The following essay is part of Northern Dawn’s Symposium for Canada’s 150th anniversary. The theme is Canada: Who Are We? We hope these studies of Canada’s heritage will inspire readers to consider its future, and the broader civilization of which it is a part. Those who rule must know what they are ruling.
The following essay is by Ron Dart. In addition to regular contributions to the journal Clarion, he has written and taught widely about the High Tory tradition, its religious and cultural heritage, and its impact on Canadian life. His most recent book is The North American High Tory Tradition, reviewed here.
The publication of Gad Horowitz’s “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation” in 1966 created an immense flurry and stir amongst political theorists and activists. Most had assumed that Canadian conservatism was just a variant of American conservatism and, in the USA at the time, the Goldwater-Kirk combination of conservatism would be much the same in Canada. However, the publication of George Grant’s Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism in 1965 made it abundantly clear, that Canadian Toryism could not be equated with American conservatism. Horowitz had argued in his lengthy article, later published as the lead article in Canadian Labour in Politics in 1968 that there was a Tory touch in Anglo-Canadian political thought and action that would and could not be absorbed into the Anglo-American conservative matrix. Horowitz tracked and traced this Tory touch in his article, and many were the positive and negative reactions to it. It should be noted that Grant factored large in clarifying the Tory touch.
Horowitz replied to many a critic of his plough to soil article, and, in 1970, his article, “Red Tory”, in William Kilbourn’s A Guide to the Peaceable: An Anthology, linked the Tory touch to Red Toryism (the connection had been made earlier, though). Can the Tory touch be equated with Red Toryism? Horowitz thought it could, Grant did not. Additionally, what did Horowitz miss in his main thesis? It is significant that Kilbourn’s article in A Guide to the Peaceable Kingdom was “Tory Ontario”. There are differences to note between Horowitz and Kilbourn in their read of Toryism and Grant. It is significant that Horowitz never dealt with Stephen Leacock and, more to the poignant point, the High Toryism of religious-political thought in 19th century Canada, in any depth or detail. Such was the needful task of a meticulous historian that grounded his thinking as much in theory as in historic fact.
S.F. Wise is, without much doubt, one of the finest historians in Canada; the publication of God’s Peculiar Peoples: Essays on Political Culture in Nineteenth Century Canada grounds, in many ways, the thesis of Horowitz and Kilbourn in much firmer and more solid soil. This is not theory cut loose from historic events or historic facts bogged down in micro details delinked from larger political philosophy. And, to the telling point, Wise was keen to illuminate how the Tory touch has substantive historic reality in Canada, in opposition to Canadian historians and political theorists who only see Canada as a smaller version of the American liberal fragment. There was, as Wise articulates in his multilayered essay tome, a distinctive Toryism in Canada with predictable religious grounding. Wise is acutely aware that to do political theory from a purely secular perspective does a serious in injustice in interpreting 19th century Toryism in Canada.
God’s Peculiar Peoples places arrow in bow and hits the bull’s eye again and again in his twelve chapters: 1) “Sermon Literature and Canadian Intellectual History” (most Canadian historians simply ignore this genre), 2) “God’s Peculiar People”, 3) “Canadians View the United States: Colonial Attitudes from the Era of the War of 1812 to the Rebellions of 1837” (a chapter not to miss in which the Tory touch emerges in its fullness), 4) “The Rise of Christopher Hagerman” (oft neglected yet needful to know about), 5) “John Macaulay: Tory for All Seasons” (again, much to ponder in Macaulay that Horowitz ignores), 6) “Tory Factionalism: Kingston Elections and Upper Canadian Politics, 1820-1836” (which makes it clear Toryism was not a homogenous tribe), 7) “Canadians View the United States: The Annexation Movement and Its Effect on Canadian Opinion, 1837-1867” (a superb companion article to chapter 8) “The War of 1812 in Popular History” (not to be missed for a read of Toryism), 9) “Upper Canada and the Conservative Tradition”, 10) “Conservatism and Political Development: The Canadian Case”, 11) “Liberal Consensus or Ideological Battleground: Some Reflections on the Hartz Thesis” (quite pertinent for the Horowitz argument and those who oppose him) and 12) “The Ontario Political Culture: A Study in Complexities”.
Each of the chapters in God’s Peculiar Peoples goes to historic places Horowitz did not go; Wise, unveils and reveals, in a multidimensional and step-by-step way, the layered nature of Toryism (not necessarily “red”). He focuses on 19th century central Canada and, to the foremost point, the close connections between religion and politics at the time. This is an area Horowitz had little or no background in, given his more secular approach to political thought. Wise rightly realized that 19th century life in Canada emerged from a religious vision; such a vision had political consequences, and 19th century Toryism was deeply suspicious of the liberal American experiment to the south. In short, God’s Peculiar People had more than just a Tory touch, but such a Tory touch could not be reduced to a homogenous notion of what Toryism is in the 19th century. There is a tendency to equate conservatism and Toryism in Wise’s tome (and many do the same), but the distinction, when rightly understood, does make a difference.
It would have been of much use and value if Wise had probed more deeply and further the Anglican Toryism of Bishops John Strachan (Ontario) and Jacob-George Mountain (Quebec) to get a fuller sense of Anglican catholic High Toryism in the 19th century. Many of the Maritime bishops and priests were considerably impacted by the Oxford movement in England in the 19th century, and they shaped much of Anglican political life in the Maritimes at the time. The much respected catholic Anglican poet, F.G. Scott, stands very much within a long line and lineage of 19th century High Tory Anglicans. It is somewhat remiss of Wise and Kilbourn to miss and ignore such significant High Tory Anglicans in 19th century Canada. It is quite understandable, though, why Horowitz would be blind to such realities given his more secular approach and ideological leftist tendencies when interpreting Toryism. George Grant held Bishop John Strachan high in his roll call of 19th century Anglican leaders in a book review of Saint James’ parish (where he attended in the 1960s-1970s when teaching at McMaster University).
I might also add that Thomas Haliburton (1796-1865) has often been omitted from the list of important Canadian High Tories. Haliburton is a legend of sorts in Canada and he is often viewed as the first Canadian novelist who did well in the larger literary ethos of the time. Haliburton was much remembered for his Clockworker series that elevated the American entrepreneur, Sam Slick, to an ambiguous level. Sam Slick took to front stage in a variety of Haliburton’s novels published in 1836, 1838, 1840, 1843, 1844 and 1853. Haliburton playfully sports with the American Sam Slick, at times nodding towards his aggressive sale gimmicks and skills, at other times seeing such an approach to life as seriously problematic and demeaning. But there can be no doubt that Haliburton, the Nova Scotia High Tory, via his many portrayals of Sam Slick, built into the Canadian psyche a certain notion of Americans as slick entrepreneurs and a distinctive Canadian attitude to the “Sam Slick’s” across the border. Stephen Leacock would, a few decades later, draw much from Haliburton and the Sam Slick tendencies that Canadians should be wary of.
