The SPIRIT of the MARITIMES
THOMAS M. FRASER
“Behold, how good a thing it is to dwell in the Maritime Provinces, where times are never very bad.” -“The Maritime Merchant.”
IN trying to diagnose the spirit of the provinces down by the sea, I do not know that I can get anywhere a better text than that. But the feeling of every son of the Maritimes for the place of his birth goes deeper than appreciation of its panic-proof qualities. It amounts to a conviction, a very settled belief indeed, that there is no other place to compare with it. It is necessary to qualify this, however; for, as Samuel Johnson said about Scotland, too often the finest view of it is when they have turned their backs upon it, and have their faces set towards a far land.
What is there that is of such peculiar significance to us—for I am a Maritime man myself—in the land of our birth? And why is it that we usually refrain from lifting up our voices in praise of it until we are living some where else, in what is, probably a better locality for us, at least, or we should not be living there? Why is it that the impressionistic pictui'es of memory make all the snake fences and the old barn a soft pearly gray; and that the well down by the willow tree with its ageold collection of hatchets, tin dippers, acciients among the smaller rodents and others of the animal kingdom, straw-hats, and general unsanitary debris, is to us, living as we do close to the faucet, a spring of nectar? Why is there something always tugging at our heart-strings, urging us back to the haunts of childhood, where we danced with merry little bare feet, and picked up tacks and thistles? What is it? Well, apparently just sheer ordinariness, coupled with the fact that we ennobled the place by being born there.
As I propose, later on in this classic, to speak about the Maritime Provinces in tones of such warm appreciation that anything I may utter in my saner moments will certainly be forgiven, I shall here make a few remarks upon a subject which I know will elicit warm sneezes of sympathy, and coughs of appreciation. I have something upon my chest, in short, which I would fain get rid of. In brief, it is what every dweller in the provinces down by the sea carries close to his heart, wherever he may roam, and renews ten-fold whenever he visits his native land. I refer, need I say, to bronchitis.
Apparently when the Great Ruler of the Universe was sorting out the climate for the different portions of the then inhabited world, there was a small lot left marked “seconds,” which would do for the flood, and the contemplated destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If it should be found necessary to create Labrador and the west coast of British Columbia, about which there was probably some debate, it was proposed to give those districts the choice of this parcel of climate, and reserve the remainder for the Maritime Provinces. It consisted of three rather fine samples, marked July, August, and September, with all the rest variegated bad weather. Newfoundland and Prince Rupert unfortunately missed getting a share of the good samples ; so they, together with the nine months of “seconds,” went to the Maritime Provinces.
Some Products of the Maritimes
yET the people of the Mari-*■ time Provinces, nearly a million of them, dwell there, produce tall sons of Anak, wrestle with the sea in their little boats, and with the Department of Marine for little wharves to shelter them; deep in unfathomable mines they tear out millions of tons of coal annually for their own use and for export; they produce billions of feet of lumber to house the people who have long been
streaming past their doors to other parts of Canada or to the United States; and despite (or perhaps because of) their climate, they produce the finest apples grown in North America. And always they carry with them the old Scotch tradition that there must be at least one scholar in the family, so that for a very long time they have been furnishing men to Canadian Universities, and exporting them to the United States, as a finished product, to head Universities there.
It is a fact that “times are never very bad” in the Maritime Provinces. There are no bumper crops of wheat to make a farmer independent in a single
season; but on the other hand, there are no absolute crop failures, followed by pathetic appeals to the Government for seed wheat. There are good seasons, and bad seasons, for farmers and fishermen, lumbermen and miners. Sometimes the Lunenburg fleet comes back from the Banks almost empty; sometimes, such as last spring, for example, each man’s share on the “v’y’ge” will run up to fifteen or sixteen hundred dollars, which, with board, is not bad for two or three months’ work. Outside of the few cities in the Maritime Provinces, there are no very wealthy men; the average man works pretty hard and seldom gets more than a very comfortable living; but they are content, and I,will go so far as to say that they are godly: and “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
IN order that the reader may know the sort of people we are talking about, it is necessary to drag in a little history. I shall not bore you with it; because, really, I know very little about it; and only those who are learned can be competent bores. But I want to point out the sources from which the people of the Maritime Provinces derived, and to impress the fact' that they, in a greater degree than the people of any other part of Canada, with the French of Quebec, are the products of strong racial characteristics, which are to-day in many respects as strongly accentuated as they ever were. The Maritime Provinces have been almost entirely neglected, so far as European emigration is concerned ; I doubt if there is a Doukhobor, or a case of trachoma or favus, in the country east of Quebec.
