Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 92 pages of information about Laurier.
a common crown.”  He was equally explicit two years later when, addressing the Ontario club in Toronto, he said:  “We are under the suzerainty of the King of England.  We are his loyal subjects.  We bow the knee to him.  But the King of England has no more rights over us than are allowed him by our own Canadian parliament.  If this is not a nation, what then is a nation?” Laurier looked forward to the complete enfranchisement of Canada as a nation under the British Crown, with a status of complete equality with Great Britain in the British family.  A keen-witted member of the Imperial Conference of 1911, Sir John G. Findlay, Attorney-General for New Zealand, saw the reality behind the anomalous position which Sir Wilfrid held.  “I recognized,” he says, “that Canadian nationalism is beginning to resent even the appearance—­the constitutional forms—­of a sub-ordination to the Mother country.”  “And,” he added, revealing the clarity of his understanding, “this is not a desire for separation.”  But it was not in London that the question of Imperial relationships presented its most thorny aspect.  Laurier could maintain there a stand-pat, blocking attitude with no more disagreeable consequences than perhaps a little social chilliness, the symbolical “gracious duchess” showing a touch of hauteur and disappointment.  It was in the reactions of the issue upon Canadian politics that Laurier met with his real difficulties.  He could not, by tactics of procrastination or evasion, keep the question out of the domestic field; the era of abject, passive and unthinking colonialism was beginning to pass; and the spirit of nationalism was stirring the sluggish waters of Canadian politics.  Sir Wilfrid had to face the issue and make the best of it.  He handled the question with consummate adroitness and judgment; but ultimately its complexities baffled him and the Imperialists who wanted everything done for the Empire and the so-called “Nationalists” of Quebec, who wanted nothing done, joined forces against him.


It was the Imperialists in the old country and in Canada who gave the issue no rest; they believed, apparently with good reason, that a little urgency was all that was needed to make Canada the very forefront of the drive for the consolidation of the Empire.  The English-speaking Canadians were traditionally and aggressively British.  The basic population in the English provinces was United Empire Loyalist, which absorbed and colored all later accretions from the Motherland—­an immigration which in its earlier stages was also largely militarist following the reduction of the army establishment upon the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars.  It was inspired with a traditional hostility to the American republic.  The hereditary devotion to the British Crown, of which Victoria to the passing generations appeared to be the permanent and unchanging personification, threw into eclipse the corresponding sentiment in England.  English-speaking Canadians were more British than the British; they were more loyal than the Queen.  One can get an admirable idea of the state of Ontario feeling in the addresses at the various U.E.  L. celebrations in the year 1884; in both its resentments and its affections there was something childish and confiding.

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Laurier: A Study in Canadian Politics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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