The best of Fred Hutchison
The founders of modern conservatism
A brief history of conservatism, Part 5
Fred Hutchison, RenewAmerica analyst
August 22, 2013

Originally published July 31, 2007

Prior to 1600 A.D., much of what we now regard as conservative ideas was taken for granted by most people of the West. Although some counter-cultural ideas emerged during the late Medieval and Renaissance eras, they had no long-term historical traction.

In the last essay (part 4), we considered how leading Western philosophers during the period 1600-1800 A.D. undercut rational metaphysics and faith and promoted a destructive skepticism – thereby setting the stage for a rising liberal tide and a long-term cultural decline after 1800 A.D.

During the same period, a series of great men laid the foundations of modern conservatism. Although Western conservative principles and ideals are ancient, as outlined in parts 1-3 of this series, new foundations were needed to ensure a tough and resilient conservatism that could weather the intellectual, moral, and spiritual storms of modernity, and which could be a robust competitor of liberalism. This essay (part 5) is about a few of the founders of modern conservatism who lived from 1600-1800.

Standing athwart history

In 1955, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote that the purpose of his newly-founded magazine National Review was to "stand athwart history yelling stop." The phrase belongs to modern conservatism, which defies the dark, incoming tide of liberalism. Interestingly, only one of the conservative heroes mentioned in this essay, Edmund Burke (1729-1797), had the self-conscious idea that he was standing athwart the tides of history. That is one reason why he was the first truly modern conservative.

Burke took a look at the French Revolution and realized that the tide of the times was flowing in the wrong direction. Before the Revolution, France had a brilliant culture and provided cultural leadership to the West. The Revolution inflicted such profound damage to the culture and social fabric of France that French society and culture never entirely recovered its former glory and brilliance. For those who cared about civilization and high culture, the French Revolution was a catastrophe.

Although Burke pronounced bitter anathemas on the French revolutionaries – who destroyed a culture in the name of abstract theory – he was sympathetic to the American Founding Fathers, who fought to preserve the rights of Englishmen. He used his influence as a member of parliament to promote conciliation with the American colonies.

The reactionary insight

Karl Marx called modern conservatism "reactionary," and he was not entirely wrong. Many people have become conservatives in reaction to liberalism. However, conservatism has a metaphysical base – that is to say, it is founded on principles that are deeper, sounder, and more exalted than mere opposition to liberalism.

Conservatism has always had more substance than merely standing athwart history and yelling stop. A few conservatives might be like King Canute (995-1035), who sat on the shore and futilely commanded the tide not to come in. But unlike Canute, principled conservatives have slowed the incoming liberal tide and sometimes pushed the waters back.

In the nineteenth century, conservatism won its share of victories, and liberalism suffered its share of setbacks. Prior to World War I, it was not clear whether conservatism or liberalism would win the cultural and political struggle of the West.

Early Modern vs. Modern Conservatism

In contrast to Burke and Buckley's bold stand against the tides of history, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) had no concept of a liberal tide of history. Johnson occasionally ridiculed the romantic movement – which is the cultural counterpart of liberalism. (Both liberalism and romanticism sprang from tormented imagination of Rousseau.)

Johnson assumed that romantic notions could be dismissed as nonsense and regarded them unworthy of the serious attention of a grown man with a sensible head on his shoulders. A contemporary of Burke, he was an early modern conservative at heart.

In contrast, Buckley, a modern conservative, devoted a major portion of his life's work to polemically dismissing the nonsense of liberalism. As a political pundit, Buckley mainly criticized political liberalism, while Johnson, a literary intellectual, primarily criticized romanticism.

In contrast to Buckley's youthful awakening to the imperative of resisting the liberal tide, as evinced by his first book, God and Man at Yale (1951), all the early modern founders of modern conservatism made their seminal contributions to conservatism in their middle or mature years. They were all men with wise old heads when they laid the foundation of modern conservatism.

Remarkably, three of the conservative founders in the 1600-1800 period made important contributions to the anti-metaphysical world of nascent liberalism and romanticism as relatively young men. But as mature men, they switched sides in the cosmic struggle and became founders of the modern conservative movement.

Winston Churchill was much like the wise old heads whose advancing maturity moved them to the right. He said, "A man who is under thirty, who is not a liberal, has no heart. A man who is over thirty, and is not a conservative, has no brains."

