It has proven beyond me to determine with authority worth repeating either the meaning or the import of the word “Whig”. I differentiate the two objectives of meaning and import because to my befuddled mind the term Whig, whatever may be its rude etymology, has the import or gist of the more traditionalists of the political ambit. The descriptions and banners of the word have to my mind as well the singularity of attracting capitalist interests primarily – as opposed to what is now called by Marjorie Taylor-Greene “communism”. Otherwise the historic ranks of Whiggism are frightfully varied. The changing cruciality (depending for example in which country the word is employed) invites perpetual and often contradictory demarcations. The divisions have not always been an easy one between Protestants and Roman Catholics; nor between nobles and gentry; nor between town and country; nor indeed between progressive and regressive. Instead the popularity of one or the other is a composition of the whole. As usual the characterization of the Canadian example is overshadowed by that of our brethren of the United States of America where the insinuation of the current meaning in this country most likely began. We, the poor cousins to the north, are bound once again to endure the abasement of precedence. Though in the same breath I acknowledge the sweeping monarchical influence upon our native soil embedded by the United Empire Loyalists since 1763.


1 a member of the British reforming and constitutional party that sought the supremacy of Parliament and was eventually succeeded in the 19th century by the Liberal Party.

Compare with Tory – a colonist who supported the British side during the War of American Independence

2 a supporter of the American side during the War of American Independence;
   a member of an American political party in the 19th century, succeeded by the Republicans.

3 a 17th-century Scottish Presbyterian.

4 [as modifier ] denoting a historian who interprets history as the continuing and inevitable victory of progress over reaction.

DERIVATIVES Whiggery noun Whiggish adjective Whiggism |ORIGIN mid 17th century Scottish Presbyterian: probably a shortening of Scots whiggamore, the nickname of 17th-century Scottish rebels, from whig to drive+ mare.

Whiggism (in North America sometimes spelled Whigism) is a political philosophy that grew out of the Parliamentarian faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639–1651). The Whigs’ key policy positions were the supremacy of Parliament (as opposed to that of the king), tolerance of Protestant dissenters and opposition to a “Papist” (Roman Catholic) on the throne, especially James II or one of his descendants.

After the huge success (from the Whig point of view) of the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689, Whiggism dominated English and British politics until about 1760, although in practice the Whig political group splintered into different factions. After 1760, the Whigs lost power – apart from sharing it in some short-lived coalition governments – but Whiggism fashioned itself into a generalised belief system that emphasised innovation and liberty and was strongly held by about half of the leading families in England and Scotland, as well as most merchants, dissenters, and the middle classes. The opposing Tory position was held by the other great families, the Church of England, most of the landed gentry and officers of the army and the navy. Whigs also opposed Jacobitism, a movement of traditionalists tolerant of Roman Catholicism, with substantial Tory overlaps. While in power, Whigs frequently referred to all opponents as “Jacobites” or dupes of Jacobites.

Whiggism originally referred to the Whigs of the British Isles, but the name of “Old Whigs” was largely adopted by the American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies. Following independence, American Whiggism became known as republicanism. The term “Old Whigs” was also used in Great Britain for those Whigs who opposed Robert Walpole as part of the Country Party.

The distillation of this superfluity is that name calling is a joke. The history of political rivalry (if I may be permitted to abuse that hopelessly dismissive word for battle) is fraught not only with Lilliputian drivel but fails routinely to exemplify the prerequisite ingredients of power and wealth. Instead the controversy descends to “Good Guys vs. Bad Guys” along with all the rhetoric and bafflegab of speechmaking. At stake was far more relevant than principle; it was pension and emoluments.

Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a 1726 prose satire by the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, satirizing both human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver’s Travels “to vex the world rather than divert it”. The book was an immediate success. The English dramatist John Gay remarked “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.”

I am entirely uncertain as to the propriety or utility of disguising one’s compelling ambition with noxious rubbish. Who exactly do they think they’re kidding? If it amounts to a universal resolve to agree to disagree at any cost for illicit, deceitful or immoral purpose, then this enquiry is perhaps superfluous. Though it does allow for new meaning to “driving the old grey mare“.

“Nevertheless James determined to persevere. The sanction of a Parliament was necessary to his system. The sanction of a free and lawful Parliament it was evidently impossible to obtain: but it might not be altogether impossible to bring together by corruption, by intimidation, by violent exertions of prerogative, by fraudulent distortions of law, an assembly which might call itself a Parliament, and might be willing to register any edict of the Sovereign. Returning officers must be appointed who would avail themselves of the slightest pretence to declare the King’s friends duly elected. Every placeman, from the highest to the lowest, must be made to understand that, if he wished to retain his office, he must, at this conjuncture, support the throne by his vote and interest. The High Commission meanwhile would keep its eye on the clergy. The boroughs, which had just been remodelled to serve one turn, might be remodelled again to serve another. By such means the King hoped to obtain a majority in the House of Commons. The Upper House would then be at his mercy.

“He had undoubtedly by law the power of creating peers without limit: and this power he was fully determined to use. He did not wish, and indeed no sovereign can wish, to make the highest honour which is in the gift of the crown worthless. He cherished the hope that, by calling up some heirs apparent to the assembly in which they must ultimately sit, and by conferring English titles on some Scotch and Irish Lords, he might be able to secure a majority without ennobling new men in such numbers as to bring ridicule on the coronet and the ermine. But there was no extremity to which he was not prepared to go in case of necessity. When in a large company an opinion was expressed that the peers would prove intractable, “Oh, silly,” cried Sunderland, turning to Churchill, “your troop of guards shall be called up to the House of Lords.”

Excerpt From
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 2
Thomas Babington Macaulay