There can be no doubt that the United Empire Loyalists cannot be merely equated with High Tory Anglicanism, as Norman Knowles has rightly noted in Inventing the Loyalists: The Ontario Loyalist Tradition & and the Creation of Usable Pasts (1997). But there is, nonetheless, a distinctive High Tory Anglican heritage that needs attention beyond the liberal caricatures of it. Donald Creighton, probably, the finest High Tory Canadian Anglican of the 20th century, argued that the liberal “authorized read” of Canadian history tends to distort and demean the High Tory heritage for substantive ideological reasons. Such an approach by the liberal mandarin and family compact class in Canada has, for the most part, clear cut and levelled the Tory tradition by describing such a way in mostly negative terms. This pro-liberal and anti-Tory approach in Canadian history has served the liberal ruling class well, but has produced a dishonest Orwellian rewrite of Canadian history. Hopefully, in this the formal 150th year since Confederation, wiser and more balanced reads of Canadian history will emerge. A turn to the historic insights of both Wise and Creighton would illuminate much and go beyond Horowitz’s rather reductionistic approach to defining Canadian Toryism.
It is somewhat irritating that the most recent history of Anglicanism in Canada, Seeds Scattered and Sown: Studies in the History of Canadian Anglicanism (2008), never really probes or substantively discusses High Tory Anglicanism in any depth or detail—such again is the impact of liberal ideology both within the Anglican Church of Canada and the broader Canadian historic community. It is therefore to Wise’s credit that he, more than most, has walked the extra mile to bring the Toryism of the 19th century to light in a thoughtful and far reaching manner. Indeed, there is more than a Tory touch that needs to be covered and such High Toryism cannot be equated with blue conservatism or the later concept of “red toryism”.
There has been an unfortunate tendency to assume that the gender hierarchy of High Toryism historically relegated women to a merely docile role. An attentive reading and interpretation of 19th century Toryism in Canada contradicts such a notion. Two of the most significant women of the 19th century were Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill. Both women played a significant role in pioneering 19th century literature in Canada and demonstrated great competence within the social order they inhabited. Gentle Pioneers: Five Nineteenth-Century Canadians, although dated in some ways, tells the uncanny tales of Susanna-John Moodie, Catharine-Thomas Parr Traill and Samuel Strickland. The women in this timeless work of 19th century pioneer history emerge as creative and engaged leaders in the far-from-cultured setting they were raised and bred in.
I was fortunate, when younger in the 1950s, to spend summers in Stephen Leacock country. Leacock, as a young man, lived in the Lake Simcoe area. A leading lady of the time, and a dear friend of Leacock’s mother, was Susan Sibbald. The Sibbald home, Eildon Manor, was a centre of much High Tory life in 19th century in Ontario. Bishop John Strachan would often make trips to Eildon Manor to visit the Sibbalds and Susan Sibblad’s Memoirs tell a graphic and poignant tale of Tory Anglican life at such a period of time. Georgina: A Type Study of Early Settlement and Church Building in Upper Canada illuminates much about the historic and extended Sibbald family and their Tory leaders (and opposition to the rebellion). Eildon Manor was a centre, salon and fount of Anglo-Canadian Toryism. Susan Sibbald, like Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill were at the forefront of leadership in such a Tory ethos and setting.
Mazo de la Roche is buried close to Stephen Leacock at St. George’s parish in the Sutton area by Lake Simcoe. The parish was built by and supported by the Sibbald family. Mazo de la Roche was a 20th century woman, but her sixteen novels on the Whiteoaks of Jalna (the finest epic series in Canadian literature) deals, for the most part, with 19th century Ontario. The final novel in the series, Breakfast at Jalna, was set in the 1860s, when the American Civil War was at its most intense and heated. The American Civil War that raged from 1861-1865 in which an estimated 620,000-750,000 were killed (and many others seriously injured or refugees to the north) had an impact on De la Roche’s literary imagination. The North and South were violently destroying one another and the Tory Whiteoaks were in the thick of the fray. It is pertinent to note that Adeline Whiteoak (the matriarch of the family) both brooded over the family and set the agenda. Adeline was certainly no passive observer, compliantly taking a backseat to the leadership of others. Mazo de la Roche, like Susan Sibbald and Catherine Parr Traill, was a literary leader in Canada, and many of the women in her chronicles of the Whiteoaks give the lie to the notion that women lacked influence in the Tory social order.
The American War of Independence in 1776 forced many a British subject to make difficult decisions. Would the break from England and the forming of a new country be a way forward or would such a severing wrench too much from the mother country? There were those, obviously, for a variety of reasons, who were convinced the umbilical cord had to be broken. There were others who thought such a decision unthinkable. The latter group, the United Empire Loyalists, came to Canada in droves. Education was, as many soon settled in their new home, central to their growing national and cultural lives. Bishop Charles Inglis was one of the leaders of the northwards trek (his biography, The First Bishop: A Biography of Charles Inglis, tells his journey well and wisely) and he played a pivotal role in establishing, what has become, the oldest chartered university in Canada and the first English-speaking university in the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom.
The University of King’s College was founded in 1789 by both Loyalists and Tory refugees of sorts that sought a more ordered and peaceful life north of the 49th, and education was foundational to their forward looking pathway. It is significant to note that University of King’s College, to this day, has one of the finest programs in Canada in grounding students in classical texts that have shaped western culture and civilization. The Foundation Year Programme (FYP) grounds students in the time tried wisdom that has been thought, said and done. The catholic and Tory Anglican ethos that pervades such a learning context has done much to preserve the ancient insights that are, again and again, being eroded by modern and postmodern education. The University of King’s College (initially in Windsor, Nova Scotia and now in Halifax, Nova Scotia) continues to incarnate some of the best of Tory Anglican education.
Likewise, Trinity College in Toronto has a history of catholic Tory Anglicanism at its root and source. I have mentioned above the pivotal work of Bishop John Strachan. Strachan, with other Anglican Tories, hard on the heels of the Oxford Movement on 1832 in England and the Rebellion of 1837, started Trinity College in 1852. The aim of Trinity was to raise up a generation of leaders in Canada through an educational setting in which theology, philosophy, ecclesial, literary and High Tory culture would be maintained and carried into the future. Needless to say, there was many a challenge to such an educational vision, but for many a decade Strachan’s vision persisted.
The fate and history of King’s and Trinity have gone in somewhat different directions since then, but when probed further and deeper, there still lingers an older vision of faith and education (and its perennial relevance to our time) at King’s and Trinity. The Tory touch, indeed, was and still is more than merely a touch.
I have, in this short essay, highlighted the fact there is much more to Canadian Toryism than either “Red Toryism” or merely a “Tory touch”. The role of educational institutions such as Kings and Trinity, leadership by women such as Mazo de la Roche (Chronicles of Whiteoaks), Susanna Moody and Catharine Parr Traill, Susan Sibbald, C.F. Wise’s God’s Peculiar Peoples: Essays on Political Culture in Ninteenth Century Canada (and Donald Creighton), and Thomas Haliburton’s Sam Slick portrayals, all reveal areas of Toryism in the 19th century that few have integrated or synthesized. Such a tradition cannot be merely dismissed as pettily reactionary or quaintly dated.
