Herbert Croly

From Conservapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Herbert Croly
Herbert Croly.jpg

Born January 23, 1869
New York City
Died May 17, 1930
Santa Barbara, California
Spouse Louise Emory

Herbert David Croly, (January 23, 1869 – May 17, 1930) a leader of the Progressive Movement[1] as an editor, and political philosopher and a co-founder of the magazine The New Republic. His book, The Promise of American Life (1909) looked to the conservative spirit of effective government as espoused by Alexander Hamilton, combined with the democracy of Thomas Jefferson. The book was one of the most influential books in American political history, shaping the ideas of many Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt. It also influenced the later New Deal. Calling themselves "the new nationalists" Croly and Walter Weyl sought to remedy the relatively weak national institutions with a strong federal government. He actively promoted a strong army and navy and attacked pacifists who thought democracy at home and peace abroad was best served by keeping America weak.

In his 1914 book Progressive Democracy, Croly contested the thesis that the liberal tradition in the United States was inhospitable to anti-capitalist alternatives. He drew from the American past a history of resistance to capitalist wage relations that was fundamentally liberal, and he reclaimed an idea that Progressives had allowed to lapse - that working for wages was a lesser form of liberty. Increasingly skeptical of the capacity of social welfare legislation to remedy social ills, Croly argued that America's liberal promise could be redeemed only by syndicalist reforms involving workplace democracy. O'Leary (1994) shows his liberal goals were subordinate to his commitment to republicanism.

Early life

Croly was born in New York City on January 23, 1869, to David and Jane Croly.[1] His father David Goodman Croly was a devoted Comtist and raised Herbert that way.[2]


In 1884[3] he enrolled in classes at City College in New York, at age 15. By the time he was 18, he left for Cambridge to enroll at Harvard. Due to his father's failing health, he did not stay.

In 1892, he again enrolled in Harvard.[4] He met his wife Louise Emory in that same year.[5]


Croly called for the adoption of Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends. To achieve this synthesis, however, Croly rejected Hamilton's arguments for institutional checks on a pure national democracy, and Jefferson's arguments for limited government. Croly rejected these limits because he saw them as too closely tied to the doctrine of individual rights, and he believed state power should come in front of individual rights.[6] Croly wanted to transcend the doctrine of individual rights in order to create a national political community, one that would be forged by a strong but democratic national government. However, Croly failed to see the connection between Jefferson's belief in democracy and his belief in limited government, and he failed to see the connection between Hamilton's belief in a strong national government and his call for institutional checks on democracy. Thus, although many American reform movements have their roots in the rhetoric of Croly's progressivism, to be effective they have had to accommodate the principles of liberal individualism that Croly wished to eradicate.[7]


Croly's book The Promise of American Life was sent by his friend Learned Hand to Theodore Roosevelt.[8]

Death and Legacy

Croly's influence on progressive ideology was far-reaching. He passed away in Santa Barbara, California on May 17, 1930.[1] Despite this, many historians believe that he also influenced the New Deal, in addition to his aforesaid influence upon FDR's fifth cousin Theodore.[9]

Later Revisionism

Starting in the 40's, some authors tried to distance progressive ideology from Croly's views(specifically in regard to the book Promise of American Life), and instead re-cast them as having underlying tones of totalitarianism or fascism,[10] not progressivism.


  • "Public opinion can no longer be hypnotized and scared into accepting the traditional constitutionalism, as the final word in politics." - Progressive Democracy, p. 25

Further reading

Primary sources

  • Croly, Herbert. The Promise of American Life (1909) full text online, one of the most influential books of the early 20th century
  • Croly, Herbert. Progressive Democracy (1914) full text online
  • Croly, Herbert. Marcus Alonso Hanna: His Life and Work full text online(1912), favorable biography of the leading conservative politician
  • Croly, Herbert. "The Effect on American Institutions of a Powerful Military and Naval Establishment," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 66, (July 1916), pp. 157–172 in JSTOR
  • Croly, Herbert. "State Political Reorganization," Proceedings of the American Political Science Association, Vol. 8, Eighth Annual Meeting (1911), pp. 122–135 in JSTOR

See also


External links