The Fourth of July is a time to remember Americans who have contributed much to their country, and this Fourth weekend is a good time to remember two such Americans who died in recent weeks — and whom I'd had the good fortune to know and joust with intellectually since the 1970s — Allen Weinstein and Ben Wattenberg.
Both were sons of Jewish immigrants, born in the 1930s and raised in the Bronx, then which then had the highest Jewish percentage of any American county and also large Irish, Italian and black communities.
The Bronx was one of the heartlands of American liberalism — the big argument there in 1948 was whether to support Harry Truman or the anti-anti-Soviet Henry Wallace — and Weinstein and Wattenberg as young adults were proud liberal Democrats. But while both remained liberals in many respects, both were willing to challenge leftist orthodoxy.
As a history professor at Smith College, Weinstein authored two books in the 1970s and came to public attention with his 1978 book Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. He had begun his work believing, like many on the Left, that Hiss was unjustly convicted of perjury in 1950 for denying he was a Soviet spy.