When the American war began troops were sent out to Canada, and when I was in the provinces more troops were then expected. The matter was much talked of, as a matter of course, in Canada, and it had been discussed in England before I left. I had seen much said about it in the English papers since, and it also had become the subject of very hot question among the politicians of the Northern States. The measure had at that time given more umbrage to the North than anything else done or said by England from the beginning of the war up to that time, except the declaration made by Lord John Russell in the House of Commons as to the neutrality to be preserved by England between the two belligerents. The argument used by the Northern States was this: if France collects men and material of war in the neighborhood of England, England considers herself injured, calls for an explanation, and talks of invasion. Therefore, as England is now collecting men and material of war in our neighborhood, we will consider ourselves injured. It does not suit us to ask for an explanation, because it is not our habit to interfere with other nations. We will not pretend to say that we think we are to be invaded. But as we clearly are injured, we will express our anger at that injury, and when the opportunity shall come will take advantage of having that new grievance.
As we all know, a very large increase of force was sent when we were still in doubt as to the termination of the Trent affair, and imagined that war was imminent. But the sending of that large force did not anger the Americans as the first dispatch of troops to Canada had angered them. Things had so turned out that measures of military precaution were acknowledged by them to be necessary. I cannot, however, but think that Mr. Seward might have spared that offer to send British troops across Maine, and so also have all his countrymen thought by whom I have heard the matter discussed.
As to any attempt at invasion of Canada by the Americans, or idea of punishing the alleged injuries suffered by the States from Great Britain by the annexation of those provinces, I do not believe that any sane-minded citizens of the States believe in the possibility of such retaliation. Some years since the Americans thought that Canada might shine in the Union firmament as a new star; but that delusion is, I think, over. Such annexation, if ever made, must have been made not only against the arms of England, but must also have been made in accordance with the wishes of the people so annexed. It was then believed that the Canadians were not averse to such a change, and there may possibly have then been among them the remnant of such a wish. There is certainly no such desire now, not even a remnant of such a desire; and the truth on this matter is, I think, generally acknowledged. The feeling in Canada is one of strong aversion to the United States government and of predilection for self-government under the English Crown. A faineant governor and the prestige of British power is now the political aspiration of the Canadians in general; and I think that this is understood in the States. Moreover, the States have a job of work on hand which, as they themselves are well aware, is taxing all their energies. Such being the case, I do not think that England needs to fear any invasion of Canada authorized by the States government.
This feeling of a grievance on the part of the States was a manifest absurdity. The new reinforcement of the garrisons in Canada did not, when I was in Canada, amount, as I believe, to more than 2000 men. But had it amounted to 20,000, the States would have had no just ground for complaint. Of all nationalities that in modern days have risen to power, they, above all others, have shown that they would do what they liked with their own, indifferent to foreign counsels and deaf to foreign remonstrance. “Do you go your way, and let us go ours. We will trouble you with no question, nor do you trouble us.” Such has been their national policy, and it has obtained for them great respect. They have resisted the temptation of putting their fingers into the caldron of foreign policy; and foreign politicians, acknowledging their reserve in this respect, have not been offended at the bristles with which their Noli me tangere has been proclaimed. Their intelligence has been appreciated, and their conduct has been respected. But if this has been their line of policy, they must be entirely out of court in raising any question as to the position of British troops on British soil.
“It shows us that you doubt us,” an American says, with an air of injured honor — or did say, before that Trent affair. “And it is done to express sympathy with the South. The Southerners understand it, and we understand it also. We know where your hearts are — nay, your very souls. They are among the slave-begotten cotton bales of the rebel South.” Then comes the whole of the long argument in which it seems so easy to an Englishman to prove that England, in the whole of this sad matter, has been true and loyal to her friend. She could not interfere when the husband and wife would quarrel. She could only grieve, and wish that things might come right and smooth for both parties. But the argument, though so easy, is never effectual.
