Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.



Page One

RE: The Constitutional Conservatism of Edmund Burke.

"... [Burkean] Conservatism ... is a Western phenomenon, a philosophy peculiar to the Atlantic community and certain of its extensions throughout the world.

"... this Conservatism accepts and defends most of the institutions and values of the contemporary West. Not only does it continue to hold in trust the great Western heritage from Israel, Greece, Rome and all Christianity, the way of life that speaks of humanity and justice; it also pledges its faith to what we know and cherish as constitutional democracy, the way of life that speaks of liberty and the consent of the people. Conservatism ... is full of harsh doubts about the goodness and equality of men, the wisdom and possibilities of reform, and the sagacity of the majority -- that is to say, about the democratic dogma. ... however, it ... respects the desire for human liberty hardly less firmly than it pleads the cause for social order."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 17.

RE: Society as a Partnership among Generations.

"Society is indeed a contract.... It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born."

    Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).

RE: How a Political System Comes into Being.

"Every political system is an accumulation of habits, customs, prejudices, and principles that have survived a long process of trial and error and of ceaseless response to changing circumstances. If the system works well on the whole, it is a lucky accident--the luckiest, indeed, that may befall a society."

    Edward C. Banfield, Quoted in Newsweek (June 12, 1989).

RE: The Conservative Perception of Human Nature.

"Man, says the Conservative ... is a fabulous composite of some good and much evil, a blend of several enobling excellencies and several more degrading imperfections. 'Man is nor entirely corrupt and depraved,' William McGovern and David Collier have written, 'but to state that he is, is to come closer to the truth than to state that he is essentially good.' As no man is perfect, so no man is perfectable. If educated properly, placed in a favorable environment, and held in restraint by tradition and authority, he may display innate qualities of rationality, sociability, industry, and decency. Never, no matter how he is educated or situated or restrained, will he throw off completely his other innate qualities of irrationality, selfishness, laziness, depravity, corruptibility, and cruelty. Man's nature is essentially immutable, and the immutable strain is one of deep-seated wickedness."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 21-22

RE: Conservatism on Human Wickedness & Irrationality.

"While ... [the Conservative] is well aware of man's potentialities, he must counter the optimism of the Liberal with certain cheerless reminders that are no less true for telling not quite the truth: that evil exists independently of social or economic maladjustments; that we must search for the source of our discontents in defective human nature, rather than in a defective social order; and that man, far from being malleable, is subject to cultural alteration only slowly and to a limited degree. The Conservative therefore considers it his stern duty to call attention, as did John Adams, to 'general frailty and depravity of human nature' and to the weakness of reason as a guide to personal conduct or collective endeavor."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 22.

RE: Radical Ideology, Common Sense, & Human Imperfection.

"I never could understand the doctrine of the perfectability of the human mind. Despotism, or unlimited sovereignty, or absolute power is the same in a majority of a popular assembly, an aristocratical council, an oligarchical junto, and a single emperor. Equally arbitrary, cruel, bloody, and in every respect diabolical. No man is more sensible than I am of the service to science ... and liberty that would have been rendered by the [French] encyclopedists and economists, by Voltaire, D'Alembert, Buffon, Diderot, Rousseau, La Lande, Frederic and Catherine, if they had possessed common sense. But they were all totally destitute of it. They seemed to believe that whole nations and continents had been changed in their principles, opinions, habits, and feelings by the sovereign grace of their almighty philosophy. They had not considered the force of early education on the minds of millions."

    John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1814).

RE: The Conservative View of the Liberal/Radical Perception of Human Nature &         Human Potential

"...as understood by all the centuries of Christianity ... and by all other of the great world religions, man ia a creature by essence limited and bounded, his potential goodness corrupted by a portion of evil that, by his own efforts, cannot be overcome, fated to walk in the valley of the shadow of an alien material universe, under unreprievable sentence of death. ...religious doctrine ... was borne out in full and terrible detail by the entire history of man, in every continent, climate, and region of the earth, in every society at every stage of development from primitive tribe to mighty empire, constructed by whatever race, black, brown, yellow, red, or white. Only those who know very little about the history of mankind can suppose that cruelty, crime or weakness, mass slaughter or mass corruption, are exceptions from the normal rule. A doctrine of human nature that paints a picture of what man might be is a direct contradiction to what he has always and evertwhere been....

"The fundamental law of every science is the postulate that the pattern of what happens in the future will probably resemble that of what has been observed to happen in the past. Any belief requiring the assumption that the future will be radically different from the past is not only false on the evidence ... but non-scientific in kind. The grimmest lessons of the past about the inherents limits and defects of human nature have been continuously confirmed by wars with tens of millions dead, by mass persecutions and tortures, deliberate starvation of innocents, wanton killings by tens of thousands, the ingenuities of science used to perfect methods of mass terror, new forms of enslavement, gigantic genocides, the wiping out of whole nations and peoples. True enough, the record of the present, as of the past, is not unmixed black; the crimes and horrors are mingled with achievements, mercies, and heroism. But in the face of what man has done and does, it is only an ideologue obsessed with his own abstractions who can continue to cling to the vision of an innately uncorrupt, rational, and benignly plastic human nature possessed of an unlimited potential for realizing the good society.

