“The Constitutional Movement: Further Opinions from the English Press,” The Globe (10 August 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Future of Canada”, The Globe [Toronto] (10 August 1864).
The Constitutional Movement
FURTHER OPINIONS FROM THE ENGLISH PRESS
(From the London Daily News, July 20.)
It must be borne in mind, that the union of parties now witnessed is no more than a coalition, although one of the most justifiable kind, guarded and dignified by a specific and worthy common end. Should the project fail, the two Canadas cannot fall back into their former relations to each other; the exposure of the defects of the Union of 1840 may rather be expected to drive the people of the Upper Province to seek out new expedients for putting an end to a state of things which is found to be intolerable. At present, however, the prospect is fair, and there is something really inspiriting in the thought of a union of the best public men of the colony, who had long been divided, for the promotion and attainment of so noble an object. The work, however, it must be remembered, is only just begun. No fully developed scheme has yet been given to the public, although the cardinal points of the ministerial proposal are known. The Canadian ministers have pledged themselves at one to commence negotiations for the federation of all the British American Provinces, and, waiting a successful issue of these, they undertake to legislate during the next session for the introduction of the federal principle into Canada alone, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces to enter the Canadian system as soon as they are ready to do so. Representatives of the Canadian Government will at one be sent to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and also to England, in order to secure the assent of the Maritime Provinces and the Home Government to the proposal.
Judging from the past, we might have apprehended some serious resistance from Lower Canada to this comprehensive scheme. That Province, besides being impelled by the timidity of weakness to an excessive conservatism, has undoubtedly profited both politically and materially by a constitutional arrangement which formally gives it equality in the common legislature, and by means of which, with inferior elements of strength, it has contrived to secure a practical ascendency in that body. Nevertheless, the appearance of the names of Mr. Cartier, Mr. Galt, and Sir Etienne Tache, the most eminent politicians of the Lower Province, among the promoters of this plan, it seems to show that it is not by the constituents that the design will be thwarted. No doubt, even if Lower Canada should lose under the proposed arrangement some of the advantages and privileges she now enjoys, the change, nevertheless, would be for her benefit, inasmuch as her peculiar laws and institutions would in a federation be placed under the guardianship of her own special legislature. It is worthy of notice that the Canadian Ministers, instead of dissolving the Assembly, have undertaken to meet the existing Parliament with their plan, so that the federation may possibly become a fact before the next general election. At present we have no means of ascertaining how fair the Maritime Provinces are likely to fall into the scheme. The election they are called to make is truly serious, for it is evident that, although the word independence has never been mentioned, and although probably the most democratic member of the Cabinet does not support the scheme as part of a settled plan of separation from English, the project has its origin in the felt necessity for giving the Provinces of British North America, for their own sake and in their own right, a due place in the American system of States. The tendency of the change is, therefore, towards independence, apart from the individual views and wishes of its authors, and the people of the Maritime Provinces may not welcome what to them is a call to commit themselves to the unknown fortunes of Canada entering upon a new career, and to weaken their connexion with England. Their decision, however, will be given freely, and, as we have seen, the application of the federal principle to the Canadas will not depend on their concurrence.
(From the London Standard, July 28.)