It seems to me foolish in an American to quarrel with England for sending soldiers to Canada; but I cannot say that I thought it was well done to send them at the beginning of the war. The English government did not, I presume, take this step with reference to any possible invasion of Canada by the government of the States. We are fortifying Portsmouth, and Portland, and Plymouth, because we would fain be safe against the French army acting under a French Emperor. But we sent 2000 troops to Canada, if I understand the matter rightly, to guard our provinces against the filibustering energies of a mass of unemployed American soldiers, when those soldiers should come to be disbanded. When this war shall be over — a war during which not much, if any, under a million of American citizens will have been under arms — it will not be easy for all who survive to return to their old homes and old occupations. Nor does a disbanded soldier always make a good husbandman, notwithstanding the great examples of Cincinnatus and Bird-o’-freedom Sawin. It may be that a considerable amount of filibustering energy will be afloat, and that the then government of those who neighbor us in Canada will have other matters in hand more important to them than the controlling of these unruly spirits. That, as I take it, was the evil against which we of Great Britain and of Canada desired to guard ourselves.
But I doubt whether 2000 or 10,000 British soldiers would be any effective guard against such inroads, and I doubt more strongly whether any such external guarding will be necessary. If the Canadians were prepared to fraternize with filibusters from the States, neither three nor ten thousand soldiers would avail against such a feeling over a frontier stretching from the State of Maine to the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Erie. If such a feeling did exist — if the Canadians wished the change — in God’s name let them go. It is for their sakes, and not for our own, that we would have them bound to us. But the Canadians are averse to such a change with a degree of feeling that amounts to national intensity. Their sympathies are with the Southern States, not because they care for cotton, not because they are anti-abolitionists, not because they admire the hearty pluck of those who are endeavoring to work out for themselves a new revolution. They sympathize with the South from strong dislike to the aggression, the braggadocio, and the insolence they have felt upon their own borders. They dislike Mr. Seward’s weak and vulgar joke with the Duke of Newcastle. They dislike Mr. Everett’s flattering hints to his countrymen as to the one nation that is to occupy the whole continent. They dislike the Monroe doctrine. They wonder at the meekness with which England has endured the vauntings of the Northern States, and are endued with no such meekness of their own. They would, I believe, be well prepared to meet and give an account of any filibusters who might visit them; and I am not sure that it is wisely done on our part to show any intention of taking the work out of their hands.
But I am led to this opinion in no degree by a feeling that Great Britain ought to grudge the cost of the soldiers. If Canada will be safer with them, in Heaven’s name let her have them. It has been argued in many places, not only with regard to Canada, but as to all our self-governed colonies, that military service should not be given at British expense and with British men to any colony which has its own representative government and which levies its own taxes. “While Great Britain absolutely held the reins of government, and did as it pleased with the affairs of its dependencies,” such politicians say, “it was just and right that she should pay the bill. As long as her government of a colony was paternal, so long was it right that the mother country should put herself in the place of a father, and enjoy a father’s undoubted prerogative of putting his hand into his breeches pocket to provide for all the wants of his child. But when the adult son set up for himself in business — having received education from the parent, and having had his apprentice fees duly paid — then that son should settle his own bills, and look no longer to the paternal pocket.” Such is the law of the world all over, from little birds, whose young fly away when fledged, upward to men and nations. Let the father work for the child while he is a child; but when the child has become a man, let him lean no longer on his father’s staff.
