James Montgomery Beck: American Conservative
WHILE conservatives may continue to insist that their creed is unappreciated, no longer can they claim that it is ignored. During the past decade there has come a great outpouring of defenses (and occasional critiques) of American traditionalism, and the conservative heritage has become a major factor in the interpretation of the American past.
The political tradition of the American Right is usually treated as a group of unconnected responses to the challenges of reform. But twentieth-century conservatism has had an intellectual life, an ideological development, a political heritage as independent and self-sustaining as the progressive tradition. The principles that have come to be a part of the political Right--nationalism, individualism, constitutionalism, laissez- faire, property rights, opposition to reform--were neither ever present nor spontaneous. They developed in a particular historical setting. They served a certain political function. Their lifetimes were--and are--measured by their social use.
The career of James Montgomery Beck affords much insight into this story of modern American conservatism. From his entry into political affairs during the 1880's until his death in