There is much to this way of being that lingers deep in souls longing for depth, wisdom and insight in an age in which most landmarks have been destroyed, history clear cut and the foundations undermined. The Hegelian form of progressive liberalism that has so come to dominate most areas of Canadian culture, education and religion has serious blind spots and weaknesses. Many of the most insightful in our time are searching for a centre that will hold and the classical Canadian Anglican Tory way has still much to offer for those who have grown weary of the tepid and vapid waters of ideological liberalism.
Referenced edition: God’s Peculiar Peoples: Essays on Political Culture in Nineteenth Century Canada Edited by A.B. McKillop and Paul Romney S. F. Wise Carleton University Press, Ottawa Canada: 1993
The following essay is part of Northern Dawn’s Symposium for Canada’s 150th anniversary. The theme is Canada: Who Are We? We hope these studies of Canada’s heritage will inspire readers to consider its future, and the broader civilization of which it is a part. Those who rule must know what they are ruling.
The following essay is by Cole Dutton. Cole blogs at The Dominion Standard about a variety of traditionalist and conservative themes.
The traditionalist Canadian often faces a certain type of assertion roughly analogous to ‘why is that the role of the government?’ Or ‘the government deserves no part in that.’ Now, aside from market considerations, it becomes very difficult to respond to such assertions in a succinct and cogent fashion. It is the aim then of this piece to take a glance backwards at Canada and its liberal political discourse and contrast it with the principal notion of intellectual and political conservatism: the assertion that government for conservatives has an end or purpose specific to it. This position enables one to see the importance of government in asking the critical question fielded by Northern Dawn in response to Canada 150. And that question is ‘who are we?’
From this observation, it behoves the conservative to counter that the government plays a larger role than the electoral apparatus, the law, or social services. In contrast to both the classically liberal perspective and the egalitarian doctrines, the conservative considers neither freedom nor equality substantive when comprehending the fullness of government. This position is one of government as a necessary and positive institution in society. The government, in this case, has drifted from its appropriate purpose and lost its orientation. This change has come at the expense of the well-being of society and the free individual.
The chief problem of Canadian politics is identical to the one that has infested and metastasized across the western world. Erik Kuenhelt-Leddihn termed it the choice between Calvin or Rousseau. The western world chose Rousseau and a vision of mankind’s goodness that led western man to see the state as a little more than an instrument. This modern western man perceives the state as something that is not its own organism, and intertwined with the soul of the civil society as Roger Scruton imagined it. Rather, his view of the state presupposes two particular principles: first, that mankind is by nature good; second, that even when it is self-evident that the individual is not by nature good, democratic elevation of the majority is a capable antidote to the ills of the individual.
The position then becomes one of man as corrupted creature. However, in response the modern mind imagines that the herd is wise; to the modern western man, good men will always outnumber the bad (as if the bad were not the same men as the good). The modern vision of man’s corruption is not corruption in the sense of the metaphysical. It is not the corruption of the mind referenced by Susan Schreiner in her masterful study of reformation intellectual history entitled Are You Alone Wise? Nor is it the corruption encapsulated in the story of Genesis. It is the corruption of man by inadequate political and social systems. These systems operate in a systematic fashion upon the individual character. This is the liberal and socialistic paradigm. A paradigm that consists of the argument that material and social conditions govern the quality of the individual and find expression in social pathology. This diagnostic view paves the way for immediate prognostication and remediation. The government then becomes the engine of reform and revolution. The state exists as merely a tool to remake the society. This liberal state stands independent of the institutions of government, in the name of the artificial and elevated virtues of equality and liberty.
This is problematic for a simple reason: upholding liberty and equality as the paramount virtues necessitates the obliteration of other virtues in kind. This elevation comes at the expense of justice, piety, obligation, and temperance in particular. For they demand the destruction of distinction and the levelling of value to embolden those who engage in vices condemned by historical and traditional norms. Given these basic claims, the liberal and egalitarian transformation of the social fabric of Canada makes sense. The extirpation of the history of Canada creates incredible problems. This arises because the system of authority embodied by the current state destroys the basis for civil society: tradition. In the same fashion, this movement also undermines the promogulated norms that legitimise the authority of the state.
Yet, this has not stopped the chattering classes of Canada, particularly the liberal party, from innumerable crimes against the nation. These acts consist of eliminating the Royal designation from numerous institutions. The list in no particular chronology and only in part reads as follows. The Liberal Party adopted a new flag, and the Alberta NDP attacked Catholic schools on the issue of LGBT rights. The Liberal Party weakened the already feeble Senate; it also established a vacuous national anthem in O’Canada; meanwhile, it aimed to destroy our first past the post system. Various groups have also agitated on behalf of a narrative of aboriginal genocide. The liberal party continues to claim Canada had a multicultural history of mass migration; Justin Trudeau asserted Canada is a post national state (itself a contradiction in terms); and lastly, Pierre Trudeau and his Liberal Party wrote a charter which undermines the principles of Parliamentary supremacy and the validity of the king in Parliament.
How then may conservatives challenge the position of the government as utility? How can they obstruct the tendency of the modern western mind to engage in instrumental thinking at the expense of the soul of civil society and the state? The answer demands a clear statement of what conservatives in Canada ought to imagine as an ideal understanding of the government. By understanding the purpose of government, Canadian conservatives can direct their policy proposals toward doing justice to who we are.
From this position, the argument is that government exists as the proper and capable trustee of the soul of civil society. The distinct communities, institutions, families, faith, and modes of living which allow the emergence of the fully distinct and free individual compose the soul of civil society. Philosopher John Kekes terms the same soul the pluralism of tradition. This pluralism of traditions provides a framework, unconscious to most and embodied in natural prejudice, that enables individuals to interact with each other in a coherent and predictable fashion. This predictable engagement is necessary for the exercise freedom without sin both against the future and the past. Kekes states, ‘when individuals form their conceptions of a good life, what they are to a very large extent doing is deciding which traditions they should participate in. The decisions may reflect thoughtful choices, thoughtless conformity to familiar patterns, or something in between.’ This same pluralism of traditions allows numerous historically couched visions of the constitution of good government to attempt to address the demands of human nature in varying ways while adhering to the same objective realities of the human condition.
Working from Edmund Burke’s fundamental political axiom: mere ‘renters’ cannot fulfil true government. Instead, the government must be a compact between ‘not only . . . those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’ Government, given that it cannot exist solely for those interests currently embodied in the present generation, is not an instrument of the political class or of the demos; it is a being itself with a life of its own and duties appropriate to it. In fact, it is the only body in existence that can take the soul of the people and instantiate it beyond the limits of generation and time. To abrogate this principle is to not only attack our ancestry, but to attack future generations who may have no trust that their land, people, institutions, and faith will be safeguarded in the future. It is to put ourselves and the present in the position of supremacy and shackle those to come. Tradition defines the framework for social relations and answers to the questions of how best to live. In this way, it becomes imperative for the conservative theory of government to steward custom and history both so that the present may benefit from them as well as the future. This is the first principle of conservative government, but not the last.