"It is not merely the record that speakes in unmistakable refutation of the Liberal doctrine of man. ...almost all modern scientific studies of man's nature unite in giving evidence against the Liberal view of man as a creature motivated, once ignorance is dispelled, by the rational search for peace, freedom, and plenty. Every modern school of biology and psychology and most schools of sociology and anthropology conclude that men are driven by profound non-rational, often anti-rational, sentiments and impulses, whose character and very existence are not ordinarily understood by conscious reason. Many of these drives are aggressive, disruptive, and injurious to others and to society. ...these negative impulses ... are no less integral to the human psyche than those positive impulses pointing toward Liberal ideals.

"The Liberal assumes ... that men, given a knowledge of the problem and freedom to choose, will opt for peace, justice, and plenty. But the facts do not bear him out, either for individuals or for societies. Individuals choose, very often, trouble, pain, injury, for themselves and for others. Socities choose ... guns instead of butter, empire instead of justice, despotic glory instead of democratic cooperation. Of course, the Liberal can always say: that is because they, individuals and societies, were not sufficiently indoctrinated, educated, and civilized by the bad institutions held over from the past. To that argument, there can be no answer, because, in making it, he is speaking as an ideologue, and all evidence becomes irrelevant."

    James Burnham, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny       of Liberalism (New York: John Day, 1964), pp. 134-135.

RE: The Radical Ideology & Democratic Excesses of the French Revolution.

"Helvetius and Rousseau preached to the French nation liberty, till they made them the most mechanical slaves; equality, till they destroyed all equity; humanity, till they became weasels and African panthers; and fraternity, till they cut one another's throats like Roman gladiators."

    John Adams, Aphorisms (1776-1821).

RE: Conservatism on Human Equality.

"Each man is equal to every other man in only one meaningful sense: he is a man, a physical and spiritual entity, and is thus entitled by God and nature to be treated as end rather than means. From the basic fact of moral equality come several secondary equalities that the modern Conservative recognizes ...: equality of opportunity, the right of each individual to exploit his own talents up to their natural limits; equality before the law, the right to justice on the same terms as other men; and political equality, which takes the form ... of universal suffrage. Beyond this, the Conservative is unwilling to go. Recognizing the infinite variety among men in talent, taste, appearance, intelligence and virtue, he is candid enough to assert that this variety extends vertically as well as horizontally. Men are grossly unequal -- and, what is more, can never be made equal -- in most qualities of mind, body, and spirit."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard Unity Press, 1982), pp. 23-24.

RE: Human Inequality & the Good Society.

"The good society of Conservatism rests solidly on ... [the] great truth [of the inequality of men]. The social order is organized in such a way as to take advantage of ineradicable natural distinctions among men. It exhibits a class structure in which there are several quite distinct levels, most men find their level early and stay in it without rancor, and equality of opportunity keeps the way at least partially open to ascent and decline. At the same time, the social order aims to temper those distinctions that are not natural. While it recognizes the inevitability and indeed the necessity of orders and classes, it insists that all privileges, ranks, and other visible signs of inequality be as natural and functional as possible. Equity, rather than equality, is the mark of ... [the Conservative's] society; the reconciliation, rather than the abolition, of classes is his constant aim. When he is forced to choose between liberty and equality, he throws his support unhesitatingly to liberty. Indeed, the preferance for liberty over equality lies at the root of the Conservative tradition...."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 24.

RE: Natural Aristocracy & Human Inequality.

"By natural aristocracy, in general, may be understood those superiorities of influence in society which grow out of the constitution of human nature. By artificial inequality, those inequalities of weight and superiorities of influence which are created and established by civil laws. By aristocracy, I understand all those men who can command, influence, or procure more than an average of votes; by an aristocrat, every man who can and will influence one man to vote besides himself. Few men will deny that there is a natural aristocracy of virtues and talents in every nation and in every party, in every city and village. Inequalities are a part of the natural history of man.

"I believe that none but Helvetius will affirm, that all children are born with equal genius.

"None will pretend, that all are born of dispositions exactly alike--of equal weight; equal strength; equal complexions; equal figure, grace, or beauty.

"That all men are born to equal rights is true. Every being has a right to his own, as clear, as moral, as sacred, as any other being has. This is as indubitable as a moral government in the universe. But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practiced by monks, by Druids, by Brahmins, by priests of the imortal Lama, or by the self-styled philosophers of the French revolution. For honor's sake ... for truth and virtue's sake, let American philosophers and politicians despise it."

    John Adams, Letter to John Taylor of Caroline (1814).

RE: Thomas Jefferson on the Natural Aristocracy & Its Role in the Government.

"... I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy. On the question, What is the best provision, you and I differ.... You think it best to put the Pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their coordinate branches, and where also they may be a protection to wealth against the Agrarian and plundering enterprises of the Majority of the people. I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief, is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying the evil. For if the coordinate branches can arrest their action, so may they of the coordinates. Mischief may be done negatively as well as positively. Of this a cabal in the Senate of the United States has furnished many proofs. Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy; because enough of these will find their way into every branch of legislation to protect themselves. From 15 to 20 legislatures of our own, in action for 30 years past, have proved that no fears of an equalization of property are to be apprehended of them.

"I think the best remedy is exactly provided by all our constitutions, to leave the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society."

    Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams (1813).

RE: Panaceas & Conservative Principles.

"I do not believe in looking about for some panacea or cure-all on which we should stake our credit and fortunes trying to sell it like a patent medicine to all and sundry. We ought not to seek after some rigid, symetrical form of doctrine, such as delights the minds of Socialists and Communists. Our own feelings and the British temperament are quite different. So are our aims. We seek a free and varied society, where there is room for many kinds of men and women to lead happy, honorable and useful lives. We are fundamentally opposed to all systems of rigid uniformity in our national life and we have grown great as a nation by indulging tolerance, rather than logic."

    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Speech, Conservative Party Annual Conference (1946).

RE: Conservatism on Political Ideologies--Conservatism as an Anti-Ideology.

"The ideologue is convinced that, in his rigid closet-philosophy, all the answers to all the problems of humanity are plain to be discerned. We have but to be governed by his rules, and the earthly paradise is ours. He may be an a priori reasoner, or an a posteriori reasoner, but, in his system, no room is left for Providence, or change, or free will, or prudence. He is the devotee, often, of what [Edmund] Burke called an 'armed doctrine.' His ancestor was Procrustes, and he is resolved to stretch or hack all the world until it fits his bed. (Conservatism ... is the negation of ideology....).

"The Conservative believes that the individual is foolish, although the species is wise; unkike the confident intellectual, he declines to undertake the reconstruction of society and human nature upon the scanty capital of his private stock of reason. The Conservative believes that the world is not perfectable, and that we fallen human creatures, here below, are not made for happiness, and will not find hapiness -- at least, not if we deliberately pursue it; therefore, unlike the ideologue, he is not under the impression that any single fixed system of political concepts can bring justice and peace and liberty to all men at all times, if uniformly applied."

    Russell Kirk, Prospects for Conservatives (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956), pp. 2-4.

RE: Conservatism on the Cult of Reason.

"Conservatism ... is not an ideology. It does not breed fanatics. It does not try to excite the enthusiasm of a secular religion. If you want men who will sacrifice their past and present and future to a set of abstract ideas, you must go to Communism, or Fascism, or Benthamism. But, if you want men who seek, reasonably and prudentially, to reconcile the best in the wisdom of our ancesters with the change which is essential to a vigorous civil existence, then you will do well to turn to Conservative principles. The high-minded Conservative believes in Principle, or enduring values ascertained through appreciation of the wisdom of dead generations, the study of history, and the reconciliation of authority with the altered circumstances of our present life. He is a highly reasonable person, although he looks with deep suspicion on the cult of Reason -- the worship of an abstract rationality which asserts that mundane planning is able to solve all our difficulties of spirit and community. But the high-minded Conservative detests Abstraction, or the passion for forcing men and societies into a preconceived pattern divorced from the special circumstances of different times and countries."

    Russell Kirk, Prospects for Conservatives (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956), p. 6.

RE: Conservatism on Human Problems, Human Reason, & Free Will.

"The enlightened Conservative knows that certain problems of humanity are not susceptible of solution, and that others can be solved only by a great elapse of time, the healer of social wounds. The Conservative, moreover, puts only a limited trust in the power of human reason, and knows that our future depends, in considerable part, upon Providence, or chance, or that infinite combination of tiny causes which we call chance.

"... the Conservative believes that men and nations possess free will, and that, if a nation tumbles to ruin, that catastrophe is the consequence, for the most part, of the failure of heart and mind of the people who made up that nation or that civilization."

    Russell Kink, Prospects for Conservatives (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956), pp. 12-13.

RE: What Qualifies a Person for Civil Liberties.

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to flattery of knaves."

    Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the French National Assembly (1791).

RE: The Rights of the Individual.

"The rights of man are both natural and social -- natural because they belong to man as man, are part of the great scheme of nature, and are thus properly considered the gift of God; social because man can enjoy them only in an organized community. The rights that men, in fact, enjoy have developed through centuries of struggle to a point where they are recognized and enforced by law. The great rights ... are more than natural or social. They are legal, constitutional, and historical. The Conservative has a notably concrete concept of human rights, and he avoids describing or justifying them in abstract, philosophical terms.

"... [The rights to] life, liberty, and property still form the irreducible that must be honored everywhere. The right to life is grounded in the eternal truth that man is end, not means. He has the right not merely to exist but to live; he must be looked upon by his fellows as no less than a man. The right to liberty means that he has the right to act and think as he pleases, so long as this does not impinge on the rights of other men. From original liberty, flow the freedoms of conscience, association, expression and movement, as well as the rights to justice and to pursuit of happiness. Man has no right to happiness, but he does have the right to pursue it with all the energies and talents God has given him. Finally, man has the right to acquire, hold, use, and dispose of property, as well as to enjoy the fruits that he reaps from it."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 36-37.

RE: Property & Human Rights.

"The Conservative refuses to make the easy, demagogic distinction between 'human rights' and 'property rights.' Property, in his view, is a human right, as important to man's existence and improvement as any other right. It is therefore to be honored without quibble and championed without reserve.

"... the Conservative advances these justifications of the institution of private property.

"Property makes it possible for a man to develop in mind and spirit. Tools, house, land, clothes, books, heirlooms -- how can any one deny that these are as essential as the air to man's growth to maturity and wisdom?

