In the last 12 years of his life, from 1965
to 1977, Carroll Quigley taught, observed the American scene, and reflected
on his basic values in life. He was simultaneously pessimistic and radically
optimistic. Teaching was the core of Quigley's professional life and neither
his craving to write nor his discouragement with student reaction of the
early seventies diminished his commitment to the classroom. "I am sure that
you will enjoy teaching increasingly, as I do," he had written in 1965:
"it is the one way we can do a little good in the world. The task is so
important, the challenge so great, and the possibilities for improvement and
for variation as infinite that it is the most demanding and most difficult
of human activities. Even a virtuoso violinist can be made to order easier
than a good teacher."1
Six years later, in
his 30th year of teaching at Georgetown, he was less hopeful. "I find
teaching harder every year, as the students are less and less receptive. . .
."2 The turmoil
of the Vietnam years spilled into the lecture hall and, on at least one
occasion, students disrupted a class. He worried about the dilution of
academic standards and feared the increasing bureaucratization of education.
Such problems, he lamented, "will give you a glimmering of what teaching has
become in the tail end of a civilization. . . ."3
Despite these pessimistic readings of student responsiveness, the
School of Foreign Service senior classes of 1973 and 1974 both honored him
as the outstanding professor of the year. Quigley himself continued
throughout this period to address a variety of audiences — bureaucrats,
scientists, an Irish-American club, even a Catholic high school religion
class. "A rather daring experiment in religious enlightenment," he concluded
in describing that encounter with Catholic adolescents."4
"I accept. . .outside lectures (and also . . .I give courses I never gave
before in my final year of teaching) because," he explained, "it makes me
clarify my own thoughts about what is really important. I often say things
in my lectures that I never realized before."5
Quigley revised his lectures to the end of his teaching days even
in classes which he had taught for over a decade. "I am never satisfied with
my courses, so keep working on them."6
In his final weeks at Georgetown he broke off just before Thanksgiving and
told his students in "The World Since 1914" class that there was little
point in discussing the Third World when they knew so little about how their
own society works:
"So I told them about the USA — really very hair-raising when it is all laid
out in sequence: . . . .1. cosmic hierarchy; 2. energy; 3. agriculture; 4.
food; 5. health and medical services; 6. education; 7. income flows and the
worship of GROWTH; 8. inflation. . .showing how we are violating every
aspect of life by turning everything into a ripoff because we. . .have
adopted the view that insatiable individualistic greed must run the world."7
He feared "that the students will come to
feel that all is hopeless, so I must. . .show them how solutions can be
found by holistic methods seeking diversity, de-centralization, communities.
Pleased with the class response, he later recalled:
"The students were very excited and my last lecture in which I put the whole
picture together was about the best lecture I ever gave. That was 10 Dec.
, my last full day of teaching after 41 years."9
Unlike his underlying faith in the efficacy of teaching, Quigley found
little basis for optimism about the future of American society. A journal
asked him in 1975 to write an upbeat article on the country's prospects. "I
told the editor that would be difficult, but I would try. I wrote it and
they refused to publish it because it was not optimistic enough. . ."10
In 1976 he wrote congratulating my husband for his decision to give up any
idea of leaving state politics for the federal arena. "It is futile,"
Quigley concluded, "because it is all so corrupt and the honest ones are so
incompetent. I should not say this, as students said it to me for years and
I argued with them."11
It was more than the institutionalization of the American political
system which concerned him: "We are living in a very dangerous age in which
insatiably greedy men are prepared to sacrifice anybody's health and
tranquility to satisfy their own insatiable greed for money and power."12
He feared that these values had virtually destroyed the roots of the Western
outlook and had made the creation of a satisfying life in contemporary
America a hazardous undertaking. " I am aghast at what. . .selfishness, and
the drive for power have done to our society. . . .I worry. . .as I find the
world so increasingly horrible that I do not see how anything as wonderful
as. . .your life can escape."13 Less than six
months before he died he advised: "The best thing you can do is. . .to keep
some enclaves of satisfying decent life."14 Yet
pessimism about American society did not weaken a radical optimism rooted in
his essential values: nature, people, and God.
The greatest source of pleasure for Quigley, outside of his
scholarly pursuits and his personal life, came from his profound love of
nature. In 1968 he bought an 82-acre farm near the small town of Glengary,
"in the case of the permanent residents they are the same individuals (or
their offspring) that we have known for years. We are chiefly impressed with
their distinctive personalities, and intelligence. . .marvelous, so steady,
hard-working. . .and unafraid. . .[others] were really neurotic, afraid of
everything. . ."15
This sounds like unremarkable country
gossip until one realizes that the "permanent residents" to which he refers
were several generations of bluebirds which he had been studying.
I once made the mistake of writing to him about my war of attrition
with racoons who were foraging in our trash. Quigley rushed back a reply to
prevent me from making any further intrusions in the cosmic hierarchy:
"If the racoons make your trash disposal a problem, why not cooperate with
nature instead of resisting it? The big solution to our pollution problems
is to increase the speed of biodegradation, and what is more natural than
for animals to eat? Here I feed a fox every night if our local skunk does
not get to it first (I buy chicken backs and necks for 19 cents a pound, but
am afraid to give these too frequently for fear they may have injurious
hormones injected into the live chickens). . .My fox never leaves a crumb or
a mark on the concrete platform where he eats. . . . Last summer when he had
a mate and young ones, we gave him more food and he always took the best. .
.away to his family. We used to time him: it took 4 minutes before he was
back for something for himself. . .We have found that wild things are so
He concluded with a revealing description of what to him was a particularly
satisfying weekend — writing, observing birds, and on Saturday night:
"Beethoven's birthday, we sat. . .reading near the fire, while the radio
played all nine of HIS symphonies."17
Thus, discouragement about the course of American life existed
simultaneously with happiness derived from those aspects of life he knew to
be lasting: "I am fed up with. . .everything but God and nature. . .and
human beings (whom I love and pity, as I always did)."18
His loyalty was to a religious-intellectual outlook: "I feel glad I
am a Christian," he wrote, "glad I am . . .without allegiance to any bloc,
party, or groups, except to our Judeo-Christian tradition (modified by
science and common sense)."19 Over the years he
usually closed such letters with what could serve as a characteristic
valedictory: "God keep you all. . .and help you to grow."20
REFERENCES—from personal correspondence between Carroll Quigley and Carmen
1. April 1, 1965.
On Quigley's writing and the evolution of this manuscript, see the Foreword
by Harry Hogan to "Weapons Systems: A History".
2. October 6, 1971.
4. January 5, 1972.
5. April 13, 1975.
6. January 2, 1975.
7. January 2, 1976; December 4, 1975.
8. December 4, 197 5.
9. January 2, 1976.
10. October 8, 1975.
11. June 28, 1976.
12. May 4, 1976.
13. November 29, 1973; May 20, 1974.
14. November 8, 1973.
15. May 24, 1975.
16. January 10, 1973; December 17, 1972.
17. December 17, 1972.
18. November 8, 1973.
19. November 29, 1973.
20. November 7, 1974.
Scan of original