Harry V. Jaffa

Harry Victor Jaffa was born in New York City on October 7, 1918, to Arthur and Frances Landau Jaffa. After attending Yale University and graduating with a degree in English in 1939, Jaffa entered the Federal Service in Washington, D.C.

On April 25, 1942, he married Marjorie Butler, and they had three children: Donald, Philip, and Karen. They were married for sixty-eight years when Marjorie passed away in 2010.

In 1944, Jaffa enrolled at the New School for Social Research in New York City. It was there that he studied under the German exile and political philosopher Leo Strauss, a member of the Graduate Faculty in Political and Social Science.

Jaffa taught at Queens College, City College of New York, and the University of Chicago. After receiving his Ph.D. from the New School in 1951, he accepted a tenure track appointment at Ohio State University, where he taught for thirteen years.

In 1959 Jaffa published the book that established his reputation as one of the foremost scholars of the American political tradition: Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

In 1964 Jaffa served as an advisor for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, during which he penned that campaign’s most famous lines: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Also in 1964, he left Ohio State for Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate School. He held the post of Henry Salvatori Research Professor of Political Philosophy until his retirement in 1989, when he became professor emeritus and a distinguished fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy.

Over the course of his career, Jaffa authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited several books (see listing below), and he wrote countless articles and essays for newspapers and journals, including National Review and the Claremont Review of Books.

Harry V. Jaffa passed away on January 10, 2015, at the age of ninety-six at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in Pomona, California.

Harry V. Jaffa
Document Library

Hillsdale College is currently digitizing selected papers, research documents, notes, and personal correspondence by Harry V. Jaffa.


Hillsdale College Resources

Eulogy Delivered at Harry V. Jaffa’s Funeral
Thomas G. West, Professor of Politics

Jaffa, Nominalism, and the Fate of the Common NounJon Fennell, Professor of Education and Dean of Social Sciences

Remarks Delivered at a Reception in Honor of Harry V.  JaffaEdward J. Erler

“Remembering Harry Jaffa”W. B. Allen

External Resources

“Five Rounds with Harry Jaffa”
Charles R. Kesler for The Federalist

“The Feud that Revived Conservatism”
Steven F. Hayward for the Wall Street Journal

“Jaffa on that Goldwater Speech”
Brian Gaffney at LinkedIn

“Arguing America: Harry Jaffa, 1918-2015”
Steven F. Hayward for The Weekly Standard

“Remembering Harry Jaffa: Truth, Justice, and the American Way”
Richard Samuelson for The Federalist

“Walter Berns and Harry Jaffa, Immovable Object and Irresistible Force”
Matthew J. Franck for National Review Online

“Saving President Lincoln: The scholarly achievement of Harry Jaffa”
Andrew Ferguson for The Weekly Standard

“Harry V. Jaffa: An Inconvenient Thinker”
Ken Masugi for Library of Law & Liberty

“Scholars of American Politics”
Harvey Mansfield for The Weekly Standard

“Jaffa as Neo-Puritan”
Peter Lawler for Library of Law & Liberty


Reception for Friends and Students of Harry V. Jaffa

Remarks by Larry P. Arnn, Edward J. Erler, Charles R. Kesler, Ken Masugi, and Philip Jaffa.

Harry V. Jaffa, 1918-2015: Evaluating His Work

Dr. Larry Arnn, Dr. John Grant, Dr. Ronald Pestritto, and Dr. Thomas West discuss the work of Harry V. Jaffa.