"Property makes it possible for a man to be free. Independence and privacy can never be enjoyed by any one who must rely on other persons or agencies -- especially government -- for food, shelter, and material comforts. Property gives him a place on which to stand and make free choices; it grants him a sphere in which he may ignore the state.

"Property is the most important single technique for the diffusion of economic power.

"Property is essential to the existence of the family, the natural unity of society.

"Property provides the main incentive for productive work. Human nature being what it is and always will be, the desire to acquire and hold property is essential to progress.

"Finally, property is a powerful Conservative agent, giving added support and substance to that temperament which helps stabilize society.

"The Conservative defense of private property is most certainly not a defense of its abuse, neglect, or existence in grotesque forms and exaggerated concentrations. Nor is it primarily a defense of industrial capitalism or large-scale private enterprise. Few Conservatives will assert, certainly in their more detached and Burkean moments, that any particular system of production and distribution is, like private property, rooted in the nature of things and men."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 37-38.

RE: Rights & Duties.

"Rights! There are no rights whatever without corresponding duties. Look at the history of the growth of our [British] Constitution, and you will see that our ancesters never upon any occasion stated, as a ground for claiming any of their privileges, an abstract right inherent in themselves; you will nowhere in our parliamentary records find the miserable sophism of the Rights of Man."

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Table Talk (November 20, 1831).

RE: The Individual's Rights & Duties.

"The man who has rights also has duties. Rights are, at bottom, simply claims upon other men, and the law of equilibrium commands those who make claims to be ready to pay for them. In return for the chance to enjoy his rights in a community, a man has the obligation to use these rights responsibility. The right to life carries with it the duty to live morally. Freedom of conscience is matched by the duty to think wisely and worship decorously. Freedom of association calls on men to give back in full measure what they get from their fellows. No right carries with it greater obligations than the possession of property, which is a legacy of the past, a power in the present, and a trust for the future.

"The final price of freedom is self-discipline and self-restraint."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 38-39.

RE: Law--The Source of All Rights.

"Men speak of natural rights, but I challenge anyone to show where in nature any rights existed or were recognized until there was established for their declaration and protection a duly promulgated body of corresponding laws."

      Calvin Coolidge, Speech, Northampton, Massachusetts

RE: Liberty Under Law--The Real Meaning of Liberty.

"Liberty is not the right or chance to do what we choose; there is no such liberty as that on earth. No man can do as he chooses....

"What we mean by liberty is civil liberty, or liberty under law; and this means the guarantees of law that a man shall not be interfered with while using his own powers for his own welfare. It is, therefore, a civil and political status...."

    William Graham Sumner, "The Challenge of Facts" (1882).

RE: Human Nature, Political Systems, & the Necessity of Vigilance in the Protection of Fundamental Political Principles in a Constitutional Democracy.

"The [political] institutions of no country are rigidly respected in practice, owing to the cupidity and passions of men; and vigilance in the protection of [political] principles is even more necessary in a [constitutional] democracy than in a[n absolute] monarchy, as their violation is more certain to affect the interests of the people under such a form of government than under any other. A violation of the principles of a [constitutional] democracy is at the loss of the people, while, in a[n absolute] monarchy, it is usually their gain."

      James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat (1838).

RE: Security from Domestic Violence--The Most Elementary & Fundamental Purpose of Government.

"The growing menace to personal safety, to life, limb, and property, in homes, churches, playgrounds, and places of business, particularly in our great cities, is the mounting concern of every thoughtful citizen. Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government. A government that cannot fulfill this purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History demonstrates that nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets safe from bullies and marauders."

      Barry Morris Goldwater, Acceptance Speech, Republican
            National Convention, San Francisco, California

RE: Understanding & Confronting the Advocates of Totalitarianism.

"Those who seek to live your lives for you, to take your liberties in return for relieving you of your responsibilities--those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen--must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for divine will. This nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.

"Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their version of heaven on earth. They are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies.

"Absolute power does corrupt. And those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.

"Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality.

"Equality, rightly understood, as our Founding Fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences.

"Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

"It is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private, or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism.

"It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people.

"It is the cause of Republicanism to restore a clear understanding of the tyranny of man over man in the world at large. It is our cause to dispel the foggy thinking which avoids hard decisions in the delusion that a world of conflict will mysteriously resolve itself into a world of harmony--if we just don't rock the boat or irritate the forces of aggression.

"It is the cause of Republicanism to remind ourselves and the world that only the strong can remain free--that only the strong can keep the peace!"

      Barry Morris Goldwater, Acceptance Speech, Republican
            National Convention, San Francisco, California

RE: Human Capacity for Self-Government.

".... the Conservative says ... man can govern himself, but there is no certainty that he will; free government is possible, but far from inevitable. Man will need all the help he can get from education, religion, tradition, and institutions if he is to enjoy even a limited success in his experiments with self-government. He must be counseled, encouraged, informed, and checked. Above all, he must realize that the collective wisdom of the community, itself the union of countless partial and imperfect wisdoms like his own, is alone equal to the mightest of social tasks. A clear recognition of man's conditional capacity for ruling himself and others is the first requisite of constitution-making."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 23.

