Oakeshott’s view of the conservative—and it is widely shared,
on the Left and the Right—is not an insight; it is a conceit. It overlooks
the fact that conservatism invariably arises in response to a
threat to the old regime or after the old regime has been destroyed.
Oakeshott is describing the old regime in an easy chair, when its mortality
is a distant notion and time is a warming medium rather than
an acrid solvent. This is the old regime of Charles Loyseau, who
wrote nearly two centuries before the French Revolution that the
nobility has no “beginning” and thus no end. It “exists time out of
mind,” without consciousness or awareness of the passage of history.