In the political tradition of some English-speaking countries, the term Tory has referred to a variety of political parties and creeds since it was used in the late 17th century to describe opponents to the Whigs. The term, derived from Tóraidhe, was originally used to refer to an Irish outlaw and later often applied to any Confederate or Royalist in arms. English and British Tories from the time of the Glorious Revolution up until the Reform Bill of 1832 were characterized by strong monarchist tendencies, support of the Church of England, and hostility to reform, while the Tory Party was an actual organization which held power intermittently throughout the same period.
After 1832 and supersession of the Tory Party by the Conservative Party "Tory" has become shorthand for a member of the Conservative Party or for the party in general, sometimes but by no means always as a term of abuse. Many Conservatives still call themselves "Tory" to differentiate themselves from opponents. The name "Captain Tory" is given to staunch Conservative supporters in the North East of England.
The term has also been used in North America, where Tory can describe the Conservative Party of Canada. During the American Revolutionary War it described Loyalists, colonists who sided with Great Britain against the revolutionaries. The term was also used during the American Civil War, when supporters of the Confederacy extended the term to Southern Unionists.
Historically, the term Tory has been applied in various ways to supporters of the British monarchy. The word comes from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe, modern Irish tóraí — outlaw, robber, from the Irish word tóir, meaning 'pursuit', since outlaws were "pursued men".
In post-Confederation Canada the terms "Red Tory" and "Blue Tory" have long been used to describe the two wings of the Conservative and previously the Progressive Conservative (PC) parties. The diadic tensions originally arose out of the 1854 political union of British-Canadian Tories, French-Canadian traditionalists, and the monarchist and loyalist leaning sections of the emerging commercial classes at the time - many of whom were uncomfortable with the pro-American and annexationist tendencies within the liberal Grits. Tory strength and prominence in the political culture was a feature of life in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Manitoba.
By the 1930s, the factions within Canadian Toryism were associated with either the urban business elites, or with rural traditionalists from the country's hinterland. Over time, however, the term Blue Tory has come to embody the more ideologically neoliberal (in the manner of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) elements in the party, while a Red Tory is a member of the more moderate wing of the party (in the manner of John Farthing and George Grant). They are generally unified by their adherence to the monarchy in Canada.
Throughout the course of Canadian history, the Conservative Party was generally controlled by MacDonaldian Tory elements, which in Canada meant an adherence to the English-Canadian traditions of Monarchy, Empire-Commonwealth, parliamentary government, nationalism, protectionism, social reform, and eventually, acceptance of the necessity of the welfare state. By the 1970s the Progressive Conservative Party was a Keynesian-consensus party.
With the onset of stagflation in the 1970s, some Canadian Tories came under the influence of neo-liberal developments in Great Britain and the United States, which highlighted the need for privatization and supply-side interventions. In Canada, these tories have been labeled neoconservatives - which has a somewhat different connotation in the US. By the early 1980s there was no clear neoconservative in the Tory leadership cadre, but Brian Mulroney, who became leader in 1983, eventually came to adopt many policies from the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan governments.
As Mulroney took the Progressive Conservative Party further in this direction, with policy innovations in the areas of deregulation, privatization, free-trade, and a consumption tax called the Goods and Services Tax (GST), many traditionally-minded Tories became concerned that a political and cultural schism was occurring within the party.
The 1986 creation of the Reform Party of Canada attracted some of the neo-liberals and social conservatives away from the Tory party, and as some of the neoconservative policies of the Mulroney government proved unpopular, some of the provincial-rights elements moved towards Reform as well. In 1993, Mulroney resigned, rather than fight an election based on his record after almost nine years in power. This left the PCs in disarray and scrambling to understand how to make toryism relevant in provinces such as Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia that had never had a strong tory tradition and political culture.
Thereafter in the 1990s, the PCs were a small party in the Canadian House of Commons, and could only exert legislative pressure on the government through their power in the Senate of Canada. Eventually, through death and retirements, this power waned. Joe Clark returned as leader, but the schism with the Reformers effectively watered down the combined Blue and Red Tory vote in Canada.
By the late 1990s, there was some talk of the necessity of uniting the right in Canada, if there was any hope of deterring further Liberal majorities. Many tories - both red and blue - were opposed to any such notion, while others took the view that all would have to be pragmatic if there was any hope of reviving a strong party system. The Canadian Alliance party (as the Reform Party had become), and some leading tories came together on an informal basis to see if they could find common ground. While the Tory Leader Joe Clark rebuffed the notion, the talks moved ahead and eventually in December 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties voted to disband and integrate into a new party called the Conservative Party of Canada.
After the merger of the PCs with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, there was some debate as to whether the "Tory" appellation should survive at the federal level. Although it was widely believed that some Alliance members would take offence to the term, it was officially accepted by the newly-merged party during the 2004 leadership convention. Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Prime Minister as a result of the January 23, 2006 election, regularly refers to himself as a Tory and has suggested that the new party is a natural evolution of the conservative political movement in Canada. However, many former Progressive Conservatives who opposed the merger take offence to the new party using the term, as do some members of the former Reform/Alliance wing who do not wish to be associated with the "Tory" governments of Canada's past, or the values of traditional Tory thought.
It is interesting to note the chief allies of the American Patriots were Whigs such as Charles James Fox and Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, each with direct ties to the House of Stuart and probably resentful of the Hanoverian succession--with its dire consequences in the old colonial empire in North America.
The term Tory or Loyalist was used in the American Revolution to describe those who remained loyal to the British Crown. Since early in the eighteenth century, Tory had described those upholding the right of the Kings over parliament. During the revolution, particularly after the Declaration of Independence in 1776 this use was extended to cover anyone who remained loyal to the British Crown. At the beginning of the war, it was estimated that as much as 40% of the American population were Tories. Those Loyalists who settled in Canada, Nova Scotia, or the Bahamas after the American Revolution are known as United Empire Loyalists.
Tory was frequently used as a revolutionary's pejorative, e.g., a "Tory militia" was a militia unit which took the British side during the War.