In order to understand Canada, it is essential to understand North America. The vast continent on which Canada and its neighbours stand is the geopolitical reality which has shaped our history. Settlement, ideological conflict, and the competition between British-Canadian and American expansion westward shaped the development of both cultures and institutions. This means that deep ties of heritage, culture, and political traditions continue to exist between the various regions of Canada and the United States. Our branch of global European civilization is continental in nature.
Having examined Dr. Andrew Fraser’s analysis of the English ethnoculture, we now turn across the Atlantic. The Anglosphere we know today – the bastion of the liberal world order – is not an island nation, but a global force. To make this leap in history, we must land on American shores. The last two sections of Fraser’s work reflect on the theological withering and current state of the Anglo psyche.
Fraser begins by contrasting the current “de-sacralized” nature of the Anglo world with the religious underpinnings of the English colonization of the New World. As we saw in part I, Fraser traces the English psyche as moving from a magico-religious “enchanted” worldview, to a tradition-directed hierarchical one with clear distinctions between the religious and political worlds, and finally to an inner-directed model based on individual conscience and participation. The social equivalent to this was the development of a proto-scientific worldview that saw the religious and worldly realities as minimal in their interaction, rather than infused with one another.
At the time of English expansion into the Americas, the tradition-directed order had firmly taken hold. However, the religious impulse continued to inform worldly affairs. Fraser emphasis the militant nature of the English perception of their mission. At one end, the Puritan culture took an attitude which Fraser compares with mission-oriented warfare, a system defined by a clear goal with freedom of action by those on the ground. The literature of the period sees the will of God and the establishment of His Kingdom as fundamental. The nature of this varies across the populations of the New World, although they share a common radical Protestantism. The pilgrims are suspicious not only of Rome but also the Church of England. This religious order is mirrored in the nature of the economic ventures, with the Virginia Company rapidly moving from a centralized to a decentralized model for reasons of profit.
Fraser notes that this Protestant diversity was communal and not individual: the colonial town shared a covenant of a particular Protestant faith, within which all took part in the great mission. The free man was granted his rights not as citizen, but as father of a household. Fraser puts forward that the fact of covenant is problematic for the narrative that America was proto-liberal and individualist from the start. To find oneself outside a defined covenant to family, community, and God was to be outcast and alien to the social order.
The development of the proto-Southern (Fraser calls it “Anglo-Virginian”) culture differed in its attitude to work and the emphasis on religious covenant as the source of community. Apart from maintaining a more aristocratic attitude to work as a necessary evil, the Virginia community saw the household displace the role of the church in many social rituals.
Despite these variations, settlers would find their differences minimized by their contrast with the realities of colonial existence. Slavery was a phenomenon seen across the Americas, not just practiced by the various European colonial powers but also by the indigenous peoples themselves. Moreover, the material condition of many European indentured workers would have hardly differed from the experience of slaves: facets of such a life could include wearing a collar with the employer’s name, being sold together with a mine, and being forbidden to marry without permission. However, the racial dynamic of black slavery would bring the biological element of racial and ethnocultural identity to the fore. This impetus continued the stripping down of the English as a cohesive religious, cultural, and ethnic people, to the benefit of the racial element. The realities of black and native interaction forced cohesion between differing religious covenants and regional cultures.
This process is, in fact, more or less complete when we come to the American rebellion. By this time, the only criterion for citizenship laid out is the extension to “free white persons of good character”. Rather than an English covenant community, the political order is a white republic. The republic itself would ultimately create the social and religious infrastructure of these free white persons. Ultimately, the philosophy of freedom would triumph over the remnants of ethnocultural covenant still present in the republican founding. First, whiteness itself would find itself expanded as a concept, and then ultimately done away with. Homo Americanus would be a bloodless citizen. Fraser cites the words of the Union’s staunchest representative, President Lincoln, in the year 1838:
Let reverence for the laws…become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and young, the rich and poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.
At this point, Fraser takes pause from his broad study of American development. The above is a sweeping account of the American story, and benefits from a more precise analysis. To do so, Fraser examines a particular social technology of the American landscape: the corporation. In this structure, Fraser sees a history and theology at play, changing with each generation and altering the nature of the corporation in political life.
