Tory (tô´rē), English political party. The term was originally applied to outlaws in Ireland and was adopted as a derogatory name for supporters of the duke of York (later James II) at the time (c.1679–1680) when the 1st earl of Shaftesbury was proposing the duke's exclusion from the succession because of his adherence to Roman Catholicism. (The Shaftesbury group came to be known as the Whig party.) Thus the term Tory came to designate the group of men sharing beliefs in ecclesiastical uniformity, strong use of the royal prerogative, and the doctrine of divine, hereditary right to the throne. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, which many Tory leaders supported, forced most Tories to accept some concept of limited royal power, but the party retained its close identification with the Church of England, favoring the restriction of the rights of non-Anglicans. The party at that time represented primarily the country gentry, who, in addition to their staunch Anglicanism, tended to oppose England's involvement in foreign wars. The Tories were favored by Queen Anne and reached the zenith of their early power (1710–14) under the leadership of Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, and Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke. Their hegemony was broken after the accession of George I, and the party was discredited for its connections with the Jacobites. Supremacy for the next 50 years passed to the Whig factions. After the accession of George III (1760) Tory sympathizers supported the power of the sovereign as the
William Pitt revitalized the faction after 1783, giving it a more solid parliamentary basis. The Tories again became reactionary under the impact of the French Revolution but entrenched themselves so firmly in control of the government that they were not dislodged until 1830. In the 1820s the Tories made some attempt to adopt a program of reform, but the Reform Bill of 1832 (see Reform Acts) demoralized the party and destroyed its strength in the House of Commons. The party that grew up thereafter from the remnants of the Tory group came to be known as the Conservative party. Conservatives to the present day are still referred to as Tories. In the American colonies during the American Revolution, the term Tory was used to signify those who adhered to the policies of the mother country, the Loyalists.
See K. Feiling, History of the Tory Party, 1640–1714 (1924, repr. 1959); The Second Tory Party, 1714–1832 (1938, repr. 1959); L. Colley, In Defense of Oligarchy: The Tory Oligarchy, 1714–1760 (1982).