The Conservative Mind, from Burke to Santayana

The Conservative Mind, from Burke to Santayana

The Conservative Mind, from Burke to Santayana

The Conservative Mind, from Burke to Santayana

Excerpt

THE STUPID PARTY": this is John Stuart Mill's description of conservatives. Like certain other summary dicta which nineteenth-century liberals thought to be forever triumphant, his judgment needs review in our age of disintegrating liberal and radical philosophies. Certainly many dull and unreflecting people have lent their inertia to the cause of conservatism: "It is commonly sufficient for practical purposes if conservatives, without saying anything, just sit and think, or even if they merely sit," F. J. C. Hearnshaw observed. Edmund Burke, the greatest of modern conservative thinkers, was not ashamed to acknowledge the allegiance of humble men whose sureties are prejudice and prescription; for, with affection, he likened them to cattle under the English oaks, deaf to the insects of radical innovation. But the conservative principle has been defended, these past hundred and fifty years, by men of learning and genius, as well. To review conservative ideas, examining their validity for this perplexed age, is the purpose of this book, which does not pretend to be a history of conservative parties. This study is a prolonged essay in definition. What is the essence of British and American conservatism? What system of ideas, common to England and the United States, has sustained men of conservative instincts in their resistance against radical theories and social transformation ever since the beginning of the French Revolution?

Walk beside the Liffey in Dublin, a little way west of the dome of the Four Courts, and you come to an old doorway in a blank wall. This is the roofless wreck of an eighteenth-century house, and until recently the house still was here, inhabited although condemned: Number 12, Arran Quay, formerly a brick building of three stories, which . . .

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