face of an increasingly Burkean direction the movement was taking. He was keenly aware of this turn and alarmed by its direction. At a University of Chicago roundtable in 1955 (with Stuart Gerry Brown and Aaron Director), Weaver, true to his preferred method of argument, dis- tinguished between “temperamental con- servatives and reflective conservatives,” the latter grouping based upon convic- tion “with reference to certain concepts of the good, with reference to certain means that should be taken toward real- izing those concepts of the good;” at the center of their position was “the concep- tion of society as a structural thing.”114 Furthermore, Weaver was deeply con- cerned as to the dangers of a split be- tween the two types of conservative, as he stated in a 1955 address to The Conser- vative Society of Yale Law School:
...we would not want to see developing a group of mere traditionalists on one side and a group of “radical” conservatives on the other—radical in the sense of following a theory to some extreme and getting out of touch with life. They might find it increas- ingly difficult to work together and even to communicate.115
Weaver wrote the Ethics within the context of the “new conservative” move- ment increasingly influenced by a Burkean conservatism,116 of which Weaver was dis- trustful on account of Burke’s assump- tion “that tradition throws a veil over the origin of many of our institutions.” Such an approach to politics, Weaver believed, was a “weakness we cannot afford”117 for it deprived conservatives of a foundation from which to argue. Weaver asserted at length that the middle-of-the-road posi- tion favored by Burkean liberalism would lead contemporary conservatives to the same end as the Whig party: political irrelevancy and inevitable extinction.
Nevertheless, it would not have been Weaver’s intention to initiate a broad- based conversion of conservatives. Inter-
nal dissension between traditionalists and radical conservatives, he felt, would risk a dangerous split in the movement and would only aid the radical left. Clearly, any widespread appeal was con- trary to Weaver’s rhetorical vision. Like Milton, he spoke not to the general audi- ence but to the aristocratic intellect, to the rigorously educated minority rather than to the plebeian mass, even within his own party.
Milton is not simply the ideal orator, the image of ethical rhetoric, but also the ideal conservative. Weaver would not have distinguished between the two and instead sought to define the terms of conservatism and to demonstrate them as well.
His chapter in the Ethics on “Milton’s Heroic Prose” is one of the most complex and difficult sections of the work, and it is apparent that, in addition to extolling Milton’s style, Weaver did his best to emulate it. His sentences are long and complex and developed in relation to extended quotations from Milton. Weaver adopted many of the same characteris- tics he praises in Milton: “Just as his [Milton’s] figures were seen to have a prolonged correspondence, beyond what the casual or unthinking writer would bring to view, so his substantives and predicates are assembled upon a principle of penetration or depth of de- scription.”118 Not only is the sentence of heroic length and complexity, the thick- ness of his style—casual or unthinking, where another writer would have been satisfied with one or the other and daring to go further with the doubly alliterative principle of penetration or depth of descrip- tion—demands the same degree of en- ergy on the part of Weaver’s reader as Milton would have demanded of his.
In a rereading of Weaver’s work there are serious implications for conserva- tives, the most immediate being the re- jection of the conservative-liberal di- chotomy. This bi-polarity obscures im-