First, we must take note of American religious life around the 1740’s. At this time, the phenomenon later known as the First Great Awakening began to sweep the American landscape. While previously the official clergy had maintained the dominance of the established parish churches, a new generation emphasized individual religious experience. This demand for individual agency in their tie to the greater community would see its political reflection in the rhetoric of the colonial rebellions a generation later, culminating in the democratic and populist character of Jeffersonian democracy. The classes from which many of the founders themselves came would accurately perceive a growing threat to ordered stability.
In response, men of these classes saw a need for institutions of business and political enterprise which could guard their work and resources from democratic usurpation. Fraser recounts the US Supreme Court decision of the Dartmouth College case; the court upheld that the private nature of the resources involved in corporate endeavours granted them autonomy and constitutional protection. It is important to emphasize that the conception of these bodies was not purely one of profit, but of the public good. The corporation was defined by a specific end. The notion of a corporation changing its mission and work at will was alien to the understanding of the time. Fraser recounts the infusion of republican political philosophy into these ventures, with corporations becoming little republics within the body of the great American republic. Many such corporations found themselves in religious endeavours, upholding the legally backed commitment to public Protestant religious worship. For Fraser, this reveals the theology of the early corporation:
In clothing their religious, charitable, educational, and business activities in the corporate form, propertied and professional elites were adapting the federal theology of covenanted communities to a secular crisis of authority in a modern republican polity…The deep-rooted and contining contest between “evangelical” and “legal” Christianity had its exact parallel in the struggle between radical advocates of free and general incorporation and conservative proponents of incorporation by special act of the state legislature.
This theology would find opposition in a more explicitly religious response: the Second Great Awakening. Fraser notes that the general anti-institutional attitude towards the corrupt “worldly” order especially took issue with the linking of the corporation to public virtue. Fraser cites an 1853 piece from the Presbyterian Quarterly Review. The modern reader may note how eerily familiar it would read in any modern progressive activist publication:
…revolutions will occur as light increases marked with more or less violence, in proportion to the resistance offered, or the wisdom employed till human rights are properly guaranteed and wrong principles and institutions are swept away.
And yet, the result was not the end of the corporation. Rather, Fraser outlines the decoupling of economic endeavours from public virtue. First economic ventures could function as a sign of God’s favour on an individual level; later, the economic and the spiritual were severed entirely. He further cites Marx as one of the first to see this decoupling of property owner and investment. Property and the capitalist morphed into capital and shareholder. In Marx’s words: “he is a function of his own capital, and direct expression of his private property.” While Fraser criticizes Marx’s failure to understand the connection between this development and the culture from which it came, the emptying out of religious content from the corporation reflects the disenchantment of the broader English world, and the final cementing of the inner-directed paradigm.
The corporation would go on to be a microcosm of the most recent shift in the English world as well: the rise of the culture of critique, and the cult of the other. Fraser recounts the spread of the corporate mentality across the institutions. Scholars became researchers, governors became technocrats, and virtue was displaced by “expertise”. This was the rise of the managerial class. Fraser furthermore sees disembodied speech as fundamental to this new mode of governance (or better: management). Rather than reflecting the authority of the speaker, speech had to become disembodied, reflecting expertise and the voice of the corporate reality. In addition to the religious and cultural disembodiment, this mode of social order required an ethnic disembodiment and the embracing of a universalist mentality, reflecting the international nature of the U.S. population and the American world order. Fraser details how this ethnic disembodiment required an active embracing of the “other” in intellectual life and broader culture. This was enthusiastically forwarded both by WASP intellectuals and an ascendant Jewish intellectual class.
The history of the corporation reflects the history of the republic itself. Fraser draws parallels with each stage of the corporate theology to the surrounding American culture. He sees the political theology of the country as moving from a republic of liberty, to one of equality, and finally to one of fraternity. After the revolution, republican liberty is seen as the result of Providence itself. Thus, as we have seen, the republic replaces the covenant church as the institution of American destiny. For many of the founders themselves, this is already stripped of English particularity. The republic was championed most strongly by the federalists. However, its unifying character still acted through a variety of institutions: courts, parties, and churches. In particular, Fraser discerns that the churches were a force of “conversion” to revolutionary values.
With the end of the war between the states, the republic establishes itself as the source of sovereignty. This is most evident in the fourteenth amendment, which saw the source of citizenship as lying in the republic, and not in the states. These United States, became the United States. This was the age of individualist liberalism and the overthrow of institution. However, this pretence ignored what was clear to both the historic black populace and new entrants to the country: the dominance of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethnicity and culture. Thus, the republic of fraternity sought the purposeful and final overthrow of this culture and the final universalization of American revolutionary values. Today, the historic American population – one might even say the ethnic American population – retains little if any memory of this history. And yet, it feels the alienation of the liberal order as clearly as anyone. The language of universalism disguises a powerful and increasingly global elite class devoid of history or duty.
