Donald Livingston

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Donald Livingston is a former Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and a David Hume scholar. In 2003 he and historian Clyde Wilson[1] founded the Abbeville Institute, which is devoted to the study of Southern culture and political ideas.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Livingston was raised in South Carolina.[3] He received his doctorate at Washington University in 1965. He has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and has been on the editorial board of Hume Studies and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.[4] Livingston is a convert from Anglicanism to the Orthodox Church. His wife Marie also received her Ph.D. in philosophy and has studied under Edmund Gettier and Alasdair MacIntyre.


After teaching in several venues, Livingston became a professor of philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.[5]

Philosophical views[edit]

He supports the compact theory of the United States, with its concomitant provisions for corporate resistance, nullification, and secession. Progressive columnist Chris Hedges has called him "one of the intellectual godfathers of the secessionist movement."[6] The doctrine coincides with federalism, a robust account of states' rights, and the principle of subsidiarity. His political philosophy is informed by an Aristotelian conception of civilization and embodies the decentralizing themes echoed by European intellectuals such as Althusius, David Hume and Lord Acton; and Americans such as Thomas Jefferson, Spencer Roane, Abel Parker Upshur, Robert Hayne and John C. Calhoun. They hold the community and family as the elemental units of political society.

In Livingston's view, the compact theory of the Union is opposed to the nationalist theory derived from the political thought of Thomas Hobbes and propagated by Joseph Story, Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln.[citation needed] The nationalist interpretation contends for an indivisible sovereignty, an inviolable aggregate people, and that the American Union created the States following the American War for Independence.[citation needed] Livingston characterizes this as "Lincoln's Spectacular Lie."[7]

Abbeville Institute[edit]

In 2003, Livingston was instrumental in founding the Abbeville Institute.[1] According to its website, the Institute is "an association of scholars in higher education devoted to a critical study of what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition". The Institute is named for the town of Abbeville, South Carolina, often regarded as the birthplace of the Confederacy.[8]

The Institute adopted as part of its mission statement the following by slavery historian Eugene Genovese: "Rarely these days, even on Southern campuses, is it possible to acknowledge the achievements of white people in the South;"[3] once a partisan of the Far Left, Genovese had left Marxism for conservatism. Heidi Beirich, research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, objected that the "idea that white people are America's underappreciated stepchildren is ludicrous."[3]

In 2004, the SPLC characterized Livingston as a neo-Confederate ideologue, in part for his former association with the League of the South, labelled "the premier state sovereignty and secessionist organization;" the League has been classified as a "hate group" by the SPLC. Livingston responded that, although he helped the League set up an institute in the mid-1990s, he left them before 1999 over their support for secession.[1]

As of 2009, the Abbeville Institute had a total of 64 associated scholars from various colleges and disciplines.[3] It operates an annual summer school for graduate students and an annual scholars' conference.[2] It focuses particularly on issues of secession, which its scholars believe is a topic excluded from mainstream academia.[9] In 2010, it held a conference on secession and nullification.[3]

Notable faculty include Thomas DiLorenzo, Clyde Wilson, and Thomas Woods.

The Abbeville Institute has developed a press, an Abbeville Institute Review, and a blog, all to communicate its scholars' work.


  • Hume's Philosophy of Common Life (1984)
  • Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium: Hume's Pathology of Philosophy (1998)

Further reading[edit]

  • Graham, John Remington (2002). A Constitutional History of Secession. Foreword by Donald Livingston. Gretna, Louisiana, US: Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1-58980-066-4.
  • Bongie, Laurence; Livingston, Donald (2000). David Hume: Prophet of the Counter-Revolution. Indianapolis, Indiana, US: Liberty Fund. ISBN 0-86597-209-5.
  • Livingston, Donald (1998). Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium. Hume's Pathology of Philosophy. Chicago, US: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-48717-2.
  • Gregg, Gary L. (1999). Vital Remnants: America's Founding and the Western Tradition. Wilmington, Delaware, US: ISI Books. ISBN 1-882926-31-5.
  • Emison, John Avery (2009). Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America. Back jacket comment by Donald Livingston and Clyde N. Wilson. Gretna, Louisiana, US: Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-58980-692-4.


  1. ^ a b c Terris, Ben (December 6, 2009). "Scholars Nostalgic for the Old South Study the Virtues of Secession, Quietly". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "About". Archived from the original on November 24, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Terris, Ben (December 6, 2009), "Scholars Nostalgic for the Old South Study the Virtues of Secession, Quietly", Chronicle of Higher Education
  4. ^ "Profiles". Mises Institute - Austrian Economics, Freedom and Peace. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  5. ^ "WayBack Machine". Department of Philosophy - Emory University. January 23, 2010. Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  6. ^ Chris Hedges (April 27, 2010). "The New Secessionists". Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  7. ^ DeCoster, Karen (April 29, 2002). "Lincoln's Spectacular Lie". Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  8. ^ Gelbert, Doug (2005). Civil War Sites, Memorials, Museums and Library Collections: A State-by-State Guidebook to Places Open to the Public. McFarland. p. 130. ISBN 978-0786422593. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  9. ^ Chu, Jeff (June 26, 2005). "Loathing Abe Lincoln". Time Warner. Archived from the original on October 30, 2005.

External links[edit]