Basic American Government: The Life and Work of Clarence B. Carson

Clarence B. Carson (1925-2003) was a prominent American historian and political theorist, best known for his contributions to the field of conservative thought. He was a prolific writer and thinker, authoring numerous books on American history and politics, and was a highly-regarded professor of history at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Carson's work has had a lasting impact on American political discourse, especially in the areas of limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, and his ideas continue to be studied and debated to this day.

Early Life and Career

Clarence B. Carson was born in 1925 in the small town of Sabin, Minnesota. He grew up on a farm, and after serving in the army during World War II, went on to study history at the University of Minnesota. Carson received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois, and later taught at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania before joining the faculty at Hillsdale College in 1965.

Carson was a prolific writer, authoring over 20 books on American history and politics, including his five-volume historical series, "A Basic History of the United States". His work was marked by a deep appreciation for the American founding and the principles of limited government, federalism, and individual liberty that underpin the American system of government.

Contributions to Conservative Thought

Carson's work played an important role in the development of modern conservative thought, which emerged in the wake of the liberal dominance of the mid-twentieth century. He was part of a group of writers and thinkers who sought to articulate a coherent conservative vision for American politics, one that emphasized tradition, limited government, and individual freedom.

One of Carson's key insights was that the American founding was not a revolutionary break with the past, but rather a continuation of the principles of government that had developed over centuries in England and Europe. He argued that the American system of government was based on a careful balance of power, with checks and balances between the different branches of government, and between the federal government and the states.

Carson also emphasized the importance of limited government, arguing that the power of the state must be carefully circumscribed in order to protect individual liberty. He believed that government should not be in the business of regulating economic activity or controlling people's lives, but rather should focus on the essential tasks of national defense and the protection of property rights.

Federalism was another key principle that Carson championed, arguing that powers not specifically delegated to the federal government in the Constitution should be reserved to the states. He believed that the states were best equipped to understand the needs and desires of their citizens, and that a decentralized system of government was more conducive to individual freedom and innovation.

Carson's influence on contemporary conservative thought is difficult to overstate. His work has been widely read and discussed, and his ideas have helped to shape the conservative movement in the United States over the past several decades.


Clarence B. Carson passed away in 2003, but his influence continues to be felt in American political discourse. His ideas on limited government, federalism, and individual liberty remain central to conservative thought, and continue to inform debates over issues such as healthcare, taxation, and national security.

Carson's work is also a reminder of the enduring importance of the principles that underpin the American system of government. As the United States continues to face new challenges and opportunities, the need to uphold the ideals of limited government, federalism, and individual freedom remains as urgent as ever.


In the final analysis, Clarence B. Carson was a deeply insightful and committed student of American history and politics, whose work has had a lasting impact on conservative thought and American political discourse. His ideas on limited government, federalism, and individual liberty are as relevant today as they were when he first articulated them, and his legacy continues to inspire scholars and citizens alike. For anyone seeking to understand the foundations of American government and the enduring legacy of one of its most influential thinkers, Carson's work remains an essential point of reference.