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
This post originally appeared on Gerry T. Neal’s blog thronealtarliberty.blogspot.ca on April 23, 2015.
A figure who had a brief starring role on the stage of Canadian history in the early 1990s has re-emerged from the obscurity into which she subsequently receded to make an interesting observation about how an idea she holds dear and believes other Canadians do as well is faring in certain segments of the immigrant community. That figure is the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, who entered Parliament as a Progressive Conservative representing Vancouver Centre in 1988 and held a number of cabinet positions in the Mulroney government before taking over the leadership of the party and the Premiership of the country for the Parliamentary recess between Mulroney’s resignation and the general election in which the Conservatives were decimated and Jean Chretien’s Liberals came to power. The National Post, on Thursday April the 16th, reported on a panel discussion at the University of Alberta the previous day that was hosted by the Peter Lougheed Leadership College of which the former Prime Minister is the Founding Principal. She was also one of the panel speakers and the newspaper focused on her remarks.
According to the National Post she told her audience that immigration has brought individuals into our society who “come from cultures that don’t believe in gender equality” and that we have not been doing a good job at selling this “Canadian value” to them. She expressed specific concerns about cultures like that of Islam which require women to wear concealing garments. She objected both to the suggestion “that women bear responsibility for the sexual behaviour of men” and to the fact that wearing a face-concealing veil in a citizenship ceremony runs contrary to the ideal of an open society.
Now before you jump to the conclusion that this is a good sign, an indicator that some members of Canada’s political class are finally waking up to the many ways in which the open immigration policy imposed upon us by the Liberals in the 1960s has been harmful to our country and our society, note how the National Post informs us that:
She said one of Canada’s challenges is to guide the integration of cultures that don’t share this value. Better education of Canadian residents is the key, she said, adding if Canadians don’t understand their own history and values, people new to the country will find them difficult to learn.
In other words, to this past Premier, if some immigrants do not believe in or accept what she regards as an essential Canadian “value”, the problem is not with our open immigration system that lets anyone in whether they accept our “values” or not or even with our complete lack of a system for assimilating newcomers and integrating them into Canadian culture but rather with those of us who already live here and we need to be re-educated so as to exude those “values” in such a way that the new immigrants will absorb them into themselves through some kind of cultural osmosis process.
This astonishing conclusion could only be arrived at by a mind so indoctrinated in the idea of Canadian “values” that it cannot accept that one of these values, open immigration, might be incompatible with another of these values, sexual equality, (1) despite the glaring evidence that such is in fact the case.
Now both of these supposed Canadian “values” are stupid ideas in my opinion, and I could make a separate case against both open immigration and sexual egalitarianism, but having done so already several times in the past (2) and being likely to do so again, I think that it is the very idea of values that warrants further examination here.
A number of years ago, John Casey, writing in the Spectator, told of an exchange that had taken place during a Conservative Philosophy Group meeting in the early 1980s in which Enoch Powell made an important point about values to then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:
Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to ‘Western values’. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism.
Powell’s point, apparently beyond Mrs. Thatcher’s grasp, was that values, whatever they may be, are not worth fighting, killing, and dying for, that you only do that for something solid and tangible, your country, consisting of real people, in a real territory, with real institutions and a real way of life.
This is one point about values that I think well worth re-iterating but there is another that I wish to focus on. Interestingly, the year before Kim Campbell was elected to Parliament a book that made this point, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (3) became a best-seller in the United States, while the following year, in one of Nabokov’s “dazzling coincidences that logicians loathe and poets love”, the man who had for years been making the same point up here in Canada, died, George Parkin Grant (4). The point in question is that it while everybody speaks of values today this is a recent innovation and not one for the better. (5) Whereas we used to speak of good and evil, which were what they were in themselves and were out there for us to discover, and of virtues which were habits of behaviour or character traits that we were to cultivate because of their goodness, now we speak instead of values, which are substitutes for goodness and virtue that we create and choose for ourselves. Since different people may create and choose different values for themselves, and who is to say, now that values have replaced good and evil, that one set of values is better or worse than any other, the language of values is the language of moral and cultural relativism. (6)
Apart from the relativism of the language of values, it is also worth noting that traditional religion uses a different, much less attractive word, for those things we create for ourselves and substitute for God and the higher things. That word, of course, is idols.
