Book Review: The North American High Tory Tradition

“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.

The year is 1965. The city of York has a new name: Toronto. The city’s academic and philosophic elite are in uproar regarding book recently published by a certain George Grant. Grant is a professor of religion at Ontario’s McMaster University. His new work has levelled an attack against what he perceives to be the total subversion of Canada’s ruling class by the liberal and progressive ideology of the United States. He champions Canada as the political embodiment of an ordered and hierarchical society whose view of human nature derives from the Classical-Christian tradition. The work will secure Grant’s legacy as the staunch defender of a tradition which has disappeared from the consciousness of Canada’s elite. It has been replaced by the project of a liberal internationalist political order.

What changed in the years and decades between 1813 and 1965? Who stood up to defend the High Tory faith which forged a Dominion and took up arms to resist the republican vision to the south? Professor Ron Dart’s 2016 publication, The North American High Tory Tradition, explores these themes through the life and work of its staunchest Canadian defenders.

Dart, who teaches in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religious Studies at British Columbia’s University of the Fraser Valley, is perhaps one of the best equipped Canadians to explore these connections. His work has explored the High Tory tradition as it developed in Canadian thought: a necessarily nationalist tradition (opposing American encroachment) which respects a dynamic and active state and is strongly tied to the traditional faith of the Church of England. His other works include The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes (1999), The Canadian High Tory Tradition: Raids on the Unspeakable (2004), and Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism (2012), amongst many others. The current work is published by American Anglican Press.

The North American High Tory Tradition is not written as a chronological history. Instead, each chapter focuses on a particular relationship, either between individuals or between various currents of thought. These extend beyond Canadian borders, testifying to the fact that the High Tory heritage is shared by the Anglosphere as a whole. This common spirit can be seen animating the positive feedback given by T. S. Eliot to the great Canadian author Stephen Leacock, or the formative years which George Grant and his wife spent attending meetings of Oxford’s Socratic Club with C. S. Lewis. The format allows readers to explore both the intellectual content of the High Tory worldview and the power dynamics at play in its decline.

A vital aspect of Dart’s thesis is that the High Tory worldview is the political expression of a broader ethos founded upon the English Christian tradition. The quote above by Canadian columnist David Warren sums up the lens rather well. Referenced several times is the pithy saying that Anglicans are “Tories at prayer”. Dart views this saying as containing a large degree of truth, provided both terms are understood correctly. He sees the Anglican tradition as being the historic ethos of English Christian civilization. Importantly, his Anglicanism embraces the whole Christian history in the British Isles, stretching back to the first missions by St. Augustine of Canterbury and others. Dart’s Anglican tradition does not begin with King Henry VIII.

It is this ethos within which the political institutions of English civilization were formed, as exemplified in the Christian oaths taken by British monarchs. Dart makes clear throughout his work that the expression of statecraft and politics of that civilization – the High Tory worldview – is therefore inseparable from this ethos. In 1813, Anglo-Canadian elite values and social mores were still informed by the Anglican and High Tory ethos. By 1965, George Grant is writing in a society where elites have ceded High Tory principles for liberal ones, in a country more familiar with the language of Social Progress than that of Christendom. The North American High Tory Tradition reveals the steps in between through the life and work of those who sought to defend the cause of Loyalism to throne and altar.

Chronologically, the shift begins with the waning of the Family Compact – the social elite which Bishop Strachan served. Strachan was born in Scotland to a Presbyterian family. He embraced the Anglican worldview during his years as a tutor to the children of Loyalist families of Kingston, in what was then Upper Canada and is now Ontario. The American invasion saw him confront Liberalism as it was embodied by the foreign power; in 1837, he opposed it in a different and domestic form: the Rebellions which broke out in both Canadas, led in Upper Canada by a certain William Lyon Mackenzie.

For the benefit of readers, it is worth going into the background of these events, although they are not discussed in depth by Dart. Mackenzie was a fellow Scot, and began his political career in Upper Canada as a journalist, advocating liberal reformer positions. He despised the Family Compact for their staunch Loyalism, being personally highly sympathetic to the United States against Britain. Despite their opposition, he was elected to both the Upper Canadian Parliament and became the first mayor of the newly incorporated Toronto. However, his devout practice of spoils politics – the purging of political opponents – to the exclusion of effectively implementing much-needed public works and debt reduction lost him these seats.

