Orestes Brownson

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Orestes Brownson (1803-1876) was a major American intellectual of the mid-19th century. A Yankee steeped in Transcendentalism, he converted in 1844 to Roman Catholicism and became a leading conservative. His goal was to synthesize the values of Catholicism and American republicanism.

Brownson had a remarkably varied career, experimenting in many different religions and careers. Before becoming a Catholic he was a Presbyterian, a minister in both the Universalist and Unitarian churches, a Transcendentalist, a militant atheist, and a devotee of the form of secular, utopian socialism taught by Robert Owen and Fanny Wright. He worked as a humanitarian political activist, joined the New York Workingman's Party, then became a Democrat and a spokesman for Jacksonian Democracy. He denounced laissez-faire capitalism as worse than medieval serfdom. Indeed, a decade before "The Communist Manifesto" (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Brownson's essay "The Laboring Classes" predicted the inevitability of class warfare ending in the advent of heaven on earth.

Further reading

  • Gregory S. Butler. In Search of the American Spirit: The Political Thought of Orestes Brownson (1992) online edition
  • Patrick W. Carey. Orestes A. Brownson: American Religious Weathervane (2004).
  • Richard J. Dougherty. "Orestes Brownson on Catholicism and Republicanism," Modern Age Volume 45, Number 4; Fall 2003 online edition, a conservative perspective
  • Peter Augustine Lawler. "Orestes Brownson and the Truth about America." First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. Dec. 2002. pp 23+. online edition, a conservative perspective
  • Thomas R. Ryan, Orestes A. Brownson (1975), the most comprehensive biography
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