Old Truths and the New Conservatism

“Old Truths and the New Conservatism,” Yale Review, May 1958.


Now, it may please us to think that everyone is born either a little liberal or a little conservative. It may please us so much, indeed, that we conveniently forget there was a time when no one was. The dissociation of the political sensibility is as much an historical event as the dissociation of the poetical sensibility about which literary critics of our day are so concerned. Up to the French Revolution, which can be taken as the opening of the modern political era, the history of political philosophy knows nothing of liberals and conservatives. There was a clash of principles, yes; of moral, political, and theological principles. And there was a continual clash of interests. But there was no controversy over one’s relation to the historical process itself-while it is precisely this relation which is the essential quality of both liberalism and conservatism, just as it is the interpretation of this relation that sets them at, odds.

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