The final and most important principle in a conservative theory of government is its stance against evil. Of course, asserting the existence of evil, especially for the modern mind, is begging the question. When we cannot agree on the basic constitution of evil in the world, we do not have a failure of philosophy or theology, but a reflection of the moral vacuity of our present condition. Regardless, for my purposes here it is enough to concede the existence of evil, and leave the definitions to the philosophers and theologians.
It’s important to recognise that evil did not play a minor role in constitutional theorising in the past. Even in the humanist epoch of the Renaissance the force that is evil was acknowledged. Recognition of evil had a strong theological founding located in the scepticism of medieval theorists. Renaissance thinkers recognised the instability and frailty in mankind. Dante Alighieri noted in his De Monarchia ‘higher natur[ed]’ men must leave behind a legacy to posterity. However, if there is a higher nature there must be a lower something not admitted in our modern discourse. Marsilius of Padua spoke likewise in his support for a plurality of governing institutions; he states that he is dealing with a fallen man, when he argues “and [if Adam] had remained in this state [of innocence], the institution or differentiation of civil functions would not have been necessary.’ Modern man does not make the same theological claims, but he need not abandon the assumption of evil and the need to respond to it. For the government, itself stands ready as an arbitrator to do justice between victim and perpetrator.
This is where government’s moral role enters the political calculus. Liberals, secularists, and socialists think that the purview of the state should be limited to ambivalence regarding right conduct. The state instead should direct its sympathy toward the individual. This individual himself is a product of conditions, not natural frailty. This position is evident in the abject surrender in the Omar Khadr settlement. There is no judgment of evil in this instance. The rights of the individual, in this case, Khadr came without duties. For Khadr being born on Canadian soil entitled him to all the rights and protections of the liberal state without any necessary obligations in return. Meanwhile, the state itself could not condemn such an individual if he was by nature good. Likewise, the state abandoned its moral imperative or more likely lost confidence in it. A conservative state then is one that is sure of its moral position, recognises the evil in man, and buttresses itself and the society against such evils. It is a state that demands of its participants something in return beyond taxes and offers more than freedom. David Lowenthal speaks to the need of free societies to affect the morality of their civil life, and though his examples pertain to America they are apt here as well:
…for men to live together as a civilised nation devoted to their common freedom rather than as a loose collection of individuals devoted to their own pleasures, moral virtues are necessary. . . . Only in free societies does what pleases most individuals—whether it is consistent with sustaining the regime or inconsistent with it—make a crucial difference to their destinies. Only free societies require of all their members the moral dispositions and capacities that make cooperation in self-government possible.
Freedom is empty without good people. In turn, the state in its active prevention of evil brings about the condition for good lives while not permitting evil to flourish in its name.
To pull the threads together, it is worth examining another claim from Kekes that necessarily arouses the consternation of the liberal modern man. To Kekes, autonomy is an inadequate political end in part because by loosening the fetters on the good, we likewise loosen the fetters on the evil. It is only possible to admit absolutes of liberty when we surrender the moral imperative to prevent evil. This is not the only problem the liberal or egalitarian mind faces because the conservative vision of government, in its stewardship of history and tradition, limits the potential of government to act as an emancipatory engine. A vision of Canada as a specific state, character, and history is a necessary leash on the attack dog of liberalism. Therefore, to the modern mind, virtue and the past must both kneel before the modern man. The modern mind does not care to answer the question ‘who are we?’ because the answer is always ‘I am only who I am and who I am is my present consciousness and no more.’ They reject the a priori concepts and the antecedent reality in which they emerged because to be beholden to the past is limiting to the autonomous individual and the levelling projects of the egalitarians.
In response, Canadians can answer the question ‘who are we’ by building a government that lets those answers emerge through the civil society of which it is the transgenerational expression. By acting as custodians of our inheritance while building and enforcing a moral framework accommodating the reality of evil, conservative government can protect the social fabric. This social fabric enables the soul of civil society to respond to the question proposed.
 Erik Von Ritter Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “The Western Dilemma: Calvin or Rousseau?” Modern Age, Winter 1971, 45-46, 48.  Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism, 3rd ed. (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine Press, 2014), 40.  Kuehnelt-Leddihn, “The Western Dilemma: Calvin or Rousseau?” 52.  John Kekes, “A Case for Conservatism,” The Good Society 8, no. 2 (1998): 5.  Kekes, “A Case for Conservatism,” 6.  Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France: and on the proceedings in certain societies in London relative to that event, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 194.  Dante Alighieri, De Monarchia, Trans. Prue Shaw (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 3.  Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, trans. Annabel Brett (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 31.  David Lowenthal, No Liberty for License: the forgotten logic of the first amendment (Dallas, Tex: Spence Publishing Company, 1997), 91, 102.  John Kekes, A Case for Conservatism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001), 81, 86-88.
The following essay is part of Northern Dawn’s Symposium for Canada’s 150th anniversary. The theme is Canada: Who Are We? We hope these studies of Canada’s heritage will inspire readers to consider its future, and the broader civilization of which it is a part. Those who rule must know what they are ruling.
The following essay is by Warg Franklin.
Is Canada a political community, or isn’t it? This is Northern Dawn’s core question of investigation.
For the past one hundred and fifty years of our peoples’ collective adventure on the North American continent, the answer to that question has been a decisive yes.
One of the very first moves our leaders took on the founding of our nation was the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The reason is obvious: The CPR turned Canada from a disjointed set of British territories, held by British military power and tied together by British sail, into an entity in its own right. The railway made it possible to hold Canada by Canadian power, and to trade and travel via Canadian rail. If rail could move Canadian troops more effectively across the land than rebels, natives, and foreigners could attack, then Canada could be militarily self-sufficient. In peacetime, if rail could move goods and settlers within the community effectively enough, then it became useful to speak of a specifically Canadian economy and a specifically Canadian community.
In this way, the practical reality of a community is not in its formal existence on a piece of paper, or even in people’s minds and blood, but in its ability to exist as a unit provided by its infrastructure of collective existence.
We must not forget that these early projects undertaken by the leaders of our nation were not just measures in pursuit of economic prosperity, but also in pursuit of political strength and unity. To forget this is to forget how to build our own political community, and thus to surrender our unique endowment to the forces of global homogenization.
Throughout our history, the same story has played out with other infrastructure: our highways, our universities, our geological survey, our legal system, our nationalized utility monopolies, our protected industries, and of course, our CBC.
In recent times, “Conservative” political factions within Canada have taken to criticizing taxpayer support of these institutions, especially the CBC, claiming that they should be left to sink or swim on the free market. This is not part of the historical conservatism of MacDonald and the High Tories, but an imported free market ideology championed by libertarian think-tanks, small-government devotees, and assorted Jewish-American intellectuals .
This is partially understandable, as the CBC is manned by the political enemies of conservatism. They lace its programming with a “progressive” narrative about what Canada ought to be about. Conservatives rightly identify that this narrative is both hostile to their values and constituency, and ultimately short-sighted and destructive for Canada as a whole. They are also right that destroying the CBC would be a blow to this narrative, and at least a temporary boon to their “team”. With simple us-vs-them thinking of the kind you sometimes need in an existential fight, the decision to attack the CBC is thus understandable.