Fraser turns at this stage to a man we met in Part I of this review: Bolingbroke, speaking from the 18th century to a country where a new class was in its turn increasingly usurping the place and duties of the old order. In particular, he draws on Bolingbroke’s invocation of a Patriot King as necessary to restoring the English world. Surveying various critical and literary studies which have been made of Bolingbroke by later scholars, Fraser encourages a reading of his ideas which seek their application in our context – one radically alien to Bolingbroke himself, and knowingly so. While Bolingbroke admired Queen Elizabeth I, Fraser instead looks to King Alfred the Great, who played a pivotal role in creating the Christian Anglo-Saxon commonwealth.
Fraser invokes the image:
Church and crown would work hand-in-hand to lead a people grown corrupt back onto the path of righteousness blazed by the King of Kings.
The triumph of republicanism is Anglosphere countries need not be reason to despair; these events cannot erase the ties of faith and blood which bind the descendants of English Christendom to one another, and to a future monarch who may choose to invoke such ties.
There is an obvious charge against choosing such an archetype: larping. Not only is it unclear how such a figure would carry out their project, but there is in fact no claimant at hand to rally around. In fact, the invoking of such archetypal figures does two things. First, it creates a mantle which a future flesh-and-blood patriot king may one day take up. Second – and more immediately – it begins the process of palingenesis: the rebirth. In a sense, Fraser is not concerned with every blood descendent of England living today; he is writing for that number which will take part in the beginning of a new cycle. Discussing palingenesis in the final section of the book, Fraser makes clear that the full recovery of the faith which birthed the English people will be fundamental.
Fraser notes several theological strains of interest: kinism (which sees ethnic boundaries as Divinely ordained), preterism, and covenant creationism (which have nothing to do with questions of evolution, but rather see Genesis and the Apocalypse as addressing the Old and New Covenants). These particular examples will not be satisfactory to may readers, as they emerge from particular strains of American (often Calvinist) Protestantism. However, the broader point that a spiritual and not merely reductionist view of kin must be recovered is something familiar to those not only in reformed, but in the historic Catholic and Orthodox traditions. The question of patriotism has been recently addressed, for example, by the Russian Orthodox patriarchate. More immediate to the question of English Christendom is the state of the English Christian patrimony. In addition to the efforts of many Anglicans to preserve the English patrimony, some have sought a path of communion with the broader Catholic world.
Of course, these events are only of immediate interest to those who are still retaining the faith. For much of the English world, it has been generations since Christendom collapsed as a reality. This brings an element of strangeness into play. Though Fraser does not reference them, the literary mission of the Inklings – Lewis, Tolkein, and others – delved into the mythos of old England precisely for its alien nature in the era they were now in. The archetype of the patriot king seizes on this strangeness. It takes the essence of English kingship found in the historical great monarchs and prepares it to be taken up once again. Many who are rootless seek out alien heritages. One can consider the leftist love of foreign traditions such as yoga or Islam, but also the affinity of many Anglosphere rightists for continental Germanic, Nordic, or Slavic traditions.
Though the patrimony of England shares much with its European brethren, it is also unique. If the toxic extreme of its individualism leads to ethnic amnesia, its positive end created some of the most durable, independent, high-trust, and cooperative societies known to man. Its roots in seafaring island races led it to forge a global empire. Its common association with pragmatism lives beside a deep religious cosmology and an ancient ethos of myth and holy rite. Though it finds orientation in its great monarchs, it is the common man – be he in farm or city, on the isles or in the New World, under the first Elizabeth or the second – who upholds the law and the faith. That law and faith must be recovered in the hearts of men before it can be reforged in the world.
Only then does the palingenesis become possible. Let us take up the endeavour, lest the king Bolingbroke hoped for should come forward and find himself alone.
The formula for what creates a people is complex. To an extent, unfathomable. The ethnic genetic stock, the land on which it lives, the earlier groups which join together, the religion, the requirements for survival…all this and more creates a unique fingerprint. The Anglosphere is no different; its foundation stock is the global diaspora of settlement and migration which set out at various times from the British Isles. Its culture is uniquely individualist and based on personal trust and drive. Its ancestral religion is the ancient Christian faith as it manifested in the furthest outposts of the post-Roman West.
