Page images
PDF
EPUB

impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion through every part of the world”-a description that came with good grace from the descendants of those who had come to America for liberty to worship God in their own way, from those who were themselves about to rebel! And there are even yet to be found those who look upon the Quebec Act as a tragedy. Whatever other effect it had, however, it certainly removed the grievances of the native Canadian, reconciled him, at least partially, to British rule, and helped to checkmate the attempt of the Americans to make Canadians as disloyal as themselves.

Upon terms of peace being arranged between Great Britain and her revolting Colonies, the United States agreed that Congress should earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of their respective States to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties belonging to real British subjects. Congress was also earnestly to recommend to the several States a reconsideration and revision of all laws in the premises, so as to make them perfectly consistent with justice and equity, and with that spirit of conciliation which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. The United Enpire Loyalists had left home and property that they might retain their allegiance and their flag: when they asked for the benefit of this provision, they not only did not get back their property which had been confiscated, but they were met with insult and contumely. It is only the other day that American historians came to speak with respect of these "Tories" who gave up all for the sake of their loyalty to the British flag-an example of loyalty almost without parallel in history, ancient or modern.

Upper Canada was settled to a great extent by these United Empire Loyalists and, accordingly, but from other causes, Upper Canada was as little attracted by the United States as her neighbour, Lower Canada.

It was little wonder then that, when the United States, with the intent and for the purpose of conquering Canada, launched the iniquitous war of 1812, the Upper Canadian, either a former American or the son of a former American, proved as determined a foe to the American as his fellow-subject in Lower Canada. The promises of the invader were discounted, his threats despised, his force resisted-how gloriously resisted, all Canadians know.

De Salaberry in the east at Chateauguay showed what could be done by French-Canadian valour and skill; in the west Sir Isaac Brock was everywhere, and his spirit pervaded everything and everybody. When he met a glorious death at Queenston Heights, it is not too much to say that, if Wolfe took Canada for Britain, and Carleton preserved it for her in the first great peril, in the second, Brock died having saved Canada for the Empire in aeternum, as against any outside foe or invader.

What was thereafter to be feared was not external aggression, but treason within-either treason against the Crown on the part of Canadians or treason against the rights of freeborn Canadians on the part of those who were charged with the government of Canada, whether in Westminster, or in Quebec, or in Toronto.

I have elsewhere traced the constitutional history of Canada: and here and now only point out that while arbitrary measures provoked temporary opposition, the main course has been a gradual giving way by the Home Government to the advancing democracy of the Canadian people, until now we have unlimited Home Rule, unlimited control over our own affairs. Canada, a daughter in her mother's house, is mistress in her own. And it has been that gradual yielding to the demands of the Colony which has kept us such enthusiastic supporters of British connection. We could not be British in the highest and truest sense, unless we were in every sense free men.

rebellion there was once—technically and legally treason--that was in 1837-1838. I do not intend to say much about that singular episode in Canadian historyperhaps the full story cannot be told, certainly it has not been told. It may even be that it should not yet be told, and I have no intention of attempting to tell it.

Speaking of the fiasco in Upper Canada, it is almost certain that very few of those who took part in that movement, even of those who took up arms, had any idea of an actual revolt-of active opposition in arms against the Crown. Some few of the leaders perhaps quite appreciated the gravity of their proceedings, but not the main body of their supporters. To many it was a mere frolic, to most but a political demonstration, though to no small number it was the occasion of lifelong regret, of disgrace, and to some few of death itself.

In Lower Canada the facts were rather different; the rebellious habitant intended to rebel, but the rebellion was rather racial than political.

In neither Province had the movement the slightest chance of success. Sir Francis Bond Head with all his folly was not wrong in considering that there was no need of Imperial troops to keep Upper Canada to her allegiance. Upper Canada was, as she always has been, loyal to the core: and not even the wrongs which no small portion of her people were labouring under could induce her to become an outcast from the Empire.

In Lower Canada the Imperial troops were much in evidence, but they received strenuous and whole-hearted assistance from the loyal French and English Canadians.

