Principalities & Powers

Holding the Pass

It has been ten years since the death, at his home in the village of Mecosta, Michigan, of Russell Kirk, author of The Conservative Mind and one of the main spokesmen for organized American conservatism as it was known throughout his life.  While there were other architects of conservatism who were Kirk’s contemporaries, almost all of them have faded from the conservative memory—in part, I think, for the simple reason that several simply died at an early age before the conservative movement acquired the resources to be able to institutionalize them and their memories sufficiently and in part, also, because conservatives themselves are not disposed to remember most of them anyway.  Kirk’s fate was perhaps more fortunate since he lived well into the years when conservatism supposedly had “triumphed,” if you believe its court historians.  Kirk himself did not believe them then and would not believe them today if he were alive to read them.

Kirk has survived in the conservative memory as something of a cult figure, and there is now a book-length study of his thought by a friend and former student, Wesley McDonald, whose Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology was ably reviewed by Scott P. Richert in the July issue.  Reading Mr. Richert’s review and, afterward, Dr. McDonald’s book, I was driven to some thoughts about Kirk himself and his legacy.

A well-educated...

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