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Toryism is a traditionalist political philosophy, which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is most prominent in Great Britainmarker, but also features in some parts of The Commonwealth — particularly in Canadamarker. Historically it also had exponents in former parts of the British Empire, for instance the Loyalists of British North America who sided with Britain and Crown during the Revolutionary War. The Tory ethos can be summed up with the phrase God, King and Country. Tories advocate monarchism, are usually of a High Church Anglican or Recusant Catholic religious heritage and opposed to the radical liberalism of the Whig faction. Some call their stance counter-revolutionary, neo-feudal and medievalist.

Tories emerged to uphold the legitimist rights of James, Duke of York to succeed his brother Charles II to the British throne. James II was a Catholic, while Britain was largely reformed in religious disposition — this was an issue for the Exclusion Bill supporting Whigs, the political heirs to the nonconformist parliamentarians and Covenanters. There were two Tory ministries under James II; the first led by Lord Rochester, the second by Lord Belasyse. Some were later involved in his usurpation with the Whigs, which they saw as protecting the Church of England. Tory sympathy for the Stuarts ran deep however and some supported Jacobitism, which saw them isolated by the Hanovarians until Lord Bute's ministry under George III.

Conservatism emerged by the end of the 18th century — which synthesised moderate Whig positions and some of the old Tory values to create a new political ideology, in opposition to the French Revolution. The likes of Edmund Burke and William Pitt the Younger led the way in this. Due to this faction eventually leading to the formation of the Conservative Party, members of that party are colloquially referred to as Tories, even if they are not traditionalists. Actual adherents to traditional Toryism in contemporary times tend to be referred to as High Tories to avoid confusion.

History of the term

The term, derived from Irish Tóraidhe, was originally used to refer to an Irish outlaw and later often applied to any Confederatemarker or Royalist in arms. English and British Tories from the time of the Glorious Revolution up until the Reform Bill of 1832 were characterized by strong monarchist tendencies, support of the Church of England, and hostility to reform, while the Tory Party was an actual organization which held power intermittently throughout the same period.

United Kingdom

The name was used by one of the two main political parties in the 17th to 19th centuries. See that article for more information. As mentioned below, the term remains in occasional use to refer to the modern Conservatives that evolved from this party.

Historically, the term Tory has been applied in various ways to supporters of the British monarchy. The word derives from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe; modern Irish tóraí: outlaw, robber, from the Irish word tóir, meaning "pursuit"; since outlaws were "pursued men" . The term was applied particularly to the isolated bands of guerrillas resisting Cromwell's nine-month 1649–1650 campaign in Ireland, who were allied with Royalists through treaty with the Confederate Irish Parliamentmarker, signed at Kilkennymarker in January 1649 . The term was thus originally a term of abuse, "an Irish rebel", before being adopted as a political label in the same way as Whig. There is no reasonable authority to believe that the term derives from Tory Islandmarker and, was therefore, an implied term of abuse, i.e. "an Irish peasant".


The term was used to designate the pre-Confederation British ruling classes of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, known as the Family Compact and the Château Clique, an elite within the governing classes, and often members within a section of society known as the United Empire Loyalists.

In post-Confederation Canada the terms "Red Tory" and "Blue Tory" have long been used to describe the two wings of the Conservative and previously the Progressive Conservative (PC) parties. The diadic tensions originally arose out of the 1854 political union of British-Canadian Tories, French-Canadian traditionalists, and the monarchist and loyalist leaning sections of the emerging commercial classes at the time - many of whom were uncomfortable with the pro-American and annexationist tendencies within the liberal Grits. Tory strength and prominence in the political culture was a feature of life in Nova Scotiamarker, New Brunswickmarker, Prince Edward Islandmarker, Ontariomarker, and Manitobamarker.

By the 1930s, the factions within Canadian Toryism were associated with either the urban business elites, or with rural traditionalists from the country's hinterland. Over time, however, the term Blue Tory has come to embody the more ideologically neoliberal (in the manner of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) elements in the party, while a Red Tory is a member of the more moderate wing of the party (in the manner of John Farthing and George Grant). They are generally unified by their adherence to the monarchy in Canada.

Throughout the course of Canadian history, the Conservative Party was generally controlled by MacDonaldian Tory elements, which in Canada meant an adherence to the English-Canadian traditions of Monarchy, Empire-Commonwealth, parliamentary government, nationalism, protectionism, social reform, and eventually, acceptance of the necessity of the welfare state. By the 1970s the Progressive Conservative Party was a Keynesian-consensus party.

With the onset of stagflation in the 1970s, some Canadian Tories came under the influence of neo-liberal developments in Great Britain and the United States, which highlighted the need for privatization and supply-side interventions. In Canada, these tories have been labeled neoconservatives - which has a somewhat different connotation in the US. By the early 1980s there was no clear neoconservative in the Tory leadership cadre, but Brian Mulroney, who became leader in 1983, eventually came to adopt many policies from the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan governments.

As Mulroney took the Progressive Conservative Party further in this direction, with policy innovations in the areas of deregulation, privatization, free-trade, and a consumption tax called the Goods and Services Tax (GST), many traditionally-minded Tories became concerned that a political and cultural schism was occurring within the party.