RE: Anglo-American Constitutionalism & the Viability of Popular Government.

"... the British Constitution ... is a thing unique and remarkable. A series of undesigned changes brought it to such a condition, that satisfaction and impatience, the two great sources of political conduct, were both reasonably gratified under it. In this condition it became, not metaphorically but literally, the envy of the world, and the world took on all sides to copying it. The immitations [of the British Constitution by other societies] have not been generally happy. One nation alone, consisting of Englishmen, has practiced a modification of it successfully, admist abounding material plenty. It is not too much to say, that the only evidence worth mentioning for the duration of popular government is to be found in the success of the British Constitution during two centuries under special conditions, and in the success of the American Constitution during one century under conditions still more peculiar and more unlikely to recur. Yet, so far as our own [British] Constitution is concerned, that nice balance of attractions, which caused it to move evenly on its stately path, is perhaps destined to be disturbed. One of the forces governing it may gain dangerously at the expense of the other; and the British political system, with the national greatness and material prosperity attendant on it, may yet be launched into space and find its last affinites in silence and cold.

American experience has, I think, shown that, by wise Constitutional provisions thoroughly thought out beforehand, Democracy may be made tolerable. The public powers are carefully defined; the mode in which they are to be exercised is fixed; and the amplest securities are taken that none of the more important Constitutional arrangements be altered without every guarantee of caution."

      Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Popular Government (1885).

RE: Location of Governmental Power--Division versus Concentration of Power.

"The wisdom of our ancestors for more than 300 years has sought the division of power in the [British] Constitution. Crown, Lords and Commons have been checks and restraints upon one another. The concentration of all power over the daily lives of ordinary men and women in what is called 'the State,' exercised by what is virtually a single-chamber government, is a reactionary step contrary to the whole trend of British history and to the message we have given the world. The British race [nation, or society] has always abhored arbitrary and absolute government in every form. The great men who founded the American Constitution embodied this separation of authority in the strongest and most durable form. Not only did they divide executive, legislative and judicial functions, but also by instituting a federal system they preserved immense and sovereign rights to local communities, and by all these means they have preserved--often at some inconvenience--a system of law and liberty under which they have thrived and reached the leadership of the world. The Socialist conception of the all-powerful State entering into the smallest detail of the life and conduct of the individual and claiming to plan and shape his work and its rewards is odious and repellent to every friend of freedom. These absolute powers would make the group of politicians who obtained a majority of seats in Parliament the masters and not the servants of the people and would centralize all government in Whitehall.

"The worship of an all-powerful State, beneath which the ordinary mass of citizens lie prostrate, is one of the most deadly and insidious delusions by which a free people as we still are can cast away rights and liberties, which for their own sake and the sake of their children, they ought to hold dearer than life itself.

"The British nation now has to make one of the most momentous choices in its history. That choice is between two ways of life; between individual liberty and State domination; between the concentration of ownership in the hands of the State and the extension of property-owning democracy; between a policy of increasing control and restriction, and a policy of liberty, energy and ingenuity; between a policy of levelling down and a policy of finding opportunity for all to rise upwards from a basic standard...."

      Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Election Speech

RE: Socialism & Centralization of Governmental Power.

"Every tendency of Socialist government is towards the centralization of power. It is inherent in their conception of State control. But, as history shows, the division of ruling power has always been for than 300 years the aim of the British people. The division of power is the keynote of our Parliamentary system and of the constitutions we have spread all over the world. The idea of checks and counter-checks; the resistance to the theory that one man, or group of men, can by sweeping gestures and decisions reduce the rest of us to subservience; these have always been the war cries of the British nation and the division of power has always been one of the war cries of the British people. And from here the principle was carried to America. The scheme of the American Constitution was framed to prevent any one man, or any one lot, getting arbitrary control of the whole nation. Of course in America there are forty-eight States of the Union, all of which by their power lead their own life in their own way within their wide limits, and to argue it out among themselves, are defended and protected against anything in the nature of a one man or one caucus autocracy...."

      Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Speech, Conservative
            Party Annual Conference (1950).

RE: The Wisdom of the Ages.

"We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of the nations and of ages."

      Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France 

RE: The State & Political Change.

"A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation."

      Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France 

RE: The Conservative Statesman.

"A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman."

      Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France 

RE: Preservation of Established Values & Institutions.

"The central contention of Conservatism has been that, before building something new, the values that have been created must be conserved. I take it that in the United States the foremost Conservative committment is to defend--and improve--our constitutional government, our laws and our system of order; the social and economic institutions on which our civilization is built; and the Bill of Rights, which is the basis of our human relationships and freedoms. The Conservative is not committed to preserving our morality, institutions, laws, and procedures precisely as they now are, let alone to upholding their abuses, but he is committed to the notion that reforms must be accomplished by Americans through constitutional process, and neither through revolution nor imposition by a foreign conqueror."

    Stefan T. Possony, "The Challenge of Crisis," in Frank S. Meyer (ed.), What Is Conservatism? (Henry Regnery, 1964).

RE: The Nature and Capacity of Government.