His radicalization culminated in 1837. Mackenzie began calling for a “constitutional convention” and publishing the subversive work Common Sense, written by Thomas Paine. He declared in favour of independence from Britain, a position which would have likely seen Upper Canada annexed by the United States. Taking advantage of unrest in Lower Canada, Mackenzie rallied sympathizers to his side. They were not as radical as he; when the government responded with military suppression, most of Mackenzie’s men deserted him. If any doubt remained of Mackenzie’s sympathies, he then fled to New York and attempted to organize a volunteer force to achieve independence for Canada. The US government opposed this, however, and Mackenzie would ultimately be imprisoned.

But Mackenzie was not the only force of opposition. The last decades of Bishop Strachan’s life would see the Family Compact’s influence severely limited. Following the 1837 rebellions, the British government would launch an investigation of the Canadas led by the Whig politician John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham. Lord Durham’s own nickname among his compatriots was “Radical Jack”. Among his recommendations were a unification of the two Canadas, the strengthening of parliamentary democracy (called “responsible government”), and the assimilation of the French. The report had its impact: the united Province of Canada was created in 1840 and an independent legislature for the whole was established in 1848. Its administration consisted of so-called “moderate reformers” who had opposed the 1837 rebellions but supported many of their aims.

Mackenzie himself was allowed to return to Canada. He was even re-elected to the new Parliament, where his agitation promptly forced the resignation of one of the Co-Premiers of the Province. He would go on to openly advocate annexation by the United States in his final years, frustrated by the “sham reform” of the united Province.

With this diversion having provided some context to the political landscape of Canada, we return to The North American High Tory Tradition. Dart emphasizes that Bishop Strachan’s commitment to the monarchic and Loyalist values of the High Tory position were inseparable from his religious foundations. He defended the Church of England’s rights against the Papacy, and supported the catholic party within it against the evangelical and low-church factions. Strachan believed in and defended the political privileges of the Church of England, such as its sole right to over 2 million acres of “clergy reserve” Crown land (formally set aside for “protestant” clergy). He also opposed Presbyterian and Methodist attempts to divide or limit the position of the Established Church.

This and similar positions reveal a core aspect of the High Tory view of the state. First, the High Tory recognizes that the sovereign power can and must actively pursue a particular vision of the common good – an ethos which directs the values, goals, and life of the state and political community. Second, High Tories were committed to a particular ethos informed by the Anglican faith. For the High Tory, the conception of a sovereign individual human existing outside of the shaping forces of the community was a foreign one. So too was the idea that human society could be separated from the spiritual order of which it was a party.

Yet despite Mackenzie’s pessimism, the fact remained: the High Tory and Loyalist elite which Bishop Strachan had served would no longer guide the direction of Canada. The Compact had fallen victim to a high-low alliance, opposed via insurgency by radical reformers from below and sympathetic Whig elites from above. Bishop Strachan continued his mission through his last years to defend the High Tory tradition and inculcate it in a new generation, founding Trinity College in 1852. But the power of the United States meant that High Tories had to distinguish their own commitment to “peace, order, and good government” more explicitly. In other words, the defenders of the High Tory faith had to become nationalists.

Dart devotes several chapters of The North American High Tory Tradition to one of the most famous Canadians to take up a nationalist expression of the Tory faith: Stephen Leacock. Leacock was born in 1869: two years after Confederation and seventeen years after Bishop Strachan founded Trinity College. He became internationally known due to his more than thirty humour novels between 1910 and 1945. Particularly well-known was Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, centered around the fictional town of Mariposa. Mariposa was based on the town in which Leacock had a summer residence – and more than a few families did not express much amusement when they recognized themselves. For those entirely unfamiliar with Leacock, Dart provides an intimate look at how his High Tory formation became integral to the fictional work which made him world-renowned.

However, Dart also explores a less well-known aspect of Leacock’s early career: his work as a political economist and staunch opposition to the free trade liberalism which was becoming a strong force in Canada and beyond. At the root of this attack lay his rejection of a reductionist economics divorced from the life of the state and community. For Leacock, this life was informed by his Anglican faith and by Canada’s British and Imperial heritage, of which he was a staunch defender. The common heritage was noted by none other than the great T. S. Eliot himself, who reviewed a work of Leacock’s in 1916. Eliot noted that “there are few writers in America who share Mr. Leacock’s views.”

