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Even a sleepy historiographer of political theory of some future day will notice the most dramatic revision of the last 25 years or so. I refer of course to the discovery-and celebration-of civic humanism. The devilish Machiavelli of Elizabethan times has been gently set aside for "the divine Machiavel," the one who writes, "I love my native city more than my soul." And historians of political thought have lovingly traced the transmission of civic humanism from Florence to England and America, giving us a brand new past. America, we now know, was not the unthinkingly Lockean land served up by Louis Hartz. Instead, our Founding Fathers-the phrase becomes more appropriate now-tum out to have been steeped in republicanism. I do not doubt that this revisionist scholarship has been, on the whole, a good thing. But two features of it are troubling. First, there seem to be some generally unstated convictions about the links between the history of political thought and current political debate, links worth flushing out and assessing critically. Second, regardless of whether the links are valid, civic humanism is now regularly held up as an attractive alternative to liberalism; but humanists have advanced a remarkably hazy doctrine. To make their critique more penetrating, they need to answer some pressing questions, questions I will pose in a deliberately innocent way.