POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Fifty Years Ago This Month

by David Trumbull

March 5, 2010

Fifty years ago this month The Conscience of a Conservative was published under the name of Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998). The thin, 127-page, volume was, in fact, ghostwritten by L.Brent Bozell, Jr. (1927-1997), Goldwater’s speechwriter, and sets forth in ten chapters some of the most important themes in modern (post World War II) American conservatism. The book was a best-seller and propelled Goldwater to the Republican Party nomination for the presidency in 1964. The book helped to popularize the conservative movement and its publication was one of the key events preparing the way for Ronald Reagan to be nominated and win the presidency in 1980.

In chapter one the author states: “The root difference between the Conservative and Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature.” He sets forth three conservative principles.

  • First, each man has a unique individual soul.

  • Second, man cannot by economically free if a political slave, and vice-versa.

  • Finally, politics ought to be conceived “as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals consistent with the maintenance of the social order.”

In a chapter on “The Perils of Power” he sets forth the conservative doctrine of constitutionalism. First the limitation of the federal government’s authority to specific, delegated powers. Second, the reservation to the States and people of all other power. Third, division of power among three branches of government. Finally, the wisdom of the founders in making it difficult to amend the Constitution.

I’ve mentioned how Ronald Reagan’s election and two successful terms as President were the fruit of the sort of conservatism articulated in Goldwater’s book. The 1994 Republican revolution which saw huge conservative gains in both houses of congress, likewise, stood on the shoulders of Goldwater and other post-War conservatives. The “Don’t Tread on Me” rallying cry of today’s Tea Party movement is just the latest manifestation of the essential conservatism of Americans.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]