What we do
"I can't help but admire the 'relevance' of much of what it does. It's something other historical periodicals in Canada could learn from."
— Christopher Dummitt, Professor, Trent University, on The Dorchester Review
Help us wage the History Wars!
The Dorchester Review is not merely a magazine of history.
It is -- uniquely, we think -- a journal of historical commentary with fresh perspective from contributors in Canada and around the world.
Established as a biannual journal in 2011, we have published 11 issues of about 100 pages each as of the Summer of 2016.
We engage and challenge the politically correct vision of history often found in the media and in academe, grappling with debates such as:
|Was the War of 1812 Bicentennial celebration unjustified?
What can we learn from Australia's so-called "History Wars"?
Is Sir John A. Macdonald a hero for our times?
Does the Authorized Version of Canadian history hold water?
Is Canada the product of a failed revolution or a successful counter-revolution?
What do we know now about Mao's legacy in China?
Has "engagement" with Cuba been a success?
What has become of the "Ideology of India"?
Was the Falklands War a brilliant success?
What has happened to Quebec's unique conservatism?
Were Indian Residential Schools really an unmitigated disaster?
What is happening inside Iran's Revolutionary Guard?
Was Pierre Elliott Trudeau a "great" prime minister?
Did Louis Riel advocate polygamy?
What was the German Resistance?
Was Canada "Founded" in 1867, or 1791, or another date?
Which Federalist vision triumphed in America?
Can NATO be reinvigorated?
Are Canada's military officers well enough educated?
Is Terrorism "nothing" to do with Islam?
What is the Counter-Revolutionary tradition in France?
The Dorchester Review is founded on the belief that leisure is the basis of culture. Just as no one can live without pleasure, no civilized life can be sustained without recourse to that tranquillity in which critical articles and book reviews may be profitably enjoyed. The wisdom and perspective that flow from history, biography, and fiction are essential to the good life. It is not merely that “the record of what men have done in the past and how they have done it is the chief positive guide to present action,” as Belloc put it. Action can be dangerous if not preceded by contemplation that begins in recollection.
Every historian and every writer has an agenda, frequently political and often unadmitted. To the entrenched complacencies of much professional scholarship and literary journalism, one antidote is corrective and restorative history, engagingly written. There are too few critical reviews published today, particularly in Canada, and almost none translated from francophone journals for English readers. It also remains likely, as Orwell put it, that, “The great majority of reviews give an inadequate or misleading account of the book that is dealt with. ... The best practice ... would be simply to ignore the great majority of books and to give very long reviews — 1,000 words is a bare minimum — to the few that seem to matter.” At the Review we shall praise the good books and assail the bad.
The Dorchester Review has no political agenda but a robustly polemical one. The "pure Canada" nationalism that began with the 1920s centre-left has in some ways produced a narrowing effect on the country’s imagination, squeezing out elements of tradition and culture inherent to Canadian experience that fail to conform to a stridently progressivist narrative. While the centre-left has contributed in certain ways to the progress and advancement of civilization, the tendency to assume that theirs are the only valuable ideas — that history moves in only one direction — should be resisted.
We confess another potentially unpopular belief: that, at its core, Canada’s strength and advantage — that of a British liberal society with a strong French national enclave, resilient aboriginal communities, and a vital pluralism born of successive immigrant arrivals — would be void if polemically separated from its European, Judeo-Christian and Classical traditions, which is another answer to: why history. We are conscious and grateful heirs to an invaluable if variously pressured tradition of free expression and criticism that is found and defended with particular seriousness in the North Atlantic societies, and this we think should be recognized, protected, and always enhanced.
In our choice of a moniker and historical patron we take the name of a bewigged British soldier, an astute and unapologetic colonial governor from the pre-democratic era, in order to underline that history consists of more than a parade of secular modern progressives building a distinctively Canadian utopia. That the King praised Sir Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, as “a gallant and sensible man” is no small recommendation.
Finally, we gratefully acknowledge Toby Buchan’s acceptance of our invitation to serve as honorary patron. As an editor, publisher, and illustrator in England he is known as Mr Buchan. We approached him, however, as the 4th Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield and grandson of John Buchan, the great storyteller, historian, public servant, and 15th governor general of Canada. In that capacity, Lord Tweedsmuir graciously accepted. In the pages of this edition, notice can be found of the handsome new edition of John Buchan’s classic thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps, with a fine introduction by his grandson, our hon. patron.
In general the Review itself will not take editorial positions unless grievously tempted. Four of our five contributing editors have written articles for the first issue: Randy Boyagoda, C.P. Champion, Phyllis Reeve, and John Robson, who bring varied literary and editorial talents to the cause. We are proud to carry articles by Gil Troy, Sam Menefee, Barbara Kay, Graham Stewart, Greg Melleuish, Conrad Black, Adam Chapnick, Mathieu Bock-Coté, and many others. We welcome submissions as well as letters and comments, encourage readers to take out a subscription, and, when necessary, disagree with us enthusiastically and intelligently!
Who Was Dorchester?
The 1st Baron Dorchester (Sir Guy Carleton) was an Irish-born British soldier who served as Governor of the Provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. He is best known for having ensured the security and integrity of the Province of Quebec, for instigating the Quebec Act of 1774, defeating the American invasion of Canada in 1775, and later for evacuating to safety thousands of Loyalists from New York to the Caribbean and Nova Scotia (1782-3), including freed black slaves. He has been called the "Father of British Canada," but he equally assured the survival of a largely French-speaking Quebec and laid the cornerstone of Canada's present-day constitutional freedoms.
