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John Porter lecture: liberal nationalisms revisited.

A KEY FEATURE OF THE 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum was the character of the nationalism that was exhibited by the "Yes campaign," a campaign that stimulated remarkable political engagement. The campaign emphasized a progressive and social democratic vision of an independent Scotland; it was at pains to emphasize that its nationalism was "civic" and inclusive. Indeed, this was reflected in the referendum electorate, agreed by the Scottish government, which was restricted to those residing in Scotland, rather than those who might consider themselves Scottish living elsewhere. Outside commentators were struck by the progressive and open nature, at least rhetorically, of this nationalism (cf., Boisvert 2014). In Liberal Nationalisms, the focus is on the character of nationalism promoted by two groups in Scotland and Quebec at the beginning of the twentieth century. There is no attempt to link these distinct historical moments. Rather the attempt is to examine the sources of the contrasting adherence to liberal forms of nationalism expressed by these groups, which it is hoped might have more general implications. I return briefly to current events in the conclusion.

The book argues that the emergence and character of nationalism are directly related to changes in the patterns of political rule, but also to the prevailing liberalism within which these institutions were embedded. In this article I want to lay out the argument, findings, and implications of the book in four steps. First, I begin by outlining the conceptual issues at stake, namely, how nationalism is characterized, and my own focus on liberal nationalism, before briefly discussing the research design and choice of data. Here I introduce the two groups, the Young Scots' Society (YSS) and Ligue nationaliste canadienne, and the archival data upon which the book is based. I then turn to the book's substantive contribution, which focuses on these groups' responses to the political institutions that governed Scotland and Quebec: empire, state, and civil society. Finally, I offer some reflections on the significance of this research, highlighting the relationship between liberalism and nationalism.


The central orienting question is, what affects the character of nationalism? Before addressing this issue it is first important to discuss how the character of nationalism has been conceptualized. The dominant view is that nationalism takes one of two characters: ethnic or civic. Their origins are familiar: civic nationalism arose in Western Europe within established states, residency and political allegiance are its markers. The ethnic variant is Eastern in origin, with birth and kinship ties as its makers. There is a long lineage of scholarship here. It begins with the historian Hans Kohn (1944), through the political theorist John Plamenatz (1973), and was influential in the theories of nationalism presented by Ernest Gellner (1983) and Anthony Smith (1986). Rogers Brubaker's (1992) examination of contemporary citizenship laws in France and Germany made critical use of this dichotomy, arguing that jus soli and residency marked civic citizenship in France, a reflection that the state had been established prior to nationhood, while jus sanguinis and ancestry were prevalent in Germany where in contrast to France a conception of nation was in place before statehood.

There are, I think, two immediate problems with this characterization. The first is that the use of civic and ethnic as descriptors are individually highly problematic and need to be rethought. Bernard Yack (1999) has brilliantly deconstructed the myths surrounding the characterization of civic nationalism, not least making clear that it is culturally infused, that birth is the chief means by which it is acquired and that civic nations have violent histories, thereby successfully refuting claims that civic nationalism is purely political, voluntary, and pacific. Indeed we might go further, and suggest that in the characterization of civic nationalism, liberal and republican variants have been conflated. There is a need to disentangle the two ideologies that underpin civic nationalism; they are not the same, so while liberalism makes no claim to universal truth, and is thereby tolerant of diverse opinions, republicanism has a clear vision of the good life and is intolerant of competing views. This suggests very different sorts of "civic" nationalisms. The distinctiveness of ethnic nationalism can also be questioned not least since all nationalisms draw on ethnicity in the anthropological sense of this concept, that is, language, dialect, accent, religion, and so on, are ubiquitous as markers of distinction (cf., Eriksen 2010). How ethnicity is invoked is not static, it is a dynamic process subject to change, allowing for transformation in the ways in which ethnicity is used (Akturk 2012). The more general problem is that viewing nationalism in binary terms, as civic or ethnic, has the effect of essentializing nationalism as either one or the other. Yet as has already been suggested, empirically and conceptually the distinction is not clear cut and suggests a reconceptualization of the character of nationalism, albeit a modest one.

The view taken here is that nationalism is a modem ideology. It was sociologically rare to achieve the degree of horizontal communication in premodern society for the idea of a popular nation to have purchase (Anderson 1991; Gellner 1983). It took the "dual revolution," England's industrial revolution and the French and American political revolutions, for nationalism to gain currency (Kumar 1988). However, as an ideology it is rather empty; besides promoting identification with the nation in a myriad of ways, it takes its content from elsewhere. John Hall (2003:15-16) offers a compelling characterization of nationalism. Hall (2003) suggests that nationalism, like Freud's characterization of the libido, can be understood as "essentially labile, characteristically absorbing the flavors of the historical forces with which it interacts" (pp. 15-16). In other words it is an unstable, promiscuous ideology, which is prone to change as it interacts with other ideologies. Conservatism, socialism, Marxism, and feminism are all contenders here. Hall's (2003) characterization provides a way of understanding how and why nationalism expresses a variety of ideological and political moods and colors. In this study, it is the symbiotic relationship between nationalism and liberalism that developed in the two dominant nationalist groups in Scotland and Quebec in the early twentieth century that is the subject of this investigation.


