High Tory

High Toryism is a term used in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere to refer to old traditionalist conservatism which is in line with the Toryism originating in the 17th century. High Tories and their worldview were sometimes at odds with the progressive elements of the Conservative Party in these countries at present. Historically, the late eighteenth-century conservatism derived from the Whig Edmund Burke and William Pitt the Younger marks a watershed from the "higher" or legitimist Toryism that was allied to Jacobitism.

High Toryism has been described as neo-feudalist[1] in its preference for a hierarchical organisation of society over utopian equality, as well for holding the traditional gentry as a higher cultural benchmark than the bourgeoisie and those who have attained their position through commerce. Economically, High Tories tend to prefer a paternalistic Tory corporatism over the neo-liberalism which took ahold in the 1980s.

Views and values


Pettie, John, Jacobites : romantic view of Jacobitism

The High Tory view in the eighteenth century preferred lowered taxation and deplored Whig support for a standing army, an expanding empire and commerce. On religious issues, the High Tories usually rallied under the banner of "Church in Danger". This changed later in the century and many of their privileges were reduced by the Reform Act 1832. In the reign of Queen Victoria High Tories supported the empire and were personified by the Prime Ministers Lord Derby and Lord Salisbury.


High Tories prefer the values of the historical landed gentry and aristocracy, with their noblesse oblige and their self-imposed sense of duty and responsibility to all of society, including the lower classes. Whilst not against private enterprise, they do however reject the values of the modern commercial business class which they see as a pursuit of individualistic, unchecked greed that destroys a sense of community and holds no regard for religious or high cultural values. Their focus is on maintaining a traditional, rooted society and way of life, which is often as much threatened by modern capitalism as by state socialism. A High Tory also favours a strong community, in contrast to Whig, liberal and neoconservative individualism. One Nation Conservatism, as influenced by Disraeli and epitomised in leaders such as Balfour, favoured social cohesion, and its adherents support social institutions that maintain harmony between different interest groups, classes, and (more recently) different races or religions.

Examples of English High Tory views in the twentieth century would be those of the novelists Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Burgess, poet T. S. Eliot, Members of Parliament such as Enoch Powell, John Biggs-Davison, Julian Amery,[2] John Heydon Stokes, Alan Clark,[3] and the philosopher Roger Scruton.[4] The leading pressure-group of High Toryism was possibly the Conservative Monday Club, described by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson as "The Conscience of the Tory Party"; however, since the early 1980s, the group has been dominated by the Thatcherite wing which opposed traditionalist High Tories.


A "High Tory" bears some resemblance to traditionalist conservatives in the United States. In Canada the term Red Tory used to mean something like a High Tory. It is difficult and unreliable to make comparisons between High Toryism and other political dispositions internationally.

"High Tory" has been more than just a political term, it is also used to describe a culture and a way of life. A "High Tory" must have an appreciation of religion and high culture. They have historically been either a high church Anglican or traditional Roman Catholic, as well a gentleman, and often an agrarian.

See also


  1. Heywood, Andrew (2000-10-17). Key concepts in politics. Google. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  2. Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (2005). The Strange Death of Tory England. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780141018676. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  3. Elwes, James (15 May 2012). "Alan Clark's big reveal". prospectmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  4. McCann, Daryl (1 April 2011). "The Delusions of Modern Progressives". Quadrant. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
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