling me Medford S. Evans, but my name was Stanton or Stan, so I used M. Stanton.
LAMB: Do you have a family?
EVANS: I am divorced -- no children.
LAMB: Back to the -- we didn't complete our book list. We've got to go -- but we've got about three on each side.
EVANS: Right.
LAMB: Let's go to the liberal side for a moment. What are a couple of more books that you've written about here that the liberal would have on their side of the table that they believe in -- authors that they would believe in?
EVANS: I think they would have "On Liberty," and I think, in all fairness to our modern liberals -- and this is not a -- I don't write this in a sense to disparage anybody's motives or sincerity. Many people that I know have been very sincere liberals. I think the problem's inherent in the philosophical position. And "On Liberty" is a fairly good example. It is a clarion defense of freedom, but it has no underpinning. The essential argument of "On Liberty" is that freedom of speech is good because it works. It's good -- it makes society work better. And one of the other people I cite and the liberals may [say] I'm really not qualified to say what books liberals would choose. I probably should ask them that, but certainly Oliver Wendell Holmes ...
LAMB: Former justice?
EVANS: ... the former justice who served so many years on the Supreme Court, is sort of an icon of modern liberalism. John Dewey is another one. There are many that could be named. But I would not presume to say what liberals read these days, but I -- those are the books that have been out there for a long time representing liberalism.
LAMB: Now a couple of books that we've spent a little time with lately on Booknotes -- one of them is Hayek's book, "The Road to Serfdom."
LAMB: And you mention it here. And the other one is Milton Friedman's book, "Free to Choose."
LAMB: Why are they -- would they be on your side? Would they be in that...
EVANS: Yes. Oh, no, I mention both of them very favorably. Hayek had a profound impact on me in my thinking. I read "The Road to Serfdom" very early, in the mid-50s, and I ...
LAMB: Why is it so important?
EVANS: Because it is such a succinct and persuasive and powerful statement of what is wrong with collectivism, with socialism, with any form of authoritarian government; why such governments don't work economically and are also destructive of personal liberty. And there's a marvelous chapter in "The Road to Serfdom" called Why The Worst Get On Top. And this was someone who had experienced and seen the totalitarians in Europe. And then he wrote another book later, published in 1960, called "The Constitution of Liberty," which is a much lengthier exposition of many of his same points, and I refer to Hayek many times in my book. And certainly Milton Friedman, whom I consider a good friend, would be another author that I would strongly recommend to people on these issues.
LAMB: Now if the people that wrote our Constitution and the Declaration -- signed the Declaration of Independence were to wave documents in the air -- you walk in the room; they're all sitting around saying, "Here is a document that I read that, you know, is part of the foundation of the Constitution or of the Declaration of Independence" what would some of those documents be in history?
EVANS: If I had to choose -- if you look at what they said in the period leading up to our declaring independence, the foremost source would have been Lord Cooke, the great chief justice in England in the age of the early Stewarts, who was the foremost authority on the meaning of the British common law. And Lord Cooke was one of those who stood up for the medieval view that the king is under God and under the law. And this is one of the things I treat of in the book. The medieval -- think of Magna Charta or think of St. Thomas -- the medieval view of government...
LAMB: What's the medieval period?
EVANS: Well, for these purposes, one would say from the year 1000 up until the mid-1400s -- or maybe the four centuries, 1000 to 1400. That's what most people think of as the high Middle Ages, the flower of medieval Christendom in Europe. And in that period -- and we're taught that this was a bad period, a period of repression, of evil priests and feudal barons and so forth denying freedom. If you look at what was going on -- and I talk about this in the book -- you see representative government; you see limits on the power of kings; you see the Church speaking out against tyrannical rule; you see the right of resistance being expounded, as was by a spokesman for the pope in the year 1070 in the battle over investiture of bishops, which is something most people don't learn about, in which he said that if a king violates the higher law of God or violates the compact by which he rules, then he may be resisted. This was the medieval view.

And the essence of it was stated by Bracton, who was a jurist in 13th-century England or it's attributed to him -- it's not clear that he actually wrote everything under his name -- that the king is under God and under the law and not entitled to rule by his personal say so. The divine right of kings doctrine, that the king is the law speaking, was the pagan idea. That was revived from the institutes of justitia, the Roman law. And in this period, the late Renaissance, the late 15th century, early -- or late 16th century, early 17th century, these views came into direct conflict in England, and the most familiar example is King James I, who was the first of the Stewarts in England, who preached that he was the law, that whatever he said was it and that the Parliament and nobody else had anything to say about it.

And there's some marvelous scenes from history in which Lord Cooke, the chief justice then of the Court of Common Pleas -- and he got kicked off of that by James -- said to him, "No, no, you're the" -- Bracton says the king is under God and under the law. And so this head-on collision of these views led to the conflict in Parliament, 1628. Cooke was then a member of that Parliament, which caused Charles I to shut that Parliament down and which caused 20,000 Puritans, who believed in what Lord Cooke was saying, to leave England and come here. And that's where the settlement of America came from: from people who believed in that higher law, which was a religious doctrine that they inherited from the Middle Ages.
LAMB: You say your mom's 86.
EVANS: Eighty-six.
LAMB: Classic scholar.
LAMB: Did she teach a lot?
EVANS: Yes. She taught a lot of Latin.
LAMB: Where?
EVANS: All over the country -- Tennessee, Mississippi, here, Maryland. She's taught in many schools.
LAMB: What was her reaction to this when she read it?
EVANS: She likes it, I'm pleased to say. And as I say, she had a lot of input to it. Her knowledge of these things -- her Latin is excellent, and mine is not so good, In fact, where I have Latin phrases, I tend to give an idiomatic translation, just the English equivalent, as opposed to the classical word by word. And she corrected me on some of those, so ...
LAMB: What book is this for you?
EVANS: Seventh -- seventh book.
LAMB: Of all those, which one sold the best?
EVANS: Probably the one I wrote in 1965 called "The Liberal Establishment," which probably sold about 35,000, 40,000 copies, which is a lot of hardcover copies.
LAMB: What will this book have to sell to be a success, do you know?
EVANS: I don't know. It's not an easy read, and these matters -- these are not your -- you know, this is not the simplest kind of thing to discuss. I don't know. If it sold 10,000, 20,000 copies, I would be very happy. I'd love to sell a lot more, but I really don't know.
LAMB: How hard was this to do?
EVANS: Tough -- very tough. And the reason was that, first of all, I had to figure out -- it's like journalism. It's exactly the same process. The first thing is get the facts; go out and get the facts. And that's tough to do when you're dealing with all of this stuff. But then the next phase is, "Well, what do these facts mean? What's the significance of this stuff?" And the third phase is, if you figure it out, how do you present it? How do you write it up so people can read it? And you started talking about Aristotle and Magna Charta and the Puritans; this is not, you know, easy stuff to read, so ...
LAMB: You sign off from Hamilton, Virginia.
LAMB: Where's that?
EVANS: That's in Loudoun County. That's my house -- a little farm house about five miles west of Leesburg.
LAMB: Is that where you wrote it?
EVANS: Most of it, yes.
LAMB: You write longhand or typewriter or what?
EVANS: It's a combination. I'll make a lot of notes in longhand and then I'll sit down on an old manual typewriter -- none of this electric stuff for me -- and I'll bang it out on these manual typewriters. And then I give it to somebody else to put into a more presentable form.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book, and the title, "The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition." Our guest, M. Stanton Evans. Thank you very much.
EVANS: Thank you, Brian.

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