Today the comparative study of contemporary Scotland and Quebec is well developed; there is a mini academic industry (often including Catalonia) to which I contribute: the rise and election of substate nationalist political parties, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Parti Quebecois (PQ), and referenda on independence in both nations make this an obvious comparison (cf., Henderson 2007; Keating 1996; McEwen 2006). However, in 1900 the comparison would not have been evident: Scots were in a position of privilege within the British Empire, the junior partner in the new Rome, to paraphrase Tom Nairn, while French Canadians, following the defeat of New France, were a European linguistic and religious minority within the British Empire that struggled to achieve equity with British-origin settlers in Canada. In recognition of these differences, the approach adopted here is comparative and historical, but one which places a particular emphasis on the use of contrast as much as similarity to acknowledge the very real differences between these cases. This is to draw on Clifford Geertz's (1968) understanding that cases might share both similarity and difference so that "at once alike and very different they form a commentary on one another's character" (p. 4).

The focus is on two nationalist groupings that while being the dominant groups in their respective nations contrasted markedly. The YSS was founded in 1900 in the wake of the U.K. Liberal Party's defeat at that year's "khaki election." The Conservatives and their Liberal Unionist allies triumphed amid a wave of jingoistic fervor generated by the ongoing South Africa War. This was a historic defeat. It marked the first time that the Liberal Party had failed to secure a majority of parliamentary seats in Scotland since its founding in 1859. The YSS was established to revive Liberal politics and liberal ideas, and importantly to foster support for Scottish home rule among the young.

The Society included the young and radical as well as slightly older and more-established figures. J.M. Hogge, one of its founders and most prominent champion, represents this first group. Before being elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), Hogge studied theology, securing scholarships to study at the University of Edinburgh, and then worked as a social investigator. J.W. Gulland exemplified the latter; he too became a Liberal MP, but he was the son of a prominent Edinburgh corn merchant. His Liberal Party credentials had been established prior to the establishment of the Young Scots. Its initial organizational strength was in Edinburgh and the east coast of Scotland: areas that had withstood the Unionist onslaught. However, as the decade wore on, the center of gravity shifted within the Society as the Young Scots established themselves in Glasgow and the industrial west of Scotland.

Indeed the apogee of the Society was 1911 when it had 56 branches and 3,500 members; most of these branches and members were located in the west. Roland Muirhead exemplifies this last development. Although a long-standing member of the YSS, this Renfrewshire-based Young Scot was more nationalist, consistently arguing that Scottish home rule, that is a substate parliament within the United Kingdom, become its central policy, and his liberalism was more socially orientated. He had converted his family's tannery business into a cooperative and was himself sympathetic to and supportive of the emerging labor movement; part funding the socialist newspaper, Forward. In Ralph Dahrendorf's (2008) terms, the Young Scots had undergone a shift from the principles of "classical liberalism" in which free trade was prominent to those of "social liberalism" in which social welfare became the overriding concern, a shift in which Scottish home rule took an increasingly prominent role. (1)

The YSS was an effective organization. Through the year, each branch offered a syllabus of lectures and discussions to educate young men in "the principles of liberalism." In practice this was often a curious mixture of topics. However, politically the Young Scots had a formidable reputation for electoral campaigning, recognized by friend and foe alike. The YSS is contrasted with five individuals most associated with the short-lived Ligue nationaliste canadienne, founded in 1903 to promote a vision of an autonomous Canada in opposition to British imperialism, and one in which French Canada's position was secure: its founder, Olivar Asselin; secretary, Omer Heroux; and Quebec City organizer, Armand Lavergne, together with Jules Fournier and their mentor, Henri Bourassa. (2)

These were young men of varied social backgrounds: Asselin and Fournier had attended rural colleges classiques in Rimouski and Valleyfield, respectively, with the aid of bursaries; Heroux attended college classique in Trois Rivieres, while Lavergne and Bourassa, from prominent families in Quebec City and Montreal, respectively, enjoyed privileged access to education. Bourassa was the grandson of Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the Patriotes rebellions in 1837 to 1838, and the son of the painter Napoleon, while Lavergne's father was a judge at the Quebec Court of Appeal, who had been in practice with the future Canadian prime minister, Wilfrid Laurier, and his uncle was a Liberal MP. Lavergne studied law at Laval University, while Bourassa was privately educated. While the Ligue never established itself as a formal political organization, Bourassa and Lavergne served as provincial and federal parliamentarians.