The expression “Canadian values” has a particularly odious set of connotations because it is generally used to refer to those values created for Canadians by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s as a substitute for Canadian tradition. These included such things as open immigration, multiculturalism, bilingualism (at least for English-speaking Canada), feminism, and the like. These, the Trudeau Liberals decided, were to be Canada’s new values and were to be shoved down Canadians throats whether they liked them or not, and if they didn’t like them they would be called “racists” and “sexists” and other ugly names. As it turned out, apart from the intellectual elite who are guaranteed to be the least intelligent segment of any society and who in Canada adored Trudeau, these values were not to Canadians liking and so, when they had had quite enough of Trudeau’s arrogance, they gave a landslide victory to the party whose historic role it had long been to safeguard the Canadian tradition, including such things as our British parliamentary monarchy and our Common Law heritage. That party was the old Conservative Party, then led by Brian Mulroney. Unfortunately the Mulroney Conservatives seemed little interested in performing their historic role and rescuing Canadian tradition from Trudeau’s values. Thus much of their support evaporated and the party, now under Kim Campbell’s leadership, collapsed.
Our concern ought to be that newcomers to Canada accept Canada’s tradition, not a set of absurd idolatrous values created for the country by a contemptible sleazebag who adored Mao Tse-Tung. Who will speak for that tradition? Historically that was the role of the old Conservative Party but they laid down on the job and their party died because of it. The present Conservative Party gives lip service to Canada’s tradition but it began life as the Reform Party, a Western populist party whose profession of small-c conservatism proved to be false because they could not grasp that there can be no conservatism without patriotic attachment to your own country, its traditions and institutions. (7) The other parties – Liberal, NDP, and Green – are all committed to Trudeau’s values rather than Canada’s tradition. So the question remains open – who will speak for that tradition?
(1) The former Prime Minister spoke of “gender equality”. Human beings have sexes, words have genders. The substitution of gender for sex in reference to human beings is akin to the substitution of “values” for goodness and virtue.
(2) See, for example, “The Progressives’ Penance” (http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com/2010/09/progressives-penance.html) on immigration and “The Folly of Feminism” (http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.com/2012/02/folly-of-feminism.html) on sexual egalitarianism.
(3) Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987).
(4) While it comes up repeatedly in his writings see especially Grant’s Technology and Justice, (Toronto: Anansi Press, 1986), in particular the essay on Nietzsche, and the essays in section five of William Christian and Sheila Grant, eds, The George Grant Reader, (Toronto: The University of Toronto Press, 1998), in particular the first essay in the section “The Good or Values: Value and Technology?”.
(5) Both Grant and Bloom were influenced in this by Leo Strauss who had been a correspondent of Grant’s and a professor of Bloom’s.
(6) Grant, Bloom, and Strauss trace the language of values and the relativism it represents back through Max Weber to Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that modern rationalism had made the religious beliefs of the past untenable, but, an atheist of the right, he condemned the rationalistic, liberal, egalitarian, democracy that he saw modern man to be constructing as condemning men to lives of mediocrity as “the last men”. He believed that man’s heroic spirit must be fed by myths (akin to Plato’s “noble lies”) and hoped that men would exercise their “will to power” to avoid the fate of the “last men”, rise to that of the “supermen”, and create appropriate new myths. He condemned Christian morality for exalting weakness, comparing this unfavourably to the old Greek and Jewish moralities which identified virtue with strength, but hoped that men would go “beyond good and evil” and embrace values, as expressions of their own will and creativity.
(7) Reform’s leaders far too often seemed to want to replace Canada’s tradition with that of the United States.
The topic of “Canadian values” has begun seeping once again into our political life. This comes thanks to statements made by Kellie Leitch, Conservative leadership candidate, whose campaign asked if immigrants should be screened for “Canadian values”. Of course, this development is nothing but positive. Strangely though, our governing classes seem to think otherwise.
We are faced with an immediate question. What are Canadian values? Leitch’s site lists the following:
- Equal opportunity – We must strive to ensure that everyone has as much of an equal opportunity to succeed as possible, especially our youth
- Hard work – Everyone must work hard and provide for themselves and their families
- Helping others – Once people become prosperous, we all are expected to give back to our communities to help others
- Generosity – Canada is a place that shows what is possible when hard work and generosity come together
- Freedom and tolerance – A Canadian identity that is based on freedom and tolerance to allow each of us the chance to pursue our best lives and to become our best selves
Nice thoughts, all around.
Just one thing: if the term “Canadian values” has any meaning, then it surely includes the values which were defended by the Loyalists in 1776, by British and allied indigenous forces in 1812, and by Sir John A. Macdonald in those first years when Canada was a united Dominion.
Let’s check out what values those generations were defending.