‘What is conservatism?”
This question has been getting more than its usual share of raking over in the post-Bush beginnings of 2009. But it was being asked in terms just as blunt 150 years ago, and the man asking the question was Abraham Lincoln.
Fresh from his near-victory over Stephen Douglas for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, and soon to deliver a headline-grabbing speech at New York City’s Cooper Union, Lincoln posed the question to a political rally in Leavenworth, Kan., in December 1859.
In the broadest sense, said Lincoln, conservatism meant “preserving the old against the new.” In the American context, …