It is all “old stock”; and there were three main streams of it. First, there were the French, who came early in the Fifteenth Century, and at frequent times thereafter. They scattered pretty well all over the three provinces. In 1621 came the first Scotch settlement, under Sir William Alexander, which was a failure. One hundred and fifty years later, Halifax was founded as an English colony; but the direct English colonization was never very extensive. The two great streams of English came over from the American side, both before and after the Revolution. In 1767, the Maritime Provinces had about thirteen thousand people, of whom over half were Americans. In 1784, after the Revolution and the coming of the Loyalists, the population was 43,000, of whom 28,000 had taken part in the revolution in one way or another. The Scotch immigration began in 1773, some coming via the United States, but the majority direct from the hillsides of Scotland, which they had left with sorrow, and never forgot. Scotchmen in the Maritime Provinces w'hose fathers were born in this country, and who know the land only by traditions and reading, still often speak of Scotland as “home.” They settled almost altogether in Nova Scotia, in the counties of Pictou, Colchester, and Antigonish ; and on the island of Cape Breton, where 25,000 Scotch peasants located, and where their descendants live today, keeping the faith and the Gaelic tongue. It was of this emigration that William sharp wrote:
“From the lone sheiling of the misty island.
Mountains divide us, and a waste of
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebri-
If I seem to lay most stress upon Nova Scotia and the Scotch in writing about ' the Maritime Provinces, it is because that province and those people have always represented most distinctlv the Maritime idea in the
estimation of outsiders. The spirit of the Maritimes
is most intense there, but it is, to a large extent, shared in by all three provinces. Previous to Confederation, and the building of the Intercolonial, there was very little intercourse between the Maritime Provinces and Upper and Lower Canada; the West was an unknown land. Most of the trade, and a large part of such intercourse as they had, was with the United States and Great Britain, with the trade all conducted by water. Boston was virtually the trade and social metropolis of the Maritime Provinces; our sailors manned their fishing and other fleets largely (and do so still), although Nova Scotia had a large trading fleet of her own, and Nova Scotian ships sailed all over the globe. It was not until after the union of the provinces that they began to have any intimate knowledge of their fellow Canadians; and they have never really learned to know or to like them. There is more or less resentment to-day in the hearts of the people down there tosee theirtrade done to such a large extent with the people of Ontario; who, they think, in matters of commerce have “the fault of the Dutch, in giving too little and taking too much.”
Trading With the Rest of Canada
I HAD a conversation a few weeks ago with a manufacturer in Nova Scotia on this subject. I do not give it as a typical example of the feeling there, although I am not sure that it is not. He went up to Ontario to sell his products, and said he was met very frequently with remarks of this character: “How do you sup-
pose that you fellows away down there are going to come up here to Ontario and sell goods? Why, we do not know anything about your manufactures.”
“They do not know us, nor want to know us, when we have something to sell to them,” this manufacturer commented; “but they know us all right when they have something to sell to us.”
Halifax and St. John wholesalers once controlled the entire trade of the Maritime Provinces; but that day is gone. The business has, in large part, gone to Ontario and Quebec. I do not undertake to say whose fault this is, but I will give here the gist of a conversation I had with one of the largest wholesale grocers in New Brunswick. The sentiments he expresses are not quite general, but they are far from being an isolated expression of opinion, and I have heard them repeated in one form or another many times.
“I am not in a position to form a comprehensive opinion of conditions in Nova Scotia,” he said, “but, as far as I can judge, it seems that Nova Scotia on account of being the older province, with her natural resources in a more advanced state of development, with more wealth and other advantages, has been able to stand the strain the best of the three. Prince Edward Island, it would seem, has suffered severely. Now as to New Brunswick, I have a personal knowledge of commercial conditions extending back about thirty years, and, taking the most optimistic view, I cannot say that we have even held our own. While there are a few bright spots that show improvement, the total losses have been greater than the gains, and, while my opinions are not formed from statistics, but from observation, and I have tried to be fair and conservative in arriving at my conclusions, I cannot feel that our relations with Canada have been advantageous to the Maritime Provinces.” He was so intensely in earnest that I could not doubt his sincerity. Indeed I had no desire to do so because I had heard the same thing from many other business men. So, I let him go on without interruption. “While our population shows a small increase,” he went on, “it would seem there has been little, if any, increase in our Anglo-Saxon population. Our natural wealth in in-shore fisheries and forests is being depleted. Many of our farms have been deserted, or allowed to run down. Our own banks are all gone. Many of the industries we had— such as shoe, furniture, carriage, soap, nail, tobacco and cigar, paper bag and box factories, manufacturing druggists, lithographers, canneries (vegetable and fruit)—have either entirely disappeared or their control has gone to Central Canada; or they owe their
ment and not to Dominion Trade outside the Maritime Provinces. Much of the profit derived from our general business is being taken out of the province chiefly for the benefit of Central Canadian firms.”