But let’s step back and take an objective look at the questions here.
The CBC is a big part of Canada’s infrastructure of intellectual and cultural sovereignty. We all grew up watching 22 Minutes, Red Green, and Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, and listening to CBC radio. Because of its publicly supported ubiquity, many of us had the CBC and little else, and were mostly unaware of the avalanche of more polished American content that would otherwise have taken its place. Canadian content became our shared cultural reference material that defined what it meant to be Canadian, and helped tie Canada together against cultural dissolution into our neighbours to the south.
The market would not deliver this service to us. Cultural protection is a collective action problem, and the market does not solve collective action problems. It would give us more polished American content, funded by advertisers and investors for purposes that have little to do with public education or cultivation of shared culture. We would lose an important piece of our cultural cohesion, in exchange for some money and more compelling content.
In individualist free market ideology, this is a great outcome. Why shouldn’t all the world have a homogenous individualist monoculture controlled by Hollywood and CNN? Of what value is the cultural integrity and heritage of “Canada”, when we could have slightly lower taxes and “better” television instead?
Needless to say, Northern Dawn, and most serious people, reject this deracinated viewpoint. There is value in the uniqueness of our cultural and political community, and as a community, we should support it through institutions like a publicly funded CBC.
Society, the political community, organized through the institution of the state, is prior to the individual. It is necessary and proper that the state have a large formal stake in the shaping of culture and the national idea. It is the collective organization of culture that makes it possible for that culture to express a higher meaning and purpose. Otherwise, as a society we lose our ability to organize ourselves. Our culture becomes nothing more than entertainment to be consumed, and we are dissolved into the meaningless global consumer monoculture.
A society, a nation, and a civilization is much more than a system of infrastructure to deliver material goods and optimized entertainment content to the individual. That is turning the natural order on its head. Civilization is the organization of the mass of individual humans into an order that is larger and more meaningful than themselves. That organization requires public support. This is the principle behind the CBC, that Canada is more than a hotel to deliver cheap and compelling service to a mass of individuals; Canada is a nation. A nation requires a strong state, and a strong state requires a strong public broadcaster.
It’s great to say that this can be done more efficiently, or the content could be better, or that the current progressive narrative promulgated by the CBC is antithetical to Canada’s true purpose. All these things are true. But the proper way address them is to propose visionary measures to improve things in accordance with their purposes. Canada’s cultural production should be made more efficient so that we can have more of it and so that we have resources to spend on other things, not because we just don’t want to pay the costs. The content of the CBC should be better so that Canadian culture is made stronger, not so that individuals are “better entertained”. The narrative content of public messaging should be changed to promote a healthy and strong national concept, not just so that we don’t have to endure the propaganda of a degenerate elite that hates the true substance of Canada.
Conservatives understand very little of this. All they understand is that the CBC is staffed by their political enemies, and that “muh free market” is a popular rallying cry of their people. Too bad.
This brings us to addressing the second question: is attacking enemy-controlled infrastructure like the CBC a viable or commendable strategy for conservatives?
If the conservatives weren’t what they are, if they had a serious and viable program to crush their enemies, install themselves as a new elite, build a new state, and rule Canada as it deserves to be ruled, then it would be proper to do so by any means necessary, including destroying the CBC. But they have no such ambition. The resentment by conservatives of the CBC is just that: the resentment of the ruler by the ruled.
Achieving the conservative idea of victory over the CBC, all we would get for our trouble is some more market-optimized television, a more globalized and Americanized culture, and a pissed off elite. Once the conservatives were routed from parliament again, like rats from a palace, and the liberal elite restored to its proper place, the business of actually ruling Canada would be able to proceed. And ruling requires that the state and elite propagate its perspective to society. They would continue to do so, only now with a more vengeful attitude towards conservatives, and more socially expensive means. Some victory.
This is why the conservatives are not taken seriously by thinking people. They propose stupid things for tactical reasons that wouldn’t even pan out in a worthwhile victory, motivated by sheer resentment populism.
What if we were serious about ruling Canada properly? What should be done with the CBC?
It’s not our place in this single essay to work out the details and economics, but we can comment on the heart of the matter, and the heart of the matter is simple: Canada needs a strong public broadcaster with as little advertising as possible, ubiquitous free availability, a focus on public education and exploration of the soul of Canada, and deep integration with the ruling class and the most powerful, fashionable, and educated perspectives in the nation.
But what about the politics of the matter? Isn’t the CBC controlled by liberal progressives and SJWs? Don’t they hate the traditional values and ethnic core of Canada and want to replace them with degeneracy and obedient imported voter bases? Wouldn’t empowering the CBC just be handing power to the hated enemy? Well yes, and no.
Consider this: the progressive ideas are foreign. It’s not coming from ourselves. We’re into that stuff for three reasons:
1. It makes us look good to the international community: “Look how nice we are. Please accept us.”
2. It’s a vector of power. Immigrants vote Liberal, and degenerated “old stock” Canadians are less of a problem than when they are strong and free.
3. We don’t have our own home-grown cultural value system and national self-concept to replace it. We pick what’s available.
But the more secure power you have, for example through a stronger CBC, the less you feel the need to suck up to your fashionable friends at Harvard, and more you have subordinates instead of enemies. A subordinate is an asset, and an enemy is a liability. I for one would rather be treated by our rulers as an asset than a liability. And in what forum are we to develop our home grown national self-concept, if not the CBC?
Here’s how would we want to see this playing out:
At first, a more powerful CBC would simply push the same stuff. But soon, as it began to pick up cultural currency and build a stronger distinctly Canadian culture, a deeper conversation would develop. We would start being able to think thoughts and have debates that are not just rehashes of the same stale culture war that is playing out all across the West, but would start going in our own direction.
And most importantly, with power over the national conversation and culture, our dear leaders would begin to feel in charge. Once you feel securely in charge, an important change in priorities naturally follows: you put away childish things like old rivalries and the latest social justice craze, and start thinking about how to rule.
Naturally, to transition to a true aristocracy is a long process that will not happen overnight, and it wouldn’t happen automatically, even with a stronger CBC. It will require a movement within the CBC and the elite to revive the concept of responsible rule for collective greatness. This is of course what we’re up to here at Northern Dawn.
Instead of getting into resentment-fueled attacks on Canada’s infrastructure of cultural sovereignty in the name of short-sighted political fights and shaky abstractions like the “free market”, Canadian patriots should take a more nuanced two-pronged strategy:
1. Strengthen the institutions of central state and elite power and national sovereignty, like the CBC, to strengthen Canada and Canadian culture, and incentivise the elite to think in a more aristocratic mode.
2. Do what can be done to drive the culture of the CBC and the elite more generally towards the aristocratic idea and the development of a stronger and healthier national concept. Mostly by actually developing the alternative perspective and evangelizing it to the right people.
This is what the Conservatives (or the Liberals, for that matter) would be doing if they were serious. But they won’t, so it will have to be us.