However, despite these forays into politics, it was through newspapers that these individuals with backgrounds in journalism sought to diffuse their message: Asselin's Le Nationaliste (1905), Fournier's L'Action (1911) and Le Devoir, founded by Bourassa in 1910 and with which Heroux, with a background in Catholic journalism, and the son-in-law of the ultramontane nationalist, Jules-Paul Tardivel, became closely associated. These were not mass circulation newspapers, rather they were newspapers of opinion aimed at an influential elite. In tone and politics they contrasted. While Le Devoir was established as a rather pious journal that took a conservative view especially with regard to moral matters and the place of the Catholic Church, Le Nationaliste and L'Action were combative, campaigning newspapers that sought to expose corruption in politics, frequently sued as a result of their claims, and providing a forum for liberal ideas. As a collectivity, these were French Canadians from Quebec who shared a nationalism that was Canadian in orientation, but one in which French Canada was to be politically the equal of British Canada.

These groups emerged at a wonderfully exciting historical moment, the Belle Epoque, a culturally and socially vibrant period, but one in which politics, too, was questioned with new ideas and movements coming to the fore. Liberalism played an important role here: it was subjected to critique but it was also drawn on as a means to critically understand the institutions that governed and to offer solutions that would enable their more effective operation. Political rule in Scotland and Quebec at this time was characterized best by a term from contemporary political science: multilevel governance. That is to say, both nations were governed through the tiered institutions of empire, state, and civil society. It was these institutions that both groups addressed in contrasting ways.

The book is based on extensive archival research, drawing on manuscript and printed sources in Canada and Scotland. The aim is to use these archival materials to recreate the social world of these nationalists and the political and social debates in which they were engaged. The papers of Roland E. Muirhead, an early Young Scots' member and benefactor, held at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh and Mitchell Library in Glasgow constitute the core source for the Scottish case, containing a very considerable collection of correspondence and a source of many YSS publications. Smaller collections were also consulted. This was augmented by a targeted examination of the nationalist press, in particular The Fiery Cross, The Scottish Patriot, and The Scottish Nation, and mass press, especially The Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman. A similar pattern was followed in Canada. The papers of Olivar Asselin at the Archives Municipales de Montreal and Henri Bourassa and Armand Lavergne at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa were consulted. Again, these manuscript collections were augmented by a targeted examination of newspapers, most especially those that they together with Omer Heroux and Jules Fournier had established and contributed to, namely, Le Nationaliste, Le Devoir, and L'Action.


I turn now to the debates these nationalists engaged in, around questions that surrounded empire, state, and civil society. It was imperial questions that initially exercised both groups; they responded to Britain's increasingly predatory policies that marked the South Africa War, tariff reform, and naval rearmament. Their political programs addressed the accommodation of Scotland and French Canada within their respective states. Immigration and schooling were the issues debated by the Nationalistes, both posed an existential threat to the place of French Canada within the Canadian Confederation, while the Young Scots argued that successive Westminster governments had hindered progressive and democratic reform in Scotland. Within each civil society, the place of organized religion had a particular influence. Liberalism infused each of these debates.


Herfried Miinkler (2007) suggests that as one moves from the center to the periphery in an empire rights decrease, as does the capacity to influence the center. This insight partly captures something of the place of Scots and French Canadians within the British Empire and goes some way to explain the very different positions taken by these nationalists in response to Britain's increasingly predatory imperial policies (Go 2011: chap. 5), which were experienced in contrasting ways. This was a moment in which British governments sought contributions, financial and otherwise, from its dominions and colonies to maintain the geopolitical and economic standing of Britain itself. In part, this reflected a shift in the thinking of British political elites, a shift from "arrogance" to "anxiety" occasioned by the rise of competition from Germany and the United States in particular (Ferguson 2003:221).

The Nationalistes experienced these predatory policies as an encroachment on Canadian sovereignty. To give expression to this they invoked a liberal view of empire in response. It was Canadian participation in the South Africa War that prompted the emergence of the nationalist movement. Bourassa and his followers feared that while Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier had only consented to a voluntary force being sent, this had been agreed without a debate in the House of Commons and, in Bourassa's view, had established a dangerous precedent for Canada's future participation in imperial conflicts. At the same time, the parallels between the Dutch Boers and French Canadians were strong, and there was considerable sympathy even support for their plight. Asselin (1899) expressed this writing for the liberal Les Debats, in which he pointed to the justice of their fight and congratulated them in repulsing a "brutal invasion."

Similarly, Joseph Chamberlain's ill-fated attempt to impose imperial protectionism was vehemently opposed: the Nationalistes understood that this was a cynical exercise entirely in Britain's own interest to ensure that Canada remained a reserve of raw materials and a market for British industrial goods. In reality, considerable industrialization was under way in Canada in part funded by American capital. Finally, they opposed the British insistence that Canada should make a financial contribution to the British Navy in its dreadnought race with Germany. Indeed, this became the defining issue in the federal election of 1911 in Quebec (elsewhere in Canada the issue was free trade with the United States), an election that witnessed the election of some 17 autonomiste candidates in alliance with the provincial Conservatives that together secured 48.1 percent of the vote (Kennedy 2013:103). In response to each of these demands, the Nationalistes invoked British Liberals such as John Bright, Richard Cobden, and Gladstone and asserted that Canada was no longer a colony but a self-governing polity; as such each of these policies was an encroachment on its sovereignty. Canada had, in other words, reached political maturity and was now in a position to decide whether to contribute or not. Cobden, in particular, was drawn on. Bourassa (1902) offered this reflection, "The colonies were given to understand that they were to be self-reliant and self-supporting, and that whensoever they thought fit to sever the connection with the motherland, no obstacle would be put in the way" (p. 19).

In Scotland the very same policies were understood in the terms of U.K. domestic politics. In response to the jingoism that surrounded the outbreak of the South Africa War, the Young Scots campaigned for freedom of speech to criticize the government, holding public meetings to this end against considerable opposition. This was no easy undertaking given that these meetings were frequently broken up by "jingo mobs." The conduct of the war described by the Liberal Party leader Campbell Bannerman as utilizing "methods of barbarism" became a key feature of these meetings. However, there was also a less articulated admiration for the Boers in their struggle for national independence. It was both a nationalist and liberal sympathy that was expressed, which invoked Gladstone's denunciation of the treatment of national minorities under Ottoman rule. The liberal belief in free trade was mobilized against the Unionists' and in particular the colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain's promotion of not only imperial preference but domestic protectionism, a misstep that may well on its own have allowed for the Liberal's return to government in 1906. For a U.K. domestic audience, it suggested a likely increase in the cost of bread and food in general and a sense that its proponents were simply acting in their vested interests. The Young Scots took full advantage undertaking an extensive free trade campaign of small meetings and larger rallies across Scotland that invoked Gladstone and Cobden in their bid to retake "Scotland for Liberalism."

Naval rearmament was more complicated. Many Young Scots held to a certain liberal pacifism and opposed increased spending on armaments. However, again it was largely British domestic politics that oriented their campaigning. While the People's Budget of 1909, in part, sought to finance rearmament, it was also aimed at funding welfare, in particular, a pensions scheme; land taxation was identified as the means of financing both. So it was land reform and the subsequent opposition by the House of Lords that exercised the Young Scots most. The unelected House of Lords where the landed interest was strong had failed to pass the budget, and had initiated a constitutional crisis, forcing the general elections of 1910. The failure to achieve progressive change in Scotland and the need for a Scottish parliament was folded into this constitutional issue. A YSS leaflet argued that it was not only the House of Lords that was accused of vetoing Scotland's political will and progressive legislation, but the English majority, and called for the abolition of the "two vetoes" (Young Scots' Society 1910).

These groups' responses to imperial policies reflected the political location of Scotland and Quebec within the empire. However, both did so invoking the language of liberalism, and as important, they offer a reminder that the Empire was not only characterized by politics and trade but it was also an arena in which ideas were diffused, in this case liberal ideas, providing a shared set of concepts and personalities that were genuinely debated on both sides of the Atlantic, and which could be used to understand and critique the politics of the Empire (cf., Mehta 1999).


It was in response to the actions, and perhaps also the inaction of their respective states, Britain and Canada, that these nationalists formulated their political demands. They did so by championing moderate measures: federation for Britain and a Canadian federation that was avowedly consociational. The Young Scots' grievances were political in orientation. The home rule campaign grew in prominence through this period. Westminster was characterized as "inefficient," its primary focus was on the running of the Empire with only limited time and attention available for Scottish affairs. Therefore, there was a need for a decentralized and devolved Home Rule Parliament in which Scottish issues could be engaged with directly. Underlying this efficiency argument were more general progressive and democratic arguments. The Young Scots were frustrated that it was appointed boards, the equivalent of contemporary quangos, which were given considerable decision-making power but without accountability. There was, in other words, a "democratic deficit." Moreover, for the Young Scots, home rule was the sine qua non for the implementation of a series of progressive measures such as land, education, and housing reform.