"Man is a political as well as social animal; government is necessary to his existence as man. The concept of the social contract may have some lingering value as the symbol of consent, but the origin of government cannot possibly be explained in mechanistic terms. Government, like the family out of which it arose, is nature's unforced answer to timeless human needs. Natural in origin, it is also natural in development. Like society, it is a tree, rather than a machine. Laws and institutions are the result of centuries of imperceptible growth, not the work of one generation of constitution-makers. A new constitution will not last long unless it incorporates a good part of the old; most successful reforms in the pattern of government are recognition of prescriptive changes that have already taken place.

"Government serves many purposes, but not all. For example, no government can ever act as a proper substitute for the other intrinsic institutions -- family, church, neighborhood, occupational association. Nor can it be entirely successful in its own area of operation, since, in Lord Hailsham's words, 'there are inherent limitations on what may be achieved by political means.' The most obstinate of these limitations is, of course, the imperfect nature of man. In addition, law and administration find unbreakable limits in the rights of men, which exist independently of the will and favor of government, and in the existence of lesser groups and institutions, some of which are as natural and indestructible as government itself. There are, in short, many things that government simply cannot do -- by right or by nature."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 31-32.

RE: Radical Change in an Established, Functioning Governmental System.

"Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. This can only be done by a power out of themselves; and not, in the exercise of its function, subject to that will and to those passions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this sense the restraint on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights. This it is which makes the constitution of a state, and the due distribution of its powers, a matter of the most delicate and complicated skill. It requires a deep knowledge of human nature.

"The science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. The science of government being ... a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagatious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice, which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society."

      Edmund Burke, Reflexions on the Revolution in France 

RE: Proposals for Far-reaching Change in the Existing, Functioning Political System.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."


RE: When Constitutional Conservatism Justifies Revolution.

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

      The American Declaration of Independence (1776).

RE: Law & Arbitrary Power.

"Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity."

      Edmund Burke, Speech on the Impeachment of Warren
            Hastings (1788).

RE: Power, Absolute Power, & Corruption.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

      Lord Acton, Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887).

RE: The Problem of Political Power.

"The Conservative ... knows the peril of power, and the practical means for restraining power. To John Adams and James Madison in the United States, to [Edmund] Burke and [Benjamin] Disraeli in England, we can turn for guidance. The thinking Conservative has consistently sought to keep power from the appetite of any man or class, through respect for prescriptive constitutions, attention to state and local (as distinguished from central) government, checking and balancing of the executive and the legislative and judicial divisions of political authority, and prudent confinement of the state's [i.e., the government's] sphere of action to a few well-defined objects. Just this Conservative policy of restraining power by constitutional arrangements has been the attainment of American political philosophy from the colonial thinkers and the framers of the [U.S.] Constitution through [John C.] Calhoun and {Daniel] Webster, to our own day; and just this search after a just balance of authority has been the great practical success and lesson of the American political experiment, ensuring to us [Americans] a high degree of freedom and right for three centuries.

"This end was the reason for which the most influential work of all our political literature, the Federalist Papers, was written. Madison, [Alexander] Hamilton and [John] Jay, statesmen severely aware of the frailty of human nature, understood that tyrants and mobs are restrained from overthrowing justice and liberty more by wise constitutions than any wisdom innate in 'the People'; and, drawing from the political experience and tradition of the colonies and of England, they convinced their new nation of the prudence of a federal system of government, founded not upon abstract concepts, but upon historical experience and juridical precedent. John Adams, during the same period, in his Defense of the Constitutions, drew up a gigantic brief for the division of political authority, in the light of European history from the sixth century before Christ to the contemporary system of England and the Swiss cantons.

"The system of checks and balances in government, the decentralization of authority, and the several other devices to restrain power were designed, in short, by the leaders of both the Northern and the Southern states, to conserve the justice and the freedoms which Americans had long enjoyed; and thinking Conservatives have adhered to this system for hedging and confining powers ever since then. ... the intentions of the founders of the American Republic is perfectly clear, and it was substantially a Conservative intention, quite as Burke's struggle against the unitary designs of George III and his friends was Conservative. The The Conservative leader in America, from President Adams and President Madison to Senator [Harry F.] Byrd and Senator [Robert A.] Taft, has detested consolidation of power. ... John Adams expresses the Conservatives' view of consolidation with admirable brevity: 'My opinion is, and always has been, that absolute power intoxicates alike despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, and jacobins, and sans culottes.'"

    Russell Kirk, Prospects for Conservatives (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956). pp. 229-231.

RE: Limited Government, or Constitutionalism -- The Need for Constitutional Government.

"[Government] ... must be constitutional. The discretion of men in power must be reduced to the lowest level consistent with effective operation of the political machinery. Rulers and ruled alike must respect the sanctity of constitutional limits. The great service of constitutionalism, the Conservative says, is that it forces men to think, talk, and compromise before they act. Every constitution is both a grant of power and a catalogue of limitations; constitutions lay stress on the second of these purposes."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvand University Press, 1982) pp. 32-33.

RE: Diffusion of Power & Balanced Government.

"... [political] power must be diffused and balanced. Government must not sway with every breeze that seems to blow from the people. The power to act in response to popular whims must be divided horizontally among a series of independent organs and agencies, and and vertically between two or more levels of government. The diffusion of power power puts a brake on the urge for wholesale reform. At the same time, it is the most trustworthy limit on abuses of authority. Once power has been diffused, the institutions that share it must be placed in balance. Equilibrium is the mark of stable government, just as it is of stable society, and the essence of equilibrium is mutual restraint and ultimate unity."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 33.