John Locke, the father of liberalism and conservatism

John Locke (1634-1704) was as an indispensable founding father of both liberalism and conservatism. He laid the foundation for liberal epistemology (how we know and what we can know), and laid the foundation of a conservative ontology of human nature and a natural law political philosophy. He never noticed the contradiction between these two positions, because he was still arguing liberal epistemology and conservative ontology during his later years.

However, the contradiction is painfully apparent today. In the present culture war, we find the liberal heirs of Locke fighting the conservative heirs of Locke.

John Locke and the foundations of liberalism

Locke's early career was devoted to medicine and science, and he worked with some of the leading English scientists of the day. His immersion in the empirical process, which emphasized observation and experiment, and his familiarity with the empirical philosophies of Francis Bacon and Pierre Gassendi, led to his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which he articulated how the mind learns and knows.

As mentioned in our prior essay, Locke believed that the mind is a "tabula rasa," or blank slate. He posited that sensory impressions engrave themselves upon the passive mind. All human knowledge is built upon these monographs of the senses.

Fallacies of Locke's epistemology

The following points – essential to liberals, but outrageous to conservatives – are implicit in Locke's assumption that the mind is a blank slate:

(1) If the mind is a blank slate, man is modeling clay, and by implication, man is entirely the construct of the environment that molds him. This concept made it possible for Rousseau to claim that all human wickedness is caused by civilization.

(2) If man is modeling clay, he has no innate nature and can be molded to be anything. Therefore, the metaphysically-based principles that life has meaning and purpose can be dismissed by modernists. If man is a programmed automaton in an empty world, faith and reason based upon metaphysics are unwarranted. The cultural heritage of the West can be cast overboard as excess baggage holding man in the past.

(3) If man has a pliable nature, unlimited progress and a future utopia are possible. Therefore, let us start from scratch and use education and governmental social engineering programs to create a new man and a new world.

Comment: But if man is meaningless modeling clay, what is the point of a better world – and who is to say that one world is better than another? This tension has always existed in liberal thought, but during the modern era the mandate to build a better world prevailed. During the present postmodern darkness, the contradictory denial that one culture can be better than another has prevailed, lowering standards while broadening demands and expectations.

(4) When metaphysics collapses as called for in point number 2, the retreat of faith and reason is near at hand. The only faith a modeling clay creature should have is faith in the one who molds him – that is to say, faith in liberal educators and in the designers of governmental social programs. The monster ought to have faith in Dr. Frankenstein, his creator, just as we ought to have faith in the liberal elite – our new molders and creators.

Comment: However, if those who mold us have themselves been molded, why should we trust them? This was essentially the question the campus rebels were asking in the late sixties and why they revolted against the liberal establishment. In the same way, postmodern liberals revolt when establishment liberals are not sufficiently anti-establishment – such as Cindy Sheehan's campaign against Nancy Pelosi.

(Point of theology: Man can trust an uncreated Creator, but not a created creator. Therefore, the subversive question "Where did God come from?" is only asked by those with no faith.)

(5) Without a metaphysical foundation, independent reason is not viable. Man's molders and creators in education and government will indoctrinate him via politically-correct speech codes – so he knows what to think.

Comment: Without metaphysics, reason has no foundation and no voice of authority. Therefore, assertions of superior reason seem arrogant and arbitrary. Why then should a postmodernist believe that one package of mental programming is better than another? Or why then should one protest against indoctrination?

On the other hand, if reason is an illusion, those who program us are not rational beings. Therefore, why should we submit to their indoctrination?

Locke vs. Locke

Locke was a Christian and held reason, faith, and metaphysics in high esteem – and did not believe any of the modern ideas that are implied by his theory of the mind as a blank slate. He almost certainly would be outraged by these ideas – but the ideas would not have been possible without his epistemology.

The mind of man must have a nature, in order for Locke's conservative natural law principles to apply to man. Universal principles have no application to a modeling clay creature. Man must have innate faculties of reason, intuition, conscience, and will in order for natural law to resonate within him. He must be able to discover the imprint of natural law within his own nature in order to be persuaded and convicted by such principles.

Furthermore, man must be born with innate knowledge in order to harvest further knowledge (as argued by Aquinas and Kant). Imprints of the senses on the mind are experiences, but are not knowledge. Even a sea slug has sensory imprints on its microscopic brain. Reason must use innate knowledge in order to find meaning in sensory phenomena.