Leacock’s academic formation began during his time at Upper Canada College (UCC). Dart notes that the college’s ethos was explicitly informed by the Anglo-Tory faith and intended to cultivate a leadership class on these lines. One of the men who would form Leacock was George Grant’s own grandfather, Sir George Robert Parkin – a staunch nationalist and member of the Imperial Federation League. The League promoted a federation of British colonies united by a single Parliament (opinions differed as to whether this included the white colonies or the Empire as a whole). This was justified on grounds that a federal order would be the best way to unify the widespread Empire under the sovereign leadership of the United Kingdom, and thus the Crown. This would ensure the continued geopolitical power of British civilization, which the League and its partner organizations saw as imperilled by the moves toward greater sovereignty for the colonies. Leacock saw the rising power of the American Republic as necessitating such a response.

Leacock went on to a PhD at the prestigious University of Chicago, at that time already a center of laissez-faire economics. At the same time, he was struck by the poverty of the city and its engendering of protest, violence, and social chaos. The experience formed his thesis – entitled The Doctrine of Laissez-Faire – and his first great exposure as an author and thinker: Elements of Political Science. The textbook was his best-published work, reprinted several times. It defended the idea of an active state whose vision of the common good was served rather than ignored by economic policy. The early 1900’s saw Leacock become an international speaker and defender of the Tory worldview and the Imperial tradition of government which it had formed. He saw himself as inheriting the thought of men such as Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, whose Conservative Party used the power of the state to secure the young Dominion’s southern border and connect its disparate towns and trading posts.

Leacock’s vision for the Conservative Party is entirely divergent from its modern incarnation, which under Stephen Harper focused almost entirely on free trade and economic management. Leacock worked with a broad coalition of Tory-Nationalist partisans and protectionist-supporting Canadian businesses to conduct speaking tours against the free trade ideology of the Liberals. In his 1907 work Greater Canada: An Appeal, Leacock declared against the integrationist position: “Nor does our future lie in Union to those that dwell to the Southward. The day of annexation to the United States is passed.”

However, it should be noted that Leacock was not a staunch defender of Mother Country supremacy. Like other League members, he saw a chance for the Dominion and other colonies to expand their power and voice within the Empire. This in fact put him in line with the original impetus behind the federal idea, which had been first proposed by British liberals such as John Stuart Mill, and it is worthwhile to diverge again and give some context to this fact. Dart notes that the League was associated also with the Canada First movement, which defended Canada’s Anglo-Protestant heritage while demanding greater autonomy in its government – ironically, the very thing driving the Imperial disintegration feared by the League.

It must be pointed out that among the supporters for Imperial Federation were members of the Milner Group, as well as liberals who saw the British Empire as a vehicle for their own ideological ends. Carroll Quigley notes in his work The Anglo-American Establishment that it was precisely the failure of the federal idea by the time of WWI that led Lionel Curtis, a secretary to the influential British imperialist Lord Milner, to advocate the dissolution of the Empire into a new world commonwealth. Curtis would go on to Chatham House, one of the most prominent think-tanks on the world today, and be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.

This may help us to understand the ultimate defeat of the tradition which Leacock represented. On the one hand, the growing autonomy of Canada from the Empire meant that increasing numbers of the business and political establishment saw integration with the United States as an opportunity. For men like future Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King –  a staunch Liberal and relative of William Lyon Mackenzie – this also aligned with their ideological commitments. In addition, the Right’s growing awareness of the Communist threat meant that grand civilizational questions would increasingly take a backseat to establishing Canada as a member of the Anglo-American world order. While that order opposed the Soviet Communist power, it was founded upon Curtis’ vision of a shared Liberalism rather than a shared Imperial heritage.

The result is that the Tory-Nationalist partisan was increasingly forced to become a fellow traveller of other movements rather than an intellectually sovereign force, as Bishop Strachan had been. Just as George Grant would one day be framed as a heterodox New Left figure, Leacock was increasingly viewed as seeking a “third way” from capitalism and communism. That the whole idea of merely economic value systems was absurd to Leacock’s tradition was not something that the reigning paradigm of thought could easily understand.