Home rule was a key and defining commitment for the Young Scots; however, other issues had pushed it to the side, namely, free trade and land reform. But the tempo of their campaign for home rule intensified through this period as Young Scots grew impatient when Liberal governments, in 1906 and in January and December 1911, failed to prioritize home rule legislation. In response they opposed Liberal parliamentary candidates unsympathetic to home rule, joined with other Liberal Party organizations to form the Scottish Home Rule Council, although for many activists this was not the radical organization they had hoped for, and sought to mobilize Scottish public opinion, achieving a degree of success in securing the support of local government leaders. In part, debate on the merits of Irish home rule, a more urgent question for the British Liberal government, given its dependency on the Irish Parliamentary Party after the December 1910 general election, and the loss of its overall parliamentary majority, provided the Young Scots with the political opportunity to insist that Scottish home rule should be part of a wider federation of the British state.

Of particular interest is the way in which this demand was understood in explicitly liberal terms in which a parallel was drawn between individual and group rights. This excerpt from the Young Scots 'Manifesto and Appeal to the Scottish People on Scottish Home Rule points to the seriousness with which they sought to reconcile both:

The Young Scots bases its case for Home Rule on the principle of Equal Liberty. It believes in liberty not only for the individual, but for peoples and nations as well. If the individual is to make the most of his faculties and to do his best not only for himself but for his fellows, he must be allowed, nay encouraged, to follow his own bent, his own aspirations. As it is with individuals, so it is with peoples; and the Scottish people, differing in character, custom and law from other peoples that make up the United Kingdom, must surely know their requirements best, and if they are to make their best contribution to the progress of humanity must be allowed to arrange their own affairs, to make and administer their own laws. (Young Scots' Society 1911:2)

This is revealing of the seriousness with which Young Scots sought to understand their demand and ensure that it was consistent with liberal thought, and that the logic that applied to individuals should be applied to nations. Home rule for Scotland was not a claim for special consideration. Rather, the Young Scots' support for home rule was conceived as part of a wider program of "home rule all round" in which the U.K. state would become a federation: each component nation, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales, would have its own parliament. However, it was the specific merits of the case for Scottish home rule that exercised them most.

In Canada, the Nationalistes sought the formal recognition of French Canadians against a backdrop of increased nonfrancophone immigration and curbs on the teaching in French outside Quebec. The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed unprecedented immigration to Canada, as a proportion of the Canadian population it remains unmatched: between 1901 and 1911 Canada received 1.5 million immigrants, francophones constituted only 30,000 (Kennedy 2013:172). The Nationalistes demanded that the same attention and resources that were spent on attracting immigrant from the British Isles, or Eastern Europe, be devoted to attracting immigrants from France or Belgium. At the same time, schooling in French had been restricted in Manitoba in 1890, with the creation of the new province of Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, in Keewatin in 1911, and in the most populous province, Ontario, with a growing francophone population, following the introduction of Regulation 17 in 1912 in which English became the sole language in elementary schools, while the study of French was reduced to an hour a day. In each case de facto dualism was ended outside Quebec. Regulation 17 became a rallying cause for the Nationalistes. However, there were differences, for Asselin and Fournier this was a struggle above all about language; in contrast for Bourassa, Catholicism and the French language were intimately connected.

Their grievances were existential; these developments appeared to threaten the very existence of French Canada. In response they proposed a range of what might be described as quasi-consociational arrangements to ensure the French Canadians' continuing political influence. In their writings and speeches, they developed many of the features that have since become associated with the practice of consociationalism: elite agreement, mutual veto, coalition government, maintenance of self-governing communities, and proportionality (Lijphart 1977). Indeed, it was to elites that much of their attention was directed. Crucially, they sought a coalition of French- and English-speaking elites: it was these elites that were charged with ensuring a politics marked with mutual respect for the founding British and French peoples. In keeping with the prevailing culture of the time, no consideration was given to the First Nations.

Specifically, elites were to put their devotion to Canada above party interest, in this regard it was independent-minded individuals from both communities who were sought. There was to be mutual recognition that French and British Canada constituted two self-governing communities, and that this "dualism" would be respected especially with regard to education. A mutual veto could be exercised where dualism was threatened: for the Nationalistes immigration and schooling warranted its use. Proportionality, though not a term used by the Nationalistes, was also a feature of their political program: they bemoaned the substandard use of French and the limited employment of French Canadians in the federal bureaucracy and the absence of the outward symbols of binationalism, notably bilingual postage and excise stamps. In essence, they sought binational power-sharing, an arrangement in which French and British Canadians would be politically and culturally equal.

These proposals appeared to accord well with a moment in which Canada's internal boundaries were in flux: the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were established only during this period, in 1905; the District of Keewatin became part of the Northwest Territories also in 1905, its southern territory was divided between Manitoba and Ontario, as these provinces were extended northward, in 1912; the boundaries of Quebec, too, were extended in 1912 to incorporate the Ungava peninsula. There was, in other words, no neat correspondence between language and province. Canada's internal boundaries were in dispute. So the Nationalistes wanted to ensure that French Canadians were protected throughout Canada. More than this, they wanted to ensure that French Canadians' standing as a founding people was sufficiently recognized. In this respect, these Canadian nationalists were also French Canadian nationalists, though not Quebecois nationalists.