RE: Divided & Balanced Political Power.

"The American Conservative is truly a federalist, a balancer of authority, a restrainer of power -- not a consolidator, and not an anarchist. With [Abraham] Lincoln, the Conservative takes a middle path between such extremes, not out of any misconceived attachment to the 'excluded middle,' but because he does not believe that security and justice can be found in any fanatic scheme of absolute sovereignty or absolute liberty."

    Russell Kirk, Prospects for Conservatives (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1956), pp. 231-232.

RE: Representative Government -- Popular, or Democratic Government, That Is Representative in Character.

"... a government must be representative. Representation is more than a pragmatic answer to the problems of popular government in an extended area. The ancient system under which the people elect representatives to make all laws except the constitution and all decisions except as to their own continuence in office is justified by these considerations: It ... delays decision and frustrates whimsical change. It permits debate and compromise to take place under optimum conditions, and thus gives reason and candor a chance to be heard. Most important, it institutionalizes the urge for aristocracy [i.e., "natural aristocracy," or leadership]. Representation ... is a means of assuring the leadership of the best men in the community, a remarkable contrivance through which ordinary men may may acieve extraordinary governmennt."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), p. 33.

RE: Rule by a Limited and Restrained Majority.

"Limitations, diffusion, balance, representation -- through these techniques, the Conservative seeks the influence of majority rule. He is deeply concerned about the potential tyranny of the unrestrained majority. While he knows no better way of making political decisions in a modern community, he insists that the majority be cool-headed, persistent and overwhelming, and that it recognize those things it cannot do by right or might.

"Government, in the Conservative view, is something like fire. Under control, it is the most useful of servants; out of control, it is a raviging tyrant."

    Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 33-34.

RE: John Adams on the Danger of Simple, Unchecked Democracy.

"My opinion is, and always has been, that absolute power intoxicates alike despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, and Jacobins, and sans culottes. I cannot say that democracy has been more pernicious, on the whole, than any of the others [monarchy and aristocracy]. Its atrocities have been more transcient; those of the others have been more permanent. The history of all ages shows that the caprice, cruelties, and horrors of democ- racy have soon disgusted, alarmed, and terrified themselves. They soon cry, 'this will not do; we have gone too far! We are all in the wrong! We are none of us safe! We must unite in some clever fellow, who can protect us all--Caesar, Bonaparte, who you will! Though we distrust, hate, and abhor them all; yet we must submit to one or another of them, stand by him, cry him up to the skies, and swear that he is the greatest, best, and finest man that ever lived!'

"... democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves [i.e., developed self-control, learned how to control their own passions]. Nations and large bodies of men never [have and never will]...."

    John Adams, Letter to John Taylor (1814).

RE: The Danger of Absolute, or Unlimited, Majority Rule.

"A democracy [i.e., absolute democracy, the type of democracy characterized by unchecked majority rule] cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury."

      Alexander Tytler.

RE: Absolute Majority Rule.

"The government of the absolute majority instead of the government of the people is but the government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised."

      John Caldwell Calhoun, Speech, U.S. Senate (1833).

RE: Unlimited Majority Rule.

"The moment a mere numerical superiority by either states or voters in this country proceeds to ignore the needs and desires of the minority, and for their own selfish purpose or advancement, hamper or oppress that minority, or debar them in any way from equal privileges and equal rights--that moment will mark the failure of our constitutional system."

      Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Radio Broadcast (1930).

RE: Majority Rule & Minority Rights.

"In making the great experiment of governing people by consent rather than by coercion, it is not sufficient that the party in power should have a majority. It is just as necessary that the party in power should never outrage the minority."

    Walter Lippmann, "The Indispensable Opposition," Atlantic Monthly (1939).

RE: The Wisdom or Folly of Efforts to Broaden & Deepen Citizens' Involvement in Politics.

"It is not altogether a bad thing in a republic that people feel remote from public affairs; a widespread preoccupation with politics is a sign of tumult and trouble. Self-government involves a process of self-selection. Politics becomes the responsibility of people who take the trouble to understand it.... This process of self-selection is not something we should tamper with. With considerable efficiency it weeds out the lazy, the petulant, the disorderly, the ignorant...."

      Andrew Ferguson, "Vanishing Voters, Vamoose!", The Weekly 
            Standard (April 10, 2000).

RE: The Quality of American Voters & the Quality of American Society--A Sound Electorate, an Essential Precondition of A Sound Country.

"Earlier generations of Americans realized that a sound country depended on a sound electorate. They regarded voting as a privilege, not a right. Laws were enacted in the various states, setting forth education and/or property requirements for voting. It was assumed then that those who couldn't understand the Constitution and who didn't have a property stake in the community weren't fit to elect representatives to government bodies. That sound policy has been bulldozed aside in recent years. Every warm body is eligible to cast a vote on issues affecting the liberty and property of the people. This disregard for standards results from a sentimental notion about equality.

"...semi-literate voters can be removed from the voter rolls. ...it is very important that those citizens best qualified to make the policies of the nation determine in their minds that standards be set anew for the electorate."