Of course, Leacock himself cannot be excluded from this critique. This becomes apparent in the way he applied his critique of atomistic capitalism, laid out in works such as The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. While in principle he may have rejected the reductionist economism of the day, in practice he appeared to see allies in the socialist movement. Dart refers to a defence made by Leacock of Eugene Forsey and J. King Gordon, two prominent socialists who for a time even defended the Soviet Union. They would go on to trade their communist sympathies for loyalty to the project of global Liberalism. Forsey joined Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party and Gordon worked for the United Nations. This ceding of intellectual sovereignty meant that defenses of High Tory thought were ultimately expressed in the language of Liberalism, leading to notions like the “Red Toryism” applied to George Grant.

It was George Grant to whom making the final autopsy of Canada’s High Tory foundation would be left. Dart presents a detailed analysis and recounting of the relationships and mentors which led Grant to become the 20th century’s greatest defender of the Tory-Nationalist position. Lament for a Nation would be his most famous work, and a detailed expose of the who and why behind the death of Canadian sovereignty – both in intellect and politics. However, Grant’s very separation from the age of a High Tory social elite meant that he would understand its distinctions and heritage better than any other. While Leacock was concerned with the battles of political economy, Grant took the fight to the plane of philosophy, and ultimately theology.

One of the aspects of Grant’s life which Dart examines in detail is George and his wife Sheila’s relationship with C. S. Lewis and the Socratic Club at Oxford. Lewis’ rejection of scientism and “value-free” technological progress deeply influenced both the Grants and their future work. George Grant and Lewis both understood that without a conception of order and ethics to ground the mind, any discussion of freedom was meaningless and absurd. Furthermore, both took as their foundation the patristic Christian tradition. Lewis and Grant believed this tradition still existed in the Church of England , even if the modern Anglican was required to see past both the errors of the Reformation and Modernism to find it. However, Grant went further than Lewis in his embrace of a political expression of this ethos and its embodiment in the state. Dart points out that unlike Lewis, Grant’s political expression of his worldview could not be subsumed by the American republican tradition.

Grant’s less well-known work is Philosophy in the Mass Age. Published in 1959, the work grapples with the Hegelian liberalism which informed the Canadian philosophical establishment. Grant attacked the liberal rejection of a natural order and its focus on dialectic rather than the Good. Dart defines the work as a rejection of Hegel in favour of Plato – a rejection which sent waves of fury throughout the academic establishment, which Dart bitingly describes as Canada’s “philosophical Sanhedrin”.

This work, and the writing and teaching which followed, outline better than perhaps any modern Canadian author exactly how the High Tory view of man differs from the liberal one. The liberal sees man as sovereign rational agent; the High Tory, as inseparable from and contingent on the existence of a political community. The liberal rejects order for freedom; the High Tory holds that freedom is undefinable and absurd without a conception of order. The liberal sees religious faith as a private matter; the High Tory, as a defining ethos which privatization can only destroy.

Dart outlines the philosophical heritage of Grant’s criticism: “The Classical Anglo-Canadian tradition Grant draws from…includes, primarily, Plato in the Greek tradition, More, Hooker, Swift, Coleridge, Southey, and Disraeli in the English tradition, and Simcoe, Macdonald, Leacock, Bennett, Diefenbaker, and Creighton in the Canadian tradition.” The influence of Disraeli, Coleridge, and Southey is of interest. Dart clarifies that this refers primarily to the younger Disraeli and the older Coleridge and Southey; Grant sympathized with their criticisms and opposition to the increasing independence of industrialization from a unified and integrated vision of British society. He sees these figures and having been on the frontlines of opposition against a scientistic progressivism which he himself would consistently denounce.

Grant’s Platonic philosophical mission brought him to firmly embrace the Anglican tradition and the patristic heritage which it still had access to. He would explain that “…the Anglican Church…has in it some of the ancient truth and therefore I will live in it.” However, he also foresaw the growing power of the liberal faction. Grant and his wife would oppose this faction while also strengthening ties with those in the more traditional communions, both Roman and Eastern. In the 1960’s, he became influenced by his reading of Dostoyevsky and other writers who examined the traditions of Western and Eastern Christendom. Dart describes the Anglican High Tory view that life must be an icon of faith; continuing this logic, the liberal privatization of faith might perhaps be thought of as political iconoclasm.