He paused for a moment for breath, his summary of conditions having literally poured out of him in a breath. Then, in a tone of even greater tensity, he proceeded :
“In a sense our people are being used as servants to work the resources and transact the business of this province, and pass most of the net proceeds over to Central Canada. That we have been able to do as well financially as we have is due chiefly to the value of the products of our natural resources for export.
“The money that is brought into the country from sales of our produce to foreign nations adds to our national wealth, and (without considering the export of war supplies) I do not think I would be far wrong in saying that, figui-ed on a per capita basis, as compared with Central Canada, the people of this province bring in three times as much wealth as they do, and under the present system of taxation under the customs tariff we pay about three times the amount of taxes per capita that they pay. This is a rough estimate, but when we realize that probably three-quarters of our imported goods reach us through Central Canadian
extension of life to extraordinary personal manage-
ports, plus the importer’s profit on cost and duty which he has paid, and that the greatest amount under our tariff laws is paid to the Canadian manufacturer, and that the community where he is located receives the benefits derived from having him there, and indirectly through him is benefited by our business as an offset to the tariff tax of the people of that community, it does not seem extreme to say the per capita tariff tax is three times as great in New Brunswick as in Central Canada.
“Owing to the disappearance of many of our industries, and the disastrous results attending some of the industrial ventures here, there has been created in the minds of our people a dread of investing in industrials. Our people are naturally frugal and economical and have saved some money, and I think I am right in saying that St. John has more money invested in savings banks and life insurance than any city of its size in Canada, and what is true of St. John in this respect is true generally of the Maritime Provinces. Owing to our commercial relations with Central Canada, and with a barrier between us (Quebec) which has prevented our growing closer to each other, and with what business we have here being overcrowded owing to lack of increased population, our peopie have been compelled to invest their savings of the last thirty or forty years chiefly in what might be termed nonproductive investments.”
“Then,” I asked, “does all this mean that down here you are still unfriendly to Confederation?”
He paused for a moment before replying to this.
“I have given you,” he said, “a rough outline of conditions in New Brunswick as I see them to-day. When I compare these conditions with what I read of condi-
tions here previous to Confederation I am forced to feel that we would have been betteroff had we been left to ourslves. It would seem that Ontario used us as a cat’s-paw to get herself out of her difficulties, and in doing so prevented the forming of a Maritime Union which our statesmen were endeavoring to effect at that time, and placed us in our present unsatisfactory position. As one historian has expressed it, “The ends accomplished did not sanctify the means by which our people were forced into Confederation against their will.”
I have given this conversation in full because it is important in that it expresses the opinion of many business men in the Maritimes and suggests that there is a serious problem for Canada to solve.
The Matter of Maritime Union
TT will be observed that the speaker from whom I 1 have quoted refers to Maritime Union. Confederation was mooted for some years before it was accomplished; but Joe Howe had a fear that there would come to pass from it some such result as the merchant above quoted says has actually happened; the Maritime Provinces would be overshadowed, and the Upper Provinces would be the dominant partners. Dr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Tupper was leader of the Government in Nova Scotia in 1864, and arranged a convention at Charlottetown, P.E.I., to discuss a scheme of Maritime Union which he had introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature. While the delegates were struggling with the difficulties of the scheme, Sir John A. Macdonald appeared on the scene, and proposed the wider idea of a union of all the provinces; so that Maritime Union died stillborn. But it is still in the minds of the people of the Maritime Provinces, although I should not undertake to say that it is a live issue. Nevertheless, it has its strong advocates, including such men as Hance Logan, of Amherst. The late Captain Reid, M.P., was very warm for it; as, in New "Brunswick, are men like Hon. J. B. M. Baxter, former Attorney-General of the province, and Fred Magee, member for Westmorelapd. I believe a resolution endorsing it passed in the New Brunswick Legislature.