The trouble never was very serious and needed not to cause much anxiety, so long as the United States did not interfere. While there was altogether too much favour shown to the rebels by State Governments and State officers, the conduct of the central Government and its officers was, in most instances, beyond reproach.

This, the only instance in Canadian History of open treason on the part of Canadians--with the exception of the North-West troubles—passed away with little but beneficial results. Lord Durham came as a consequence of the Rebellion-and in consequence of his report, Canada received her true status as a self-governing nation.

I think it may not be without interest if I say a few words about one or two other incidents in our history.

The story of the trade relations between the United States on the one hand and Canada and the Mother Country on the other, is very curious. When the Treaty of Peace was made in 1785 between the Old Land and the new United States, the United States proposed that they be allowed to participate in the trade with the colonies on this Continent on the same terms as England, but this met with a firm refusal. Negotiations were renewed in 1785 and 1789 without success. Even when Jay got his Treaty through in 1794, the Imperial Government refused to give way on trade relations. American ships were seized, and this furnished a pretext for the war of 1812; it was only a pretext, for there is no possible doubt that the real object of this war was the conquest and absorption of Canada. The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 was silent on the matter. In 1817. Congress attempted retaliation, non-intercourse was decreed, and at last in 1825 England gave way.

But this - time the Americans balked, and when they came round the British Government had become angry and refused to listen to Gallatin, the American Minister, when he tried to have the matter placed on a satisfactory basis.

In 1830 a limited arrangement was arrived at, which lasted till the Reciprocity Treaty in 1854. Up to 1830 and for a time thereafter, Canada did not take much interest in the matter: Britain gave her a preference for her wheat and other products, and the Navigation Laws worried the Americans chiefly.

But Britain determined on a Free Trade policy. Sir Robert Peel was forced by the Irish Famine in 1845 to advocate the abolition of protection, and finally, early in 1846, the Corn Laws were repealed by Parliament. Theretofore, for a time at least, Canadian wheat had been admitted to the British markets, but other wheat had been practically kept out by heavy duties.

By the repeal of the Corn Laws and lumber duties, Canada lost her preference. Stanley declared that the basis of colonial union was destroyed—the mill owners, forwarders, and merchants of Canada were on the verge of ruin.

In 1846, the Legislature of Canada passed an address to the Queen asking that if the grain of the United States should be admitted free into Great Britain, the grain, etc., of Canada should be admitted

[ocr errors]

free into the United States. But 'converts are always enthusiasts'; and Great Britain was too ardent a convert to her new creed of Free Trade to stipulate with the United States for any Reciprocity. Congress in the same year passed legislation permitting Canadian bonded exports and imports to pass through the United States—thus giving large profits to the merchants and carriers and filling with traffic the canals of New York; but it did not tend

to build up Canadian cities and ports. About the same time Lord Elgin wrote to Lord Grey: "I believe that the conviction that they would be better off if they were annexed, is almost universal among the commercial classes at present”-and he gave an alarming account of the state of trade—and added "not only the organs of the league, but those of the government and of the Peel Party are always writing as if it were an admitted fact that colonies are a burden to be endured only because they cannot be got rid of: the end may be nearer at hand than we wot of.”

Stagnation was universal in Canada, prosperity and progress in that part of the United States near her; many of the younger men lost faith in Canada and thought the only way out of the terrible position in which she found herself was annexation to the United States. Many men, some of them of great note and undoubted loyalty in after life, signed, in 1849, a manifesto in favour of union with the nation to the SouthSir John Rose, Sir John J. C. Abbott, Sir Francis Johnson, Sir David MacPherson, Sir George Cartier, Luther Holton, Sir Aimé A. Dorion, E. Goff Penny, the Molsons, the Redpaths, the Workmans—all names held in honour in Canada. It is to be borne in mind that no enmity against the Mother Land was expressed or intended. What was in view was a peaceful separation, gladly or at least cheerfully submitted to by the Old Land. The movement never seems to have laid hold upon the body of the people, and it speedily died out. John A. Macdonald advocated the formation of a British America League, whose first principle was to maintain inviolate the connection with the Mother Country. This

« PreviousContinue »