You can ascribe the different characteristics of different nations to the topography of their native land up to a certain point only. Beyond that the difference becomes one of psychology and soul rather than geography, and that is why nations hold to a large extent their destiny in their own hands. Undoubtedly the unfenced illimitable reaches of the prairie have reacted on the human soul, unshackling it from the discouragements of failure in the past and have given a sense of freedom that explains the dauntless optimism of the West; but if the people who went to the West had not had the courage to face the hardships of the pioneer, their optimism could not have triumphed over difficulties. The very qualities that sent pioneers forth on the trail to the setting sun guaranteed their success as empire builders.
Japan was long an island empire, but it was only when the soul of that empire awakened to the Western Renaissance that Japan became a world power. The German people existed on the map many centuries be-fore they came into existence as a nation. It was only when the national idea came that Germany became a power. Likewise of England as mistress of the seasthe source of her commerce and wealth. England had been a seagirt nation from the beginning of time. It was only when by the defeat of the Armada England learned what mastery of the sea meant that she shot into front rank as a great world power.
How does all this bear on Canada? It is a puzzling question. Ask the average Canadian why the develop-ment of Canada has been slow ; and he denies that it has been slow; or he proves that it is a good thing it has been slow; or he compares Canada’s progress with that of some other country which has gone too fast, or too slow. All this is a mere clever dodging of fact. Blinking one’s eyes to a fact doesn’t eliminate the fact.
What are the facts?
De Monts’ first charter to Arcadia dates 1605. The first charter for Virginia plantations comes in 1606, and the first New England charter dates the same year. The United States and Canada are both fertile. They have almost the same area in square miles. One has a population of over ninety millions and a foreign commerce of four billions. The other has a population of about eight millions and a foreign commerce of one billion. One raises from seven hundred to nine hundred million bushels of wheat ; the other, from two hundred to three hundred millions. One produces thirty million metric tons of steel a year ; the other, less than a million tons ; one is worth a hundred and fifty billion dollars, the other perhaps ten billions.
It is explained that the northern belt of Canada lying in a semiarctic zone should hardly be included in comparisons with the area of the United States lying altogether in a temperate zone ; but if cultivation is proving one thing more than another, it is that Canada’s arctic region recedes a little every year, and her isothermal lines run a little farther north every year. To put it differently, it is being yearly more and more proved that the degree of northern latitude matters less in vegetable growth than heretofore thought, if the arable land be there; for the simple reason that twenty hours of sunlight from May to September force as rapid a growth as twelve to fifteen hours’ sunlight from March to September, and the product grown in the North may be superior to that grown farther south. Wheat from Manitoba is better than wheat from Georgia. Apples from Niagara have a quality not found in applessay from the Gulf states. All things will not grow in northern latitudes. You can’t raise corn. You can’t raise peaches. I doubt if any apple will ever be found suitable for the northwestern prairie. At any rate, it has not yet been found.
Half a century ago the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in perfectly good faith testified before a committee of the Imperial Commons that farming could never be carried on in Rupert’s Land, or what are now known as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Al-berta. He proved that grain could not be grown there. I recall the day when the idea of fall wheat west of Lake Superior elicited a hoot of derision. I have lived to wander through fields of six hundred acres north of the Saskatchewan. Thirty years ago any one suggesting settlement on Peace River, or at Athabasca, would have been regarded as a visionary fool. Yet wheat is ground into flour on Peace River, and the settler is at Athabasca; and soft Kansas fall wheat sent to Peace River has by a few years’ trans-planting been transformed into Number One Hard spring wheat. Canada’s arctic belt has shrunk a little each year, and her isothermal lines gone a little farther north. The only limit to growth in the North Country is the nature of the soil. I am not, of course, speaking of the Arctic slope, but I am of the great belt of wild land north of Saskatchewan River. And where the arable land stops, the great fur farm of the world beginsa fur farm which may change but can never be exhausted. Of course, Canada has a great northern belt of land that is not arable, but in that belt are such precious minerals as were discovered in the Yukon. Land that can’t be plowed isn’t necessarily waste land, and Canada’s great northern belt is partly balanced by the desert belt of the Southwest in the United Statesthe perpetual Indian land of Uncle Sam.
With this argumentyou come back just where you began. The two countries were first settled al. most contemporaneously. Their area is not far different. They are both fertile. Each has great belts having spent months in each belt, I hesitate to call them barrenof land that can not be plowed. Why has one country progressed with such marvelous rapidity; and the other progressed in fits and starts and stops? Why did a million and a half Canadians or one-fourth the native populationleave Canada for the United States? The Canadian retort always isfor the same reason that two million Americans have left the United States for Canadato better their position. But the point iswhy was it these million and a half Canadians found better opportunities in the United States than in Canada? Opportunities knock at every man’s door if he has ears to hear, but they are usually supposed to knock loudest and oftenest in the new land. It is a truism that there are ten chances on the frontier for a man to rise compared to one in the city. One can understand American settlers thronging to Canada. They have used and made good the opportunities in their own land. Now they are sending their sons to a land of more opportunities. The Iowa farmer who has succeeded on his three hundred and twenty acres sends forth his sons each to succeed on his one hundred and sixty acres in Canada; or he sells his own land for one hundred dollars an acre and forthwith buys a thou-sand acres in Canada. When the farmers of Ontario flocked to Wisconsin and Michigan and Minnesota and the two Dakotas, their land was worth thirty per cent. less than when they bought it. To-day that same land is worth one hundred per cent. more than for what they sold it.