We think that in discussing this matter, it is wise to avoid, as far as possible, any reference to the rankling national feuds of former days. We have, no matter by what races peopled, a vast, rich, and loyal territory, continually advancing in wealth and civilization, on generally amicable terms with the mother country, and, in the valley of the St. Lawrence, “the best fed, best clad, best housed, best conducted, and most contented peasantry in the world.” Where a solitary wigwam stood seventy years ago stands now the flourishing city of Toronto. Where the first tree was felled, thirty years since, the walls of a Parliament House are rising. Where all was one dark unbroken forest, the richest harvests of the earth are reaped. Trading ports and wooden prairie towns change rapidly into clusters of warehouses, shops and mansions. Canals and railways multiply with amazing swiftness. Civilization and enterprise are pushing to the immense interior. “War with woods!” is the settler’s cry, and the axe and torch are incessantly at work, clearing the way for industry. We persist in regarding the probable question of the future respecting the Canadas as most important. It cannot be long before a serious problem must be solved in connection with the mighty region of Hudson’s Bay, in its relations towards our greatest American possession. Few persons in this kingdom are accustomed to reflect upon the giant destinies which may be in store for those far-stretching lands. Fifteen hundred miles of British territory form only the approach to two thousand more, extending to the Pacific, with huge branches spreading to the Polar Sea, and making up, with all the other dependencies, nearly a ninth of the entire terrestrial globe. This space of the earth’s surface will not for ever remain unpeople and barren. The officials of the company grow wheat at a profit at Ford Liard. The crops in Rupert’s Land, at a high elevation, are excellent, with indifferent farming. Sub-artic America, indeed, is in no sense a natural desert, though the company’s licence has gone a long way to make it one, the company having a clever knack of publishing books in which the timber is described as so hard frozen that is must be chopped with cleavers of steel, ordinary hatchets breaking upon it like glass, with other absurdities designed to bolster up a monopoly, in which the Whigs have meddled, but which they have not had the courage or the common sense to regulate on principles of justice and public policy. In the meantime the fur-bearing animals, and we fear the Indian tribes, are being rapidly exterminated, while complications between the Canadas and the company are springing up. Nearly half a continent cannot permanently be kept as a preserve for the sake of a joint-stock association. Then the Canadians have a deep interest in the Red River Settlement, (not sure) though it has been, by causes not altogether natural, from the other British territories in North America. They are pioneering and clearing in that direction also, in order to cultivate the intermediate lands and effect a complete social, if not political, junction. “All around me,” says a chief of the Saskatchewan country, “I see the smoke of the white man rise”—where the Scotch grazier exclaimed “a hundred thousand cattle might be fed and fattened here for nothing!” The North Americans, by an easier passage, are working their way towards this extraordinary settlement, and for that reason, too, a large party of intelligent politicians in Canada dwell on the idea of a general amalgamation. In fact, these immense territories can never be brought within the boundaries of civilization and culture unless by Canada. From Canada they must get a Government, a policy, and the impulses to moral and material progress. From Canada they must, in the first instance, derive a settled population. New Columbia owes its existence to Canadian influences, and it was expressly declared from the Throne, as a link in the chain which would ultimately connect the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. It is clear, however, that the Hudson’s Bay monopoly, or the remnants of it, must succumb, if the great purpose thus indicated is to be fully developed. Hostile influences are pressing upon it from all quarters—from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the coasts of Labrador. Pro pelle cutem is no longer a motto which will avail to maintain for a shadowy corporation a sort of Asiatic autocracy over an almost illimitable area of British dominions. York Factory—
“A monstrous blot
On a swampy spot,
Within the sight of the Frozen Sea,”
must become a British settlement open to all comers, or be extinguished. No serious attempt at colonisation was ever made by the company, which always behaved selfishly and insolently towards Canada, and which opposed to the utmost the entrance of civilisation and agriculture into Vancouver’s Island and British Columbia. It is easy for agents to talk about a valuable race of animals protected by a careful hunting policy; but the monopoly has closed the gates of other territories than those in which the musk-rat, the beaver, and the silver fox are chased. Canada, however, wants a Far West of her own. She has long aimed at having a settled boundary, and to lay out township within the Hudson’s Bay territory in order to take advantage of fertile lands, now lying waste. It may be urged that the colony has enough to do in the basin of the Ottawa and on the shores of Lake Huron, and that she has a large debt, but at this very time Whig organs are urging the prudence of throwing upon Canada the whole cost of its own armaments and defences, including a navy. A chain of colonies, however, we must confess, leaguing under one central Government along the whole length of the northern frontier of the United States, having free communication with each other and access to Great Britain through the whole year, without passing through foreign territory, appears an idea at once solid, practical, and statesmanlike. But the Canadas cannot undertake the duty of defending, in case of need, the entirety of British North America, unless they are assured that a common sentiment exists throughout that enormous region which, in the progress of time, will result in a common charter and a league, still with the crown of Great Britain shining on its apex.