A difficulty that emerged during the postmodern shipwreck is that if everyone constructs his own world from sensory fragments of his own experience, then everyone's inner world is unique and is incompatible with everyone else's inner world. As such, all knowledge is unique to the individual. No universal knowledge and no authentic communication is possible. In such a world, anarchy is man's natural state, and civilizing order is oppressive – or so said Rousseau.

Natural law and a universal moral law are only applicable to a world where all men have a nature according to a creator's design. However, if everyone is a unique jerry-built construct of an independent self-creation, the very idea of universal principles, morality, and natural law is absurd.

Locke defends the English Bill of Rights

John Locke was an articulate supporter of The Glorious Revolution of 1688. King James II of England (James VII of Scotland) was deposed, and William and Mary of Orange were installed on the throne.

Locke provided a philosophical defense of the Declaration of Rights, also called the Bill of Rights (1689) that established the rights of Englishmen. These rights included: (a) the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, (b) the right to bear arms, (c) freedom from taxation without representation, (d) freedom to elect members of Parliament, (e) freedom of speech in Parliament, (f) freedom from cruel and unusual punishments and excessive bail, and (g) freedom from fines and forfeitures without trial. The Bill of Rights defined the acts of the king that require the consent of Parliament, a measure that limited the abuses of arbitrary power. The Bill made clear that the king was to be under the law and cannot establish his own courts and judge himself.

Some of these rights were included in the American Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers sought to recover these rights of Englishmen that American colonists had enjoyed but that were implicitly dismissed by actions of King George III, Lord North, and Parliament. Therefore, the American Revolution was essentially a conservative event. It was a fight to protect ancient and treasured rights and privileges that were threatened.

Universal rights

Thanks to John Locke's philosophical defense of the English Bill of Rights, Englishmen came to understand that certain enumerated rights were supported by natural law, and thereby belonged to them according to the laws of nature. They meant to have these rights so as to enjoy the full flourishing of their natures. The flourishing of human nature in England produced a remarkable vitality and energy that enabled Great Britain to become the premier economic and political power in the world by 1850. Tiny nations do not pioneer industrial revolutions or rule one-third of the globe without exceptional human energy, vitality, and self-discipline.

Americans assumed that the rights of Englishmen crossed the Atlantic with them. They remained the rough equivalent of Englishmen, did they not? But what about a Scotsman, an Irishman, or a German on American shores? Were they entitled to the rights of Englishmen? Well, when Locke described the laws of nature, he evidently meant human nature. He was developing these ideas before the Glorious Revolution, even though he dedicated the published work to the defense of the English Bill of Rights.

Americans gradually came to understand that rights derived from natural law are metaphysical and universal – not merely traditional privileges or legal entitlements for Englishmen and their colonial descendants. The Creator endowed these rights upon all mankind, including Scotsmen, Irishmen, Germans, indentured servants – and black slaves. The Civil War tested the proposition that a black slave is a man, and therefore has rights endowed by God and nature that cannot justly be withheld by the slave owner.

Interestingly, this debate about universal rights is not yet played out. In foreign policy, some conservatives argue that the federal government only has the mandate in the Constitution and in natural law to defend human rights for American citizens on American soil. Other conservatives argue that since human rights derived from natural law are universal, American foreign policy should express a vigorous concern about the deprivation of human rights abroad by foreign tyrants.

Locke vs. the Federalist Papers

Locke's famous Two Treatises of Government (1689) were to the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights what the Federalist Papers were to the American Constitution – except that the Federalist Papers were more practical and less metaphysical. Every well-educated American during the time of the American War for Independence had read Locke. The metaphysics of Natural Law were widely understood and did not have to be recapitulated.

However, the failure to adequately recapitulate natural law principles in the Federalist Papers might have been a mistake. Locke's theory of natural law was grounded in his Christian worldview. Some of the American founders who were fond of natural law were Deists. The thin metaphysical gruel of Deism opened the door to serious misunderstandings about natural law.

Jefferson's corruption of natural law

I read portions of Locke's treatises of government in college, and the following concepts forever stuck in my mind: (a) Property acquired by mixing one's labor with the gifts of nature is properly one's own; (b) No one can rightly feel himself ill-used or unjustly deprived solely because his neighbor possesses property; (c) One can dispose of his property as he wills provided he does so within the boundaries of the moral law; (d) No one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; (d) The arbitrary appropriation of one's property deprives a man of his rightful freedom in essential ways. I made a large poster for my campus conservative organization emblazoned with the words "Life, Liberty, Property." Many of my peers, including some calling themselves conservatives, had reservations about using "property," instead of "pursuit of happiness."

