Edmund Burke, John Whyte, and Themes in Canadian Constitutional Culture
20 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 27 Jul 2010
Date Written: 2006
John Whyte, the author observes, is committed to the idea that there are moral foundations to Canada’s constitutional order and that these foundations are derived from liberal principles. This paper compares Whyte’s liberal and organicist constitutionalism to that of the eighteenth century British political thinker, Edmund Burke. Three themes are predominant in Whyte’s work: those of liberty and security, unity and diversity, and constitutional change. Drawing out these themes in both Whyte’s and Burke’s constitutional thought, the author argues that Whyte has a sound historical basis for deriving Canadian constitutional practices from liberal principles ordinarily associated with Burke. The author concludes by asking this question: if Canadian constitutionalism can be reduced to liberalism, what distinguishes Canada from the United States, and more critically, what will prevent Canada from being absorbed into a larger North American political unit?
Keywords: John Whyte, Edmund Burke, constitutionalism, liberalism, Canada, United States
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