A Conservatism of Thought and Imagination
Ten Conservative Principles (1993)
- First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.
- Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.
- Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.
- Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.
- Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.
- Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.
- Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.
- Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.
- Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
- Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
Evolution of Kirk's Thought on Conservative Principles
In 1953, with the publication of The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk set out six “canons” that he considered a reasonable summary or outline of the significant themes common among conservative thinkers. In his 1982 introduction to the Portable Conservative Reader, Kirk offered a variation on those canons, and in a chapter in the 1993 Politics of Prudence, his last book, he expanded the canons to ten principles.
- This PDF download is an excellent summary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (from the Alabama Policy Institute “Essential Readings for the Modern Conservative” series, 2005, 71 pages).
- This short and accessible 1957 essay, “The Essence of Conservatism,” written to introduce conservative thought to a general audience, has an early version of the ten principles.
- Here is an extended excerpt from the 1993 essay, “Ten Conservative Principles.”
- In this 1981 essay, Kirk goes into some detail to describe and defend a concept that recurs throughout his writings, “The Moral Imagination”
- This essay, “Is Life Worth Living?”, is the concluding chapter of Kirk’s autobiography, The Sword of Imagination.