"The pursuit of happiness" was the motto of the romantic movement, which Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, inserted into the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, the Romantic Movement is based upon subjective experience. It has no metaphysical foundations and is incompatible with natural law. Natural law assumes that man has an innate nature. Romantics were in rebellion against the boundaries of nature.

God gave an innate nature to men – including reason and free will – so they could acquire property to meet their material needs and to function as free men. Without legal protection for private property, human freedom withers away. Every conservative understands this in the marrow of his bones.

Liberals who live in a metaphysical vacuum stumble over the concept that man has a right to property. They love the pursuit of happiness, but have no metaphysical foundation for claiming it as a right.

The concept of a right to privacy is not founded upon natural law, but flows from the romantic ideal of the pursuit of happiness. Liberals assume that anything done privately under the agenda of the pursuit of happiness must be valid, even if what is done is contrary to nature and contrary to the moral law. The attempt to mingle rational law concepts with misty romantic aspirations is a muddle. That is why contemporary jurisprudence about an imagined right to privacy is so deeply confused and conflicted.

Montesquieu: the aristocrat becomes a liberal

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron of Brede and Baron of Montesquieu (1689-1755), was a young man of high social rank and great political powers. In his twenties, he was an ultraconservative of the old order and celebrated the aristocracy and the feudal system. He was an intellectual at heart and he extensively studied law, history, and science.

At age 32, Montesquieu surprised everyone by suddenly veering toward skepticism and liberalism as expressed in his Persian Letters. He became the new Montaigne, celebrated in Paris for his witty and devastating critique of every aspect of the French social order. Montesquieu and Montaine, separated by two centuries, were intellectual French noblemen who both lived near Bordeaux and were both prominent in the provincial government.

During his thirties and forties, however, Montesquieu slowly gravitated towards the English intellectual world, partly through his affiliation with Viscount Bolingbroke and Lord Chesterfield, and partly due to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a high honor among the community of scientists. As an intimate friend of English dukes, he attended parliamentary debates and was welcomed at court by the Prince of Wales. He read English political journals and wrote an essay on the English constitution – which was incorporated years later into his classic The Spirit of the Laws. He was no longer a liberal.

Montesquieu considers the fall of Rome

At the age of 45, Montesquieu published a major work on the causes of the decline of ancient Rome named Reflection on the Causes of the Grandeur and Declension of Romans (1734). This work was a major milestone in his journey toward becoming a conservative.

Montesquieu published his analysis of the fall of Rome fifty-four years before Gibbon completed The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1788). Montesquieu gave the conservative's reasons for the decline of Rome, and Gibbon gave the liberal's reasons for the decline of Rome.

Among the reasons Montesquieu gave for the fall of Rome were: 1) moral decay, 2) cultural decline, 3) excessive immigration of aliens who were unformed by Roman culture and traditions, 4) high taxes, 5) inflation, 6) corruption of office holders, 7) the sapping of military virility and discipline by new anti-war religious cults, 8) the softening of character by wealth and luxurious living, 9) the abandonment of Roman farms, and 10) the servility, indolence, and fickleness of the multicultural rabble of Rome. Montesquieu's litany sounds like the lament of a twentieth-century American conservative toward the U.S.

Montesquieu had a special flair for political science. He regretted the loss of the Roman Republic. The Republic had separated the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government and put a premium on civic virtue. The empire excelled in governing foreign dependencies, but destroyed the liberty and character of the citizens in Rome and in the provinces by concentrating all power in a few hands in one city.

The Spirit of the Laws

After twenty years of scholarly toil, Montesquieu published his magnum opus, The Spirit of the Laws (1750). It was one of the greatest works of political theory and legal history ever written. Montesquieu, at the age of 61, was an international sage.

One of his famous doctrines was that the animating principle of republics is virtue, the animating principle of monarchies is honor, and the animating principle of despotisms is fear. A republic that protects a broad set of rights for its citizens is a "democratic republic," according to Montesquieu. If the rights of the citizens of a republic are narrowly defined, it is an "aristocratic republic." The English Bill of Rights was a movement away from an aristocratic republic and toward a democratic republic.

