Friday, November 11, 2011

Edmund Burke, Explaining the Conservative Principle

By conservative, here, I do not necessarily mean political conservatism, even though political conservatism, in its ideal form, does keep this principle of conservatism.  Instead, I mean precisely what Burke describes in the quote below: a practice or tendency of recognizing, valuing, and securing hard-won gains as necessary reform is pursued.  The relevance of this to our Constitution is in the fact that this Constitution, and the law embedded in it, is itself a hard-won gain, which could not be surely or easily repeated, once it has been discarded.  This is why it is so important to preserve it, even as we reform the laws and government that have been constructed upon it.

"This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection; or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it.  A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views.  People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.  Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement.  It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires."

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