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“Conservatism” 120 years ago: “After a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed”

“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.” Robert Lewis Dabney on Conservatism, 1987

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  • Monty James July 18, 2018, 12:37 PM

    I’ve always liked this take, but it’s depressing, every time I read it. About eight or nine years ago I had had enough, and began telling people that I’m not conservative, I’m right wing. I had a subscription to National Review when I was a senior in high school. I spent about thirty years being a mark for these grifters. Embarrassing. After the war they’ll be the first ones to report to the train stations, as ZMan might say.

  • Anonymous July 18, 2018, 12:46 PM

    RLD’s essay written in 1897 complains about the spineless crawl of American Conservatism toward hellish destruction. He emphasizes as adding to the destructive principles of AC the probable legalization of women voting. No argument or evidence for this opinion is presented.
    RLD presents a vacuous lather of blather. No mention of the need for a well-informed virtuous citizenry and the means thereto.
    In essence he insults women — mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters as no more worthy of voting than males. Additionally he conflates the original principles of AC with their warped practitioners of power and personal gain.
    Confirming Albert Einstein, RLD demonstrates that Stupidity can be infinite.

  • Ten July 18, 2018, 1:23 PM

    You may want to rethink that remark, Anon, assuming it was thought it in the first place.

  • ghostsniper July 18, 2018, 2:47 PM

    “…not of sturdy principle…”

    There ya go.
    How do you demolish an empire?
    One person at a time, from within.
    The flagrant ignorance of this anonymous person above is astonishing, and thanks to the public indoctrination system, it is pandemic now.

    @Monty James, just because american communist’s fraudulently call themselves “conservative” is no reason to follow their lead. Being (politically) right wing is no honor for you are still one of them.

  • Bill in Tennessee July 18, 2018, 2:53 PM

    Why do I think of George Will as I read this? Constantly tsk-tsk’ing and raising one brow while progs zip past him in the fast lane with a cheery toot toot.

  • Bill in Tennessee July 18, 2018, 2:58 PM

    Add on comment: I know several people who are now actively hoping for a Great Reckoning that will see America return to its roots and progressivism stomped into the dirt. Not ME, necessarily, tsk-tsk, perish the thought! But there are PLENTY of people just waiting for such a moment… I just happen to know some of them, that’s all.

  • Vanderleun July 18, 2018, 6:24 PM

    Dear Me Anon, you might — if you can — consider that the excerpt was written in (as noted) 1897 and the arguments for and against women’s suffrage were well known to his contemporaries. The idea that somebody from the 19th century needs to be up to speed with your half-assed “criticisms” has no foundation in reality or, indeed, basic decency and sanity.