“Ordered liberty”: The Farthing Brothers and the Narrativization of a Conservative Canada
Hugh and John Farthing, “mid-level” Tory thinkers, were brothers who have been overlooked in Canadian intellectual and political history. They helped construct one of the enduring conservative narratives of mid-twentieth-century Canada. The Farthings posited an anti-Liberal/liberal, monarchistic story that explained not only Liberal political dominance but the concomitant decline of democracy in Canada. At the centre of the Farthings’ narrative was the villainous Mackenzie King, motivated by a materialistic, republican vision of society and beholden to French Canada. The Farthings perpetuated a conspiratorial vision of French Canada leading Canadians toward a regulatory Keynesian statism, diluting the body politic of its British and spiritual essence, and facilitating the eventual swallowing of Canada by un-British ideologies. Examining the Farthings’ ideas from the 1920s to the 1950s reveals a complexity within conservatism that belies the normative division of Canadian conservatives into neo-liberal and Red Tory camps. The Farthings distrusted the state, especially one controlled by the Liberals. It also demonstrates the reality of a fear of foreignness specific to this narrative and the Tory vision of Britishness: Liberals were equated with “the foreign,” incapable of exercising the responsibilities of British constitutionalism, while stolid Tories had to defend this tradition for the future of the nation.