Page images
PDF
EPUB

was done in 1850, and the efforts of this League coupled with other causes resulted in the disappearance of the annexation sentimient. Perhaps the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 gave the desire for annexation its death blow. Since that time, whatever may sometimes have been said by orators desirous of fastening an odious charge upon political opponents, there never has been any annexation sentiment in Canada.

During the Civil War in the United States, the upper classes in Britain were, speaking generally, sympathizers with the South; the Union party were exceedingly angry at the want of sympathy with their cause. It was largely this anger which brought about the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1834. I have elsewhere described what took place:

The Treaty terminated March 17th, 1866. Politicians in the United States had been outspoken in the view that the complete abrogation of trade between Canada and the United States would bring about the speedy annexation of the former-the word was 'starve the Canadians into annexation, compel them to a close union, a political union as well as commercial-not partial but entire and complete. The Consul-General of the United States at Montreal openly expressed sentiments of this character at a public meeting at Detroit, and many a man was urged in terms such as these: “Sustain Reciprocity and you establish monarchy in British North America; defeat it and you ensure the triumph of republicanism over this continent.' In vain did men like Joseph Howe say, 'No consideration of finance, no question of balance, for or against them upon interchanges of commodities can have any effect upon the loyalty of the British Provinces, or tend in the slightest degree to alienate the affections of the people from their country, their institutions, their government, and their Queen. There is not a man who dare, on the abrogation of the Treaty, if such should be its fate, take the hustings and appeal to any constituency on annexation principles throughout the entire domain.'

[ocr errors]

The result was what Howe foretold, and entirely different from what had been anticipated in the United States. Indeed the failure of the confident prophecies of those desiring the annexation of Canada was as marked as was the utter and disgraceful failure to implement the boast of easy and speedy conquest of Canada in 1812.

I have elsewhere thus described the results which followed the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty:

The Reciprocity Treaty, procured with so much trouble was denounced, and Canada had necessarily to seek other markets. Much suffering ensued—I know whereof I speak—but no word of weak complaining was heard. The United States had a right to do as they did, and hard hit as Canada was, she recognized that right. But she had then to seek new markets and, what was more difficult, must adapt her output to the new markets. Time and again was the attempt made to procure more favourable consideration for her products from the authorities at Washington. As often was the attempt a failure

And the manner in which my country has gone through her years of trouble and anxiety, of penury and care, till now, with her new avenues of trade well beaten, and her commerce thoroughly established, she can look the whole world in the face and challenge admiration, is known to all who keep track of the world's commercial and industrial history.

Other important results followed the abrogation of the Treaty; the Federation of the Provinces then under consideration was hastened on and became an accomplished fact within fifteen months, the project of an Intercolonial Railway which had been allowed to lapse was taken up with vigour and pushed on, Commissioners were sent to British and other West India Islands to seek trade, the canals were enlarged, ocean and river steamship lines projected and subsidized, and ship-building received a vigorous impetus. The traffic between the United States and Canada fell from an average during the three years before the repeal, of $75,000,000 per annum, to an average of $57,000,000 per annum for the three years after the repeal. The trade of the Dominion speedily recovered from the blow, and soon overtook and far surpassed its former figures.

Delegates from Canada went to Washington in January, 1866, and remained a fortnight in the endeavour to negotiate a new treaty, but without effect.

In March a bill for the same purpose was introduced in the House of Representatives, but failed to pass.

Both parties in Canada were and for long continued to be anxious for Reciprocity to be renewed : and was not till after statesmen of both parties had been received with coldness and their approaches rejected, sometimes with scant courtesy, that the project was looked upon as hopeless, and Canada reconciled herself to work out her destiny without the supposed advantage of friendly and favourable trade relations with the more numerous people to

the South. But during all that time of stress there was no recrudescence of the annexation sentiment of 1849—no Canadian, however hard hit, even hinted at buying better trade relations through renunciation by Canada of her birthright as a member of the British Empire.

