- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 29 Nov 1906, p. 93-103
- Ross, Hon. George W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The natural, the political, the commercial cleavage between Canadian America (or British America) and United States America; such proposition proved from the historical method. The trend in our history which has led us so far on our way, if there is any trend at all. Ways in which the trend of things in a country determines its future. The democratic trend in the United States. The constitutional trend in England. The great Revolution of 1688. What each of these trends led to. The trend in the history of this continent by the peoples occupying the two sides of the boundary between Canada and the U.S. The trend given by the Rebellion of 1776. A brief historical review of that time. The first bias given to public opinion on the continent of America, given by the very people themselves who wanted the support of the French-Canadians, and who wanted all the assistance that Canada could give. Subsequent events. The Revolutionary War. The development of a strong opinion in Canada favourable to the British Government. The resentment against Americans in Canada and to what that was due. The War of 1812. The attitude and financial support even of the Province of Quebec at that time. Results of the War of 1812 in terms of solidifying British opinion in the Dominion of Canada up to 1837 and Canada's own rebellion. Further events and their consequences. The Reciprocity Treaty as an event that separated the two countries. The speaker's suggestion as to how to facilitate trade between Canada and the U.S. without any treaty at all. A consideration of treaty and treaties. Canada, establishing its trade as to be independent of any nation in particular; broadening our exports; entering the world markets. The great diversion because of the Mason and Slidell episode: a review. The War of 1866. An examination of what we have done to build up a sentiment adverse to the American sentiment. Efforts made by the Imperial Government to solidify the Provinces during the time of the Civil War in the U.S. What might have happened in England had not conceded to Canada in 1837 a responsible government. Asking what an independent people might have done under the circumstances. Ways in which British diplomacy, faulty at times, but on the whole favourable to the establishment of British sovereignty, has created a line of cleavage between the two countries. Canada's future.
- Date of Original
- 29 Nov 1906
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE POLITICAL, CLEAVAGE OF A CONTINENT.
Address by the Hon. George W. Ross, LL.D., M.P.P., lately Prime Minister of Ontario, before the Empire Club of Canada, on November 29th, 1906.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--Your Chairman is going a little fast for my notion of things. I do not want to be the "Grand Old Man of Ontario" for about ten or fifteen years anyway. It is sufficient for me to be a middle-aged man with juvenile inclinations and predilections. I am very glad to meet the Club. I know of its work. I had the pleasure of speaking before this Club some time ago. I have read carefully the published volume of your annual addresses, and congratulate you upon your successes and your enterprise in preserving in a permanent form the matter which is sometimes delivered after a great deal of preparation in the form of an address. I do not speak of what I am going to say today, as it is of a less solid and less substantial nature than the addresses usually given at this Club. I was asked to go over in such form as might be convenient for me, the main features of an address I delivered at a convocation at Chicago University three or four years ago. I there intended or attempted to show that there was a natural, a political, a commercial cleavage between Canadian America (or British America) and United States America, and I endeavoured to prove from the historical method that proposition. I am not here going to discuss the question of annexation or independence. Let the facts of history speak for themselves. Let us see what trend there is in our history which has led us so far on our way, or is there any trend at all?
All readers of history know that the trend of things in a country determines its future. In the United States you have a democratic trend which has led up to this day to public ownership. You have in England a constitutional trend, which gave us the Petition of Rights. The great Revolution of 1688 gave us responsible government, and if you look into the history of almost any country in Europe, that has reached to any position, you wilt find dating back some political trend that has led to a certain goal. There has been a trend, in my judgment, in the history of this continent-by the peoples occupying the two sides of the boundary between Canada and the United States. The first trend given to the political history of this continent was by the Rebellion of 1776, or rather by the Grand Remonstrance, as they called it, or the Declaration of Rights, issued by the Philadelphia Congress which met in 1774. Up to that time the greater part or the whole of this continent was practically divided between England and Spain, and by the Declaration of Rights, the thirteen Colonies indicated their discontent with their relations to Great Britain, and, after declaring the grounds of their discontent, they remonstrated with Great Britain for the passing of the Quebec Act of 1774, the Act by which very favourable terms were given to the French race and by which concessions were made to the French language, notably by which concessions were given to the Roman Catholic religion; and in that Declaration of Rights language was used of a very strong and offensive character towards the religion which was practised and professed by the great French-Canadian population of Canada. That expression in the Declaration of Rights was accepted by the clergy of bower Canada as offensive to the race and offensive to the religion, and their sympathies, instead of going out with the thirteen Colonies, as people would naturally expect, particularly when the thirteen Colonies were backed by the French Government, were thrown in with Great Britain. That was the first bias given to public opinion on the continent of America, a bias given by the very people themselves who wanted the support of the French-Canadians, and who wanted all the assistance that Canada could give.
