(I can’t find a suitable definition on the Web, so here goes.)
Historically, generally speaking, in Britain and Canada, a Tory was a c/Conservative…but not like what Americans today call a conservative. American politics since the end of the Revolution has been overwhelmingly what the other 5.7 billion people on this planet call liberal. What Americans today are used to calling conservative is actually classical-liberal or neo-liberal (mistakenly called neo-conservative) or ‘first-generation liberal,’ idealizing itself as libertarian: extreme individualism and “social contract” theory/doctrine, laissez-faire economics, “rationalized capitalism,” an allegedly-democratic republic, violent revolution and intolerance of ideological opposition/”disloyalty”/”treason”/”thought crime,” supposed protection of natural and human and civil rights, private property ownership as absolute and determinative, legalism, anti-traditionalism, religious sectarianism, governmental minimalism, “bootstraps,” “no special rights,” “no group rights/no identity politics,” States’ rights, propagandistic/ideological/utopian [The word means “no place,” not “good place” – that would be “eutopia.”], “popular sovereignty,” militarism and mass warfare, voluntary and optional social structures and charity, technology and mass industry and their “progress,” etc. It may be summed up in the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” from the U.S. Declaration of Independence. (Whether they live up to their rhetoric is beyond my present purpose.) What Americans today are used to calling liberal is actually social-liberal or ‘second-generation liberal,’ modifying the foregoing with some government intervention in the economy and human relations, greater anti-traditionalism, affirmative action, government help for the needy, greater idealism, less militarism. Otherwise the two have alot in common! The most typical liberal regime on earth is the United States itself as currently constituted; republican France comes a close second, despite its occasional socialist leanings. (And just for the record, America has almost NO real socialists, and few social democrats. As for Right and Left, traditionally, as liberals, you were BOTH on the Left!!)
ON THE OTHER HAND – and at least in Europe and Canada there is another hand – are c/Conservatives, at least historically and generally speaking, or classical conservatives. They favored monarchy, royal/governmental regulation of macro-economics, society as organic and hierarchical, striving for the Common Good, at least a partial hereditary element in governmental structures, slow and steady improvement in public affairs (evolution rather than revolution), the wisdom of tradition, an established religion and settled public morality and virtue (with or without Dissent), a balance between the individual and society, a balance between rights and duties/responsibilities, noblesse oblige, as much government as was needed by society’s and people’s needs, realism (rather than ideology/idealism/utopianism), compassion for the needy and disabled [Before there was “welfare,” there was the parish “dole,” and alms.], “the wisdom of the court” to decide whether a particular law applied to a particular situation, chivalry and professional warfare, politeness, looser capitalism, etc. It may be summed up in the phrase “peace, order, and good government,” from Canada’s British North America Act of 1867 (now called the Constitution Act 1867), since also adopted into the constitutions of Australia, New Zealand, and other independent Realms of Her Majesty The Queen.
In the 19th and 20th centuries in Britain and Canada, conservatism divided in two. Some conservatives identified more with rich capitalists, business and industry-owners; in Canada these came to be called Blue Tories, said to have much in common with the U.S. Republican Party, or U.S. “conservatives” in general as described above. (In Britain Margaret Thatcher was a bluish Tory, though there blue is the color designating all Tories, i.e., members of “The Conservative and Unionist Party.”) Others identified more with the Common Good, workers, the needy, cities, students, increased democracy, the peace movement, etc.; in Canada these came to be called Red Tories, some becoming nearly indistinguishable from social democrats. Nearly, because they retained their rootedness in the reddish Tory tradition, rather than coming at matters from completely outside it as, arguably, socialists and Communists do. (Though at least one Canadian Red Tory has hinted at a conservative streak in Marx et al.!) For example, one prominent Red Tory flirted with Canada’s New Democratic Party at its formation in the ’60s, but declined to join them because The Faith wasn’t part of their ‘analysis,’ and he considered it necessary.
(As an aside, the funny thing in Canada, as viewed from the States, is that there, the Liberal Party is traditionally known as the party of business, “free trade,” tax cuts for the rich and big business, sliding into union with America, loosening ties with Britain and The Commonwealth, creeping [small-R] republicanism [even big-R Republicanism, for that matter!], anti-traditionalism, etc….all in keeping of course with classical or neo- liberalism, hence the name. [Like the Liberal Party in Australia is that country’s more “conservative” major party.] They’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into things like the welfare state, universal healthcare, same-sex marriage, etc.! Whereas the federal Progressive Conservative Party – whose very name made no sense to Americans! – was traditionally cooler towards America/warmer towards The Commonwealth, more balanced between business and workers/the people, monarchist, traditionalist, etc….all in keeping of course with classical conservatism. But since the Blue Tories merged the PC Party with virtual [big-R] Republicans based in Western Canada [the province of Alberta is their Texas in more ways than one] – like Her Majesty’s new Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper – the new “Conservative Party of Canada” is out-Republican-ing the Liberals! Many Red Tories have switched to the Liberals as the lesser of two evils in Canada’s two-and-two-half parties political system.)