In The WASP Question, Dr. Andrew Fraser presents a history of this Anglo-British ethnoculture from the migration across the English channel all the way to the modern period. This history makes up the first part of the book, with a focus on the religious aspect of this identity. The Anglo-Saxons were formed and birthed as a Christian people from early on in their history in the Isles, and as such their “baptized” Germanic cultural and political forms play a truly foundational role in the later history of the English. The second and third parts of the book examine the decline of the English people and their world, particularly with the rise of the novus ordo seclorum. Due to the depth of detail, parts II and III will be looked at in a second piece. By way of background, Fraser is a Canadian-born academic who currently resides and works in Australia. After studying constitutional law at Harvard and an MA from the University of North Carolina, he went on to teach American constitutional history in Sydney.
Human biodiversity is important in Fraser’s work: the biological stock of the population is just as fundamental a part of ethnoculture as religion, family structure, the land, and so on. As with all systems, the population both influences and is influenced by these other elements. Therefore, the tendencies exhibited by individuals and the early Anglo-Saxon population becomes expressed over time as cultural norms as a people becomes an increasingly coherent nation. Among the traits of the Anglo-Saxons can be counted a strong individualism; a more nuclear family structure rather than an extended clan; a morality based on individual guilt rather than collective shame. The concept of law is central to Fraser’s conception of English civilization:
Medieval Europe created a legal civilization, nowhere more obviously or successfully than its Anglo-Saxon province. The English, like other Christian peoples, [in the words of Walter Ullmann] “were given their religion, their faith, their dogma, in the shape of a law”.
However, this presence of the law existed side by side with a magical-transcendent underpinning of the old Anglo-Saxon culture in which England finds its roots. Here is where Fraser’s thesis starts to unfold:
My thesis is the social psychology of the Anglo-Saxons evolved in three stages, in a process of “punctuated equilibrium”. The primitive, magicoreligious influences on the social character of the early Anglo-Saxons were suppressed, first, by formal institutions (embryonic states and the Church) that fostered the dominant “tradition-directed character type of medieval England; second, by the development of an “inner-directed” character adapted to the early modern bourgeois market economy; and third, by the emergence of the “other-directed” character type among WASPs in the service of the modern corporate welfare state.
The prelude to this process is the migration of Germanic tribes across the channel. On the continent, they existed in much more collective societies. Collective kin structures played a major role in interaction, particularly in the fued system of justice. If a member of a clan was killed, the clan was involved in a feud with the other man’s kin. The comites (to use Tacitus’ phrase for the “great men” who played leading roles) would elevate one of their number as an overlord amongst themselves. However this role was relatively weak, and depended on the integrity of the kinship structures.
Migration changed this, as those who went across the channel were separated from their larger and established kinship networks. Fraser recounts data that the large contribution of the Anglo-Saxons to the modern English ancestry comes from a small source of only 10-200,000 people, whereas the indigenous population numbered around two million. This implies a breeding advantage for the invaders: logically, powerful Anglo-Saxon leaders would have greater access to both Anglo-Saxon and indigenous British women, while British men would be disadvantaged with British women (and have little chance of mating with Anglo-Saxons). Therefore, many may have chosen to migrate away from the Anglo-Saxon centers. This genetic evidence correlates with the institutional growth of the Anglo-Saxon kingship as a power structure. Where the kinship structures shrank in importance, the kingship took over as a source of order in a necessarily smaller and more individualistic population.
This is the founding era in Fraser’s cycle of English history. Kings and aristocrats dominated national government in Anglo-Saxon England, but the system saw extensive decentralization of the country into shires and tithings, and of the church into parishes. This allowed local British elites to find new places in the system and become integrated into the new order of the Anglo-Saxon polities. Still, the power of the lords grew to the extent that the common site of free peasants or towns seen on the continent became a rarity in England. Yet Fraser also recounts the collective and super-individual nature of law. The law was received and pronounced by kings and lords, but it was received by them as part of an inheritance of the kin. Here we already see the structures that later periods would codify into the idea of “the rule of law”.
