In the search for a moniker to claim as my own, I’m seriously considering “Radical Whig.” As this comes on the heels of a discussion I just had with a friend who claims to be a Tory Individualist, I thought I might elaborate a little.
In centuries past, the Whigs opposed the Tories for control of the British parliament. In general terms, the Tories favored a stronger monarchy, while the Whigs favored a stronger parliament. The Whigs favored free trade and the abolition of slavery. The Tories favored… well, they favored Anglicanism and the king. Eventually, the Tory project failed and the party was destroyed by scandal and allegations of treason.
Then, with George III and the American Revolution, everything gets sort of… fuzzy. The Whigs split into two camps: those who supported the king, and those who did not. Edmund Burke (who is many ways the father of modern conservative thought) was a Whig, and then a Liberal. There were some Whigs who were independent Whigs, but they were the New Tories and opposed the Whigs who were the old Whigs, but weren’t the Radical Whigs who had supported the Whigs in America. The American founders were Whigs, styled after the British Radical Whigs that supported the ideals they were fighting for. And yes, there were the American Whigs in the 19th Century, who supported a stronger Congress… Lincoln was a Whig until the Whigs backed slavery, then he became a Republican.
Eventually everything settled into a two-party system. What were the New British Whigs became the Liberal Party. The New British Tories (who were actually Old Whigs) became the Conservative Party. The Old American Whigs became the Federalists, then the New American Whigs, and then the Republicans. The Liberal Party was more “libertarian,” until it became the Social Democrats and is now the Liberal Democrats (and bears no real resemblance to a party of individual liberty).
So where were we? Oh yes… why I like Whig better than Tory when the Tories were Whigs and the Whigs became the Liberal Democrats. Well, it’s mostly a matter of association. The Conservative Party in Britain is still commonly referred to as the “Tory” party, and I want something that doesn’t bear the weight of that association. And both the British Conservative Party and the American Republican Party were formed by factions of Whigs who–at least originally–favored more individual liberty. And remember, the Radical Whigs were very influential with the American colonists and played a role win the American Revolution.
So, I think I’m a Radical Whig. I know it’s confusing. But I don’t think it’s any less confusing than claiming I’m a Conservative or a Republican or a Liberal (now there’s a loaded term) or a Libertarian or anything else.
Of course, no sooner do I adopt my new moniker than I find a blog by “A Radical Whig in Chattanooga” who endorses Ron Paul.
(Sound of head smacking repeatedly on the desk.)