The argument is, I think, very good; but it proves not that we are relieved from the necessity of assisting our colonies with payments made out of British taxes, but that we are still bound to give such assistance, and that we shall continue to be so bound as long as we allow these colonies to adhere to us or as they allow us to adhere to them. In fact, the young bird is not yet fully fledged. That illustration of the father and the child is a just one, but in order to make it just it should be followed throughout. When the son is in fact established on his own bottom, then the father expects that he will live without assistance. But when the son does so live, he is freed from all paternal control. The father, while he expects to be obeyed, continues to fill the paternal office of paymaster — of paymaster, at any rate, to some extent. And so, I think, it must be with our colonies. The Canadas at present are not independent, and have not political power of their own apart from the political power of Great Britain. England has declared herself neutral as regards the Northern and Southern States, and by that neutrality the Canadas are bound; and yet the Canadas were not consulted in the matter. Should England go to war with France, Canada must close her ports against French vessels. If England chooses to send her troops to Canadian barracks, Canada cannot refuse to accept them. If England should send to Canada an unpopular governor, Canada has no power to reject his services. As long as Canada is a colony so called, she cannot be independent, and should not be expected to walk alone. It is exactly the same with the colonies of Australia, with New Zealand, with the Cape of Good Hope, and with Jamaica. While England enjoys the prestige of her colonies, while she boasts that such large and now populous territories are her dependencies, she must and should be content to pay some portion of the bill. Surely it is absurd on our part to quarrel with Caffre warfare, with New Zealand fighting, and the rest of it. Such complaints remind one of an ancient pater familias who insists on having his children and his grandchildren under the old paternal roof, and then grumbles because the butcher’s bill is high. Those who will keep large households and bountiful tables should not be afraid of facing the butcher’s bill or unhappy at the tonnage of the coal. It is a grand thing, that power of keeping a large table; but it ceases to be grand when the items heaped upon it cause inward groans and outward moodiness.
Why should the colonies remain true to us as children are true to their parents, if we grudge them the assistance which is due to a child? They raise their own taxes, it is said, and administer them. True; and it is well that the growing son should do something for himself. While the father does all for him, the son’s labor belongs to the father. Then comes a middle state in which the son does much for himself, but not all. In that middle state now stand our prosperous colonies. Then comes the time when the son shall stand alone by his own strength; and to that period of manly, self-respected strength let us all hope that those colonies are advancing. It is very hard for a mother country to know when such a time has come; and hard also for the child-colony to recognize justly the period of its own maturity. Whether or no such severance may ever take place without a quarrel, without weakness on one side and pride on the other, is a problem in the world’s history yet to be solved. The most successful child that ever yet has gone off from a successful parent, and taken its own path into the world, is without doubt the nation of the United States. Their present troubles are the result and the proofs of their success. The people that were too great to be dependent on any nation have now spread till they are themselves too great for a single nationality. No one now thinks that that daughter should have remained longer subject to her mother. But the severance was not made in amity, and the shrill notes of the old family quarrel are still sometimes heard across the waters.
From all this the question arises whether that problem may ever be solved with reference to the Canadas. That it will never be their destiny to join themselves to the States of the Union, I feel fully convinced. In the first place it is becoming evident from the present circumstances of the Union, if it had never been made evident by history before, that different people with different habits, living at long distances from each other, cannot well be brought together on equal terms under one government. That noble ambition of the Americans that all the continent north of the isthmus should be united under one flag, has already been thrown from its saddle. The North and South are virtually separated, and the day will come in which the West also will secede. As population increases and trades arise peculiar to those different climates, the interests of the people will differ, and a new secession will take place beneficial alike to both parties. If this be so, if even there be any tendency this way, it affords the strongest argument against the probability of any future annexation of the Canadas. And then, in the second place, the feeling of Canada is not American, but British. If ever she be separated from Great Britain, she will be separated as the States were separated. She will desire to stand alone, and to enter herself as one among the nations of the earth.
She will desire to stand alone; alone, that is without dependence either on England or on the States. But she is so circumstanced geographically that she can never stand alone without amalgamation with our other North American provinces. She has an outlet to the sea at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but it is only a summer outlet. Her winter outlet is by railway through the States, and no other winter outlet is possible for her except through the sister provinces. Before Canada can be nationally great, the line of railway which now runs for some hundred miles below Quebec to Riviere du Loup must be continued on through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the port of Halifax.
When I was in Canada I heard the question discussed of a federal government between the provinces of the two Canadas, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. To these were added, or not added, according to the opinion of those who spoke, the smaller outlying colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward’s Island. If a scheme for such a government were projected in Downing Street, all would no doubt be included, and a clean sweep would be made without difficulty. But the project as made in the colonies appears in different guises, as it comes either from Canada or from one of the other provinces. The Canadian idea would be that the two Canadas should form two States of such a confederation, and the other provinces a third State. But this slight participation in power would hardly suit the views of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In speaking of such a federal government as this, I shall of course be understood as meaning a confederation acting in connection with a British governor, and dependent upon Great Britain as far as the different colonies are now dependent.
