Ron Dart: America’s liberal ‘Right’

Canadian professor Ron Dart in his book The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press, 2016) spells out the liberal roots of American conservatism in distinguishing Canadian High Toryism as a separate and more classically conservative tradition. This is a useful subject for Southerners to study as well since it helps us to understand why the traditionalism of Dixie is so different from the liberal republicanism (with a little “r”) that has long constituted the mainstream within what is called American conservatism. It is, for example, difficult to equate the Southern traditionalism of Virginian George Fitzhugh (who argued that the weak in body or mind “have a natural right” to masters who protect and guide them) with the principles of American conservatism, which focus mostly on individualism, emancipation, global free trade and (strangely enough) Zionism (though the last item would need an explanation about neo-conservatism and the cult of Dispensationalism far beyond our scope here). Dart’s analysis helps explain why the American “Right” has rightly been called a shadow of the Left – because its founding principles are liberal it can not properly engage and defeat the Left. The professor writes:

When we hear American republicans (whether of a sophisticated, popular or crude variety) such as Kirk, Buckley, Nisbet, Kristol, Himmelfarb, Bennett, Novak, Neuhaus, Friedman, Reed, Dobson, or Rush Limbaugh (the crude variety), we need to realize that they are not conservative in any deep, significant or substantive sense; they are merely trying to conserve the first generation of liberalism that we find in the Puritans, Locke, Hume, Smith, Burke, and Paine. Those who stand within such a tradition of first generation liberalism target the second generation liberalism of Keynes and the welfare state as the problem. A Classical conservative, though, sees this as merely an in-house squabble between two different types of liberalism.

In the South we were not influenced by the dissenting cults of New England. As noted in my book Our Southern Nation: Its Origin and Future the South was heavily influenced by the Church of England (which was the established church in all of the Southern colonies but not in the Northern colonies) and Cavaliers (Tories and monarchists) as well as the natural conservatism which grew out of the plantation culture of our society. These influences had a profound impact upon the Southern people and continue to be felt to this day.

Note: Seen in the picture below is the nearby and history-rich Old Tory Trail once taken by many Southern Tories during the Revolutionary War.

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