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High Toryism (sometimes referred to as conservative gentryism) is a term used in Britain, 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 are sometimes at odds with the modernising elements of the Conservative Party. 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 by Andrew Heywood as neo-feudalist[1] in its preference for a traditional hierarchical 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 or labour. Economically, High Tories generally tend to prefer a paternalistic Tory corporatism and protectionism over the neo-liberalism which took hold in the 1960s, although there are some that advocate more free market policies.

Views and values

The High Tory view in the eighteenth century preferred lowered taxation and deplored Whig support for a standing army, an expanding empire and navy, and overseas commerce. The main reason was that these were paid for or subsidised by the new English Land Tax that had started in 1692. On religious issues, the High Tories usually rallied under the banner of "Church in Danger", preferred High church Anglicanism, and many covertly supported Jacobitism. The long and generally productive Whig premierships of Sir Robert Walpole and William Pitt the Elder, and the continuance of the Hanoverian dynasty caused opinions to change gradually in line with what is now called "Whig history".

The change was noticeable from the 1760s with the premierships of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and William Pitt the Younger. The Land Tax Perpetuation Act 1798 reduced the impact of that tax, though the landed gentry's privileges were reduced by the Reform Act 1832. In the reign of Queen Victoria High Tories now supported the empire and navy, 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 from the twentieth century onward would be those of the novelists Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Burgess, poet T. S. Eliot, philosopher Sir Roger Scruton and Members of Parliament such as Sir John Biggs-Davison, Lord Amery,[2] Sir John Heydon Stokes, Alan Clark,[3] Enoch Powell,[4] Sir Peter Tapsell.[5] 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, particularly paleoconservatives. In Canada the term Red Tory used to mean something like a High Tory, although it is nowadays associated with the moderate wing of the Conservative Party of Canada. 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 as what they would incorrectly term a gentleman, and often an agrarian.

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