In this victory : Whigs, Tories, Greece, and the English Constitution

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
John David Scott (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
David Dorondo

Abstract: After the end of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, two parties in England, the Whigs and the Tories, engaged in a rhetorical debate over the dominant interpretation of the English Constitution. The Tories defended an interpretation which saw sovereignty as something alienable from the people, legitimacy as a legally established foundation, and Christianity as both hierarchical and structural to government. The Whigs sought to supplant this view of the Constitution with another that saw sovereignty as inalienable from the people, legitimacy as a consensually given opinion, and Christianity as both egalitarian and outside of government. This constitutional debate had been ongoing since 1688 in one form or another. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, both parties augmented their arguments by attempting to show how events on the continent of Europe both proved their own interpretation right and proved the other party’s interpretation wrong. All of this intersected with an even longer established English philhellenism when the Greeks began their own revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. The Whigs, already characterizing the European monarchies as tyrannical, gained the upper hand over the Tories with the advent of the Greek Revolution. Because the Tories were unable to successfully argue that the Ottoman Turks ought to be considered the rightful rulers over the Greeks, the Tories were unable to defend themselves from Whig attempts to cast them as supporters of literal oriental tyranny. In the end, the ultimate results of the Whig victory over the Tories were more than a political success. History has too often remembered the Whig accomplishment as the inevitable triumph of liberalism and democracy, just as Greece is remembered as the founder of the same ideals. The Whig attempts to meld their own goals concerning the English Constitution to the long believed-in legacy of Greece, outlined in this work, proved a successful tipping point in their project to discredit the established church and state of England. The tragedy of the Whig success lay in the results of their victory, which made absurd a long legitimate view of the English state and Orientalized a great deal of English history.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
English Constitution, Greek Revolution, Legitimacy, Philhellenism, Tories, Whigs
Constitutional history -- Great Britain -- 19th century
Philhellenism -- Great Britain
Greece -- History -- War of Independence, 1821-1829 -- Influence
Whig Party (Great Britain)
Tory Party (Great Britain)

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