Using the English constitution as a model, Montesquieu wrote that a republic should place the executive, legislative, and judicial powers into different hands. He formulated his vision of the English constitution while a protege of Sir John Bolingbroke, a philosopher and a leader of the Tory party. Bolingbroke wrote the polemical works expressing the Tory opposition to Robert Walpole, the Whig leader.

Bolingbroke was a student of John Locke. Through Bolingbroke's writings, Locke's natural law ideas, as expressed in the formulation of laws by the legislative power, were an inspiration to Montesquieu. Book xi, chapter 6, of The Spirit of the Laws, which expressed these principles, inspired the Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. The chapter also inspired James Madison, who was the principal author of the Constitution of the United States.

Romanticism versus classicism

The cultural counterpart of conservatism was classicism, and the cultural counterpart of liberalism was romanticism. However, human nature is complex and paradoxical, and there have been plenty of conservative romantics and liberal classicists. Classicism in the arts emphasized beauty and harmony, universal and timeless qualities of human nature, and continuity with the ancient past. Romanticism emphasized individual emotional experience and breaking free of the strictures of mundane existence to soar up to sublime insights. Classicism cherished reason, order, and tradition, and the romantic movement was a rebellion against the confining boundaries of reason, order, and tradition.

Burke and Goethe: outgrowing romanticism

Edmund Burke (1729-1794) developed a concept that became essential to the romantic movement. This was thirty-three years before he wrote the essay that identified him as the father of traditionalist conservatism. As a young man, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a leader of the German romantic movement in poetry, drama, and literature. At age 37, Goethe went to Italy, observed classical art and architecture, and converted to classicism. Did Burke and Goethe outgrow romanticism?

Does a man gradually burn out on romantic experience and seek meaning in the harmony and beauty of classicism? Not necessarily, but it is certainly true in some cases. Several of the French impressionist painters burned out after twenty years. Renoir returned to classicism after he burned out on impressionism.

The young English poet William Wordsworth visited France during the Revolution. He fell in love with a French girl and also fell in love with the sheer romanticism of the Revolution. He wrote, "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven." Wordsworth mainly looked to nature to give him the minstrel raptures of romanticism. He wrote, "Nature never did betray the heart who loved her." However, nature did betray Wordsworth in his later years. He burned out on romanticism.

Beauty vs. the sublime

In 1757, Burke wrote A Philosophical Inquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful. It immediately was hailed as a classic work about aesthetics and is still required reading for students of aesthetics and art history.

Beauty had been a central theme of Western art for 2,300 years. However, Burke narrowed the concept of beauty to sharply contrast it with the sublime. Heretofore, most people assumed that beauty and the sublime overlap. Burke insisted that there is a gulf between the two. He narrowed and embellished the concept of beauty to include the pretty, the cute, the petite, the round, and the babyish in order to exaggerate the difference between beauty and the sublime.

Some Victorian artists followed Burke's idea of a cute sugar-coated sweetness as the personification of beauty. The more sentimental and nostalgic they got, the more gushy and effeminate were their creations. The classical purists who emphasized harmony, archetypal themes, universal ideas, and tradition laughed at the sugary Christmas card art. The romantic artists were revolted by the saccharine concept of beauty and declared war upon beauty.

I had a friend who painted abstract impressionist works of the Jackson Pollock genre. He had mastered every genre of art in college and proved it by painting a beautiful mural on my wall. He could not sell his paint smears on canvas, of course. I suggested that he paint pictures of cute puppies in order to pay the bills. He replied angrily, "That would be selling out."

Modern artists are not entirely wrong in their objection to the art of prettiness and cuteness. As every pretty high school girl knows, cuteness can be used in manipulative and exploitive ways. Tragically, the overreaction of modern artists against manipulative saccharine beauty led to a renunciation of beauty that has devastated twentieth-century art and has reduced late twentieth-century aesthetics to the level of barbarism. Why was the revolt against beauty so extreme?

The hideous sublime

Some artists of the Romantic movement like Renoire veered away from colossal eruptions of romantic feeling and defected to the art of prettiness. After all, romanticism sets the feelings free, and sentimental art is all about feelings. Mainstream romantics regarded this as a betrayal. Why? The way that Burke defined the sublime offers us an explanation.

