Southern History Series: Robert Lewis Dabney On Northern Conservatism (1897)

Editor’s Note: I’m borrowing this quote from Robert Lewis Dabney from Counter-Currents. Robert Lewis Dabney was a Southern Presbyterian theologian who served as a chaplain in the War Between the States and as Chief of Staff to Stonewall Jackson. The Southern conservative tradition has been dormant since the Southern Agrarians in the 1930s and ought be revived, updated and blended with a healthy dose of German historicism and used to relentlessly attack Northern conservatism.

“It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent: Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. . . . Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now serves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.”


Southern conservatism was organic, not abstract, and was embedded in time, culture, identity, history and place. It was rational, practical, social, tolerant and realistic.

The New South and especially the Sunbelt South, which was created by the bulldozer, has been infected by an alien version of conservatism that has deracinated our people, alienated us from our own culture, heritage and tradition while justifying our dispossession in our own lands. The deification of free-market capitalism and the spirit of materialism and its gods, The GDP and The DOW, and the culture of expressive individualism by Northern conservatism has also created a hellscape that is unlivable and aesthetically repulsive to the tastes of the Southerner as seen in modern day Atlanta and Dallas.

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  1. Judging by the accents one hears, Dallas, outside of the non-White parts, is now South Minneapolis.

    Dallas was once described as the Atlanta of the West. But it’s almost unrecognisable as a Southern, or White Southern working man’s city. It’s mostly rich Yankees, Niggers and Mexicans, anymore.

  2. The article stated that conservatives only preserve the resisted novelty of yesterday to be accepted as the conservatism of today. And that conservatism conserves nothing. I thought that was incredible. I had thought that American conservatism being shallow was only a recent phenomenon. Evidently not so. That statement was made in 1897.

    Conservatives have been losers morally and strategically for a long time.

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