So which is the oldest party?

Posted by Helen Monday, June 05, 2006

Thanks to the American correspondents of this blog we have another interesting opinion on what is the oldest political party in the world (not to be confused with the "oldest established permanent crap game in New York"). This is from Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report, one of the best American journalists and commentators writing at present.

"My money is on the Democrats being formed in 1832 (Martin Van Buren's first Democratic National Convention) and the British Conservatives in 1846 (when Disraeli left Peel over repeal of the Corn Laws and led the Conservatives into 20 years in the wilderness; I'm following Lord Blake)."
Hmmm. Martin Van Buren again. That man was responsible for a great deal in modern politics, including the expression OK, which came from the OK or Old Kinderhook (Van Buren's nickname) Clubs of his supporters.

4 comments

  1. I had this post about Van Buren a while back, in the context of the vexed question of third party candidacies in the USA. It may be of interest.

     
  2. John Barnes Says:
  3. Feiling long ago identified two Tory parties, but his chronology looks awry. !640 looks early and 1714 premature for the end of the first Tory party. One couls arge for Danby as the creator of the first Tory party, although its Cavalier antecedents are clear. There would look to have been a Tory party up to the moment that it was invited back to Court in 1760, although it was subject to a steady process of attrition after 1715.

    Many of the ideas that characterise this party, devotion to the Church and the landed interest for example, carry through to a "new" Tory party, preserved perhaps by the independent country gentry in George III's reign, and the term is used as a term of abuse to attack both the Governments of Grenville and the elder Pitt. Arguably North's twelve years in No 10 looks like a Tory administration in the making, but the confusions at the end of the American war prevent any lineal development.

    The younger Pitt denied that he was a Tory, but I think it can be argued that the second Tory party emerged from his long tenure of office. It is hard to be precise about a point of origin, but two dates can be suggested, the Regency crisis in 1788/89, when the administration behaves very much as a coherent force in face of the King's temporary insanity, or in its reaction to the French Revolution in the early 1790s (1794 is a key date here and is the moment when Burke allies himself to the administration). Certainly Mr Pitt's young men form a coherent grouping and the terms Tory far from being a badge of dishonour becomes a party label by the end of the Napoleonic war, if not earlier.

    I find it difficult to think of any breach of continuity since then, hence the clear right to be thought the oldest democratic party. The party of Liverpool is clearly the party of Peel and while he split the party in 1846, his own grouping like the later Austen Chamberlainites, were "a slice off the top". The bulk of the party remained intact to become the party of Derby and Disraeli.

    There is another way of looking at matters, the tale of the party on the ground, but the first surviving traces of this date from the same period. Pitt Clubs and Consrtitutional Clubs are of course organs of local Conservatism, and the Carlton Club becomes the heart of the organisation from the moment of its foundation.

     
  4. John Barnes Says:
  5. Feiling long ago identified two Tory parties, but his chronology looks awry. !640 looks early and 1714 premature for the end of the first Tory party. One couls arge for Danby as the creator of the first Tory party, although its Cavalier antecedents are clear. There would look to have been a Tory party up to the moment that it was invited back to Court in 1760, although it was subject to a steady process of attrition after 1715.

    Many of the ideas that characterise this party, devotion to the Church and the landed interest for example, carry through to a "new" Tory party, preserved perhaps by the independent country gentry in George III's reign, and the term is used as a term of abuse to attack both the Governments of Grenville and the elder Pitt. Arguably North's twelve years in No 10 looks like a Tory administration in the making, but the confusions at the end of the American war prevent any lineal development.

    The younger Pitt denied that he was a Tory, but I think it can be argued that the second Tory party emerged from his long tenure of office. It is hard to be precise about a point of origin, but two dates can be suggested, the Regency crisis in 1788/89, when the administration behaves very much as a coherent force in face of the King's temporary insanity, or in its reaction to the French Revolution in the early 1790s (1794 is a key date here and is the moment when Burke allies himself to the administration). Certainly Mr Pitt's young men form a coherent grouping and the terms Tory far from being a badge of dishonour becomes a party label by the end of the Napoleonic war, if not earlier.

    I find it difficult to think of any breach of continuity since then, hence the clear right to be thought the oldest democratic party. The party of Liverpool is clearly the party of Peel and while he split the party in 1846, his own grouping like the later Austen Chamberlainites, were "a slice off the top". The bulk of the party remained intact to become the party of Derby and Disraeli.

    There is another way of looking at matters, the tale of the party on the ground, but the first surviving traces of this date from the same period. Pitt Clubs and Consrtitutional Clubs are of course organs of local Conservatism, and the Carlton Club becomes the heart of the organisation from the moment of its foundation.

     
  6. John I don't think that what you've written about the Tories in the 17th and 18th Centuries is helpful particularly. In those centuries there was what you might call a vague country sentiment. Between 1660 and 1714 there was a Tory party who held to a Stuart succession and the ANlgican church but fell apart. From 1714 to 1800 the government was carried out by various members of Kings' friends. The name Tory was even denied by leading 'Tories' by your definition. The 1830s saw the first formation of the party- particularly motivated by the fact that in the 1834 election for the first time the crown had to accept a government because it had won an election. Even in Peel's first government there is no doubt that Peel saw himself not as a Tory but as a King's man. In that sense the first Tory Prime Minister was probably Disreali in 1868. (Of course I understand that the name had changed to conservative in 1834- but I think there is a continuity of sorts before and after this date)

     
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