Strachan, Leacock, and Grant are only three major figures from Dart’s wide-ranging work. However, they illustrate well why deeper investigation of the native thought of English Christian civilization is well worth the effort on the part of neoreactionary thinkers and other critics of liberalism. The analysis of Mencius Moldbug rests on both a particular view of power and one of intellectual history. In The North American High Tory Tradition, we see the interplay of thought and power laid out. Strachan’s ardent defense was ultimately undermined when the governing powers of Britain were revealed to be in no small degree of sympathy with the rebellions below. By Leacock’s time, the might of the United States was becoming apparent; the efforts by him and others to preserve the distinct Tory worldview of the Imperial world order were not able to stand in the face of it. The fall of bishop and scholar leave it to Grant, the lone and lamenting Prophet, to devise a full and total understanding of the ethos which Strachan, Leacock, and others were often informed by only implicitly.

Half a century after Grant, the Anglo-American world order finds itself at the hour of decision. It faces alienation, atomization, demographic collapse, and class strife within. It faces civilizational challenges and migratory pressure from without. This is made all the more difficult by an elite which refuses to recognize a “within” and “without”, claiming that they are merely defending the values which all people enlightened to Social Progress hold. If they admit a leading role for the United States, it is in the context of an “international community” of supposedly sovereign states who merely defend universal human values. The idea that this ideology serves geopolitical and economic ends is ignored. So too is the fact that Social Progress falls in the same category as any other religious mythos and not in that of “objective” physical science.

Dart devotes a full chapter in the book to describing what he calls the Matrix of Liberalism. He traces its intellectual and political development through seven major “acts”. Nominalism’s shift from overarching order to observed particulars; the Reformation’s elevation of individual liberty in determining truth; its entrenchment following the English civil war; the merger of liberalism with American radical Protestant reformers in the 18th century; the ultimate breaking of religious authority by political and romantic individualism in the 19th; the domination of political individualism in the liberal order of the 20th; finally, the postmodern 21st’s total rejection that desires should conform to any order beyond the individual. In this era, liberalism varies only in whether it should actively constrain ideological competitors (French secularism) or whether such suppression would undermine its own moral basis (Canadian liberalism).

Dissidents from liberalism in the Anglosphere have often recognized that the continent has always maintained its older traditions far better. De Maistre and Maurras in France; Schmitt and Heidegger in Germany; Donoso Cortes in Spain. The Anglosphere, being the geopolitical foundation of the liberal order, has more actively suppressed it. The Canadian student learns in school about Mackenzie and Trudeau, but not about Strachan or Grant. University students learn about T. S. Eliot’s criticisms of modernity, but not about his intellectual and personal ties to a more ancient ethos of English civilization. The Anglosphere has long experienced a condition of civilizational amnesia. The North American High Tory Tradition is a contribution to the cure. This cure is not only of historical interest. As Strachan, Leacock, and Grant realized, the destruction of the Anglo-Tory ethos was not carried out by dialectic and historical inevitability, but by men. The cure and redemption of the Anglo-American order will also come only from men.

Likewise, the growth of the global liberal anti-order has come from America, a child of the English civilization. If broader Western civilization can hope to achieve its Restoration without dividing against itself, then it is to the heart of America itself that the Restoration must reach. And for this it is necessary that we remember the Anglo-Tory faith. If a Restoration in the Anglosphere is possible, then it will be by tapping into currents of thought which preserved and guided us before the rise and reign of liberalism.

Just as English Christian civilization inherited currents of the Classical-Roman ethos, so too will a reborn Anglo-American order to come inherit currents of the Anglo-Tory ethos. The North American High Tory Tradition is a valuable introduction to this ethos and the men who fought for it, and an important guide to areas of further thought and study.

Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore.” – Virgil

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  1. Fascinating read, thanks for bringing it out.

    Personally, I don’t think all that much of the Canadian High Tory tradition. It was too little, too late against a much more general process of modernizing that happened in parallel with the USA, to the point where two countries became sociologically indistinguishable in most respects. The vestiges of High Tory values of passive obedience and quietism helped ensure that, when the Left- which did not share those values- marched through the institutions from the 1960s, they conquered and subsequently dominated *everything*, where in the USA at least the NRA/muh-Constitution contingent (the American heirs of the UK country-party Whigs) succeeded at putting *some* limits on the Leftist onslaught. The Tory high regard for the State, pro-social values, and rabid anti-Americanism made those Canadians which had those values, but weren’t politicized as such, so many pigeons for the Marxist-Leninism-lite of P.E. Trudeau- which, according to the Marxist-Leninist formula he learned at the feet of Castro and Mao, combined socialist appeals to group solidarity with nationalism. The result was many well-intentioned Canadians became sitting ducks for an agenda that stopped just short of Communism (it should be noted that George Grant became a revered figure in the Canadian far Left). And this High Tory tradition, as the author notes, gave rise to the Pink Tory- which makes the USA cuckservatives look like Franco or Salazar by way of comparison.