(It should also be pointed out that it is common in Canadian news media today to call any ostensible c/Conservative with even just one or two prominent left-ish social stances – for instance, favoring the legalization of same-sex marriage – a Red Tory, though they may not be under the older definition.)
As an American, I embraced the Red Tory label after having previously already become a monarchist, retaining principles consonant with social-democracy otherwise. I have grown more into it, so to speak, as I have acquired more of an Eastern Orthodox mindset, ethic, ethos, and spirituality, since converting in 2002 (and pray so to continue), the commonality being a more traditionalistic – so to speak – approach to matters than my previous ‘avant-garde’ Catholicism and Protestantism, one more critical of that Western habit called modernity. Of course, I also question whether it is possible for an Irish-/Native American Orthodox Catholic to truly embrace Red Toryism, since it is historically a largely Canadian Anglican phenomenon! So I hold the title loosely and in cahoots with that of Social Democrat. Maybe I could be a neo-Red-Tory!
How would an American Red Tory differ from a Canadian? Well, biographically, as I just pointed out, I’ve adopted it, not inherited it, so it’s not in my blood so to speak, at least not as such. I might come at it by means of different things, such as modern Catholic social teaching, Liberation Theology, organized labor, secular Social Democracy, “Christian Socialism,” progressive Anabaptist peace-and-social-justice witness, a growing sense of lessons gleaned from the history and literature of Orthodox Byzantium and Tsarist Russia, even the recent problems in American democracy and constitutionalism, as well as a growing appreciation of Common Law, the Commonwealth Monarchy, Westminster-style parliamentary government, even early Anglican social-ethical insights, “Anglo-Catholic Socialism,” and the experience of (other) “left-leaning” monarchies with Established Churches such as the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. I mean that I really identify more with the “Common Good” and moral governance ideas of medieval Eastern and Western Christendom than with “class warfare” as such. I acknowledge that a seemingly-adequate number of the rich and their servants seem to be at war against the rest of us – even if they don’t all intend to be, amid sinful social structures and all – to make it more than just some academic idea, but I think the solution isn’t fighting back, but cultivating solidarity between the classes, our common humanity, even “consubstantiality” in o/Orthodox theological terms: empower all of us together. “From those who have, more will be expected.” Basically, I believe Canada, i.e., multinational “British North America,” really is Yanks’ “home and native land”: America could’ve been Canada! (Only better!) And if we care about our country, we have to work to make it so, even 223 years later (since 1783).
In terms of what I stand for as an American Red Tory/social-democrat, I might be less class-conscious than a ‘birthright’ Canuck Tory, a little more individualist, I’d probably despair of ever giving America a hereditary, non-elective, less-political chamber of Congress as helpful as that might be(!), I’d be wary of the heterodoxy in the Anglicanism, maybe a little more socialist than they in the manner of that native Catholic socialism, probably more idealist – I’d have to be to have any hope here in America! Red Tory philosopher George Parkin Grant lost alot of “left” support when he came out against legalized abortion; his position was more traditionalist, moral, and philosophical, while mine is more ecclesiological, i.e., I can’t see being a member of the Orthodox Church and espousing allowing legalized abortion. And I struggle with my inner voice of Fr. Andrew Greeley, who says social analysis that’s as down on almost anything as Grant, Mark Chaitlin, and some others are on modernity and America, holds no water, and anyway isn’t how “Catholics” approach social questions – rather, they look for the good and build from there. I’m not one of these monarchists who believes the Republic is completely illegitimate; after all, at the very least, the lawful Sovereign, King George III, signed-off on it. I just think it’s a very bad idea, and a threat to the survival of the human race on this planet. I don’t say turn back the clock to 1775; some good has come out of the American Revolution and experiment. It probably induced the increase of democracy back in Britain and up in Canada. Ironically, their (mostly) subsequent development of responsible government now outshines our merely representative government! President George II is a worse “tyrant” than King George III…and neither of them was democratically elected!!!
Anyway, that’s an overview of “American Red Tory.” For more details, read my posts. See you in the blogosphere.