A 1969 Broadway musical won three Tony Awards for its look at the origins of the Declaration of Independence.
The tune explores the ideology of conservatism. Its adherents “never go off half-cocked” and are “reluctant to be bold,” when conservatism values cautious, incremental change and is weary of grand developments. The classic take on this position was enunciated by Edmund Burke, in his “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790):
A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman.
Still the tune is widely criticized for using “left” and “right” to refer to ideological positions, since the terms were not known at the time the musical takes place. Left and right came from the French Revolution a few years later. Further, the designation originally referred to supporters of the revolution on one side and supporters of the King, on the other (left and right sides of the legislature, respectively). The distinction has come to refer to the level of state involvement in individual lives that an ideology accepts, with the left being more tolerant, and the right, not as much.
Also from this musical: The Egg