It is easy to look over another land and diagnose its ills. Any Canadian will acknowledge that Ire-land’s population dropped from 8,500,000 in 1850 to 4,400,000 in 1908 solely owing to mismanagement, if not gross misgovernment; but he will not acknowl edge that his own country lost a million and a half people from the same cause. Ireland lost her population at the rate of one hundred thousand a year for forty years, and that lost population helped to build up some of the greatest cities in the United States. The Irish vote is to-day a dominant power solely owing to that population lost to Ireland. It is no exaggeration to say that from 1880 to 1890 Canada lost her population to the United States at a higher rate than one hundred thousand a year. Why?
Go back a little in history ! The most pugnacious United Empire Loyalist that ever trekked from the American colonies to Ontario and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would hardly deny that Canada was grossly misgoverned under the French régime. La-borers were forced to work unpaid on fortifications, on roads, on governors’ palaces. The farmer was taxed to death in tithes to the seignior. Shipping was confined to French vessels owned by royal favorites. Fishing was permitted only under a license. The fur trade was a corrupt monopoly held by a closed ring round the Royal Intendant. New France was so mis-governed that the sons of the best families took to the woods and the Pays d’en Hautto which fact we owe the exploration of three-quarters of the continent.
And the most pugnacious Loyalist will hardly deny that under the British régime from 1759 to Dur-ham’s Report in 1840 the mismanagement was almost as gross as the misgovernment under the French. If any one entertain doubts on that score, let him look up the record on grants of thousands of acres to favorites of the Family Compact; on peculations of public funds in Quebec by irresponsible executives ; on mistrials of disorders in the Fur Country, when NorthWester and Hudson’s Bay traders cut each other’s throats ; on the constant bicker and bark between Protestant Ontario and Catholic Quebec, which kept the country rent by religious dissensions when men should have been empire-building.
Set down the cause of Canada’s slow progress up to 1840 to misgovernment. Durham’s Report remedied all that; and confederation followed in 1867. Was Canada’s progress as swift after 1867 as it ought to have been? Examine a few figures :
In 1790 the United States population was four millions.
In 1800 the United States population was five millions.
In 1914 the United States population was ninety-eight millions.
In 1891 Canada’s population was five millions.
In 1900 Canada’s population was five million three hundred thousand.
In 1914 Canada’s population was seven million eight hundred thousand.
In point of population Canada is just one hundred years behind the United States. Why? Granted her foreign trade is one-fourth as great as that of the United States. How is it that a people with such a genius for success in foreign trade have been so dilatory in their work of nation-building? Slow progress can no longer be ascribed to misgovernment. Her system of justice is one of the most perfect in the world. Her parliamentary representation could hardly be more complete. No people has stricter bit and rein on executive ministers. Through an anguish of travail Canada has worked out an excellent system of self-government. Why is her progress still slow?
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 upa 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 outbut 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.
You never mention a Jim Hill, a Doctor Osier, a Schurman, a Graham Bell or a host of similar famous expatriatesin a Canadian gathering but some one utters with a pride of gratulation that fairly beams from the face : “They are Canadians.” Canada is proud these famous men are Canadians. It has always struck me as curious that she wasn’t ashamed ashamed that she lost their services from her own nation-building. To my personal knowledge three of these men had to borrow the money to leave Canada. Their services were worth untold wealth to other lands. Their services did not give them a living in Canada.
At time of writing with only three exceptions Canada imports the presidents of her great universi-ties; though she exports some of the greatest presi-dents and deans who have ever graced Princeton, Cornell, Oxford. She thinks she can not afford to keep these men. Is it a matter of money, at all; or of appreciative intelligence? No matter what the cost, can Canada afford to lose them from her young nationals?
It is a truism that to my knowledge has not a single exception that Canada has never given the imprimatur of her approval to a writer, to an inventor, to a scholar, to an artist, till he has gone abroad and received the stamp of approval outside his own land. By the time Paul Peel was acclaimed in Paris and Horatio Walker in New York each was lost to his own land. It is an even wager nine Canadians out of ten do not know who these men were or for what they were acclaimed. Try it as an experiment on your first train acquaintance.
You can not read early records of Congress without the most astounding realization that Washington, Monroe, Jefferson, Adams, big statesmen and little politicians, voicing solemn convictions or playing to the galleryall were deadly in earnest and serious about the business of building up a nation. They never lost sight of the idea of conserving, up-building, protecting, extending their country. The national idea is in Canada so recent that most men have not grasped it. “Build a navy?” Canada hooted and made the vote a party football. “Canada should have her own shipyards ?” Men look at you ! What for? “Panama will reverse the world conduits of trade.” Bah ! Hot-air ! I have heard these and similar comments not once but a thousand times.
Americans say of opportunity “How much can we make of it?” Canadians say “How little can we pay for it?” And each takes out of opportunity exactly the amount of optimism put into it.
So one could go down the list enumerating symptoms, but beneath them all, it is plain, lies a cause psychological, not physical. It may be a psychology of discouragement and disparagement from long years of hardship, but whatever it is, if Canada is to be as big nationally as she is latitudinally, as great in soul as in area, she must get rid of this negative thing in her attitude to herself and life. It makes for solidity, but it also makes for stolidity. Nations do not grow great by what they leave undone. Psychologists say all mentality divides itself into two great classes : those giving off negative response to stimulus ; those giving off positive. One class of people stands for carping criticism; the other, for constructive attempts. One is safe, to be sure, and sane ; and the other is distinctively rash and dangerous ; but of rashness and danger is valor made. “I know thy works,” said the Voice to the Laodiceans, “that thou art neither hot nor cold: I would thou wert hot or cold because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
And the Voice is the verdict of destiny to every nation that has taken its place at the world’s council board.