Having viewed Canada from many standpoints with respect to her future possibilities it is only fitting that we should close by speaking of her possible destiny. What are the tendencies of the present, and what do the years hold for us, not in material prospects alone, but with respect to her status as a nation, and our future as a people ? The ultimate destinies of all nations are, of course, matters of uncertainty, and perhaps there is a sense in which the destiny of a nation is especially associated with the greatest uncertainty when that nation is passing through its formative period. In the minds of some, there is much of uncertainty regarding the destiny which awaits our own country in her relation to other nations in the twentieth century. Evidently the present conditions cannot be indefinitely maintained. Influences are certainly operating which denote the coming of a change in our national status. What are these changes to be, and what do we gather from the signs of the times ? These questions will now briefly engage us.
There are at least three possible destinies awaiting Canada, and so far as can be observed, only three ; some one of which lies in the immediate pathway of our not distant future. These are annexation with the United States, Canadian independence, or Imperial federation. Which of these shall it be ? This is a question now definitely before the Canadian people. Let us discuss them each briefly in order, and, if possible, arrive at conclusions dictated by existing circumstances and our highest advantages.
First, then, what of annexation with the United States as one of our possible destinies ? What are the probabilities of its realization or its prospective advantages ? Has this doctrine of ” manifest destiny ” of ” union with the continent to which we belong,” any real advantages to offer Canadians ? It would, of course, give us the unrestricted markets with a nation of seventy-five million people. It is doubtful, however, if there is another single advantage to be named, and it is questionable if this even is a real advantage, for to accept the advantages of this market on these terms would be to shut ourselves out from the markets of all the rest of the world, except at the pleasure of the officials at Washington. Moreover, the advantage of this market may possibly in the near future be open to us by treaty without surrendering a vestige of our independence or individuality. So small is the poulation of Canada as compared with that of the United States that her voice and influence would be nil in the national councils and in the shaping of the policy of the country. Furthermore, our natural resources would then be open to the merciless exploitation of American syndicates, and last, but not least, we would cut ourselves adrift from all our past traditions and our legitimate heirship to a share in the glories of the Empire to which we belong, and these things are cherished by us above all things else. In brief, annexation with the United States would not give us a single advantage that we do not now possess, while it would deprive us of much that we regard beyond price.
This, then, as a possible destiny is dismissed as impossible and undesirable. Neither is there any sentiment in the whole broad Dominion favoring such a destiny ; its very thought is repugnant to the Canadian people. If this sentiment ever had any real existence on this side of the line it is now buried in the oblivion of the past, and for which there is no resurrection. It is believed that the impossibility of this is now being recognized by the Americans themselves, though they seem loth to relinquish the idea. Since this destiny could only come about through the consent of the Canadian people or their conquest, its impossibility must be quite evident to all.
“There is room enough and scope enough on this continent for the two Anglo-Saxon nations, Canada and the United Statesdaughters of a common mother, custodians of a common libertyto work out their separate destinies without being jealous of each other or coveting each other’s patrimony and birthright.”
Having disposed of the question of annexation, what must be said with respect to Canadian independence ? It is readily conceded that so far as the testimony of history is concerned, it goes to show that as a rule colonies have, in due time, either forcibly, or by mutual consent, severed their connection with the Mother Country, though the history of these same countries does not always go to show that this was the wisest course to pursue. It simply means that the art of colonization, and the purpose for which colonies are held, were altogether misunderstood in earlier times. They were sought to be held by force and for purposes of exploitation and colonists were universally despised. Owing to lack of telegraphic communication, and the impossibility of rapid mobilization, it was only natural that when colonies became sufficiently strong they would attempt to throw off the maternal yoke. These conditions have, so far as Great Britain is concerned, entirely passed away, and the desire to sever the Imperial tie is not only absent in Canada, but throughout all parts of the British world. There are very material reasons for this, apart from the strong reason of sentiment. To have the strength and prestige of Britain withdrawn from this or any other British colony, would leave them at the present time a helpless prey to the greed and lust of other nations. Independence would be practically impossible ; foreign credit would greatly depreciate, and the development of the country would for the time come to stagnation. There may be some in Canada who cherish dreams of Canadian independence, but looking at the question from all sides, the advantages do not appear, and at best, even as a thought, it must be very remote. The prevailing sentimentindeed, we might say, the universal sentimentthroughout Canada may be expressed in the well-known words of the late Sir John A. Macdonald : ” A British subject I was born and a British subject I shall die.”
This brings us’ to the consideration of the one possible remaining destiny, and, ad reductio, we are shut up to accept it, as Canada’s only rational and possible courseImperial federation. The reasons for and against Imperial federation are too many to be here reproduced, neither it is necessary that this should be done. It is evident to the most casual observer that forces are every day at work which are bringing this desired end nearer. Doubtless the federation of the British Empire would lay some new burdens, and some new responsibilities upon the colonies, which have in the past been as children in the lap of a nursing mother. But the assumption of these responsibilities and burdens is not only essential for our honor, but it is essential for our good ; no nation that is continually coddled can ever rise to the highest manhood. These obligations of empire simply must be assumed.
The spectacle of a world-wide empire, sympathetic and cohesive in all its parts, each corelated to the other, not as colonies to a motherland, but as sovereign states in an imperial unity, presents to our thought a grandeur which cannot be described by words, and yet such is the inevitable set of the current of public opinion throughout the vast extended domains of Britain, and especially in this beloved Canada of ours. Let it be borne in mind, however, that this is a matter not for politicians to fool with, or even statesmen to formally promote ; it must grow as the love grows between the mother and her child. The bonds that bind must be sentimental rather than organic ; that is to say, organization must ever follow in the track of sentiment, but never precede it. Thus, and thus only, can this great work, which must make for the peace of mankind, be accomplished, ,and this accomplished is the great climacteric work of the century upon whose threshold we now stand.