Romantic orthodoxy insisted that art is to be about the sublime in the way Burke defined the sublime. Burke correctly recognized that every culture has a concept of the sublime. However, his definition of the sublime was radical. He decreed that the sublime is to be the exact opposite of his caricature of beauty as the small, round, cute, and sweet. Burke's sublime was to be gigantic, monstrous, terrifying, hideous, dark, and beyond the grasp of the intellect and the imagination. Romantic painters ceased to think of a majestic mountaintop as sublime and began to look to the nocturnal forest fears of fevered imagination as sublime.

The hideous sublime flourished in western art and literature during the nineteenth century, and took on the dark overtones of the occult. The obvious examples are Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (1797), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1816), Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven (1845), Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde (1886), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890), and Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, (1909). Such fare is still popular because of the triumph of the romantic movement in the arts.

Tolkien's revenge

J.R.R. Tolkien, a twentieth century Christian writer, featured sublime monsters who terrify cute Hobbits. However, his dramas involved a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. His dark, sublime monsters were entirely on the side of evil. The monsters were so despicable that the reader does not sympathize with them as some readers sympathize with Frankenstein's monster, Mr. Hyde, the Phantom, Dracula, and Dorian Grey. Tolkien made the monsters hideous in appearance and ferocity and tools of the forces of evil. They were at war with the allied forces of good, which included admirable human heroes.

By making sure we hate the monsters and love the heroes, Tolkien made his tales of the sublime compatible with Christianity. He found a place for the cute and cuddly creatures of the Shire in the grand scheme of things without displacing the classical nature of the true, the beautiful, and the good.

Burke, the romantic conservative

Burke did not renounce romanticism, but superseded it with conservative values and moved away from the dark sublime elements. Like Tolkien, Burke was a romantic conservative. But how can someone be these two things?

Recall that a portion of the romantic movement defected from the cult of the sublime and became sentimental and nostalgic. Traditionalist conservatives became nostalgic in a romantic fashion about the past. Tolkien was nostalgic about the heroic past of the Anglo-Saxon people. He wrote what he thought would have been the epic tales that would have been told by bards – i.e., the Anglo-Saxon Iliad and Odyssey – had it not been for the invasions of the Danes and the Norman-French.

Burke was romantically nostalgic about the high culture of Europe. He was horrified by the destruction of the brilliant culture of France. He regarded the rabble who set fire to magnificent art and artifacts as Tolkien regarded the orcs (rampaging goblins).

The Father of Modern Conservatism

Burke's Reflections on the Revolutions in France (1790) won the sympathy of many English readers because many Englishmen were shaken by the French Revolution. Burke cleverly used the essay against his liberal-progressive opponents in Parliament who were infatuated by social-engineering and reform projects.

Burked argued that the social fabric of a blessed culture slowly accumulates the wisdom of centuries. The deep and subtle wisdom embodied in the social fabric reflects deep verities of human nature, the treasuries of high culture, a distillation of divine truth, and a providential outworking of God's economy. In contrast, the vague general principles of the reformers are destructive when applied to real people in an organic society. The blunt hammer of the reformer destroys the delicate web of the social fabric.

Edmund Burke was the father of modern traditionalist conservatism. He taught us to defend the social fabric, to cherish the high culture that is our heritage, and to resist the liberal tide. He stood athwart history yelling "stop," giving a formative example to the young William F. Buckley, Jr.

Next time – modernity!

Next time, we shall venture into the nineteenth century – that is to say, into the modern world. Stay tuned!

A message from Stephen Stone, President, RenewAmerica

I first became acquainted with Fred Hutchison in December 2003, when he contacted me about an article he was interested in writing for RenewAmerica about Alan Keyes. From that auspicious moment until God took him a little more than six years later, we published over 200 of Fred's incomparable essays — usually on some vital aspect of the modern "culture war," written with wit and disarming logic from Fred's brilliant perspective of history, philosophy, science, and scripture.

It was obvious to me from the beginning that Fred was in a class by himself among American conservative writers, and I was honored to feature his insights at RA.

I greatly miss Fred, who died of a brain tumor on August 10, 2010. What a gentle — yet profoundly powerful — voice of reason and godly truth! I'm delighted to see his remarkable essays on the history of conservatism brought together in a masterfully-edited volume by Julie Klusty. Restoring History is a wonderful tribute to a truly great man.

The book is available at

© Fred Hutchison


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They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31