Expectations From History For “So Called” Conservative Leaders

Garrick Sapp at Trudge to Truth
3 min readDec 29, 2023
Thomas Sully — Library of Congress

Political labels have become meaningless. Sean Hannity and Victor Davis Hanson are seen as conservatives, and they seem to have given up on the most important conservative principles. In the case of Hanson, he takes any and every opportunity to bash the South. It appears he is not fond of state’s rights either. He so hates the South he cannot see that the best intellectual foundation for conservatism is in the South. Maybe strong states and a weak central government are no longer conservative notions.

In a letter to William Johnson in 1823, Thomas Jefferson outlined some of his views on how the “General” government should function. These are conservative notions that appear lost today.

“the fact is that, at the formation of our government, many had formed their political opinions on European writings and practices, believing the experience of old countries, and especially of England, abusive as it was, to be a safer guide than mere theory.”

What could be more conservative than learning from history rather than dreamt up academic theories? This applies today and Jefferson is saying stick to what you know.

“we believed with them that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights, and with an innate sense of justice, and that he could be restrained from wrong, & protected in right, by moderate powers…”

Much of the letter is Jefferson reflecting on the attitudes of the founders. He was in France during the Constitutional Convention and exchanged letters with John Adams and others on the progress of the convention. His views on the formation of the Constitution and the early implementation reflected many founders. He was also in Washington’s first administration as Secretary of State. The use of “moderate powers” shows his brilliance. Acceptance that government was a necessity, but the powers did not need to be significant. The power of the Federal Government is well beyond moderate.

“we believed that men, enjoying in ease and security the full fruits of their own industry, enlisted by all their interests on the side of law and order, habituated to think for themselves and to follow their reason as their guide, would be more easily and safely governed than with minds nourished in error, and vitiated and debased, as in Europe, by ignorance, indigence and oppression.”

Embedded in this is the most conservative of beliefs. People should enjoy the fruits of their industry without fear. This embodies the rule of law and thinking for oneself. Jefferson beautifully describes the contrary which is eerily familiar today.

“I have stated above that the original objects of the Federalists were 1. to warp our government more to the form and principles of monarchy, & 2. to weaken the barriers of the state governments as co-ordinate powers.”

Recall cherished reader that this is 1823. Is this not prophetic? Here we are 200 years later in the exact construct Jefferson described. This being the case, one would think conservative leaders would be leading a charge to reduce the power of the central government and insisting that States stand up to that government. Instead, we have conservatives suggesting “conservative” ways to use the power of the Federal Government and chastising States for exerting their power.

“I have been blamed for saying that a prevalence of the doctrines of Consolidation would one day call for reformation, or revolution. I answer by asking if a single state of the Union would have agreed to the constitution had it given all powers to the General government?”

We need to change our expectations for conservatives in 2024. This will be a long process, but Southerners in history will guide the way.



Garrick Sapp at Trudge to Truth

Career consultant turned substitute teacher and writer. I enjoy the outdoors and poker. www.trudgetotruth.com