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Toryism


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More than just a colloquial synonym for Conservatism, the word Tory is older. Derived from the Irish for ‘pursuer’, it was applied first to Catholic outlaws in mid‐seventeenth‐century Ireland, as in a proclamation of 1647 about ‘roberies…comitted by the Tories and Rebells upon the Protestants’. It was then applied by their enemies to those who opposed the exclusion of the Catholic James, later James II, from the throne (‘the Word Tory was entertained, which signified the most despicable Savages among the Wild Irish’). From this it settled during the eighteenth century into meaning the party which was more pro‐royalist, more in favour of the privileges of the established Church, and less in favour of parliamentary supremacy, than its Whig rival. In the American Revolution, those who remained loyal to the king and the colonial administration (many of whom fled to Canada) were called ‘Tories’ because they often were.

‘Conservative’ superseded ‘Tory’ as the official title of the party in the mid‐nineteenth century. Apart from its colloquial uses, however, Toryism survives as a useful label for a particular strand of Conservatism. It was classically characterized by Samuel Beer in Modern British Politics (1965), who opens by recording that Sir John Anderson warned his fellow‐Conservatives in 1947, in the words of Shakespeare's Ulysses, ‘Take but degree away, untune that string, | And hark, what discord follows’ (Troilus, I. iii. 109).' (Michael Portillo, then one of the leaders of the intellectual right of the Conservative Party, quoted the same passage in early 1994.) In Beer's characterization, Tory thought is concerned with preserving existing hierarchies and traditions, because they are thought to protect social order. This may be reflected in such diverse policy areas as defending the establishment of the Church of England, promoting Shakespeare and/or Christianity in schools, and reinstating Rutland County Council.

Subjects: modern history (1700 to 1945) — politics.


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