Gateway to the Classics: Growth of the British Empire by M. B. Synge
Growth of the British Empire by  M. B. Synge

The Dominion of Canada

"So long as the Blood endures,

I shall know that your good is mine;

ye shall feel that my strength is yours."

— Kipling

A QUARTER of a century had passed away, since the union of the two Canadas by Lord Durham. In the joint Parliament, Upper and Lower Canada were equally represented. This was all very well for a time, but Upper Canada had been increasing rapidly, until now it not only exceeded a million inhabitants, but it exceeded the population of Lower Canada.

"Let us have representation according to the number of our population," cried the British settlers in Upper Canada.

Canada had thus reached a critical stage in her history, when she learned that the three Atlantic colonies—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—were already considering the idea of a union among themselves. Canada asked leave to join them. Representatives from the four colonies sat in Quebec. For eighteen days they discussed the welfare of the colonies with closed doors. A good understanding was arrived at, and a scheme for a great federal union of all British North America "leapt suddenly from the realm of dreams into the forefront of practical politics."

On the historic ground of old Quebec, where but a century before, English and French had fought out their great battle for supremacy, the sons of both now agreed on a final scheme of union. Their resolution was followed by the Queen's declaration that "on and after July 1, 1867, the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall be one dominion under the name of Canada."

So at the stroke of midnight on June 30, the old order passed away, and dawn ushered in the new Dominion of Canada. Upper Canada henceforth was to be known as the province of Ontario, Lower Canada as the province of Quebec.

Amid the booming of cannon and the beating of drums, the whole country burst into song—

"Canada, Canada! land of the bravest!

Sons of the war-path and sons of the sea!

Bells chime out merrily,

Trumpets call cheerily,

Let the sky ring with the shout of the free!"

Meanwhile the transfer of land to the Dominion brought trouble in its train, and the Red River rebellion threatened to destroy the peace of Canada for a time. Under Louis Riel, the colonists rose to protect their lands, which they ignorantly supposed would be taken from them. The Red River Settlement, founded by Lord Selkirk, was in the very heart of the Dominion, equidistant from Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It was difficult enough to march an army thither from Quebec, but Colonel Wolseley, in command of 1200 picked men, made his way through 600 miles of water and forest, reaching the rebellious settlement to find Louis Riel had fled. Order was soon established, and Manitoba joined the union peacefully.

With the addition of Manitoba, British Columbia, and the North-West Territories, the Dominion of Canada stretched 3000 miles from sea to sea. The little British possession of 1759, described by the French as "a few square miles of snow," had grown, till she was thirty times the size of the mother country. Newfoundland—the oldest colony of all—alone stands aloof, bearing her burdens alone. Some day she may think fit to join the federal union, and the dream of colonial statesmen will be realised.

The Government of Canada to-day is federal—that is, there is a central Government sitting at Ottawa and arranging the affairs of the whole Dominion, while a local Parliament presides over each provincial capital. And the whole is under the British flag and the British king to-day.

When federation took place, the only British route to Quebec and Ontario was by way of the St. Lawrence river, closed by ice for half the year. A railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific had long been a dream of Canadian statesmen: now the dream became a necessity. British Columbia was entirely cut off from her sister provinces in the east, and until the vast west lands were brought into closer communication with one another, federation could only be a name. The young nation rose finely to its responsibilities, as it promoted a scheme for the now famous Canadian-Pacific railway, before which the richest empire in Europe might have quailed. Much of the country through which the line would pass, was unexplored. Deep lakes and mighty rivers, vast plains and high mountain-ranges, opposed the progress of the engineers. But perseverance won the day. The Canadian-Pacific railway, 3000 miles in length, was triumphantly opened on Dominion Day 1886, and still remains one of the greatest engineering feats the world has ever seen. Leaving Quebec and Montreal, the train passes the political capital of Ottawa. From Ottawa to Winnipeg, on the Red river, it makes its way through some 1300 miles of forest and lake country. Leaving wheat-growing Manitoba, it runs through some 800 miles of prairie,—treeless, monotonous, lonely,—till at Calgary, the ascent of the Rocky Mountains begins. Through the gorges and over the passes of the snow-capped Rockies, the train now winds its careful way—up and ever upwards, amid awful precipices and steep forest-clad mountains. The deep blue sky, the green flash of the glaciers, the white gleam of the snow and the rush of foaming waters, add splendour to the scene, till, at last, the Great Divide is reached on the summit. Then, by way of the Kicking Horse Pass, the descent begins; and through a region of gigantic firs and cedars, Vancouver, the great western terminus, is reached. Here are the great steamers that cross the Pacific to Japan in ten days.


On the Canadian-Pacific Railway

And to-day emigrants are flocking to Canada, the Granary of England, to develop more and more the wheat-growing districts, which cry aloud for the honest toil of her sons and daughters, to yield of the richest and best.

"Shall not we, through good and ill,

Cleave to one another still?

Britain's myriad voices call:

'Sons be welded, each and all,

Into one Imperial whole;

One with Britain, heart and soul—

One life, one flag, one fleet, one throne.' "

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