George Rawlyk

Richard Cartwright and the Roots of Canadian Conservatism



I recently posted a two hour series from 1983 about the Loyalists who lost the American War of Independence and resettled in the remaining British North America colonies that would one day be Canada.  While I was working on this series, I had the good fortune to meet and interview George Rawlyk, an eminent scholar of early Upper Canada and 18th century Nova Scotia, who died in 1995.  Rawlyk was then a professor of history at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario,  and, during the course of our first conversation, I learned that he had compiled a collection of the papers of Richard Cartwright.  Cartwright was a Loyalist, born in 1759 in Albany, New York, who fled in 1777 to what would become, in 1791, Upper Canada.  There he prospered and became one of Kingston's founding citizens.  Rawlyk says in his article on Cartwright in the Canadian Encyclopedia that he was "a critically important link in the ideological chain that connects the American Loyalist thought of the 1770s with the English-speaking, Upper Canadian Tory conceptual framework of the post-War of 1812 period."  I was fascinated to learn of Rawlyk's interest in Richard Cartwright because my middle name is Cartwright in recognition of the interconnection over many generations of the Cayley and Cartwright families.  Anyone who counts back through seven generations - my distance from Richard - will, inevitably, turn up a lot of grandfathers, but he was one of mine nonetheless, and, because I had been close to a number of cousins from the Cartwright branch of my family growing up, the connection still meant a lot to me. 

George Rawlyk generously offered to share his collection of Cartwright's papers with me, and as I became engrossed in them, the seeds of a new radio series began to grow.  As a young man I had been captivated by George Grant's Lament for a Nation, and, by Gad Horowitz's claim that Grant belonged to a unique Canadian species called the Red Tory.  (The idea, in brief, is that Canada, through its Loyalist heritage, developed a political culture in which social solidarity counts for more than it does in the more purely liberal United States.)  I had also grown up in the advanced sunset of that old Canada whose vanishing is the subject of Grant's lamentation.  And, on top of that, my work on the Loyalists had already stimulated a keen interest in early Canadian history.  Getting to know Cartwright, I conceived the idea of trying to draw the line from Cartwright to the more fully formed political culture that emerged in Upper Canada after Cartwright's death in 1815 and from there to what endured of this culture in later Canadian history.  George Grant, happily, was willing to take part, as was Gad Horowitz, and Northrop Frye.  Many distinguished Canadian historians also participated.  They were all helpful, but Syd Wise, William Westfall and Robert Fraser stand out for the trouble they took to educate me and the impact they had on my thinking.  I was also lucky to have the help of musicians Ian Bell and Anne Lederman, who then performed as Muddy York.  Out of their extensive knowledge of early Canadian music, they created the score for the series, though I can't help boasting that it was I who wrote the words to "The Ballad of Richard Cartwright," which Ian sang to a traditional tune - my one and only foray so far into song-writing.  I dedicate this new presentation of the series to the memory of George Rawlyk in gratitude for the adventure on which he started me.

The voices heard in the series are as follows:

Part One: Sydney Wise, Bruce Wilson, George Rawlyk, Jane Errington, Robert Fraser

Part Two: Sydney Wise, Robert Fraser, William Westfall, Jane Errington

Part Three: William Westfall, Sydney Wise, Dennis Duffy, Northrop Frye, George Grant, Maurice Careless, Gad Horowitz, Donald Creighton, George Rawlyk

Colin Fox read the part of Richard Cartwright.  Additional readings by Paul Soles.


The Loyalists

Not long after I began regularly freelancing at Ideas in the early 1980's, a new executive producer was appointed.  The person he was replacing had been popular with her colleagues, and, consequently, the new man had, at first, a somewhat refractory and dissatisfied staff on his hands.  One day I was told, as an instance of the lameness of the new boss's programming ideas, that he had suggested a series on the Loyalists.  This was in 1983, the two hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the seven year American War of Independence, and resulted in the resettlement in Britain's remaining northern colonies of those who had opposed independence and taken the British side.  Two Canadian provinces, New Brunswick and Ontario, celebrate the settlement of these refugees as their founding, and Loyalist refugees were resettled in the existing colonies in Quebec and Nova Scotia as well.  Yet strangely, this anniversary seemed to generate more embarrassment than true patriot love in many Canadians.  Some even suggested that these counter-revolutionary Tories would be better left in oblivion.  Such was the view of my Ideas' colleague.   I was of a different mind, and I immediately knocked on the new executive producer's door and volunteered to make the programmes on the Loyalists that he wanted and which I now present here.  They were first broadcast on Ideas in late 1983.

Making the series was a revelation to me.  I have Loyalist ancestors, but I also spent my adolescent years in the United States, where I was inevitably imbued with a good deal of American mythology.   Among the surprises was the discovery that many communities in the American colonies had split more or less down the middle on the question of independence from Britain, and that often these splits were not ideological but instead followed existing lines of cleavage within these communities.  The American Revolution, in other words, was not quite so swift and surgical as that name makes it sound, but was actually a protracted civil war in which many people were thrown onto one side or the other for quite accidental reasons.  It was also a shock to come to see in many of the Loyalists, not a privileged remnant, but desperate boat people huddled on the docks of New York awaiting resettlement.  The United States, over time, has completed co-opted the name American.  In its own national imagination, it now is the one and only America, but here too were Americans, defeated and sent into exile in search of another America, the one that in time would become Canada.

These two programmes began an adventure for me, and over the next few years I continued my fascinated study of early Canadian history.   Eventually I would make two other series, "Richard Cartwright and the Roots of Canadian Conservatism" and "The Rebellions of 1837" which I will post here subsequently.

The historians heard in this series, in order of appearance, are as follows:

Part One: Ann Condon, Dennis Duffy, Janice Potter, Wallace Brown, George Rawlyk,   Christopher Moore, Jim Walker, David Bell, and Kevin Quinn

Part Two: David Bell, Neil McKinnon, Ann Condon, Sidney Wise, Mary Beacock Fryer, Janice Potter, George Rawlyk, and Dennis Duffy

Readings from historical sources were by Lynn Deragon and Colin Fox.