At this point, the developing political thought of the Canadian provinces and the American rebelling colonies began to widely separate. Always sparsely populated, the British Crown proved able to defend their Northern holdings and repel Benedict Arnold’s attack on Montreal. With the 1781 defeat of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown and the subsequent 1783 Treaty of Paris, the American-Canadian border solidified along with distinct political dichotomies separating the two nations. The War for American Independence produced thousands of exiles loyal to the British Crown who fled the emergent American republic for the West Indies and Canada. Within Upper Canada and Nova Scotia, these exiles became known as the United Empire Loyalists and brought with them both political monarchism and a defensive Anglicanism. Thus the intellectual and cultural origins of Canadian nationalism engendered continued loyalty to the British Empire partly due to inherent opposition to the United States.
Lord Lambton intended to remove surviving seigneurial influence within Quebec and curb Jesuitical influence within educational and intellectual circles. His report resulted in the 1840 Canadian Act of Union passed by Parliament, which coalesced Upper and Lower Canada into a single province with a unitary government. This governmental system continued until the 1867 Constitution Act, which reversed unification and established both Ontario and Quebec as provinces within a united dominion state. Confederation created the instrumental political structures for a British Canada. Along with a bicameral parliament composed of a House of Commons and Senate, the Constitution established the regnant British monarch as Head of State and provided for representation with an appointed Governor-General. Serving in the monarch’s absence, this official opened and closed Parliament with Throne speeches from an in absentia Queen Victoria.
This led to the perpetuation of Anglican political theory through such Tory bishops as the Right Reverend Charles Inglis (1734-1816). Consecrated as the first Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia, he previously served as rector of Trinity Church in Manhattan before the Loyalist retreat from New York in 1783. As very much a Loyalist, King George III selected Inglis precisely because of his Crown allegiances. Inglis worked tirelessly to develop Canadian Anglicanism and founded King’s Collegiate School, which later became King’s College in Halifax. The College originated with a strong Anglican identity and served to educate and cultivate young men from Canada’s prominent Eastern families. Inglis’s legacy continues within the College’s continued existence and the Conservative Party within Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
However, Canada’s British orientation faced serious challenges in the early Twentieth century due to the rise of the Liberal Party. Liberal William Lyon MacKenzie King’s (1874-1950) long premiership resulted in the diminution of Tory sentiments within Canadian culture. King believed that Canada’s future lay in greater alliance with the United States as the dominant Western power. Noting the decline of the British Empire and the United Kingdom’s waning influence, he believed that closer American ties would solidify Canada’s position within North America and thus lessen its colonial and subsidiary allegiance to the Crown. MacKenzie King and his Liberal successor Louis St Laurent (1882-1973) progressively articulated an increasingly independent Canadian public culture as distinct from the British experience.
This eighteen-year period of Liberal governance witnessed the collapse of the Raj, the formation of NATO and the embarrassment of the Suez Crisis. The United Kingdom’s advancing debilitation appears evident to the international community and Canadian Liberalism wished the nation to emerge from colonial status into a fully mature nation. However, conservatives such as George Grant argued that by accepting American dominance, the nation risked abandoning its political and cultural patrimony in favour of United States suzerainty. When elected in 1957, Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker (1895-1979) attempted to articulate a renewed Canadian Toryism; one respectful of the United States but fully consonant with the nation’s British origins and continued heritage.
Diefenbaker’s popular Tory nationalism conflicted with exigent Cold War realities and Canada’s junior military partnership with America. Diefenbaker’s initial support for Canada’s involvement in the NORAD intercontinental ballistic missile tracking system later changed into opposition towards American nuclear missiles on Canadian soil. He correctly perceived that this would lead to further declines of Canadian national sovereignty. This controversy offended the American Kennedy administration and proved instrumental in Diefenbaker’s 1963 electoral defeat against the pro-American Liberal party leader Lester Pearson. This defeat marked a key event in the decline of Canadian Toryism as loyalty to the Crown within a British oriented Canada lost to a Liberal, American-allied vision of the nation’s future.
Such resistance to Americanization along with the decline of British cultural identity also became expressed through the writings of historian Donald Creighton (1902-1979). Born into a Toronto family, his intense academic studies resulted in his academic appointment to the University of Toronto’s History Department. Remaining there for the rest of his professional career, Professor Creighton produced numerous historical works studying English Canada’s History. His greatest work consisted of the two volume biography of Prime Minister John A. MacDonald (1952-1955). Creighton lionized MacDonald as Confederation’s founder and an ardent British imperial patriot. Subsequent works included The Story of Canada (1959) and The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1862-1867 (1964).
These contained narratives supporting allegiance to Church and King along with hagiographic descriptions of the United Empire Loyalists’ settlement of Canada. Towards the end of his career, Creighton served as a political speechwriter for Diefenbaker and helped articulate Canadian Toryism in opposition to the Liberal Party. He energetically opposed both bilingualism and the Maple Leaf Flag because of their effects on the reconstitution of Canadian national identity. Creighton’s influence on Diefenbaker are apparent in the Prime Minister’s collection of speeches Those Things We Treasure: A Selection of Speeches on Freedom and in Defence of Our Parliamentary Heritage (1972). Diefenbaker defended Canada’s British legacy and wrote of the need to preserve and protect it against Liberal-supported continentalist thought.
Additionally, Mulroney supported a highly unpopular tax increase in the form of the 1991 Goods and Services Tax. Revenue for the government through taxation disproportionally flowed out of the natural resources rich Western provinces into heavily subsidised Ontario and the Maritimes. This only alienated Western Canada and led to the right-wing Reform Party’s 1987 founding in Alberta. Besides such policies, the 1984-1993 Conservative Government did not oppose cultural liberalism and retained Trudeau-introduced legal reforms regarding divorce, marriage and homosexuality. This only further offended social conservatives who rallied around Preston Manning’s new Reform Party and desired a political alternative for Canada’s future. The effect of these administrative decisions was to weaken Canadian conservatism as a unified political tradition in the legacy of Premier MacDonald and Diefenbaker. The choice for conservatives by 1993 consisted of choosing between a centre-right political party devoted to free trade, social liberalism and American dependency or a far-right political party devoted to free trade, social conservatism and American dependency. Whether an older Tory vision of Canada can be revived appears doubtful in the contemporary political culture.