Modern Conservatism

Special Thanks to Everything Hendersonville

By William Haupt III   Author It Takes A Movement

“Society is a contract between the past, the present and those yet unborn.” (Edmund Burke)

Why is America the most auspicious and enduring democracy in world history? It has survived world wars, foreign invasion, terrorist attacks, and even a civil war. It was able to recover from the great depression, sustained constant economic and social turmoil, numerous political scandals and presidential assassinations without disrupting its core principled democratic foundations. Even after constant adversarial mass media attacks against some of our most respected leaders, it remains the most powerful, prosperous, and coveted nation in the world. Maybe it is because “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” (Bill Clinton)

Americans enjoy more opulence, opportunity, and freedom, than any other country on the globe: Yet we never question the source of this perpetual success. Could it be our entrepreneurial spirit, our abundant natural resources, or even our strategic geographic world location between Asia and Europe which puts us in a key position of economic world trade? Or is it our natural resilient will to survive which became deeply rooted in our culture after the revolution. It could just be that “This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” (J. Kerouac)

America is “the land of the free and the brave”. But more importantly, it is the place of “well ordered liberty”. It first appeared in Philadelphia, while drafting our Constitution. Philosophical ideology borrowed from the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans and the Christian churches combined with the wisdom and studies of past governments were used to create the American experience. This helped them understand human duties and responsible governance. And knowing the prevailing values of the new world immigrants brought fourth our Constitution. This covenant is the longest recorded instrument of government in world history because it was written by “free people for free people”. “People came here for a reason, to follow their conscience, to be free!”  (Glenn Beck)

Much of the credit for the success of America is rightly bestowed upon our great founders and their hard work, dedicated efforts and the collective sacrifices they made in authoring our Constitution and selling it to the spirited colonists. This was no easy task. And they did a remarkable job. But, they had help from unexpected champions of liberty such as Edmund Burke, the eloquent British parliamentarian of the late 18th century who was an avid supporter of American rights and a constant defender of America’s desire for independence and democratic rule. He was the eminent apostle of liberty through conservative principals and is considered the father of modern day conservatism. “Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality.” (Edmund Burke)

Edmund Burke is one of the most underrated political thinkers of the past three hundred years. He was a fierce champion of human rights and the American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. He has been apotheosized by great Americans including Theodore Roosevelt; Woodrow Wilson and JFK, yet his brilliance is buried in history’s archives.

Burke was highly admired by the American colonies for recognizing their dedicated efforts to obtain liberty and for striking back against British oppression. His greatest accomplishment was laying the foundation for the conservative ideology that remains with us to this day. He claimed, “We must be adaptable and forward-thinking, but also mindful of the debt we owe to past generations and our duty to preserve and uphold the institutions we have inherited.” He greatly influenced conservative and classical liberal intellectuals with his theory of “natural rights” and was the first to condemn the postulates of Communism and Socialist revolutionaries. His basic philosophical principles of life and politics have clearly demonstrated he is the first real political conservative. Edmund Burke once wrote that “Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government.”

Burke defended Americans with the British government. He made speeches against American taxation, British-American conciliation, and wrote a magnificent thesis for the sheriffs of Bristol on the “Affairs of America”. But he failed in numerous attempts to convince George III, and Parliament that forcing the colonies into accepting England’s tyrannical policies of regulation and control were not only unorthodox, but dangerous and would lead to rebellion. Burke was the first to endorse our independence and admit that trying to maintain rule over the colonies was a lost cause for Britain. “Kings will be tyrants by policy when subjects are rebels from principle.” (Edmund Burke)

Burke was often criticized because he spoke out against his own government and those in France, India and Ireland. But his philosophy about power, community, and civic virtue has endured for centuries. Burke’s uncanny insight made him unique since he wrote about many of the issues politicians face today. His studies on ideological extremism, the dangers of corporate controlled states, the loss of social cohesion, and the effects of political and social subversives on society were revolutionary for his time. Burke’s basic conservative moral values and legal political principles were based on classical and Christian law. He perceived this would make “good men do right for the right reason,” since they were influenced by Divinity. “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites.” (Edmund Burke)

Burke was a free thinker. He predicted the abolition of slavery, advocated free markets, religious equality, and government accountability which were threatening ideas at the time. Instead of defending government’s constitutions he preached the preservation of the “larger constitution of mankind.” His influence on American conservative thought is woven into most every aspect of our lives. He stressed relying on tradition and custom for public and private guidance. He demonstrates a strong conviction that men are equal in the eyes of God and He guarantees them personal freedom and equal rights and opportunity. But he clearly defines our obligation to actively support good governments with good laws. “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

Burke warned us about government elites that would demand conformity to their punitive ideology. But, he insisted liberty must be prudently measured. It was not enough to be free. Life must have meaning as well. And he asserted our rights came from God, law and order and we were culpable to Him as citizens and as lawmakers. He claimed “governments do not get their authority on social contract, but on virtuous principles.” Although he metaphorically mixes God, morals, dogma and government, he never advocated theocracy. Only that we acquiesce to morality in making laws.

Above all, he felt no government should restrict a man’s “inalienable rights”. Today’s progressives believe in “abstract rights”, and are constantly trying to find new ones in their pursuit of a perfect Utopia. To them, healthcare, home ownership, a high paying job, a college degree, food, clothing, and even cell phones are a right! While today’s conservatives’ ascribe to Burke’s philosophy that the “real rights of man” are rooted in custom, tradition, and faith and should not be rationed by oppressive laws.” The rights of men, that is to say, the natural rights of mankind, are indeed sacred things; if any public measure is proved mischievously to affect them, the objection ought to be fatal to that measure.” And, “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” (Edmund Burke)

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