    Oh well- at least we Anglo-Canadians aren’t as far to the Left as the Quebecois…

    1. It’s worth asking the question of whether the Canadian High Tories could have won. During Bishop Strachan’s time they certainly controlled the power base in English Canada. However, the ruling class of the Empire as a whole had already gone Whig. Something that deserves an article of its own was the fact that King George III was attempting to strengthen his powers during the time when the Whigs at home and in the Thirteen Colonies radicalized against him.

      George Grant’s opinion was that technology makes liberalism more or less inevitable (but also that liberalism was not sustainable). I tend to disagree with this, although it obviously expands the power of productive classes in a way that can divide sovereignty and lead to factional strife. We see several non-Western states attempting to create illiberal but technologically industrial political orders. Perhaps Japan will be added to the list soon.

      The High Tory ceding of intellectual sovereignty definitely broke down an important defense. As mentioned, the whole idea of “red toryism” was not one that Grant accepted and was a creation of New Left journalists and intellectuals who liked his anti-Americanism but not his Classical-Christian tradition.

      All that said, remember that the High Tory tradition didn’t start in Canada and was not even called that until the rise of liberalism made it necessary to distinguish the thing. Canada and America have civilizational and ancestral roots in Christian England and the Reactionary in those countries must at the very least cure that amnesia. I’d compare the attitude to the one Evola took in “Fascism Viewed from the Right”.

  2. Congratulations, Mark – a brilliantly perceptive text. My favorite quote is ” The liberal sees man as sovereign rational agent; the High Tory, as inseparable from and contingent on the existence of a political community. The liberal rejects order for freedom; the High Tory holds that freedom is undefinable and absurd without a conception of order. The liberal sees religious faith as a private matter; the High Tory, as a defining ethos which privatization can only destroy”.

    I quite agree. BUT – as a Pragmatic Centrist I don’t see these competing values as polar opposites, more as both sides of the same coin. Human society is this coin, and Human society tends to be inertial, i.e. it assumes that whatever political compact exists is part of the natural order until a crisis occurs, which re-arranges the political landscape. “Whigs”and
    “Tories” do not just belong to the Anglosphere – under different names, and under different circumstances, they have existed in most European societies since ancient times. Each is the co-creator of the other, and each depends on its existence on the existence of the other. The genius of English parliamentarianism was that it could formalize this tension in the least destructive way possible.

    The Pragmatic Centrist believes that both philosophies are ethically and socially valid, but that the system is unstable. It will always swing like a pendulum – too much one way will inevitably cause a corresponding push in the other. All theories aside, the critical issue is context, and time, space and technology are its defining characteristics. Whether they be city-states or Continental polities, muskets or battlefield drones, vellum sheets or telecommunications, all have a profound effect on what works, and what does not.

  3. “The Pragmatic Centrist believes that both philosophies are ethically and socially valid, but that the system is unstable. It will always swing like a pendulum – too much one way will inevitably cause a corresponding push in the other.”

    Hence the need for a Sovereign that towers over the factions and parties, and can accordingly assume an impartial stance and thence restore the equilibrium on behalf of social whole- something no particular or faction could ever do. There is no such impartial sovereign function in the polity of countries like Canada or the USA, and all politics there plays out as a kind of courtroom litigation with no judge competent to settle the case, since the President/Prime Minister is himself a member of one of the parties. Thus the parties, and their supporters in the general public, fight until one of them prevails, at which point the other regroups in order to take up the fight anew, and so on to infinity. This state of affairs has more in common with a Hobbesian state of Nature than it does with what a civil State is supposed to be, and is clearly becoming unsustainable.

