I've started reading about British Victorian politics, and I have a question about an apparent tension in Victorian conservatism. I'd like to get a better understanding of it so I can have a framework in place as I read more.
In short, conservatives value tradition. Edmund Burke expressed this in Reflections on the Revolution in France, when he asserted that even arbitrary social traditions and hierarchies can be valuable, because they have a stabilizing or even ennobling influence on society as a whole. At the same time, conservatives also value religion, and nationalism. The logic seems to follow, if British traditions are important, then that includes the English church, crown, and national destiny. But as the British Empire expanded they came into ever closer contact with very different cultural and political traditions in China, India, Africa, and elsewhere.
This appears to invite a contradiction. If British traditions are best, they should be exported, and if the Christian religion is true, then it should be proselytized. But if all tradition is important for its own sake, and national or ethnic character is thought to be resistant to change, then it follows that local customs ought to be respected. In fact, Burke himself condemned the East India Company for their disruptive influence in British India, which he said "began in commerce, and ended in empire."
And yet by the late Victorian era the conservative party appears to have been the one most closely identified with British nationalism and imperial expansion. So I'm very curious how, along they way, they resolved this (apparent) tension between valuing tradition and exporting British culture and religion, how that resolution translated into their theory and policy, and whether it was ever the source of debate or disagreement in conservative ranks.
Thanks for your time.