Now, a few years passed by, and events crowded upon each other very rapidly. When the Revolutionary War came on, the next force that determined to a great extent public opinion on our side of the line was the expulsion of the United Empire Loyalists from the United States, under great hardships and cruelty of the most inexcusable character; that projected into Canada a population of forty or fifty thousand people, and having been scattered, as they were, from the Atlantic sea-coast to the Western part of Ontario, they were a strong factor in affecting public opinion. The effect was to develop a strong opinion in Canada favourable to the British Government, and that opinion gained in force from time to time, and is really perhaps an active factor in the history of Canada at the present moment. The next event was the War of 1812, which was a war of the United States against Great Britain, in which Canada was involved and suffered severely. The city of Toronto was burned down. There were fierce battles on the Niagara Peninsula and in the Province of Quebec. The resentment against Americans in Canada, because of provoking that war, was great, and the fact that the Canadians allied themselves with the Imperial forces endeared that country to Canadians as it had not been before. Up to this time Canada had come into our possession largely by Imperial power. It was the British forces that captured Quebec. It was under British institutions that the Loyalists were settled here at an expenditure of three million pounds.
When the War of 1812 came on, Canada took a hand and paid part of its expenses on Canadian soil with her own money, and with her own sons fought for her own independence. And to show you the attitude, even of the Province of Quebec, let me state that the year before war was declared, as you will see in D. B. Reads history of the Rebellion, that the Quebec Government contributed 12,000 pounds (and that was a considerable sum in those days) for drilling the militia, and gave 24,000 pounds additional towards incidental expenses of the militia and mustering the forces, and gave 30,000 pounds more m case war should break out, and in the year of the war they voted altogether $1,000,000 to the war, and 15,000 pounds toward the redemption of the army bills which were to be issued. That was the contribution of the Quebec Legislature, and it showed the spirit of the people of Quebec in the inauguration of that war. I believe the Province of Ontario suffered more material loss than the Province of Quebec. I mention this to show that the War of 1812, which did so much to develop a Canadian feeling, was a war not provoked by Great Britain, not provoked by Canada, but which was a war that solidified the Canadian sentiment. Bismarck said, in 1870, that he wanted to solidify the German Empire, which he had then founded, with blood and iron, and it is said that the Civil War of the. United States was the first thing to consolidate the great American Union. The War of 1812 did a good deal to solidify British opinion in the Dominion of Canada up to 1837, when we had a little rebellion of our own.
I do not propose discussing the pros and cons of that, but to say that in that rebellion of our own, which was merely a local concern, although the American people took no part in it, there was a tendency amongst them to assist the rebels. A raid was made at Detroit, at Navy Island, and similar threatenings were made along the frontier farther east. There again the Canadian feeling which was loyal to Great Britain felt itself being pressed farther and farther in its loyalty by the attacks from the American frontier. We go to the Civil Rebellion of 1860, and see what we find there. We find that there came out of that the Fenian invasion of 1866, uncalled for and unjustified. We find arising out of that the commercial abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, in order to check the large growth of trade between Canada and the United States. It was felt that the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 was very favourable to Canadians; that we were making more money than the United States made out of it. The trade had grown from $14,000,000 to about $84,000,000 in the twelve years during which the Treaty existed; but that was not the only reason for repealing the Reciprocity Treaty. The Americans, as you will understand, were annoyed at the attitude of Canadians, and particularly the attitude of Great Britain, toward the United States during the Civil War. In Great Britain the sympathy of the leaders of public opinion for some tune was decidedly in favour of the Southern States. You remember the speech made by Mr. Gladstone; you remember the expressions of opinion by Lord Palmerston and others; and you remember, also, that the emperor of France proposed to the British Government that the Southern States should be declared a nation. Of course, the British Government very wisely acted with prudence and care in the matter, and declined to go that far. We are very glad they did not go that far. The British people all over the world are glad they did not go that far, for had they declared the Southern States independent, there is no doubt that there would be two Republics on this continent today instead of one, and it is Better, I think, that it should be one rather than two, for we have slavery abolished, which we would not have had, and we have a wider scope for the working out of a democracy on higher lines than otherwise we might. It is sufficient for my present purpose that we have got rid of slavery through the Civil War.