    1. Well, yes, but who defines what “..a Civil State is supposed to be…” ? We can all theorize, write treatises and read the literature, decide to become Whigs or Tories or whatever, but then have to deal with a society as it is, like a barrel of apples, “with all faults”. We can always try to use that favorite of 20th Century revolutionaries, butchering the inconvenient members of our community, but a traumatized population is poor material to create a good system of governance.

      What is this good system of governance? Impossible to define in a theoretical vacuum, because it is dependent on the level of development, of so many functions, of a given community. What is its history? What are its traditions? Is it enterprising and outward-looking or content to stay at home, or a mixture of both? Is it wealthy or impoverished? What is the degree of informal community organization? What are the primary ethical standards and mores? Answering questions like these honestly will give clues as to what is needed.

      Much is written in this portal about the “Christian Tradition”, but little about Christian morality, of how we are to share this planet, or a part of it, with other souls. The views of others can digust or offend us profoundly, but it is how we address these views that will show how much we are a part of this Tradition.

      I find this need for a “Sovereign” deeply unconvincing. Recorded history is long enough to teach us that for every good monarch, there existed a fool, a monster, or plainly incompetent king that no amount of ermine, orb or scepter could disguise.

      1. I very much agree that we have to play the hand we’re actually dealt by actual history, even if it’s not altogether the one we want in the pipe-dreams of pure theoretical speculation. In that spirit, what I said re: what the civil State is supposed to do is based, not on some idiosyncratic pet standard of mine, but on the actual formal expression of the consciousness of the actually-existing modern State, i.e. its *own* formalization as provided by its *own* canonical figures. The latter, whether Whig Or Tory, and whether they conceived of the State as founded in an original contract between ruler and ruled or something personally instituted by God, all agreed that social conflict, if it takes place in the absence of somebody competent to judge between the conflicting parties, gives rise to a state of instability and dysfunction whose natural resolution is a bloodbath followed by the establishment of a new Sovereign power. This principle isn’t just pure juridical abstraction; it is concretely based on what is immediately given in the concrete lived experience of any human being who’s ever been in a dispute or seen one happen, i.e. every actual human being without exception.

        Sovereignty, in one of its variable forms of expression or other, is thus a universal and inescapable property of social life. Without it, life in common would not even be conceivable, let alone operable. The concept of sovereignty, in fact, is the font of all thought properly called rational and, by extension, moral. Christian morality, just like *any other* system of moral teaching, (including those self-styled as “atheism”) is given in the insurpassable sovereignty of the Divine, both in the form of Revelation and in the immutable laws of Nature men must uncover by the exercise of their faculty of Reason.

        1. I largely agree with Dissenting Sociologist’s description of sovereignty above. The questions is not whether the sovereign power exists, but whether it is divided amongst warring factions or coherently unified by a rational actor (when this is an individual, we call such a system monarchy).

          The point on Christian morality is valid, but probably beyond our scope here since the application of Christian morality depends on the moral agent in question and the context and tradition they are operating in. Of course, the ruler must take his context as ruler as part of this consideration. Just as the father faces certain duties that young men don’t, so too do rulers face certain duties that subjects don’t. A young man might abandon all things and become a monk, but if a father or a king does so then he risks shirking his other duties. This might be a good place to start on considering the questions of statecraft from a Christian perspective.

          Rather than thinking in terms of “systems” of good governance, I would rather think in terms of “what worldview and conceptions and values lead rulers to act competently and dutifully and what does this look like?” Part of the point of this review is finding that answer in the Anglo-American civilizational heritage.

  4. Interesting survey of Dr. Dart’s views. But I’m not sure how a nation quite literally founded on an explicit rejection of the High Tory worldview can be expected to serve as the epicentre of the restoration to which you aspire. I’m afraid the chances are better if we give up the States for lost and, instead of blowing futilely on an imagined flame that was never lit, fan the coals that burn still, though faintly, in Britain, the Commonwealth, and Ireland. The great pity is that this course was not taken in the immediate aftermath of WWII, as Lord Halifax counselled. Much mischief, perhaps much catastrophe, might have been averted.

    1. Two questions:

      1) What power or institutions can do this in a coordinated manner?

      2) If the US so aggressively promotes its value system in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, how will it react if the geopolitical core of its alliance starts deviating (assuming an answer to 1)?

      The facts of 1776 are obviously tricky to say the least. However, if the ancient principles are valid, then they can in a sense be discovered by the prolonged effects of ignoring them.

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