While consociationalism can be considered illiberal in its inclination to confine individuals within groups, the Nationalistes' intention was to ensure that French Canadians as a group should be protected; in this it was "ostensibly liberal" (Gray 2000:128). That is to say, in their pronouncements the Nationalistes made a liberal case, but the emphasis was placed on group rights, on the rights of French speakers as a collectivity. This was enunciated in the reformulated program that Olivar Asselin proposed in 1909: "In Canada's internal relations, the safeguarding of Provincial autonomy on the one hand and of the Constitutional Rights of minorities on the other hand" (Asselin 1909:4). The Nationalistes were keen to emphasize that acknowledging two nations and two languages within a single state was entirely consistent with political practice elsewhere. The examples of Belgium and Switzerland were frequently drawn on to make the point that "the existence of several distinct nationalities does not harm the material and intellectual progress of a country" (Asselin 1905).

There was a contrast here in the language used by these groups. The Nationalistes used the language of existential threat. There was genuine concern that the expanding Confederation, both in terms of population and provinces, was substantially reducing the influence of French Canadians. In contrast it was the language of thwarted political democratic progress that characterized the Young Scots' language. The solutions that these groups offered, federation and consociation, reflected the prevailing politics in these nations.

Civil Society

The character of their nationalism was also revealed in their participation and engagement in their respective distinct civil societies: that is, societies characterized not only by social self-organization but also by a degree of civility, in other words a tolerance of difference and diversity within the limits of liberalism (Hall 2013: chap. 1). Scotland's civil society retained the pre-Union institutional "holy trinity" of church, school, and law, together with a distinctive system of local government. It was around these institutions that early twentieth-century public and private organizations and associations including charities developed.

The Presbyterian churches exercised considerable influence. In effect, liberalism was fused with Protestantism, especially its dissenting variant. The 1843 Disruption, which effectively split the established Church of Scotland, had bequeathed to Scotland a degree of institutional pluralism. The seceding Free Church of Scotland had set up a parallel set of institutions to the Church of Scotland with churches, schools, and rudimentary welfare in each parish. Many Young Scots were members of its successor church, the United Free Church (UFC). However, Protestantism's influence was diffuse, it informed their views and perhaps provided them with a moral duty; indeed there was a sense in which religious and social salvation were increasingly linked as the UFC began to promote a social gospel as its, and its adherents, orientation shifted from moral concerns such as temperance or gambling to social concerns such as the need for state-provided national insurance. Young Scots participated across a range of groups and organizations.

In education, the Church of Scotland had lost its dominance with the introduction of state system of education in 1872. However, this was not a victory for secular forces. Rather, the other Protestant churches and the Catholic Church, growing as result of Catholic Irish immigration, viewed this as a victory for religious pluralism: each denomination competed for popularly elected boards of education. In the short term, Presbyterianism continued to dominate, but it also allowed for secular, Labor candidates to stand, and for social rather than religious questions to come to the fore. Young Scots served on these boards: J.W. Gulland, a UFC elder, in Edinburgh, while progressive UFC minister James Barr was elected as an independent in Glasgow. The Young Scots championed Irish home rule and in this regard this largely Protestant organization was willing to accommodate a key demand of Catholic Irish immigrants to Scotland. Indeed, a leading Young Scot, F.J. Robertson, the secretary of the Protestant Knox Club, was accused of a betrayal of Protestantism (Edinburgh Evening News 1913).

The Catholic Church occupied a position of considerable importance in francophone Quebec's civil society. Law, like Scotland, was distinct. By contrast, in Quebec liberals were at loggerheads with the Catholic Church across a range of areas. The Church, fearful of modernity and its associated materialism, sought to cage its members through its 'strategies d'encadrement' (Linteau, Durocher, and Robert 1989:606-608) in which it sought to control its flock by establishing its own array of organizations and associations, for example, youth organizations, trade unions, libraries, as well as newspapers, all within a Catholic framework. However, liberal openings were possible, especially where the Church did not have an established dominance. This was the backdrop against which the Nationalistes were divided. Bourassa, Heroux, and Lavergne remained committed to the Catholic Church retaining a leading role in society, while Asselin and Fournier, themselves practicing Catholics, preferred to view it as a moral guide and were critical of the Church and its interventions in politics. However, their liberalism was not anticlerical, and it contrasted with the more strident secularism of those such as Godfroy Langlois and his Ligue d'enseignement. Indeed for these practicing Catholics it was British-style liberalism, with its tolerance of religious diversity, rather than French secular republicanism that held an attraction.