The Americans felt that the British Government was friendly to the South, and as one way of showing their resentment, the Reciprocity Treaty was repealed, because, by repealing that Treaty, Canada was struck at a very tender point. As a proof that that was part of the object, let me quote from the Reminiscences of Secretary Boutwell, in dealing with the repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty, and if you refer to the speeches as made in Congress at that time, you will find many proofs of a similar character. "Whether the annexation of Canada shall take place in a short time or be postponed remotely depends, probably, on our action upon the subject of reciprocity." So that he had in mind the annexation of Canada, in dealing with the subject. "Canada needs our market and our facilities for ocean transportation, and as long as these advantages are denied to her, she can never attain to a high degree of prosperity." This was from a member of the United States Government: "The body of farmers, labourers, and trading people will favour annexation ultimately, should the policy of non-intercourse be adhered to on our part, and they will outnumber the office-holding class. It is apparent, also, the policy of free intercourse would postpone annexation for a long time, if not indefinitely." It was believed that free intercourse would prevent annexation, and that by crippling our trade, we would be forced into that position. That question of trade seems to crop up in the American journals every little while. Let me quote from the New York Commercial of a few days ago. " The filial feeling alone binds Canada to the Mother Country, and not unity of commercial interests. She does not add one iota to the wealth or strength of England, but merely to her prestige. Canada's present system of government is doomed and cannot last, and the coming generation will probably see the great Dominion swing into line and become an integral part of the Union. Everything is tending to the peaceful absorption of our great Northern neighbour."
I have referred to the Reciprocity Treaty as an event that separated the two countries. We are speaking now of one wedge after another that created a certain feeling on the Canadian side and which I will refer to more methodically a little later on. The repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty was a great disadvantage to us for the time being. We had to abandon the American market to a great extent, although it is perhaps far more our market at the present moment than it ought to be. We had to get away from it at that time and the effect was depressing in Canada, but while the resulting feeling was one of resentment, we simply said: "Now if this is an attempt to cripple our trade, we will see about it "; and immediately our commercial men sought other markets, and sought a permanent market not liable to a passing vote of Congress, nor to be made the subject of a Presidential campaign. They sought the markets of Europe, and let our trade be in that direction, so that we would be independent of the passing passion of an American Presidential election and trade with people who are not disposed, from any pique or ill-feeling, to hamper us in our business. We did open these European markets, so that we were, in an extent, independent of the relations' with the United States. We have made as many propositions on our side of the line to the United States for reciprocity as I think is consistent with our dignity, and if the negotiations are to be opened for any further Reciprocity Treaty, let them be opened on the American side.
I see an easy way of facilitating trade between Canada and the United States without any treaty at all. If they want more of our produce on easier terms, let them lower their duty and I suppose they can get it, and unless that is done, I would receive, with a very great deal -of hesitation, any consideration of reciprocity at all. That, to my judgment, ought to be the first move and besides, I am bound to say that I look upon a treaty with considerable doubt in any case. What does a treaty mean? It means-say that it lasts for ten or fifteen years-it means that during those years trade assumes a certain direction because of that treaty. The treaty may be repealed at a time when it will be very embarrassing to one of the parties. Suppose we should enter into a treaty that was found by the United States Government, ten or fifteen years hence, to be too favourable to Canada; when our trade has moved in that direction, and transportation system been made to adapt itself to their system, the treaty would be repealed greatly to our inconvenience. Let us consider any treaty with great care, and in the meantime let us so establish our trade as to be independent of any nation in particular and so broaden our exports that we may cover the seven seas, if necessary, and enter all-the markets of the world; and then it does not matter who proposes or opposes reciprocity, but there will be developed a public opinion which, I think, will be a good thing for Canada. Nothing is so good for the people as to be made to stand upon their own feet; as to feel that their political, commercial, or national life is in nobody's except their own keeping. Our trade is now in our own keeping, and let us keep it.
Then there came a great diversion because of that little Mason and Slidell episode. How, contrary to the declaration of the United States in 1812, Captain Wilkes took from the ship Trent two Southern Confederates and thrust them into prison. There was a great commotion in England over the matter. When he read of it, Lord Palmerston called a meeting of Council that day, after the announcement was made, and, walking with a firm step towards the upper end of the table, he said, "Gentlemen, I don't know whether you will stand this or not, but I will be damned if I do." That was his brusque John Bull style of doing things, and I rather like that style of thing myself. But the effect of that, at all events, was to intensify the Canadian feeling because it brought back to our own memory the War of 1812, brought on by the Americans because Britain had seized American seamen on board the American ships, which the United States said was contrary to the laws of neutrality. When they seized American men on British ships, they would not accept the sauce which was as good for the goose as for the gander.
