The text itself is directed to historians, advising them which archives are pertinent to the statesman's deeds and giving them a few autobiographical notes.
"I made history and therefore did not find time to write it," Metternich says, offering a few reflections on the French Revolution and Napoleon and the Revolutions of 1848.
Yet he also discusses political science, taking as a starting point his adopted motto "Strength in Right" (Kraft im Recht). He praises political gradualism and ordered liberty while condemning ideology and revolution.
"I have always regarded preconceived systems as the product of leisured heads or the outburst of emotional minds," he writes.
"Not in the struggle of society towards progress, but rather in progression towards the true goods: towards freedom as the inevitable yield of order; towards equality in its only applicable degree of that before the law; towards prosperity, inconceivable without the foundation of moral and material peace; towards credit, which can rest only on the basis of trust — in all that I have recognized the duty of government and the true salvation for the governed.
I have looked upon despotism of every kind as a symptom of weakness. Where it appears, it is a self-punitive evil, most intolerable when it poses behind the mask of promoting the cause of freedom."
His remarks on Montesquieu's system of checks and balances are of interest to any student of the U.S. Constitution. He calls it
...a conceptual error of the English constitution, impractical in its application, because the concept of such a balancing is rooted in the assumption of an eternal struggle, instead of in that of peace, the first necessity for the life and prosperity of states.
Those who complain about the "divisiveness" of American political debates, just before they realize the relative insignificance of these disagreements, should recognize that the object of their dislike is in fact the proper functioning of the country's constitution.
Metternich continues: "Without the foundation of order, the call for freedom is nothing more than the striving of some party after an envisaged end. In its actual use, the call inevitably expresses itself as tyranny."
This is quite the antidote for free-floating cries of "Freedom."
Upon reflection, we see the defense of order is not merely institutional conservatism. Rather, it is at root an exercise in contemplation.
The single-minded man of only one principle may dismiss the need for both general wisdom and concrete knowledge, as he holds his principle may be applied universally by anyone regardless of her circumstances or personal quality.
Those who counsel our monomaniacal friends to curb such enthusiasms lack this nescient luxury of fanaticism.
The narrowly principled reformer must only know his principles. These may be listed in a brief manifesto without significant distortion, like constants set for a computer program. Contrariwise, the defender of the present order must perceive and praise the many goods targeted by the would-be revolutionary.
An opponent of feminism could find herself defending a multitude of concrete habits and customs: the patronizing behavior required from polite men on dates; the ban on women in combat; the benefits of unequal pay in the workplace.
A proponent of feminism must only defend and assert one idea, an intangible often left undefined in relation to any ideal or real order.
It is little wonder why traditional conservatives applaud the Permanent Things. They have so many things to consider.