We want a revival of Canadian culture and political tradition, a stronger Canada, and an aristocratic elite that is thinking about how to rule for the greatness of Canada. A stronger CBC is crucial for that.
So here’s to Canadian content on the CBC, and 150 more years of Peace, Order, and Good Government.
The following essay is by Bill Marchant. He writes at Northern Reaction.
Why are we celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1st, and not the 241st birthday on July 4th? Why did Canada not join America’s rebellion against Great Britain? (Being a good Loyalist, I will use the contemporary British name for what others call the American Revolution.) This is a question that seems to attract essentially no inquiry on the Canadian side, despite the fact that Canada as a sovereign state only exists because of the answer to this question. Americans will occasionally tackle it, but it is usually framed as a military question: “Why were we not able to ‘liberate’ Canada when we liberated ourselves?” However, even this question has faded into the distance in the last 100 years, since Justin Smith published Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony, and essentially answered the American side.
Perhaps the reason why Canadians do not ask this question is because the answer reveals uncomfortable truths about America’s founding, Canada’s old stock, and the nature of political power. But we here have no fear of uncomfortable truths; we revel in them, as an uncomfortable truth is no less a truth than a comfortable one.
Before revealing the true answer, it is important to dispel an easy answer that is absolutely false. This is the idea that America simply did not care about Canada, since it was cold and full of Frenchmen. In fact, the Continental Congress sent three letters, four delegates, and an invading army into Canada to convince them to join the Continental Congress and by extension the Rebellion. They also put an open invitation to Canada (and to no other colony) in the Articles of Confederation, and Benjamin Franklin’s opening offer for peace with Britain in the Paris negotiations was that Britain give Canada to America.
Clearly America cared, and cared deeply, about securing Canada to their cause. There are many, many reasons for this desire. It doesn’t really matter for our purposes why they wanted Canada. (If you’re curious, read the first five chapters of Smith’s book. It’s available for free.) What we want to know is, why did Canada say no? Though there are nearly as many reasons for this rejection as there was for America’s desire for Canada, two of the most important factors were Governor Guy Carleton, and the role of the American soldiers themselves. This implies that most other factors mentioned by Smith and others could be removed; if Carlton and the American soldiers maintained their roles, Canada would still have rejected America’s rebellion.
First, Carleton. Guy Carleton was British officer in the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. After the Seven Years’ war, in 1768, Carleton was chosen to be the Governor of Canada (at that point, basically Quebec). His actions as Governor are the first of our reasons why Canada did not rebel with the Americans. Carleton did two things incredibly, shockingly well: he restricted the press, and he kept the elites on his side.
Press in Canada was very close to nonexistent. There was a single printing press, which was used to print a newspaper called the Quebec Gazette. Carleton made the sensible and safe choice to continue the policy of his predecessors, and use the Quebec Gazette to post all new laws affecting the colonists, any government job postings, and information about what ships were coming and going and when. This seems trivial, but what it meant was that the Quebec Gazette was financially dependant upon the government of Canada in general, and Carleton in particular. And Carleton made it clear that there should be no politics in the Quebec Gazette. It is quite odd to read Smith and other modern historians discuss this; they describe the Quebec Gazette as incredibly conservative, when all sides agree that its content was in every way apolitical. The implication is that by not being expressly rebellious, the paper was therefore anti-rebellion. It is left to the reader to look for modern parallels.
The Quebec Gazette stands in stark contrast to American newspapers at the time. Everyone knows that the Federalist Papers were originally published in newspapers, but that was true of many political documents, the angry ramblings of Samuel Adams, Alexander Hamilton’s anti-Catholic conspiracy theories, and insane imagined speeches by British politicians, calling for the blood of Americans, all to work the American people into a rebellious fervor. And it worked. Congress was able to raise armies because the American people believed (wrongly) that the British were baying for their blood, and this belief was fomented and in many ways created by the radical newspapers coming out of Boston and New York and elsewhere.
Essentially, by passively preventing the Quebec Gazette from becoming rebellious, Carleton stopped it from inciting the Canadian people.
“But,” I hear my more reactionary readers call out, “what does it matter what the people want? Every successful revolution is just a power struggle between two sets of elites. They often use ‘the people’ as pawns, but the people are not the drivers!” This is a sound criticism that comes from Pareto and de Jouvenal. The belief is that there are no successful “popular uprisings”, outside of elites weaponizing sections of “the people” against each other.
I do not know if Carleton intuited this concept, or if he just happened to stumble on the right answer, but he acted as if he knew it. Carleton chose exactly the correct groups of people to keep on his side, and the correct group to neglect. There were five groups in Canada that could possibly be considered “elites.”
The first of them, the British civil servants, were appointed directly by London, and as such had a lot to lose in any potential rebellion. Carleton did not have to worry about them. The second group was the British military. As Carleton was a military man by birth and occupation, it was only natural that he would give preferential treatment to them. This also kept his men loyal during the American invasion, even when Montreal fell and things looked grim.
The next two groups were the old French elite class, left over from before Canada was given to Britain in exchange for Guadeloupe. These two groups, the Catholic Priests and the Seigneurs, were the groups most closely connected to the vast French peasant population. Carleton ensured that both of these groups were taken care of in the governing document of Canada, The Quebec Act. The priests were once again allowed to tithe the Catholic population, and the Seigneurs were ensured that their property rights would be respected. As such, when the rebellion came to Canada, both the Priests and the Seigneurs remained loyal to Britain.
The final group of elites was the English-speaking merchants in Quebec City and Montreal. These were mostly immigrants from America. They brought with them their rebellious American ideas. It has been noted previously that Britain attempted to appease the American demands for unimpeded speech, and that such appeasement encouraged rebellion by spreading and normalizing their ideas. Carleton made no such appeasements to the English merchants, and although they attempted to help the Americans, they never saw much chance of success, and kept their rebellious thoughts mostly to themselves.
By keeping the first four groups of elites on his side, and by not appeasing the fifth group, Carleton ensured that any rebellion would at the very least have an uphill battle. However, if the Americans had acted perfectly, they may have still flipped one or two of the groups to their cause. However, the American invasion was poorly planned. There were not enough supplies, so the army started buying Canadian goods. But they did not not bring enough gold either, so they started using paper currency, which the Canadians did not want. When the Americans realised that their money was useless, they began to steal from and pillage the Canadians. This was the final straw, turning large numbers of the neutral peasants and the somewhat pro-American merchants against the rebellion.
The Americans were not removed completely from Canada until much later, when Carleton routed them after the invasion of Quebec, but their hopes of having Canada join them as the fourteenth colony were essentially quashed at that point. America would continue their attempts. Another letter, the invitation in the Articles, the offer to Britain, later the War of 1812, and many more attempts both official and surreptitious were tried. But Canada rejected each, and that rejection can be traced back to Guy Carleton’s wise decisions, and the American Army’s poor planning and ill-prepared state in the early stages of the uprising.