Now, that brings me down to the War of 1866. Several things have happened running through all these times which also tended to intensify Canadian feeling. I think the Tariff Acts--the McKinley Bill, the Dingley Bill, those measures to shut out Canadian trade, apparently to punish us, to prevent us from trading with the United States on such terms as seem to be reasonable--have not had a soothing effect, but rather, as I said before, thrown us back upon our own resources, to lead us to say, "If you don't propose to trade with us on reasonable terms, we will find somebody who will." The Ashburton Treaty, by which we lost Maine, was not a source of pleasure; the Oregon Treaty, by which we host the State of Oregon, which we should not have lost, I believe, was not very satisfactory to us; and the attempt to prevent Canadian sealers from fishing in the Behring Sea, was not very pleasant to us. The settlement of the Alaskan boundary did not suit exactly our feelings. The moral seems to be that in all negotiations with Great Britain from the time that Franklin negotiated the Treaty of Peace in 1783, when he wanted Canada, down to the Alaskan boundary, Canada seems to have suffered, we say, partly through British diplomacy, and that is true, but partly through the overreaching disposition of the Americans in seeking to get by bravado and sometimes by an undertone of something even a little stronger than that, portions of Canada which we think did not righty belong to them. We have suffered at their hands, and we have suffered at the hands of British diplomacy as well; but in the meantime, the effect has been to make a cleavage between the two peoples. They do not want us in trade; they do not want to have the same cordial commercial relations with us; they have over-run our country. All these things have tended towards separation. I mention that in no spirit of bitterness; Canadians are too big to have any feeling of resentment towards Americans or anybody else. We are neighbours and we want to be neighbourly, but I am speaking now of historical facts, and the facts are to blame and not me.
Let us look at the other side. What have we done to build up a sentiment adverse to the American sentiment? We have adopted the British form of government; it is an old form of government; it has been tested for many years; it is less democratic perhaps in some respects, and more in other respects, than the American government. It has the character of age, permanence, durability, stability, and power about it. It is an offshoot of the British constitution. There is no better and no stronger. Then the American policy of aggression upon Canada has always been met by a policy of liberalism on the part of the Canadian-for instance, when the Americans resented the concessions made to the Roman Catholics, these concessions were extended and confirmed and greater liberties were given to Canadians than they had in 1774. Bad as British diplomacy has been in many instances, so far as Canadian territory is concerned, it has been always right in consolidating Canadian public opinion. Had not General Murray been so conciliatory at the capture of Quebec, it is quite possible the French-Canadians would not have stood by the British flag. When the French, and Upper Canada, too, wanted a further extension of responsible government, it was given them in 1791, and when we arose in rebellion in 1837, because Downing Street sought to govern Canada (and it cannot be governed from Downing Street; it. can be only by Canada), Downing Street met it by giving us the Union of 1841, solidifying and strengthening Canadian public opinion.
When the Civil War of the United States broke out, and when there was some uneasiness in this country lest we should not stand together, in fragments as we were, every effort was made by the Imperial Government to solidify the Provinces. Of course, the feeling started with ourselves very largely, but if you choose to go back to Lord Durham's report, you will find that our feeling was strengthened by the Imperial Government. Read the political speeches of the times, and you will see that one of the objects of Confederation was to solidify the Provinces for the purposes of defence and trade. There arose the irritation that existed between the Provinces in the matter of customs laws-a system picayune and small, because that was a period of small things. We have outgrown all that, and it was with the utmost alacrity that the British Government assisted in the federation of the Provinces, especially in the purchase of Prince Rupert's Land, now the North-West, and by their assistance, and our own influence, we solidified the whole upper half of North America. On our side there was a spirit of loyalty and confidence binding the provinces more and more to the British Empire. If England had not conceded to us in 1837 a responsible government, what would we have done? What could we have done? What would an independent people have done under the circumstances? I hesitate to think what might have happened. England, believing that British institutions might here be founded worthy of the race, conceded to us what they themselves possessed. They seemed to be willing that we should have all the liberties they had, and in this way the Canadian sentiment which was inherent in us, because of our origin and because of our history, was allowed to grow and develop and expand. What remains? It remains for us just to see if the history has a real trend, as it has apparently an historical trend.
British diplomacy, faulty at times, but on the whole favourable to the establishment of British sovereignty, has created a line of cleavage between the two countries. We stand on the Northern side with prospects equally as great as the American nation had at the beginning of this century and greater. We have double the territory they possessed in the year 1800. It was after that year that they purchased Louisiana, or the territory west of the Mississippi. In Jefferson's time the American States were confined to that portion that lies east of the Mississippi, about half the area of Canada. Since federation we have quadrupled our territory and with our resources and the British stock from which we have sprung, I see no reason why the change which has taken place should not continue. We cannot speak of the future. It is vain to prophesy and to speculate, but we are tending to the British nation on this half of the continent, a land consecrated to British government by British blood, and with all its commercial and social affinities strengthening every day, I trust, the relations existing between this country and the Old Land. It is on this line that I think the future of Canada lies. If we are equal to the development of this country, no Canadian can live in Canada believing that he can do better in the United States or anywhere else. It is for us to do that. We must be equal to the conquest of the land. If we are fainthearted, the land will fall, perhaps, into the possession of another.