If, as some physicians of the national malaise claim, the American dream is dead and our history as a nation has reached its end, it seems fitting to reopen the question of what America is - or should be, or what was once thought she ought to be. Although we can hardly expect this to be persuaded any longer by the historic dreams of the new Adam, a review of that century-old challenge to debate, founded in the possibility of an achieved human perfection, can provide u with humane instruction in understanding the present and the future.
The author here gives us that review through the eyes of a major nineteenth-century commentator. Orestes Brownson's work is a significant part of American history, especially of its intellectual history. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote of Brownson: "...one feels the pathos of modernity in this stormy pilgrim...His life still touches contemporary nerves - from the antagonisms of capital and labor to the place of the Catholics in American society, from the nature of American culture to the death of God..."
To expect solutions from - to expect agreement with - Brownson is to ask for more than this book intends. Much of his mastery was in the isolation and sharply etched presentation of the question. Clarity and depth of thought are everywhere reflected in his work. Whither that thought leads is clearly the work of ultimate judgment by the reader. By allowing Brownson to speak for himself, and confining critical comments chiefly to footnotes, the author presents him as still vigorously alive and, it is hoped, as a formative influence in America's future.'