Principalities & Powers

Queen of the Damned

“What I like best about the Order of the Garter,” Lord Melbourne is reported to have remarked, “is that there is no damned merit about it.”  Had the Philadelphia Society existed in Melbourne’s day, he would have found damned little merit in it either, though the society is not on quite the same level of social prestige as the unmeritorious Knights of the Garter.  Founded in 1964, the Philadelphia Society is a small band of conservative eggheads of which I have had the honor and pleasure to be a member since 1979.  Probably almost all the more important figures of American conservatism of the 1960’s were members also, and the character of the society is distinctly Old Right.  Not only I but several other editors of or contributors to Chronicles are or have been members of the society, which helps explain why there is no merit involved.  (Indeed, I even served on its Board of Trustees for a couple of years in the 1980’s.)

What is involved—or at least what most members always thought was involved—in gaining admission to the society’s august ranks and inner precincts was adherence to something like the philosophical conservatism of the Old Right, the conservative consensus or “conservative mainstream” of the 1950’s and 60’s, a body of thought from which I have come to dissent in several respects in recent years but which...

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