However, the law existed alongside a sacral and mythic conception of Kingship. Descended from a god and “heilerfüllt” or hallowed, he allowed godly participation in earthly affairs. Therefore he had a special wisdom when interpreting the received law. However, early in their history the Anglo-Saxons received the Christian faith. British and Irish churches had long existed, but it was the missions of Pope Gregory the Great which in particular were intended to convert these peoples. With much of the English ethnogenesis occurring after their conversion, the English were a people conceived in the womb of Christendom. Their spiritual center was at Canterbury, where the disciples of St. Augustine the missionary established themselves. While the idols were smashed, the sacred altars and groves of the land were sanctified and incorporated into the Christian Anglo-Saxon ritual life.
Anglo-Saxon Christendom lived under a baptized sacral Kingship, where the King was filled with the grace of God and carried responsibility for the spiritual state of his people under Heaven. Fraser details the promotion by the Church of an overlord who could unite the gens Anglorum into a political unity which could manifest their spiritual unity. It should be noted that Her Majesty Elizabeth II still carries as her official Canadian title “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Canada” – a phrase shared by her titles across most of her realms. We can see a spiritual unity carried down from the earliest days of the English ethnogenesis. This sacral conception reached its apex in the reign of King Alfred the Great. King Alfred was first to hold the title of King of the Anglo-Saxons and translated the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. While he never ruled all England, in him all Anglo-Saxons finally had a unified sacred royalty.
In addition to this top-level religious and political history, Fraser spends many sections of the book detailing the legal and constitutional norms of the Anglo-Saxon people at this time. For the reader’s interest, we will touch on the interesting practice of oath-taking. In Fraser’s thesis, oath-taking becomes an important sign of the growing individualism of the Anglo-Saxons compared with their kin-based continental forebears. Oaths existed in the Germanic cultures as bond between kinsman and lords, and men without oath-based relationships to such structures were not only rootless but a social threat. In the Anglo-Saxon social order, we have seen that the power of the kin structure decreased and the power of the lords grew. Thus, an individual’s commitment to his lord grew ever more important as the blood-bonds with kin would not protect him as they had his ancestors. Giving an oath was a spiritual act witnessed by priests and performed over relics or sacred objects (witness our own continued use of Bibles). Breaking an oath threatened the immortal soul, and were taken so seriously that the mere swearing of an oat could sometimes be evidence of innocence of a crime. In a world where action and ritual were often one, King Alfred’s requirement of oaths from his men and advisors gave a spiritual basis to the very administration of the Anglo-Saxon state.
The next stage of Fraser’s thesis sees the ritualization and institutionalization of the magical and religious worldview. This occurs both due to the increased kingly requirements of the Overlord, and the tension between throne and altar. Fraser notes at first that the assent of the William the Conqueror did not immediately replace Anglo-Saxon norms with Norman ones. Upon his ascension, the Conqueror took part in the “charismatic” Kingship which he had usurped. Fraser emphasizes that it was not simply enough for a King to uphold past norms or rule in an administrative way. Rather, the King had to prove his God-given power of rule by his deeds, creating new obligations or precedents. This charism could be lost or successfully challenged (the Conqueror himself being one such successful challenger). From the time of the Conqueror onward, this personal authority gave way to an institutional entity of the Crown distinct from the person of the King. This trend occurred for a number of reasons and would reach its culmination in the Tudor centralization.
Starting in 1075, Pope Gregory VII (the Great) introduced sweeping reforms to the Church intended to solidify the accountability of bishops to the Roman See, which held traditional primacy among the Apostolic sees and was the Patriarchal See of the West. However, this was accompanied by a high view of Papal authority, which Pope Gregory saw as extending into the life of the realm beyond matters of faith or morality. A world which before knew little distinction between spirit and daily life began to encounter the tensions of authority which would ultimately become the familiar concepts of “secular” vs “religious” authority. The 12th century martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by rogue knights of King Henry II, saw the King forced to formalize a separate domain of powers for the Church. Conversely, the Kings therefore promoted a Divinely-sanctioned political authority distinct from the Church. Yet, as Fraser points out, this was the first step toward an “eventual disenchantment of political authority”.
In addition to this pressure for a distinct authority and existence from the Church, Kings also faced the problem of the “double majesty” which existed in English political life. On the level of the realm, the Kingship – even if assented to by the nobility – was not held to be founded on them, but ultimately on the grace of God. Likewise, the nobility considered their authority to rest upon their own dignity; this same dignity was what his loyalty to his King rested on. However, this meant that the King’s responsibilities to the realm often relied on the personal loyalties of a nobility which did not often act in unison or full agreement. Fraser explains that the King’s duty to uphold a law received but not made by him, and to rule in unison with the “community of the realm”, was a conception that extended back to the pre-Norman cult of St. Edward the Confessor. These norms formed the tradition which directed the character of Kingship in this second period. Yet, they also guaranteed a Royal incentive to increase centralization in order to effectively rule.
