The Twentieth Century for Canada

IN former chapters it has been sought to show that the possibilities of the country are great, both for the development of industries and its capacity for population. The question now of interest is, What is the prospect of the realization of these evident possibilities ? There is, of course, no oracle to consult whose word is infallible, yet there is data from which we may speak with something more than conjecture. The opening years of a century marks a period calculated to inspire thought, and to institute comparisons with the past, and indulge in forecasts of the future. What, then, should be the population of Canada, and the general state of the country at the close of the twentieth century ? These are questions which have, no doubt, come to the minds of many, and, in a general way, we shall now speak of them.

In this connection it will be of interest to look briefly at the progress of the United States during the century just closed. Two countries of similar size, occupying parts of the same continent, peopled by the same race, and governed by the same general principles, ought to afford an interesting and just comparison ; and the one should be fairly prophetic of the other. Let it be observed just here, however, that the growth of a nation and the development of a country must be in harmony with certain well defined laws. A building must first have a work of preparation and foundation laying, which may seem tedious and unprogressive, and yet it is essential to the stability of the structure which is to be erected upon it. The foundation work completed, however, the superstructure advances apace, and the building rapidly appears in fair proportions and in symmetrical form. So it is in the building of a nation, and in the development of a country. There is a comparatively ‘long period of preparation and foundation laying which may seem tedious, but which is essential, and, indeed, the more thoroughly the foundation has been laid the more permanent will be the national structure. This, of course, is less apparent in the newer nations than in the old, because of the changed conditions under which we now live.

The United States is generally spoken of as a country of most rapid growth and marvellous development ; indeed, there has been no nation in the history of the world that has made such rapid progress. This is sometimes mistakenly attributed to their particular form of government, but such is not the case. The history of the United States cannot be studied apart from their colonial period. For one hundred and fifty years, or to about the beginning of 1800, they had been working at the slow, but essential, task of laying foundations for future progress. During the century just closed they have been engaged in the more rapid and congenial task of nation building. During the present century the progress of the United States has been indeed marvellous, and it would be manifestly unfair to make any comparison between that country and ourselves in the same period. They preceded us by an entire century in the history of their national life. The two countries represent two different periods, and must be compared with this in view. We now start where they did one hundred years ago, and when our foundation period is compared with theirs, it seems to us that the result is highly complimentary to this country.

Though our population be very much less, and this can be reasonably accounted for, yet in all essential features of preparation we have accomplished more. They had not yet reached the Pacific coast or incorporated the various parts of their national building at the close of the last century, or for many years afterwards, though this has been a long accomplished fact with us. They had not planted industrial centres in the Far West id anything like the same period of their history as we have done. They had not until late in the second period of their development opened up their country by rail, or made transcontinental travel possible by this means. Indeed, they antedated us by a very short time in this work. In view, then, of the past favorable record made by this country, it is not too much to expect that when time makes possible a comparison between our present century of construction and theirs, the same pleasing progress, with the laurel still on the brow of Canada, will be revealed.

The United States began this century with a population of seventy-five millions, with a distribution more or less uniform throughout their section of the continent. They have a vast number of cities, three of which have a population of from one to four millions of people, while in railway mileage and industrial development they have no peers in any country in the world. This is a spectacle, indeed, of marvellous development, largely within a century, and yet we are reminded that it is not the result of miracles, but of natural conditions. Under similar circumstances history will repeat itself in this country, if, indeed, it does not surpass itself in the degree to which the conditions are more favorable.

To what extent, then, are the conditions in this country favorable to a repetition of the record we have been considering ? There are some factors which seem decidedly in Canada’s favor. Among these we might mention her more northern position as being an advantage rather than a hindrance, as is generally supposed. The most progressive nations, and the most virile people in the world, as revealed through a long period of history, are to be found to the north rather than to. the south of the 49th degree of north latitude—and the trend seems to be still northward. Let us apply this theory, if theory it be, to the New World and see what the result implies. Nothing could illustrate this more fully than the United States itself. The commercial and political supremacy of the north over the south is one of the undisputed facts in the United States history. There seems to be no good reason why this should be so emphatically so, apart from the advantages of northern environment.

Certainly nature seems to have, in many ways, given the advantage to the southern states of the best climate and the largest possibilities, but the Anglo-Saxon race does not seem to thrive in the south as in the north. This is still further illustrated in the trend of population in the United States. Though, in point of fact, the south was first occupied by Europeans, the centre of population has steadily moved northward and now, though the south would seem to have special attractions, the centre of population is not over two hundred miles south of Canada’s southern border, though the United States is more than twelve hundred miles broad. All this is certainly interesting, and there seems to be no other explanation to offer than that the highest energies and possibilities of the Anglo-Saxon require a high northern latitude.

Another highly important fact, deduced from the same census return, is that about two-thirds of the population of the United States exists north of a central line through Kentucky, and east of the western boundary of Iowa, or on an area equal to only one-quarter of the whole Union. Thus, the most populous and wealthy part of the United States adjoins this Dominion on the east and centre, while on the west their desert region abuts upon our arable lands. From this wide survey it is easy to see the direction which settlement must take on this continent. The time is likely to come during the present century, when the centre of Anglo-Saxon population on the North American continent will be north of the international boundary rather than south of it.