I cannot but think that such a confederation might be formed with great advantage to all the colonies and to Great Britain. At present the Canadas are in effect almost more distant from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick than they are from England. The intercourse between them is very slight — so slight that it may almost be said that there is no intercourse. A few men of science or of political importance may from time to time make their way from one colony into the other, but even this is not common. Beyond that they seldom see each other. Though New Brunswick borders both with Lower Canada and with Nova Scotia, thus making one whole of the three colonies, there is neither railroad nor stage conveyance running from one to the other. And yet their interests should be similar. From geographical position their modes of life must be alike, and a close conjunction between them is essentially necessary to give British North America any political importance in the world. There can be no such conjunction, no amalgamation of interests, until a railway shall have been made joining the Canada Grand Trunk Line with the two outlying colonies. Upper Canada can feed all England with wheat, and could do so without any aid of railway through the States, if a railway were made from Quebec to Halifax. But then comes the question of the cost. The Canada Grand Trunk is at the present moment at the lowest ebb of commercial misfortune, and with such a fact patent to the world, what company will come forward with funds for making four or five hundred miles of railway, through a district of which one-half is not yet prepared for population? It would be, I imagine, out of the question that such a speculation should for many years give any fair commercial interest on the money to be expended. But nevertheless to the colonies — that is, to the enormous regions of British North America — such a railroad would be invaluable. Under such circumstances it is for the Home Government and the colonies between them to see how such a measure may be carried out. As a national expenditure, to be defrayed in the course of years by the territories interested, the sum of money required would be very small.
But how would this affect England? And how would England be affected by a union of the British North American colonies under one federal government? Before this question can be answered, he who prepares to answer it must consider what interest England has in her colonies, and for what purpose she holds them. Does she hold them for profit, or for glory, or for power; or does she hold them in order that she may carry out the duty which has devolved upon her of extending civilization, freedom, and well-being through the new uprising nations of the world? Does she hold them, in fact, for her own benefit, or does she hold them for theirs? I know nothing of the ethics of the Colonial Office, and not much perhaps of those of the House of Commons; but looking at what Great Britain has hitherto done in the way of colonization, I cannot but think that the national ambition looks to the welfare of the colonists, and not to home aggrandizement. That the two may run together is most probable. Indeed, there can be no glory to a people so great or so readily recognized by mankind at large as that of spreading civilization from east to west and from north to south. But the one object should be the prosperity of the colonists, and not profit, nor glory, nor even power, to the parent country.
There is no virtue of which more has been said and sung than patriotism, and none which, when pure and true, has led to finer results. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. To live for one’s country also is a very beautiful and proper thing. But if we examine closely much patriotism, that is so called, we shall find it going hand in hand with a good deal that is selfish, and with not a little that is devilish. It was some fine fury of patriotic feeling which enabled the national poet to put into the mouth of every Englishman that horrible prayer with regard to our enemies which we sing when we wish to do honor to our sovereign. It did not seem to him that it might be well to pray that their hearts should be softened, and our own hearts softened also. National success was all that a patriotic poet could desire, and therefore in our national hymn have we gone on imploring the Lord to arise and scatter our enemies; to confound their politics, whether they be good or ill; and to expose their knavish tricks — such knavish tricks being taken for granted. And then, with a steady confidence, we used to declare how certain we were that we should achieve all that was desirable, not exactly by trusting to our prayer to heaven, but by relying almost exclusively on George the Third or George the Fourth. Now I have always thought that that was rather a poor patriotism. Luckily for us, our national conduct has not squared itself with our national anthem. Any patriotism must be poor which desires glory, or even profit, for a few at the expense of the many, even though the few be brothers and the many aliens. As a rule, patriotism is a virtue only because man’s aptitude for good is so finite that he cannot see and comprehend a wider humanity. He can hardly bring himself to understand that salvation should be extended to Jew and Gentile alike. The word philanthropy has become odious, and I would fain not use it; but the thing itself is as much higher than patriotism as heaven is above the earth.
