One of the principles of conservativism is conserving things. Conservatives are conservationists. Yes, we believe in clean air and clean water. Yes, we believe in hugging a tree once in a while or maybe even an owl or a whale. We manage our livestock and land well, not just out of prudency but because of principle. We know that one of God’s first charges to mankind was to be good stewards of God’s creation. Conservatives conserve what we have been given. Conservatives conserve what is ours.
In addition to understanding the value of our fields and our streams, conservatives recognize something else just as important to human existence. We believe in the importance of ideas, and we hold that they too should be conserved.
Certain truths should simply be left untouched and honored. Like a good wine, some concepts get better with age. They have stood the test of time. They have been defended by reason. They have been confirmed by revelation. They have been validated by experience. Some ideas have been so vigorously vetted and well stated that they should be left unedited and approached with humility and respect. Some things should just be conserved and not changed.
As we prepare to celebrate this upcoming Thursday with our family and friends, we have one of those ideas before us.
Consider the following.
“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
“In the midst of [strife] … which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict …
“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defenses, have not [yet substantially] arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.
“Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”
— Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863
Some ideas stand-alone; strong, secure, immutable, enduring and true.
“Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens… Offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for His singular deliverances and blessings… Humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… Fervently implore the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation.”
Some ideas need no rebuttal.
Some ideas need no debate.
Some ideas just need to be conserved.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host. He is the author of “Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery) and, most recently, “Grow Up: Life Isn’t Safe, But It’s Good.”