There are at least two lessons to be learned here. The first is that a “free” press is a powerful weapon. Whoever controls the press in many ways controls the fate of the nation. The fact that the vast majority of the press today is aligned against those with rightward values should be grave cause for concern. The second lesson is that Canada is not America. We do not have the violent rebellious beginning that America had. We rejected that beginning. We instead chose to gradually change into what we are today. Yes, what we are today, politically, is an embarrassment. But, unlike America, we did not burn our bridges. For Americans, there is no going back beyond the American Rebellion without another bloody rebellion. We, in the Great White North, may have exited through the door on the far left, and we may have closed the door behind us. But we did not throw away the key. Perhaps, one day, we will walk right back through that door.
The following essay is by Gerry T. Neal. A self described royalist with a libertarian streak, he writes at Throne, Altar, Liberty.
A country is more than just the territory that falls within its recognized boundaries. It is that territory, but it is also the people who live there, the customs and traditions that shape their way of life, and their social, cultural, religious, and political institutions. Yet if one was to go by the English lyrics of the song that has served as Canada’s official national anthem for thirty-seven years one could be forgiven for thinking that the only thing denoted by the name “Canada” was the large chunk of territory to the north of the United States.
In the first stanza of “O Canada”, which is the only part of the song that most Canadians are familiar with, Canada is identified as “our home and native land” and “the true North, strong and free.” We assert our patriotic love for her and declare that we stand on guard for her, but no further information about her is provided and the only additional information in the subsequent, seldom sung, stanzas, is geographic in nature, such as “Where pines and maples grow; Great prairies spread, and lordly rivers flow.”
John Farthing, in his Freedom Wears a Crown, published posthumously in 1957, made the following appropriate comments:
I sometimes wonder if any other people has ever taken seriously a national song or anthem which says so little as O Canada, and that little all but completely amoral. While thousands of young Canadians were giving their lives in a war to save us and the world from a philosophy of ‘blood and soil’, those Canadians who remained at home were solemnly singing in honour and well-nigh worship of the Canadian soil – without the humanity of any blood. (1)
When Farthing wrote these words, “O Canada” was not yet the official national anthem. It was about ten years later that a Royal Commission appointed by Lester Pearson recommended that “O Canada” be officially declared our national anthem with the status of royal anthem to be given to “God Save the Queen.” At the time “God Save the Queen” was the closest thing to an official anthem we had, with “O Canada” and “The Maple Leaf Forever” in informal competition as our unofficial national anthems.
“The Maple Leaf Forever” was written in 1867 – the year of Confederation – by Alexander Muir and for decades served alongside “God Save the Queen” as Canada’s unofficial national anthem. It was only on the eve of World War II that the English version of “O Canada” became a serious competitor for this status. “The Maple Leaf Forever” was everything that a patriot of the Dominion founded in 1867 could possibly hope for in a national anthem. It speaks, not just of a geographical location, but of Canada’s history, heritage, and national symbols. The chorus asks God’s blessing both upon our Royal Sovereign – echoing the words of Britain’s national anthem – and upon the country itself through her national emblem of the maple leaf. The stanzas make reference to key events in Canada’s pre-Confederation history, from the triumph of General Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham to the victories over American invaders at Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane in the War of 1812. It is, of course, the very aspects of this song that made it so appealing to the patriot of the old Dominion of Canada that made it unacceptable to the Liberals of the twentieth century.
The only way to make sense out of the actions of the Liberal Party of Canada, which governed Canada for most of the twentieth century, is to recognize that from its beginnings in the nineteenth century, it had set itself up as the opposition, not just to the Conservative Party that had governed Canada for twenty four of her first thirty years, but to the entire project of Confederation as well.
Confederation, beginning with the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 shortly before the end of the American War Between the States, was the process whereby the North American provinces and colonies of the British Empire came together in a federal union to form the new country that would be given the name Canada. Previously, that name had belonged to one or two of the provinces. (2) That Canada envisioned by the Fathers of Confederation, was to be a country that would grow up within the British Empire and attain full nationhood, without severing its ties to Britain or the rest of the Empire – the opposite, in other words, of the United States.
It was to be British in its political institutions – governed by a Parliament based on the Westminster model over which the monarch would reign as Royal Sovereign. It was to be designated a “Dominion”, which was at first a term chosen from the Bible (3) as a substitute for “Kingdom” that would be less offensive to our republican neighbours but which later, as proposals were made to reorganize the British Empire along federal lines, came to take on the meaning of a self-governing country within what would become the British Commonwealth. One of the principal reasons for undertaking this project at this time was the perceived threat of invasion from the United States. This was not an imaginary fear – the United States had invaded what would become Canada in a so-called attempt at “liberation” during the War of 1812 and subsequently, especially around the time of their war with Mexico, her editorialists and statesmen had spoken of their country’s “Manifest Destiny” to rule over all of North America.
The Confederation project was consistent with the history and heritage of both English and French Canadians. The first society to be called Canada was one of the colonies of New France. It was a seigneurial society, with an economy based on agriculture and trade, in which the most powerful institution was the Roman Catholic Church. It was ceded to Great Britain in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years War and eleven years later, in the Quebec Act, King George III guaranteed its right to retain its French language, culture, and civil law and its established Roman Catholicism, in keeping with a promise he had made the French king. This outraged many of the leaders of the Thirteen Colonies, the ideological descendants of the Puritan fanatics who had driven King Charles I from his throne and beheaded him because he would not persecute the co-religionists of his Queen, the French Catholic Henrietta Maria, to the extent they desired. In their inflamed anti-papist fervour and zeal they rebelled against King and Parliament, drawing up an indictment of tyranny in language as lofty as its charges were spurious and its reasoning was fallacious, ensuring that it would live forever in the annals of demagogic propaganda.
Needless to say, a sizeable number of English colonists, saw no reason to go along with this revolting revolution and fought against the rebels on the side of their King. When the rebelling colonies won their independence there was an exodus of Loyalists out of the new republic to the northern territory that remained under British governance, including the Maritime provinces and French-speaking Canada which, understandably, had preferred to remain under the British Crown that protected their language and religion rather than join those who wished to extirpate both from North American soil. Out of these United Empire Loyalists, English Canada was born and in the century between the American Revolution and Confederation, French and English Canadians would fight, alongside the British army, to drive out American invaders bent on their “liberation” at Châteauguay and Crysler’s Farm, Stoney Creek and Beaverdams (4), Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane.
In this shared history, in which English-speaking Protestants and French-speaking Catholics remained loyal to the Crown and Empire that protected them both, against the common threat from the south, the foundations of Confederation were laid.
