National Review at 50

Article excerpt


National Review met the world on Nov. 18, 1955, on an upbeat note. "There is, we like to think, solid reason for rejoicing," began founder and longtime editor William F. Buckley Jr., which was just a little odd. No one, liberals and conservatives alike, could quite understand Mr. Buckley's enthusiasm. Surely, with America's destiny in the competent hands of social planners and international bureaucrats, conservatism was dead. What, then, is the point of a conservative journal, especially one greeting the world with a wink and a smile? Mr. Buckley appeared to concede the point, admitting "it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it." Nevertheless, he added, in what would become the right's rallying cry, National Review "stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." And with that the standard was raised, the battle joined, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This week in Washington, National Review celebrated its 50th anniversary. Once more there is, we're sure Mr. Buckley still thinks, solid reason for rejoicing. The world has changed: Communism, not conservatism, is dead or dying; the social planners, not the capitalists, have retreated to the universities; and America (not the international bureaucracies) has spread freedom throughout the globe. Of course, more needs to be done. But 50 years ago, few conservatives would have predicted the country could ever get this far. "It is idle," Whittaker Chambers wrote to his friend, Mr. Buckley, in 1961, "to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within." Even if Chambers' prognosis was a bit too shrouded in doom, it was still a lonely time to be a conservative. …