Lincoln at Gettysburg (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Although Garry Wills labels himself a conservative, he espouses positions that make some conservatives consider him a maverick, if not an outright liberal. He once supported unilateral reductions of nuclear weapons, saying that nothing is more conservative than conserving the world. Fond of quoting St. Augustine, Walter Bagehot, and John Henry Newman, he reminds one of what the nineteenth century called a political philosopher, though his academic training centered on the classics and for a number of years he taught Greek. Like a philosopher, he has a fondness for coining terms, derived from common expressions but endowed with special and sometimes arcane meanings. Often his learned approach operates at a level at which distinctions between conservatism and liberalism become blurred, having been subtly filtered through elegant intellectual constructs. During a long career in journalism and in academe, Wills has produced numerous books. In what is perhaps the clearest articulation of his political views, Confessions of a Conservative (1979), he expresses his admiration for the coherence and continuity of the American political system. At the same time, he admires proponents of moral progress and difficult change and finds them indispensable for institutions such as the church and the state.
In viewing a nation as a complex association of numerous interrelated and overlapping groups—from the family to entire states—Wills resembles Edmund Burke....
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