Notes from Chapter 1
– Edmund Burke is the greatest of the modern conservatives.
“…was not ashamed to acknowledge the allegiance of humble men whose sureties are prejudice and prescription;…” (1)
The difficulties of conservatism lie in:
- Conservative ideas cannot stand up to the unreason of the fast changing times
- Conservatives lack shrewdness to adapt quickly to change that is often demanded
– This book (and these notes) is a study of the thoughts behind conservatism and how it has shaped Britain and America since 1790.
– Edmund Burke is the true principled conservative – it began when he published Reflections of the Revolution in France which drew the contrast between conservation and innovation.
– America’s Revolution was a conservative reaction toward tradition (British citizen rights) against innovation
– Burke is the beginning of great conservative political leader in England, France, and America
– Some try to pin Georg Hegel to conservatism but his philosophies have wrought destruction
– Conservatism is about sound thought of society & systems – not simplification and abstractions of radicals
– Conservatives seek to find balance of change for better while respecting ancient world traditions and maintain “delicate construction”
- Application of Justice in society that respects “transcendent order” of society because political problems are moral/religious problems
- Love of the diversity of human nature rather than “uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian systems of radicals
- Respect for order/classes in society – equality should be before Gog/Law not in conditions which leads to servitude
- Private property is essential to freedom & keeps the Leviathan of the state in check to ensure economic progress
- Faith in traditions over the innovations and other eggheads lust for change and power
- Change is good and inevitable when thought out but hasty change can be devastating. Providence is the statesman’s chief virtue.
– Radical theories of Burke’s and our time have done much to undermine his approach and our understanding of our connection to society.
Radicals attack along these lines:
- Man is perfectible and progress in society is unlimited
- Contempt for tradition and wisdom of ancestors in favor of reason, impulse, and materialism
- Political leveling – full democracy – and the destruction of the natural aristocracy
- Destruction of the natural right to private property
- View of the function of the state – Most see it differently, but all agree
“One can only remark that radicals unite in detesting Burke’s description of the state as ordained of God, and his concept of society as joined in perpetuity by a moral bond among the dead, the living, and those yet to be born – the community of souls.” (10)
Radicals love change for the sake of change. Conservatives seek to venerate ancient traditions and institutions.
“In a revolutionary epoch, sometimes men taste every novelty, sicken of them all, and return to ancient principles so long disused that they seem refreshingly hearty when they are rediscovered.” (10)
- Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001