For example, while the Nationalistes supported the reform of the education system, there was division. Fournier and Asslein favored compulsory schooling, and were convinced of the need for education to more closely provide francophone Quebecers with vocational skills to meet the labor demands of a growing industrial economy. Bourassa was wary, and critical of the newly created Ecole des Hautes Etudes commerciales, which he labeled an 'ecole sans Dieu,' believing that vocational teaching had to be complemented by religious teaching that was absent from the Ecole's curriculum (Levitt 1972:88). Moreover, Fournier was keen to extend French education in Quebec to the immigrant Jewish population. This was a way of increasing French speakers. In contrast, Lavergne and Heroux expressed views that were anti-Semitic. Bourassa's views also veered toward the anti-Semitic, though he had supported the right of Jews to work on Sundays in Quebec. Asselin and Fournier were more willing to reach accommodation with this growing community. They practiced that definitional tenet of civil society, namely, civility or tolerance (Hall 2013), something absent from their colleagues, and supported forms of political and ecclesiastical moderation.

The role of the church in both civil societies was important. Religious pluralism in Scotland ensured that no one church dominated. But Presbyterianism was a powerful influence, which reinforced liberalism, and together they promoted individualism and progress. The Catholic Church was dominant; its presence was felt through Quebec's civil life. While liberalism was more fragile in Quebec's civil society, liberal reform was under way, not least in education where the church was in control. Catholicism's uneasy accommodation with liberalism was reflected in division among the Nationalistes. These civil societies, reflecting the degree to which liberalism was institutionalized, had a marked influence on the character of the nationalisms expressed by the Young Scots and the Nationalistes.

It was these changes in political rule, in the running of empire, state, and civil society that prompted the emergence of these liberal nationalisms. However, these changes not only stimulated nationalist responses but also shaped their comparatively liberal character.


The choice of William Ewart Gladstone, the long-serving British prime minister, for the book cover was deliberate. Gladstone dominated late nineteenth-century British and imperial liberal politics. Both the Young Scots and Nationalistes laid claim to his legacy in the early twentieth century. Indeed the Young Scots' initial motto was "For Gladstone and Scotland." This English, patrician, High Anglican prime minister had a considerable appeal to both groups; both groups invoked him in their campaigns, though the ways in which they did contrasted. It suggests that there is something malleable about liberalism itself, allowing for it to be drawn on and expressed with different emphases.

There are, I think, three general conclusions that this book suggests about nationalism and its relationship with liberalism: that liberalism did indeed provide much of the content for the nationalisms promoted by these individuals and groups; though the ways in which it did suggests two quite distinct liberal nationalisms; in both a symbiotic relationship had established between liberalism and nationalism. I take this opportunity to reflect on and extend these arguments and suggest an additional fourth conclusion that liberalism is successful when it is enmeshed in nationalism.

The first is that liberalism did indeed provide much of the content for these nationalisms during this period. Certainly, ethnic markers, in the broad anthropological sense outlined earlier were invoked, notably language in the case of French Canadians, but also religion, the question of Church disestablishment exercised Young Scots at the early part of the decade; the history of Scots and French Canadians was invoked--the six hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn was celebrated in 1914, while the Nationalistes were keen to invoke French settlers to the New World and their adherence to Catholicism. However, in making their political claims it was liberalism that was the defining feature for both groups.

Yet at the same time, there were other ideological influences, as this quote from Olivar Asselin makes clear liberalism was one among other ideologies and issues, which marked their nationalism:

We are Liberals in the matter of minority rights, and Progressists in economic and social matters. And it is that opposition to [British] Imperialism and [American] Annexation, that Liberalism and that Progressism, which make up our brand of nationalism. (Asselin 1909:60-61)

But importantly liberalism and nationalism were mutually reinforcing; they were not mutually exclusive. It is perhaps notable that liberalism in the Canadian context was associated most with the protection of minority rights, in this case the language rights of French Canadians outside Quebec, while liberalism's social variant was associated with American progressivism. Among the Young Scots there was clear evidence that classical liberal concerns were increasingly being replaced by more-social or "new liberal" concerns that suggested a greater role for the state in the provision of welfare and social services. The liberal character of these nationalisms was very clearly a reflection of this particular historical moment. In subsequent decades it was other ideologies that became entwined with nationalism in Scotland and Quebec. In the interwar period in Quebec, and, in part, a response to the failure of this moderate pan-Canadian nationalism, it was Lionel Groulx and a more conservative and religious nationalism that came to the fore, while in interwar Scotland nationalists sought collectivist solutions through socialism and the emerging Labor movement.

