Of course one reason for her slow progress in the past was the impression that long prevailed regarding Canada’s climate and agricultural possibilities. The officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company contended that the Northwest was unfit for settlement, and it was only within recent times that the contrary view gained a hearing and proved to be true. With vast tracts of unoccupied land in the milder climate of the United States still open to settlement and with Canadians themselves denying that the great Northwest could be cultivated, it is not strange that most immigrants passed Canada by. Furthermore in those days the glamour of democracy fascinated dissatisfied Europeans who swarmed to the New World. Canada was practically as free as the United States, but she was a possession of the British Crown, and many emigrants, especially from the Emerald Isle, preferred to try the experiment of living in a republic.
But there are other reasons. It was after the Civil War that the American high tariff struck Canada an unintended but nevertheless staggering blow. She had no market. She had to build up transportation system and trade routes, but this was well under way by 1890. Has her progress since 1890 kept pace with the United States? One has but to compare the population between the Mississippi and Seattle with the population between Red River and Vancouver to have the answer to this question.
Is it something in the soul; a habit of discouragement; of marking time; of fighting shy on the defensive instead of jumping into the aggressive; of self-derogation; of criticism instead of construction; of foreshortened vision? A diagnosis can be made from symptoms. I set down a few of the symptoms. There may be many more, and the thinker must trace up—a surgeon would “guess”—his own diagnosis.
If it were not such a tiresome task, it could be shown from actual quotations that there is not a paper published in Canada that at some time during the year does not deliver itself of sentiments regarding the United States which may be paraphrased thus: “We thank God we are not as Thou art!” Now the point may be well taken; and Canada should be thankful to God (and keep her powder dry) that crimes are punished, that innocence is protected, that vice is not a factor in civic government; but it is a dangerous attitude for any people to assume toward another nation. It does not turn the soul-searchings in on self. It does not get down beneath the skin of things; down, for instance, beneath a hide of self-righteousness to meanness or nobility of motive. A big ship always has barnacles; the United States is a big ship, and she keeps her engine going and her speed up and in the main her prow headed to a big destiny. It ill becomes a little ship to bark out—but let it be left unsaid!
While this curious assumption of superiority exists internationally, there is the most contradictory depreciation nationally. “We,” they say, “are only a little people.” So was Switzerland. So was Greece. So was Belgium. So, indeed, were the Jews.