      Anthony Harrigan, American Perspectives (Southern States
            Industrial Council, 1972).

RE: The Intellectual Caliber of American Politicians.

"...in American politics the standard of intelligence and academic excellence is not very high. Deeply reflective people are not common in American politics, and they are often not successful. If you were to look at the IQs or standardized-test scores of most successful politicians, you'd think they were layabout high school dropouts or shade-tree mechanics."

      Ross Baker (Rutgers University Professor of Political
            Science), Quoted by Roger Simon in "Who's the
            Dimmest Dim Bulb?  U.S. News & World Report 
            (April 3, 2000).

RE: When Democracy Is the Best Government on Earth.

"Democracy [of the constitutional type], though slowly attained and never by revolutionary jumps, is the best government on earth when it tries to make all its citizens aristocrats. But not when it guillotines whoever is individual, superior, or just different."

      Peter Viereck, Conservatism Revisited (The Free Press,

RE: Conservatism versus Unchecked Majority Rule.

"The extraordinary conservatism of America's founding fathers is today often ignored. Liberals discuss it with pained embarrassment as a family skeleton. Yet it may account for ours being one of the oldest surviving democracies, one of the few never overthrown. A leftist or rightist dictatorship can more easily overthrow an unconservative democracy, where change is too rapid or where an unchecked majoritarianism can sweep a dictator to power during a transient mob hysteria, regretted too late."

      Peter Viereck, Conservatism Revisited (The Free Press,

RE: Tyranny of the Majority.

"Political leaders, not oblivious of votes, rightly praise the benefits of majority rule. They discuss too little the dangers of majority dictatorship. These dangers had been discussed and guarded against by the framers of the American Constitution. Whether the rulers be the aristocracy or demos, it is essential to limit their rule by a constitution and by just laws. As Plato argued and as history has illustrated, the despotism of demos passes readily into that of the tyrant [autocrat], both alike in being arbitrary, unchecked by the rights of minorities and individuals. Individual freedom is attacked from the right by compulsory inequality, enforced by cast lines, and from the left by compulsory equality, enforced by guillotines. Yet freedom should be the goal of all political action, ahead of comfort, circuses, and gregarious comrade-ism. Freedom is more important to creativity and thereby, in the longrun, to the human race than a leveling majoritarianism, that bed of Procrustes worshipped by the breathless heralds of progress."

    Peter Viereck, Conservatism Revisited (The Free Press, 1962).

RE: The Importance of Limiting Growth in the Functions of Government.

"... every increase of the functions devolving on the government is an increase in its power, both in the form of authority, and still more, in the indirect form of influence. The importance of this consideration, in respect to political freedom, has in general been quite sufficiently recognized, at least in England; but many, in later times, have been prone to think that limitation of the powers of the government is only essential when the government itself is badly constituted; when it do not represent the people, but is the organ of a class, or coalition of classes; and that a government of sufficiently popular constitution might be trusted with any amount of power over the nation, since its power would be only that of the nation over itself. This might be true, if the nation, in such cases, did not practically mean a mere majority of the nation, and if minorities were only capable of oppressing, but not of being oppressed. Experience, however, proves that the depositories of power who are mere delegates of the people, that is of a majority, are quite as ready (when they think they can count on popular support) as any organ of oligarchy, to assume arbitrary power, and encroach unduly on the liberty of private life. The public collectively is abundantly ready to impose, not only its generally narrow views of its interests, but its abstract opinions, and even tastes, as laws binding upon individuals. And the present civilization tends so strongly to make the power of persons acting in masses the only substantial power in society, that there never was more necessity for surrounding individual independence of thought, speech, and conduct, with the most powerful defenses, in order to maintain that originality of mind and individuality of character, which are the only source of any real progress, and most of the qualities which make the human race much superior to any herd of animals. Hence it is no less important in a democratic than in any other government, that all tendency on the part of public authorities to stretch their interference, and assume a power of any sort which can easily be dispensed with, should be regarded with unremitting jealously. Perhaps this is even more important in a democracy than in any other form of political society; because, where public opinion is sovereign, an individual who is oppressed by the sovereign does not, as in most other states of things, find a rival power to which he can appeal for relief, or, at all events for sympathy."

      John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848).

RE: Moral Values & Improvement of Laws.

"Laws never would be improved if there were not numerous persons whose moral sentiments [values] are better than the existing laws."

      John Stuart Mill, The Subjection of Women (1869).

RE: Liberty, Property, & the Growth of Civilization.

"Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guarantee by the [U.S.] Constitution and the one on which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race."

      William Howard Taft, Popular Government (1913).

RE: Private Ownership of Property in America.

"In no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States, and nowhere else does the majority display less inclination toward doctrines which in any way threaten the way property is owned."

      Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de Tocqueville, Democracy 
            in America (1840).

RE: Diversity in Individual Abilities & Protecting the Rights of Private Property.

"The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is ... an insuperable obstacle to an uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government."

      James Madison, Essay Number 10, The Federalist (1787-1788).

RE: Government Ownership of Economic Enterprise.

"I do not believe in government ownership of anything which can with propriety be left in private hands, and in particular I should most strenuously object to government ownership of railroads."

      Theodore Roosevelt, Speech, Raleigh, North Carolina


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