The Tudor monarchy was the major force of centralization during this second period. In establishing himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England, King Henry VIII established a sacral as well as a political supremacy for himself. However, Fraser points out an important distinction between the Tudors and their Anglo-Saxon forebears. As we saw, the Anglo-Saxon Kings depended on a sacral power that was bound up in their persons. The Tudors, on the other hand, normalized the concepts of an “institutional” Crown distinct from the person of the King. Thus, a growing administration could act in the name of the Crown without the King’s personal involvement.
Fraser presents Richard Hooker as the best expounder of the tradition-directed character of England at this time. Hooker understood the realm as an organic body politic, where King and commonwealth worked in unison to preserve the customs and laws handed down. Hooker saw himself as defending the ancient English constitution where law and realm were one entity. And yet, Fraser attacks this idea, pointing out that the conception of an institutional inheritance of custom judicially interpreted by King and people was already a far cry from the magical-religious conception of the grace-filled Anglo-Saxon kings who received and interpreted the law under a charism from God. And indeed, this tension between the inviolability of the received customs of the ancient constitution with the royal will of the Crown would open up for the next era of Fraser’s thesis: the inner-directed era.
The mission of an increasing prerogative for the Royal will brought together two names which are not often associated with each other, and indeed would often be assumed to be opposed to one another. The first is the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and the second is the House of Stuart. Hobbes believed that the royal administration must be centralized in order to rationalize its governance, providing it the opportunity to create a great society guided by reason and empirical inquiry. Hobbes rejected the notion that monarchy could have any Divine basis, and saw its legitimacy as stemming from its ability to bring man out of the brutal “state of nature”. He mocked the sacral conception of authority and those who believed “that there walketh (as some think invisibly) another Kingdome, as it were a Kingdom of Fayries, in the dark.” Likewise, the House of Stuart existed at a time when a classically-influenced tendency to speak of an English commonwealth made up of King, lords, and commons was in ascendancy. Fraser recounts that in 1642, shortly before the civil war, King Charles I was convinced to essentially formalize this philosophy in answers to Parliament. This meant that the Crown’s institutional legitimacy would ever more be based on outcomes rather than either personal charism of rule or reception of the ancient tradition. The break with tradition toward an inner-directed administrative will had begun.
Fraser emphasizes a seemingly contradictory fact of this political struggle: both sides could coherently be described as “traditionalist”. Fraser lays out the crisis:
…the clash was a symptom of a schizophrenic split within English society that set “traditionalist modernizers” against “modernizing traditionalists”. Both royalists and common lawyers were, by definition, traditionalists. James I himself appealed to long standing traditions of biblical authority and Christian theology in suport of the divine right of kings; he also readily acknowledged that he was bound to rule in accordance with the fundamental laws of the realm. But he was also committed to transforming the royal prerogative into an effective instrument of both executive and legislative power. On the other side, the parliamentary opposition routinely invoked the hoary traditions of the common law to defend the property interests that were fuelling the anarchic disorder of an early-modern market economy.
However, for Fraser it is the rise of the Puritan ethos which encapsulates the entry of inner-directed thought into daily and religious life. This occurs during and after the civil war. The inner life of the Puritan was bound up in the relationship between God and the conscience. Having rejected “papist” sacramental theology, the Puritan was in no way assured of God’s grace. This demanded of the believer a continual examination of conscience in accordance with Scripture. The pious man was expected to demonstrate this discipline also through a steadfast devotion to work. Otherwise mundane, work became sanctified because the taking up of it made it a vehicle for the Kingdom of God. In addition to providing personal discipline, it became an outward sign of Godly favour. Yet the Puritan conception was even further removed from the magical-religious worldview than the tradition-directed worldview had been. Concepts like sacraments or charisms were scandalous to the Puritan mind, which lionized reason. Fraser quotes, for example, Milton’s rebuke of the erotic elements of marriage as “the prescribed satisfaction of an irrational heat.”