What others have said about Dorchester:
" A distinguished soldier who had fought on the Plains of Abraham. ... One of the greatest proconsuls in the history of the British Empire." -- A.L. Burt
"The cocksure reactionary who planned and applied the Quebec Act. ... A political Tory and a social conservative, with a complacent belief in his own importance and an ingrained relish for authority." -- Donald Creighton, Dominion of the North
"The tradition soon formed which still obtains, of the Quebec Act as the Magna Carta of French Canada, the great enactment which gave back to the province its religion, its laws and its institutions." -- A.R.M. Lower, Colony to Nation
"Between 1770 and 1786 a turning-point occurred ... A groundwork was laid for the special status that many French Canadians have claimed up to the present day. In so far as he can be held accountable for this groundwork, Carleton may be praised, or blamed, accordingly." -- G.P. Browne
“So much of a soldier, and so little of a politician, such a resolute, honest man, and such a faithful and dutiful subject, that he owns he wishes to see him intrusted with a part of our defence in this critical moment.” -- Lord North
"[Carleton's] prudence and moderation [assured] internal peace and tranquillity." -- Citizens of Montreal
"The best choice that England could have made to win back the Americans: he is much respected here on account of his humane and generous conduct when he was Governor of Canada.” -- French diplomat in Philadelphia, 1782
"The Father of British Canada." -- W.C.H. Wood
"Much to the consternation of George Washington ... Carleton interpreted the peace treaty to mean that blacks who had served the redcoats for a year were technically free, thus they could not be considered 'property' of the Americans. They were free to leave with the British." -- Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes
"A gallant and sensible man." -- King George III
Why Lord Dorchester?
Sir Guy Carleton was one of Canada's greatest colonial governors. A shrewd and broadminded administrator of Quebec in particular, he ensured the security and integrity of the Province and instigated the Quebec Act of 1774, known as the "Magna Carta of the French Canadians" because it strengthened the linguistic and religious rights of the French-speaking and Roman Catholic majority under British rule.
When in 1757 William Pitt (the Younger), the British Prime Minister, envisioned a bold military campaign to remove Canada from French rule, General James Wolfe tried to recruit the best man he knew as his quartermaster-general and engineer: Colonel Guy Carleton.
King George II resisted the choice, and both William Pitt the Elder and Lord Ligonier, the commander-in chief of the British forces, personally appealed to the King to grant Wolfe's request. The general got his way. On the Plains of Abraham, Carleton commanded the 2nd battalion of the Royal Americans (60th Foot) at the left of the famous "thin red line," and received a head wound.
While the old King did not favour the Colonel, his successor, King George III, who became king in 1760, called Carleton a “galant & Sensible Man.” Under Governor James Murray, Carleton was chosen as “Lieutenant Governor and Administrator” of Quebec in 1766 and two years later, “Captain General and Governor in Chief."
During his time as Governor, Carleton's "principal concern" was the security of the Province, according to biographer G.P. Browne -- "fearing that the French might yet return, apprehensive of a revolt by the habitants, and nervous about the growing dissension in the Thirteen Colonies."
"It was not merely just but politic, then," Browne writes, "to rule the colony in a manner acceptable to the overwhelming majority – so that 'the Canadians are inspired with a cordial Attachment, and zeal for the King’s Government.' And the surest way of doing that, as Murray had seen, was to rule them indirectly, through their 'natural' leaders, the seigneurs and clergy." Hence Carleton offered military commissions to Quebec-born leaders in 'a few Companies of Canadian Foot'," -- the first Canadian militia since 1763 and the precursors of the present-day Primary Reserve of the Canadian Army.
The rights of the habitants, Carleton argued, must be seen to be respected and safeguarded. As he warned Lord Shelburne in 1767, "the 'Body of Laws' would be 'the Foundation of all, without which, other Schemes can be little better than meer Castles in the Air'." This was the genesis of the Quebec Act.
Sometimes criticized for opposing an elected assembly for the King's Canadian subjects, in fact Carleton somewhat supported the concept, as he wrote in 1768, “as soon as the more pressing Affairs of Government will allow." His priority was to “preserve good Humour and a perfect Harmony” in Quebec.
The Quebec Act also created the Legislative Council, consisting of prominent Canadian advisors, which was renewed in 1867 and continued as Quebec's upper house until it was abolished in 1968. While Carleton clearly had reservations about democracy's unknowns in the 1770s, his constitutional legacy laid the groundwork for the elected assembly established at Quebec City in 1791 and subsequently for the restored Legislature of 1867, today the National Assembly of Quebec.
- Carleton University in Ottawa, and the nearby Royal Canadian Navy installation HMCS Carleton, are named after him.
- Dorchester Boulevard (now the Boul. René Lévesque) in Montreal was also named for his contribution to the security and liberty of Quebec.
- The barony of Dorchester, created for Sir Guy Carleton on 21 Aug. 1786, "became extinct with the death of the 4th baron on 18 Nov. 1897, and although another barony was granted to Henrietta Anne Carleton, a cousin of the 4th baron, on 2 Aug. 1899, it too became extinct with the death of the 2nd baron on 20 Jan. 1963." (G.P. Browne, "Sir Guy Carleton," DCB). The barony has not been renewed since that time.
- The Dorchester Review was established in 2011.
Chairman - Benjamin A. Mackenzie
Advisory Board - Jean-Robert Bernier, Xavier Gélinas, Rudyard Griffiths, Stuart Iversen, Kenneth Whyte
Edited by - C.P. Champion
Contributing Editors - David Twiston-Davies, Randall Hansen, Phyllis Reeve, John Robson, Alastair Sweeny