The Canadian Commonwealth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 231 pages of information about The Canadian Commonwealth.
far enough away from the episodes to state frankly the facts that similar underground intrigue was at work in both Red River and British Columbia, fostered, much of it, by Irish malcontents of the old Fenian raids.  Once more Canada’s national consciousness roused itself to a bigger problem and wider outlook.  Either the far-flung Canadian provinces must be bound together in some sort of national unity or—­the Canadian mind did not let itself contemplate that “or.”  The provinces must be confederated to be held.  Hence confederation in 1867 under the British North American Act, which is to Canada what the Constitution is to the United States.  It happened that Sir John Macdonald, the future premier of the Dominion, had been in Washington during one period of the Civil War.  He noted what he thought was the great defect of the American system, and he attributed the Civil War to that defect—­namely, that all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government were supposed to rest with the states.  Therefore, when Canada formed her federation of isolated provinces, Sir John and the other famous Fathers of Confederation reversed the American system.  All power not specifically delegated to the provinces was supposed to rest with the Dominion.  Only strictly local affairs were left with the provinces.  Trade, commerce, justice, lands, agriculture, labor, marriage laws, waterways, harbors, railways were specifically put under Dominion control.

IV

Now, stand back and contemplate the situation confronting the new federation: 

Canada’s population was less than half the present population of the state of New York; not four million.  That population was scattered over an area the size of Europe.[1] To render the situation doubly dark and doubtful the United States had just entered on her career of high tariff.  That high tariff barred Canadian produce out.  There was only one intermittent and unsatisfactory steamer service across the Atlantic.  There was none at all across the Pacific.  British Columbians trusted to windjammers round the Horn.  Of railroads binding East to West there was none.  A canal system had been begun from the lakes and the Ottawa to the St. Lawrence, but this was a measure more of national defense than commerce.  Crops were abundant, but where could they be sold?  I have heard relatives tell how wheat in those days sold down to forty cents, and oats to twenty cents, and potatoes to fifteen cents, and fine cattle to forty dollars, and finest horses to fifty dollars and seventy-five dollars.  Fathers of farmers who to-day clear their three thousand dollars and four thousand dollars a year could not clear one hundred dollars a year.  Commerce was absolutely stagnant.  Canada was a federation, but a federation of what?  Poverty-stricken, isolated provinces.  Not in bravado, not in flamboyant self-confidence, rebuffed of all chance to trade with the United States,

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The Canadian Commonwealth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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