A wish that British North America should ever be severed from England, or that the Australian colonies should ever be so severed, will by many Englishmen be deemed unpatriotic. But I think that such severance is to be wished if it be the case that the colonies standing alone would become more prosperous than they are under British rule. We have before us an example in the United States of the prosperity which has attended such a rupture of old ties. I will not now contest the point with those who say that the present moment of an American civil war is ill chosen for vaunting that prosperity. There stand the cities which the people have built, and their power is attested by the world-wide importance of their present contest. And if the States have so risen since they left their parent’s apron-string, why should not British North America rise as high? That the time has as yet come for such rising I do not think; but that it will soon come I do most heartily hope. The making of the railway of which I have spoken, and the amalgamation of the provinces would greatly tend to such an event. If therefore, England desires to keep these colonies in a state of dependency; if it be more essential to her to maintain her own power with regard to them than to increase their influence; if her main object be to keep the colonies and not to improve the colonies, then I should say that an amalgamation of the Canadas with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick should not be regarded with favor by statesmen in Downing Street. But if, as I would fain hope, and do partly believe, such ideas of national power as these are now out of vogue with British statesmen, then I think that such an amalgamation should receive all the support which Downing Street can give it.
The United States severed themselves from Great Britain with a great struggle, and after heart-burnings and bloodshed. Whether Great Britain will ever allow any colony of hers to depart from out of her nest, to secede and start for herself, without any struggle or heart-burnings, with all furtherance for such purpose which an old and powerful country can give to a new nationality then first taking its own place in the world’s arena, is a problem yet to be solved. There is, I think, no more beautiful sight than that of a mother, still in all the glory of womanhood, preparing the wedding trousseau for her daughter. The child hitherto has been obedient and submissive. She has been one of a household in which she has held no command. She has sat at table as a child, fitting herself in all things to the behests of others. But the day of her power and her glory, and also of her cares and solicitude, is at hand. She is to go forth, and do as she best may in the world under that teaching which her old home has given her. The hour of separation has come; and the mother, smiling through her tears, sends her forth decked with a bounteous hand, and furnished with full stores, so that all may be well with her as she enters on her new duties. So is it that England should send forth her daughters. They should not escape from her arms with shrill screams and bleeding wounds, with ill-omened words which live so long, though the speakers of them lie cold in their graves.
But this sending forth of a child-nation to take its own political status in the world has never yet been done by Great Britain. I cannot remember that such has ever been done by any great power with reference to its dependency; by any power that was powerful enough to keep such dependency within its grasp. But a man thinking on these matters cannot but hope that a time will come when such amicable severance may be effected. Great Britain cannot think that through all coming ages she is to be the mistress of the vast continent of Australia, lying on the other side of the globe’s surface; that she is to be the mistress of all South Africa, as civilization shall extend northward; that the enormous territories of British North America are to be subject forever to a veto from Downing Street. If the history of past empires does not teach her that this may not be so, at least the history of the United States might so teach her. “But we have learned a lesson from those United States,” the patriot will argue who dares to hope that the glory and extent of the British empire may remain unimpaired in saecula saeculorum. “Since that day we have given political rights to our colonies, and have satisfied the political longings of their inhabitants. We do not tax their tea and stamps, but leave it to them to tax themselves as they may please.” True. But in political aspirations the giving of an inch has ever created the desire for an ell. If the Australian colonies even now, with their scanty population and still young civilization, chafe against imperial interference, will they submit to it when they feel within their veins all the full blood of political manhood? What is the cry even of the Canadians — of the Canadians who are thoroughly loyal to England? Send us a faineant governor, a King Log, who will not presume to interfere with us; a governor who will spend his money and live like a gentleman, and care little or nothing for politics. That is the Canadian beau ideal of a governor. They are to govern themselves; and he who comes to them from England is to sit among them as the silent representative of England’s protection. If that be true — and I do not think that any who know the Canadas will deny it — must it not be presumed that they will soon also desire a faineant minister in Downing Street? Of course they will so desire. Men