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A Conservative in Crisis

Those who have only a passing acquaintance with the history of post-World War II conservatism are not likely even to have heard of Francis Graham Wilson.  Yet, before the emergence of William F. Buckley, Jr., and National Review or the publication of Russell Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Wilson had already marked out the grounds for an intellectual conservatism firmly grounded in the natural-law teachings of the Catholic Church.  The chief reason for Wilson’s relative obscurity resides in the fact that he was a reserved individual, a professor of political philosophy most at ease in academic surroundings pursuing his scholarly interests.  In the course of his academic career—11 years at the University of Washington (1928-39) and 28 at the University of Illinois (1938-67)—he wrote six books, the most notable being a fine American political-theory text, The American Political Mind (1949), and Public Opinion (1962), the work he treasured most.  The Case for Conservatism (1951), which seems to have attracted more attention than any of his other works, is very short, consisting of three lectures he gave on this subject at the University of Washington.  He had an abiding interest in Spanish thought and culture, which prompted his last published book, Political Thought of Modern Spain (1967).  At the time of his death in 1976, he was working on a...

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