The 1986 creation of the Reform Party of Canada attracted some of the neo-liberals and social conservatives away from the Tory party, and as some of the neoconservative policies of the Mulroney government proved unpopular, some of the provincial-rights elements moved towards Reform as well. In 1993, Mulroney resigned, rather than fight an election based on his record after almost nine years in power. This left the PCs in disarray and scrambling to understand how to make toryism relevant in provinces such as Quebecmarker, Saskatchewanmarker, Albertamarker, and British Columbiamarker that had never had a strong tory tradition and political culture.

Thereafter in the 1990s, the PCs were a small party in the Canadian House of Commons, and could only exert legislative pressure on the government through their power in the Senate of Canada. Eventually, through death and retirements, this power waned. Joe Clark returned as leader, but the schism with the Reformers effectively watered down the combined Blue and Red Tory vote in Canada.

By the late 1990s, there was some talk of the necessity of uniting the right in Canada, if there was any hope of deterring further Liberal majorities. Many tories - both red and blue - were opposed to any such notion, while others took the view that all would have to be pragmatic if there was any hope of reviving a strong party system. The Canadian Alliance party (as the Reform Party had become), and some leading tories came together on an informal basis to see if they could find common ground. While Progressive Conservative rump Leader Joe Clark rebuffed the notion, the talks moved ahead and eventually in December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voted to rejoin into a new party called the Conservative Party of Canada.

After the merger of the PCs with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, there was some debate as to whether the "Tory" appellation should survive at the federal level. Although it was widely believed that some Alliance members would take offence to the term, it was officially accepted by the newly-merged party during the 2004 leadership convention. Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Prime Minister as a result of the January 23, 2006 election, regularly refers to himself as a Tory and has suggested that the new party is a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada.

American Revolution

Mobbing the Tories - print from a 1921 history of the United States
Before the Revolutionary War, the founders of Anglican and Catholic colonies were generally well disposed towards the Stuart dynasty. Their affections were alienated by a new, foreign dynasty which seemed to little know or care for the Tudor-Stuart legacy in the New World. Those who founded the Puritan colonies of New England were Cromwellians and Orangists. It is interesting to note the chief allies of the American Patriots were Whigs such as Charles James Fox and Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, each with direct ties to the House of Stuart and probably resentful of the Hanoverian succession—with its dire consequences in the old colonial empire in North America.

The term Tory or Loyalist was used in the American Revolution to describe those who remained loyal to the British Crown. Since early in the eighteenth century, Tory had described those upholding the right of the Kings over parliament. During the revolution, particularly after the Declaration of Independence in 1776 this use was extended to cover anyone who remained loyal to the British Crown. At the beginning of the war, it was estimated that as much as 40% of the American population were Tories. Those Loyalists who settled in Canadamarker, Nova Scotiamarker, or the Bahamasmarker after the American Revolution are known as United Empire Loyalists.

Tory was frequently used as a revolutionary's pejorative, e.g., a "Tory militia" was a militia unit which took the British side during the War. The British term Whig, referring to the anti-Tory political movement in England, had a much longer life in the American political discourse , especially through the Whig Party.

Modern usage

In the United Kingdommarker, after 1832 and supersession of the Tory Party by the Conservative Party "Tory" has become shorthand for a member of the Conservative Party or for the party in general, sometimes but by no means always as a term of abuse. Many Conservatives still call themselves "Tory" to differentiate themselves from opponents. The name "Captain Tory" is given to staunch Conservative supporters in the North East of England.

In Canada, the term "Tory" may describe any member of the Conservative Party of Canada, its predecessor party the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, or any similar affiliated conservative provincial party; the term is frequently used in contrast to "Grit", a shorthand for the Liberal Party of Canada.

In the United Statesmarker, during the American Revolutionary War the term "Tory" was used to describe Loyalists, colonists who sided with Great Britain against the revolutionaries. The term was also used during the American Civil War, when supporters of the Confederacy extended the term to Southern Unionists. The Term has recently been used by the recently revived Modern Whig Party in the United States to describe Washington loyalists. Tory is sort of like a slang word for a loyalists.

On November 19 in an interview with radio personality Michael Savage, American Noir Author James Ellroy acknowledged he was a Tory. Elroy responded to Savage by stating, "we are a dying breed."

See also


  1. Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition 1989) "1. a. In the 17th c., one of the dispossessed Irish, who became outlaws, subsisting by plundering and killing the English settlers and soldiers; a bog-trotter, a rapparee; later, often applied to any Irish Papist or Royalist in arms. Obs. exc. Hist."
  2. Entry for "Tory" from Websters New World Dictionary & Thesaurus, version 2.0 for PC, 1998
  3. Entry for "Tory" from online dictionary
  4. Camden New Journal

External links

General references

Canada section:

  • W. Christian and C. Campbell (eds), Parties, Leaders and Ideologies in Canada
  • J. Farthing, Freedom Wears a Crown
  • G. Grant, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism
  • G. Horowitz, "Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation", CJEPS (1966).

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