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Robert Lewis Dabney on Conservatism

March 5, 1820–January 3, 1898

366 words

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent: Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. . . . Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now serves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.




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  1. Sylvanus Carpenter
    Posted November 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    That about sums up the American Conservatism of our day as well. Little has changed. I particularly enjoyed the phrase that it is merely “the shadow that follows Radicalism.”

  2. Fourmyle of Ceres
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Dabney is often, and wisely, cited on the websites of Cambria Will Not Yield, and Spirit, Water, Blood.

    His strongest point – that (Institutional) Conservatism simply “conserves” liberal (“Radical”) victories, is a solemn reminder for us on the importance of Tradition, in the furtherance of the metapolitical framework for our own ethnostate, our own homeland, the Northwest Republic.

    • JMorphy
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Cambria Will Not Yield said it best: “Now that society is Satanic, Satan is a conservative.”

  3. Andrew Hamilton
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    My sentiments exactly.

  4. DJF
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Most of what is called main stream conservatism is nothing but slow liberalism. It is not based on any real ideas but generally is about what the persons positions were growing up and since the liberals have ratcheted up their positions generation after generation so to have the main stream conservatives who are at most just a generation behind.

    . Even the “great conservative” Ronald Reagan was really an FDR democrat.

    FDR used big deficits to try to boost the economy and so did Reagan
    FDR thought that a world wide war against fascism was necessary, Reagan thought that a world wide war against communism was worth the cost
    FDR was against government employees having unions, Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controllers union
    FDR created many new government agencies and powers and Reagan maintained them all.

    All the liberals have to do is get something enacted and the “main stream conservatives” will make it part of their program 5 or 10 years down the road.

  5. Dave
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    The Southerners had it nailed. No wonder the Yankee grubbers taxed them out of existence. Like what Jews are still trying to do to the Germans. Romney was no solution; indeed he was in the pockets of the people who run the Democrats.

    Keep yer powder dry. Ain’t no goin’ back.

  6. phil white
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this. So we do not know if we should stick with the Republican party, but we do know not to include conservatives in our revolution.
    Actually as Greg would say an activist even wiser than Saul Alinksy wrote that when a revolutionary part begins to grow rapidly it will have to stop taking in new members, in our case refugee conservatives from the dead Republican party.
    The activist I believe felt that the conservatives would influence the party into timidity.
    The revolutionary party should take a breather from gaining recruits. A guess is to have time to acclimate the newest recruits till they have fully internalized the revolutionary spirit?
    I do recall the history of the geniuses activist was his party grew exponentially but in fits and starts.

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