Second, and relatedly it suggests that as with liberalism there are two faces of liberal nationalism (cf., Gray 2000): one in which the emphasis is on equality among groups, the other in which there is a greater attempt to reconcile individual and group rights. The influences, especially the place of the church, and the positions taken by these groups in their respective civil societies are reflective of this. More generally, it was reflective of the challenges that liberalism faced during this period. Liberalism itself was under pressure to include those excluded (women) and those partially excluded (working-class men) from the polity but also to offer recognition of minority nations (Ireland). As a result of these collectivist demands liberalism was redefined, making possible the emergence of a new social liberalism in place of classical liberalism, one that better accommodated these demands. Liberal nationalism in Quebec placed greater emphasis on group rights while in Scotland there was an attempt to reconcile group with individual rights. In part, this was a reflection of two different processes as Liberals in Scotland were acquiring a more national character, and nationalists in Quebec sought to frame their demands through liberalism. This was related to another difference, namely, the way in which these nationalists viewed democracy: Young Scots sought to address their demands to a growing, mass electorate, organizing branches throughout Scotland, while the Nationalistes sought to influence elites, largely through newspapers.

Third, it suggests that liberalism and nationalism were acting in service of one another; a symbiotic relationship had developed which was mutually beneficial. An anonymous Young Scot stated this explicitly:

If Scottish Nationalism, in alliance with Liberalism, is to succeed, not only in maintaining the electoral predominance of the [Liberal] party ... but if it is to succeed in actively enlisting Scottish youth in the ranks of the party, it must devote itself more and more to the cultivation of the national idea. (Anonymous Young Scot 1910)

Both the Young Scots and Nationalistes sought ways in which liberalism could better accommodate the interests of Scots and French Canadians, concluding that for liberalism to work better it had to take a national form, and offer a recognition of national difference. It was this that these groups sought to achieve through their demands for federation and consociation. In doing so, they demanded what Charles Taylor (1993:190) refers to as an "equal hearing," arguing that the views of Scots and French Canadians should have the same legitimacy as the majority, and to ensure this there had to be a better fit between political institutions and popular sovereignty. In turn, nationalism offered political liberalism a means of ensuring that it remained politically relevant at time in which it faced a series of challenges. Yet in both nations the First World War would fundamentally change this relationship.

Finally, and more speculatively, the book and this research suggest that while liberalism does indeed moderate nationalism, nationalism makes liberalism possible. The implied argument from Michael Hechter's (2000) Containing Nationalism was that nationalism is a destructive ideology that must be harnessed. And given the often bloody historical record in which nationalism is implicated, it is difficult to argue with this. However, this is only one aspect of nationalism's checkered history. There is another. Classically, nationalism and liberalism emerged together in nineteenth-century Europe, and established a historical pattern in which liberalism was successful when married with nationalism, stronger when embedded in nationalism. Equally, liberalism failed when it was seen as alien and imposed from the outside (Mongiu-Pippidi 2015:92-93). What is important about this historical moment is that liberalism, in different ways, infused these nationalisms. In other words, liberalism was enmeshed in the national framework. There was nothing inevitable about this. At other moments, most especially during the interwar period, the dominant nationalisms in both nations did not share this liberal character, and were more collectivist in orientation. This book has suggested that political rule played a decisive role not only in instigating nationalism but also in shaping the character of these nationalisms.

There are echoes of these liberal nationalisms in the politics of contemporary nationalism in Scotland and Quebec. In the run up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the SNP Scottish government signaled that "a commitment to a multi-cultural Scotland will be a cornerstone of the nation on independence" sketching an inclusive model of citizenship that took account of whether or not individuals viewed themselves as partially or exclusively Scottish, and made reference to the reality of individuals' multiple identities (Scottish Government 2013:271). In contrast, in 2013 the PQ Quebec government's proposed "Charter of Values" was restrictive, most especially with its insistence that public employees should not wear or display religious symbols. The danger, as Gerard Bouchard (2015:152) points out, with this latter development is that it not only suggested a break with decades of pluralism in Quebec but also spelled the end of "a very successful combination of nationalism and liberalism." This to say, the relationship between liberalism and nationalism continues to be important and as these recent events make clear it is implicated in current debates in Scotland and Quebec.


University of Edinburgh


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It is a great honor to receive the John Porter prize. As a graduate student, Porter's Vertical Mosaic was compulsory reading for the ethnic relations area exam. I learned much from that work. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Jim Connelly and the Canadian Sociological Association's John Porter Award Committee, to Rima Wilkes, to John A. Hall, and most especially to Lilli Riga.

James Kennedy, Department of Sociology, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, Scotland. E-mail:

(1.) It is worth noting that while one of the first Young Scots' branches was the Edinburgh Women's branch, thereafter women played only a limited role in the society. It is likely that other organizations presented themselves as more obvious avenues for women's activism during this period both within and outside the Liberal Party (Kennedy 2013:211-12).

(2.) follow Joseph Levitt (1972) in similarly identifying these individuals as the focus of this study.
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Author:Kennedy, James
Publication:Canadian Review of Sociology
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2016
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