do not become milder in their aspirations for political power the more that political power is extended to them. Nor would it be well that they should be so humble in their desires. Nations devoid of political power have never risen high in the world’s esteem. Even when they have been commercially successful, commerce has not brought to them the greatness which it has always given when joined with a strong political existence. The Greeks are commercially rich and active; but “Greece” and “Greek” are bywords now for all that is mean. Cuba is a colony, and putting aside the cities of the States, the Havana is the richest town on the other side of the Atlantic, and commercially the greatest; but the political villainy of Cuba, her daily importation of slaves, her breaches of treaty, and the bribery of her all but royal governor, are known to all men. But Canada is not dishonest; Canada is no byword for anything evil; Canada eats her own bread in the sweat of her brow, and fears a bad word from no man. True. But why does New York, with its suburbs boast a million of inhabitants, while Montreal has 85,000? Why has that babe in years, Chicago, 120,000, while Toronto has not half the number? I do not say that Montreal and Toronto should have gone ahead abreast with New York and Chicago. In such races one must be first, and one last. But I do say that the Canadian towns will have no equal chance till they are actuated by that feeling of political independence which has created the growth of the towns in the United States.
I do not think that the time has yet come in which Great Britain should desire the Canadians to start for themselves. There is the making of that railroad to be effected, and something done toward the union of those provinces. Canada could no more stand alone without New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, than could those latter colonies without Canada. But I think it would be well to be prepared for such a coming day; and that it would at any rate be well to bring home to ourselves and realize the idea of such secession on the part of our colonies, when the time shall have come at which such secession may be carried out with profit and security to them. Great Britain, should she ever send forth her child alone into the world, must of course guarantee her security. Such guarantees are given by treaties; and, in the wording of them, it is presumed that such treaties will last forever. It will be argued that in starting British North America as a political power on its own bottom, we should bind ourself to all the expense of its defense, while we should give up all right to any interference in its concerns; and that, from a state of things so unprofitable as this, there would be no prospect of a deliverance. But such treaties, let them be worded how they will, do not last forever. For a time, no doubt, Great Britain would be so hampered — if indeed she would feel herself hampered by extending her name and prestige to a country bound to her by ties such as those which would then exist between her and this new nation. Such treaties are not everlasting, nor can they be made to last even for ages. Those who word them seem to think that powers and dynasties will never pass away. But they do pass away, and the balance of power will not keep itself fixed forever on the same pivot. The time may come — that it may not come soon we will all desire — but the time may come when the name and prestige of what we call British North America will be as serviceable to Great Britain as those of Great Britain are now serviceable to her colonies.
But what shall be the new form of government for the new kingdom? That is a speculation very interesting to a politician, though one which to follow out at great length in these early days would be rather premature. That it should be a kingdom — that the political arrangement should be one of which a crowned hereditary king should form part — nineteen out of every twenty Englishmen would desire; and, as I fancy, so would also nineteen out of every twenty Canadians. A king for the United States, when they first established themselves, was impossible. A total rupture from the Old World and all its habits was necessary for them. The name of a king, or monarch, or sovereign had become horrible to their ears. Even to this day they have not learned the difference between arbitrary power retained in the hand of one man, such as that now held by the Emperor over the French, and such hereditary headship in the State as that which belongs to the Crown in Great Britain. And this was necessary, seeing that their division from us was effected by strife, and carried out with war and bitter animosities. In those days also there was a remnant, though but a small remnant, of the power of tyranny left within the scope of the British Crown. That small remnant has been removed; and to me it seems that no form of existing government, no form of government that ever did exist, gives or has given so large a measure of individual freedom to all who live under it as a constitutional monarchy in which the Crown is divested of direct political power.
I will venture then to suggest a king for this new nation; and, seeing that we are rich in princes, there need be no difficulty in the selection. Would it not be beautiful to see a new nation established under such auspices, and to establish a people to whom their independence had been given, to whom it had been freely surrendered as soon as they were capable of holding the position assigned to them!
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01