The Liberal Party’s agenda, from the beginning, was one of continentalism and free trade. The Liberals believed that Canada’s future lay in closer economic and political partnership with the United States and they sought to move Canada towards that future, even if doing so meant cutting her off from her past. Initially, they found that their agenda, so contrary to the goals of Confederation, was very difficult to sell to the Canadian electorate. It did not help their case that some of their intellectuals took their agenda to scandalous extremes in print. In 1891, for example, the year in which Sir John A. MacDonald, running on a patriotic platform that appealed to tradition and continuity with the past, won his last election – a landslide victory over Sir Wilfred Laurier’s Liberals who were campaigning for trade reciprocity with the United States – Liberal intellectual Goldwin Smith published his book Canada and the Canadian Question, which argued that there was no point to there being a Canada and that it ought to be annexed by the United States. (5)
Few Liberal intellectuals went as far as Smith, however, and by the early twentieth century the Liberals had become much more successful at winning elections. Although their policies were still such as would move Canada further and further into the orbit of the United States, they began to pitch them in the language of a new nationalism that was the opposite of that of the Fathers of Confederation. Whereas to the latter, Canada’s traditional British identity was indispensable to their project of building a nation and keeping it from being swallowed up by the United States, the Liberals, who saw that identity as the main roadblock standing in the way of their get rich quick scheme of technological progress, modernization, and Americanization, began to attack Canada’s Britishness as the mark of a colonialism that we would need to throw off to truly become a nation.
To promote the new nationalism, Liberal historians began propagating their own version of Canada’s national story. In this version Canada was portrayed as struggling against British imperial power in her efforts to emerge from colonialism and become a nation. This is an obvious substitution of the American national myth – watered down, with independence being achieved by diplomacy rather than revolution – for Canada’s own story. That the Liberal historians were rewriting Canada’s story to fit the American myth was blatantly acknowledged by one of their own, Dr. John Wesley Dafoe, who edited what is now the Winnipeg Free Press (6) for the first half of the twentieth century, in the title he gave his history of Canada: Canada: An American Nation. (7)
The Liberal version of Canada’s history, as its foremost critic Donald Creighton observed years ago, is in complete conflict with the facts – far from standing in the way of Canadian nationhood, Great Britain had supported the Confederation project from the beginning. The opposition to the project, and the only real threat to Canadian nationhood came from the United States – the country to which the Liberals wanted to bring Canada closer. Nevertheless, as the Liberal Party grew more successful in the polls and gained more and more control over Canada’s national agenda, their new interpretation – or, perhaps inversion would be the better word – of Canada’s story, was accepted as Gospel in the schools, the editorial pages, and everywhere else Liberal opinion predominated, so that it soon deserved the sobriquet with which Creighton mocked it “The Authorized Version.”
In this version Confederation, its Fathers, and especially Sir John A. MacDonald were reduced to footnotes and the place of honour that ought to go to the founders of our country, was given instead to Liberal leaders such as William Lyon Mackenzie King and in later, revised, editions of the Authorized Version, to Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau – the men most responsible for distancing Canada from her British roots. Mackenzie King is portrayed as the champion of Canada’s domestic sovereignty – despite the fact that his 1926 general election claim of imperial interference from London was a complete fabrication. (8)
During the premierships of Pearson and Trudeau, much of Canada’s traditional national symbolism was revised to eliminate reference to our British heritage – the Red Ensign with the Union Jack in the canton which had served as Canada’s flag informally since Confederation and was awarded official status at the end of World War II, was replaced with the present flag, the designation “Royal” was dropped from the Post Office and several branches of the Armed Forces, and Dominion Day was renamed Canada Day. At the end of his premiership, Pierre Trudeau succeeded in having the power to amend the British North America Act – renamed “The Constitution Act, 1867” – from the British Parliament to Canada’s, and in the eyes of many Liberals this has superseded Confederation as the moment of our country’s birth. It ought to be noted that these men and events, the ones most celebrated in the Liberal account of our country’s story, are the ones who undermined our parliamentary government, concentrated near-dictatorial powers into the Prime Minister’s office, and greatly weakened our heritage of freedom. (9)
It was during and part of these changes that “O Canada” was declared to be our official national anthem in 1980. The English lyrics, written by Robert Stanley Weir in 1908, speak not of Canada’s traditions, history, and heritage but only of her land and her location in the north. Which is fitting, perhaps, because in the Liberal perspective, which has dominated our country for so long, this is all that Canada is. Yet, as with everything else in the Liberal point of view, there is a contradiction here for apart from those aspects of Canadian history that they wish to forget, the land that we call Canada today, would never have been Canada. Apart from the Confederation project, of uniting the provinces of British North America, English Protestant and French Catholic, into a new nation under the Crown, and calling that country Canada, that name would never have been applied to anything but the stretch of land between the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. This tells us that Canada must be something more than a large, northern, chunk of land and to discover what that is, we must look beyond the Liberal Party’s revisions, back to Confederation, and the history leading up to it, and recover the vision of the Fathers.
(1) John Farthing, Judith Robinson ed., Freedom Wears a Crown (Toronto: Kingswood House, 1957) pp. 111-112. The chapter in which this is found is entitled “The Agronomic Anthem”
(2) This wording is not intended to express uncertainty as to the number but rather the fact that the provinces in question, known as Ontario and Quebec since Confederation, prior to 1867 had at times been united in a single province of Canada, at other times separated into Upper and Lower Canada.
(3) Psalm 72:8
(4) Now Thorold, Ontario.
(5) Goldwin Smith, Canada and the Canadian Question (Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1891)
(6) Then, as now, the newspaper was a mouthpiece for the Liberal party line.
(7) John Wesley Dafoe, Canada: An American Nation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935)
(8) In his election campaign in 1926, Mackenzie King told the Canadian electorate that the refusal of Lord Byng, the Governor General, to grant him a requested dissolution of Parliament earlier that year was a case of imperial interference in Canadian domestic affairs. This was a lie, as a simple perusal of the correspondence between the two during supposed crisis demonstrates. In his letter of resignation, Mackenzie King reminded the Governor General that he, Mackenzie King, had himself asked Byng to consult London and that he, Byng, had refused to do so. That Byng had acted properly, refusing to grant a dissolution to a government that faced a vote of censure in Parliament, was the argument of Eugene Forsey’s doctoral dissertation “The Royal Power of Dissolution of Parliament in the British Commonwealth” submitted to McGill University in 1941. When an abridged version of this was published as a book by Oxford University Press in 1943, it was denounced by J. W. Dafoe in the Winnipeg Free Press, leading to a war in print between Forsey and Dafoe in which the Liberal historian was soundly trounced. Accounts of this can be found in both Forsey’s memoirs A Life on the Fringe (Toronto: Oxford University Press,1990) pp. 106-108 and Charles Taylor’s Radical Tories: The Conservative Tradition in Canada (Toronto: Anansi, 1982) pp. 107-108.
(9) That Mackenzie King’s victory in 1926, which more or less made it the rule that vice-regal authority must never be exercised except as the Prime Minister advises, essentially turned Crown and Parliament into rubber stamps of the Prime Minister’s office, was the thesis of Farthing’s book which drew upon Forsey’s arguments. John Diefenbaker, in the speeches collected into his book Those Things We Treasure, (Toronto: Macmillan, 1972) observed how the changes Pearson and Trudeau were making were moving Canada towards a republicanism foreign to her heritage which would jeopardize the rights and freedoms grounded in our own tradition of parliamentary monarchy. When Trudeau repatriated the British North America Act, he added the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which, despite its name, actually undermines our traditional Common Law rights and freedoms. See Kenneth McDonald Alexis in Charterland (Belleville: Epic Press: 2004) It also enhanced the powers of the Supreme Court of Canada, basically empowering it to act like the American