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In , Will is equivocal, even skeptical, of the Declaration, especially its self-evident truths about natural right.He refers to its most famous sentences as a “highly charged declaration of a political philosophy” that ultimately amounts to a “rhetorical flourish” rather than a serious political theory.
American conservatism is not only different from, it is at bottom antagonistic to British and continental European conservatism.
It is not so much that Will offers a sweeping revision of Madison as that he perceives more fully the virtues of the founders’ thought.
Will now believes that he was “quite wrong” to think “that the American nation was ‘ill-founded’ because too little attention was given to the explicit cultivation of the virtues requisite for the success of a republic.” The “defect of better motives” was, plain and simple, not a defect of the founding. In the earlier book Will blamed our supposed neglect of civic and individual virtue on Madison, who had founded a government on the low but solid ground of accommodating and checking the people’s self-interest and passions.
Will’s heart belonged to Edmund Burke, the thinker cited most extensively in .
Their beliefs in natural rights, limited government, religious freedom, and in human virtue and dignity ushered in two centuries of American prosperity.
Now, as Will shows, conservatism is under threat--both from progressives and elements inside the Republican Party.NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, an "astonishing" and "enthralling" (Booklist) new examination of how the Founders' belief in natural rights created a great American political tradition--"easily one of the best books on American Conservatism ever written" (Jonah Goldberg). Will has attempted to disce NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER From the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, an "astonishing" and "enthralling" (Booklist) new examination of how the Founders' belief in natural rights created a great American political tradition--"easily one of the best books on American Conservatism ever written" (Jonah Goldberg). Will has attempted to discern the principles of the Western political tradition and apply them to America's civic life. Vital questions about the nature of man, of rights, of equality, of majority rule are bubbling just beneath the surface of daily events in America.The Founders' vision, articulated first in the Declaration of Independence and carried out in the Constitution, gave the new republic a framework for government unique in world history.American conservatism has a clear mission: It is to conserve, by articulating and demonstrating the continuing pertinence of, the Founders’ thinking…reconnecting the country with the principles of the Founding [is] conservatism’s core purpose today.Subtle and profound, [Burke’s] works are rich in prudential lessons that remain germane.I have noticed a couple of errors in punctuation, an article here and there, and a repeated paragraph. , the summa of his long career in opinion journalism.“American conservatism needs a Burke, a Disraeli—a self-conscious practitioner who can articulate the principles implicit in the statecraft he practices,” Will wrote 36 years ago.Furthermore, “The conservatism for which I argue is a ‘European’ conservatism….Will’s midlife intellectual crisis, and its resolution, mirrors the midlife crisis of post-Reagan conservatism, which is still working itself out even as it recalibrates its meaning in relation to Donald Trump’s presidency.* * * Will also delivered the Godkin Lectures at Harvard University in 1981, the basis for his slender book (1983).