Ultimately, this third stage allows us to see that the story of the English ethnoculture from the days of Anglo-Saxon establishment up to the era of the Reformation was an increasing disenchantment of the world. Fraser traces this process from the Stuarts through the Puritan and Cromwellian era, through the Glorious Revolution. The Crown moved ever more to an inner-directed, results based legitimacy. By the 18th century and the rise of Robert Walpole as the first Prime Minister, the conservation of the ancient constitution was left to those Tories and a number of Whigs associated with the Country Party. This party of Tories and conservative Whigs, led by the one-time Jacobite Viscount Bolingbroke, saw in Walpole’s centralization the rise of party interests which eroded the unifying force of the ancient constitution. In opposition to this, it defended the powers of local gentry against centralizing administrators, and claimed to speak for the whole country – living and ancestral – against the factions of their day.
However, this moment in history saw a turning point in the history of the English: their expansion to the New World. America would become a land where the remnants of the tradition-directed and magical-religious eras were minimal. The inner-directed nature of the Puritan religion and the market economy would become fundamental to Homo Americanus. The second part of Fraser’s work details its growth. It also posits what a restoration of the English ethnoculture may entail. This will be further examined in the second part of this review.
The WASP Question is available for purchase at Arktos.
“Toryism is the political expression of a religious view of life. Conservatism is an attempt to maintain Toryism after you have lost your faith. Progressive Conservatism is an attempt to maintain conservatism after you have lost your memory too.” – David Warren
The year is 1813. A young Church of England priest named John Strachan is on the frontlines of a military conflict, determined to stand by King and Country in the face of invasion. The city of York is fallen as the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada and his outnumbered force of regulars retreat to the strategically more important city of Kingston. Strachan must play a leading role in negotiating with the American forces. This test paves a road which will make him the spiritual leader of Upper Canada’s Anglo-colonial elite: the Family Compact. As a Bishop, his firm stance in favour of Loyalism and the Established Church – for throne and altar – will serve as a defence of the values which unite the great families of Upper Canada in the early 19th century. It is a total rejection of the values of the Revolution and the oligarchic Whigs who were behind it.
This is the last of three essays in which I review Canadian author and thinker George Grant’s work Lament for a Nation, and consider its relevance for reactionary thought in Canada and the West today. In the above work, Benjamin West – an American colonial who left for England before the Revolution – depicts Britannia receiving the Loyalists, with Religion and Justice accompanying her. In reality, Parliament was stingy about rewarding Loyalist refugees, and it was in Canada that they would make their new homes.
In parts one and two of this series, we examined George Grant’s thesis that Canada has faced a long erasure of its distinctive political heritage, founded in the Tory and Loyalist worldview which it defended against the Republican vision to its south. Part 1 presented Grant’s thesis that it was the Canadian business and political elite itself which was instrumental in this erasure. Part 2 explored various facets of this tradition: valuing competent over “small” government, acknowledging distinctions between peoples and cultures, and the institution of the Crown itself. In this final essay, we will explore the fate of the Canadian tradition and what its ultimate destiny might be as Liberalism faces its crises.
Previously, we set the stage that George Grant laid out in Lament for a Nation: a Canada built on foundations older than those of liberalism, nonetheless being transformed by American power and an elite which rejected Canada’s roots. We will now examine several of the key institutions and traditions of Canadian life which exist in tension with the liberalism and which have engulfed much of Canadian society, because they are fundamentally incompatible with it. Grant’s own reflections will show how well these tensions were understood mere decades ago.
Conventional wisdom is as follows:
America is a conservative country. It has evangelicals, Republicans of both the Bush and Trump varieties, and promotes interventionism and die-hard capitalism. Canada is a liberal country. It has universal health care, multiculturalism, and Trudeau is presently leading a Liberal Restoration to recover from the dark old days of Stephen Harper.
Yet, this contradicts the facts of history. While the American mythos exalts the free and sovereign individual, the historic Canadian tradition sees people as born into distinct cultures and stations. It is in Canada, rather than America, where the dominant ethnocultural heritage is explicitly recognized as British. It is the Canadian constitution, and not the American, which references the “supremacy of God”. And where in America could you find a mainstream media personality discussing the ethnogenesis of a nation in political life?
Lament for a Nation is best known today as a repudiation of the common paradigm. For George Grant, the conventional wisdom depends on an ignorance of history. Specifically, it disguises America’s revolutionary founding as an embodiment of Whig Liberalism and Canada’s slow and purposeful development as a confrontation of nations eventually united under a single royal power.