The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes


The Red Tory Tradition: Ancient Roots, New Routes.
Ron Dart.
Dewdney, British Columbia: Synaxis Press, 1999.

By D. H. Graham

The Red Tory Tradition was Ron Dart’s original “Red Tory Manifesto” first published in 1999, building on what he began with his initial “The Red Tory Vision” booklet published in 1998. In this collection of essays he successfully puts forth an introduction to the origins and principles of what has been come to be called the “Red Tory” tradition in North America. For those who are unfamiliar with the Red Tory tradition in Canada, after fifteen years, this volume still stands as the best entry into the subject. The preface makes an important point that might be missed by those who are encountering the Red Tory school peripherally, and without a more detailed knowledge of it: “Although the language of Red Toryism might be new, the ideas and notions embedded in it are a vital and valid aspect of historic conservatism.” Through the twelve papers that make up the collection, Dart documents how historic High Tory principles, rooted in what he terms the “catholic” aspects of the Anglican tradition, manifested in Canada to meet the political and social challenges of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on how this old conservative religious tradition, that of Toryism, differs from what has historically been called “conservatism” outside of Canada, but “liberalism” within it. Dart aptly demonstrates that the historically rooted Anglican political tradition, not being a of a reactionary nature, cannot be defined in simplified terms of the received Modernistic options of “left” and “right”, but is grounded in truths and laws that precede the politics of the present day. According to Dart, it is these ancient roots, that in a perennial fashion, provide new routes to the challenges which are unique to each day. There are those who would see the Red Tory tradition as merely one of the “routes”, and would point to other contemporary political heirs to the classical Anglican religio-political tradition; however, the fact that there may be valid Anglican alternatives to the Red Tory tradition, does not itself diminish the value it has as being one of the most significant deposits or outgrowths of that older tradition. It is in this sense, that even those who maintain that there exists a fundamental incompatibility between the “socialist” principles that formal Red Toryism embraces, and from which it derives its name, and orthodox Anglican political philosophy, will still find much in The Red Tory Tradition that speaks to what is undeniably held in common by authentic Tories of all veins. Dart as a Canadian nationalist stresses strongly the native Canadian character of the Red Tory tradition, in this, as well as his other works—and though it could certainly be granted that the Red Tory tradition has developed in the unique context of Canadian political life, and is indigenous to Canada in a way that neo-conservative and classical liberal political philosophies never can be, it does not naturally follow from that truth that the core classical principles underlying this particular Canadian manifestation of the High Tory tradition cannot have applications outside of a Canadian political framework. Understanding the “Red Tory” tradition of Canada is necessary for those who seek to have a full picture of Anglican political and social thought, and Ron Dart provides a very useful entry into this subject in The Red Tory Tradition, one which he significantly expands upon in his Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism (Fermentation Press, 2012) for those interested in a more comprehensive and involved study of historical North American Toryism.

Published in Anglican Tradition, Vol. 1, No. 7, Summer-Autumn, 2015.