A little later, an attempt made by the late Goldwin Smith to stir up some feeling of the kind met with ridiculous and well-deserved failure—he failed to understand in almost every particular the Canadian people.

There is another interesting episode which should be nientioned: it has never received the attention which, to my mind, it deserves.

For a time after the American civil war there were negotiations which might have resulted in Canada being called upon to make a definite choice as to her continued union with Britain. Up to 1870, I think it may fairly be said, it was the feeling in official circles in Westminster that Canada was on the way to separation from the Empire, a separation that would inevitably come; and that such separation would be well for both the Mother

Country and the Colony. Beaconsfield, generally considered as an Imperialist of the extreme type, had been reported as speaking of "our wretched colonies which hang like a millstone around our necks.” The Times as late as 1869 in an article probably inspired said: "Instead of the Colonies being dependencies of the Mother Country, the Mother Country is a dependency of the Colonies. We are tied while they are loose. We are subject to danger while they are free.” And shortly after, when there was some complaint in Canada as to some of the provisions of the Treaty of Washington of 1871, the Times said openly and bluntly: "From this day forth look after your troubles yourself; you are big enough, you are strong enough, you are intelligent enough

We are both now in a false position, and the time has arrived when we should be relieved from it. Take up your freedom, your days of apprenticeship are over.

This feeling in influential circles was well known to the American Government: and I think it clear that the idea of getting hold of Canada was the governing motive in the mind of Sumner when he brought about the rejection by the Senate of the Johnson-Clarendon Convention intended to get rid of the difficulty between Britain and the United States over the Alabama matter. Goldwin Smith, amongst others, foresaw (as they thought) at that time that the end of it all was to be the annexation of Canada by way of full indemnity for the alleged wrongs of Britain against the United States—as Adams put it, “An ultimate seizure of Canada by way of indemnification. Zach. Chandler, Senator from Michigan, spoke in violent terms against Britain and stated baldly "his desire that Great Britain should possess no territory on the American Continent."

When Mr. Rose, afterwards Sir John Rose, was introduced, or introduced himself, into the negotiations going on, and informed Secretary Fish of how far he could go in the way of concessions, Sumner said: “The greatest trouble, if not peril, being a constant source of anxiety and disturbance, is from Fenianism, which is excited by the British flag in Canada. Therefore, the withdrawal of the British flag cannot be abandoned as a condition or preliminary of such a settlement as is now proposed. To make the settlement complete, the withdrawal should be from this hemisphere, including provinces and islands." Sir Edward Thornton, the British Ambassador, sincerely wished a settlement of the trouble ; he repeated what he had often said before, that Great Britain was willing, even anxious, for the Colony to become independent, but could not force independence upon Canada, and he added: "It is impossible to connect the question of Canadian independence with the Alabama claims, not even to the extent of providing for the reference of the question of independence to a popular vote of the people of the Dominion. Independence nieans annexation. They are one and the same thing."

The President, General Grant, went himself the length of suggesting to Thornton the possibility of Britain quitting Canada, and Hamilton Fish urged it upon him. Thornton replied: "Oh, you know, that we cannot do. The Canadians find fault with me for saying so openly as I do that we are ready to let them go whenever they shall wish; but they do not desire it.” Fish claimed that it was the manifest destiny of Canada to be annexed to the United States, and hoped it might be in Grant's administration.

The proposition that Canada should be handed over in payment of Great Britain's debts did not escape the notice of Canadians. From one end of the Dominion to another, an outraged cry went up without distinction of race, creed, or politics. No one can forget the sledgehammer articles by the late George Brown, and they were but a sample of the whole.

It was in vain for Thornton to say: "It is impossible for Great Britain to inaugurate a separation. They are willing and even desirous to have one.” Canadians with one voice said: “We shall not separate ; our flag and our Queen are the flag and the Queen of the British Empire, and we shall not give up our share in them.”

Grant had been accustomed to look on Great Britain as an enemy; he was strongly inclined to a policy of territorial expansion; he had said that if Sherman could

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »