A friend of mine asked me this earlier in the year, and it’s a question that has stuck with me ever since. I’ve been trying to scour my knowledge of history, but I’m not sure I’ve come up with a satisfactory answer. Nonetheless, my answer currently is Thrasybulus (check out his wikipedia).
I came to Thrasybulus after a series of deductions. 1) The first conservative needed to be someone who was a member of/ contributor to Western civilization. 2) One can trace Ancient Greece as the origin of the West (as an idea, not a geographical point). 3) Who is the world’s best source on Ancient Greek history? Donald Kagan! So, combing through my notes from his Introduction to Ancient Greek History lecture, I came upon the name Thrasybulus – a man given prominence in the class but has been unfortunately overlooked in the annals of history. His commitment to values and the preservation of proper order seemed like a perfect fit.
My instinctual guess was Edmund Burke – but I feel this answer is somewhat of a copout. Although he is the primary father of modern conservatism, I feel one must look through his intellectual ancestors to answer the question. So, Ricochet (particularly Ricochet’s history wonks), who was the first conservative?