There are many arguments in favor of it. It would reduce the expense of legislation, for one thing, and would save time. It would do away with the necessity of three outfits of machinery of Government and buildings; with many other such material advantages as will occur to anyone. But its biggest advantage would probably be in unifying the people, creating unity of sentiment and aims, filling them with a belief in themselves and their country, a sort of offensive and defensive alliance to secure for the Maritime Provinces a fair partnership in the Dominion. The difficulties would be such as always attend any attempt at a mer-ger of separate interests—particularly when the stock is to be kept in the family, so to speak, and not offered to the investing public. New Brunswick, for example, is in a less happy position in regard to her means of revenue than Nova Scotia; and the union would probably be more to her advantage. There would be the question of the location of the capital, also; but I believe Hance Logan proposes to settle this by having it at Amherst. In none of the provinces are the present Parliament Buildings so elaborate that a great deal would be sacrificed by abandoning them as such; although the Assembly chamber in the building at Halifax—now just about one hundred years old—was considered very fine when erected, and the building, architecturally, is pleasing. As neither Nova Scotia nor New Brunswick would be likely to agree with the claims of the other, this scheme of placing the capital near the border of the two provinces, but slightly on the territory of the older province, might furnish a satisfactory solution.
solution. If union of the provinces should ever come, it would provide a great opportunity for w'hat they need still more; and that is, an educational union. There are now* eight distinct degree conferring institutions in the Maritime Provinces, all denominational except two, with
Continued on page 77
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a dissipation of effort and resources that is lamentable. With unequalled “raw material,” they might have a university down there which would make adequate use of the finest product they have—brains. But though proposals for amalgamation have been broached more than once, they never took definite shape.
Unfair Treatment is Charged
/T''H£ circumstances under which the Maritime Provinces entered Confederation have been detailed in another article in the present number of this magazine ; so it is not necessary to refer to them at length here. There is certainly a strong feeling down there that the union has not been so advantageous to them as to the other partners; and Confederation is, with a surprisingly large number of Maritime Province people, more or less of a grievance, in the way it has worked out. They think that the tendency is to “hog” everything for the Upper Provinces.
“The moving of the offices of the I.C.R. from Moncton to Toronto,” said one New Brunswick man to me, “is indicative of the attitude towards us ever since Confederation. We are the ‘poor relations’ of Canada, now.”
Some of what are now' the greatest banks in Canada—such as the Royal and the Bank of Nova Scotia—were founded and established in Halifax ; but they looked good to some outsiders, and the process of expansion was followed by flight.
“The energies and brains of the people of the Maritime Provinces have been systematically picked by Ontario and the West,” complained a Halifax man bitterly, “and used to develop that part of Canada rather than our own. Before Confederation, we were progressing rapidly and increasing in wealth and population. It was a time at w'hich wooden shipbuilding, in which we had ranked high among the nations of the world, was beginning to go down. We had many able men here, and if they had thrown their energies into the maintaining of the proud position of their own province, instead of sacrificing their time and attention to pulling chestnuts out of the fire for Ontario, we might have had a flourishing iron ship-building industry here to-day. Instead of that, they were lured away by the cry of a great Canada—in w'hich the Upper Provinces and the West have had the lion’s share.”
“If there is one thing,” said another man; and a prominent man too, “that makes me absolutely sick of having the name of Canadian, it is to hear your—”
“Excuse me,” I said: “Not mine!”
“Well, the people, papers, and politicians of the Upper Provinces speak about the Intercolonial Railway as though it were constructed by them for us. The best paying part of the road had been built by us before we ever entered the union; and while Ontario and Quebec came in without any railway or other public works of national advantage, but with a large debt, we at least had some assets.
“While the new lands of Canada, which are the property not of any one . part of it, but of the whole Dominion, | have been applied to the advantage, at I one time or another, of Quebec and Ontario, and the West, we have remained down here, hemmed in by the sea, : with nothing to offer the immigrants whom we have been helping to bring ; here for the benefit of other provinces. Occasionally, you hear some one ignorantly retort that Nova Scotia was given her coal, which should he the property of all Canada. Nova Scotia bought her coal from private interests in England, j to whom it had been granted in the eai'ly days; and she paid for it herself, and took it into Confederation with her, I along with many other valuable assets.”
This is not the statement of a disI gruntled individual with a “gropch.” It : is the expression of a pretty general i viewpoint.
The Feeling Toward the West npHE spirit of the people of the Mari!
time Provinces, in reference to the rest of Canada, is not unlike the spirit j of the people of Great Britain towards ! some newer and more aggressive
peoples. They are, comparatively, very old and have the dignity which age brings. They do not wish to complete the building of the world in a day; and they are not exclusively absorbed with the idea of making a great deal of money quickly. It is for this reason that they have been frequently called slow. Rather, they should be called
leisurely. Somebody has to stop and think how the wealth shall be applied and distributed.
There is a great deal of intellectual pride among them. They do think that they are a peg higher than the rest of Canada. How could they refrain from so thinking, wrhen from one county in Nova Scotia—Pictou—have come six presidents of Canada’s greatest universities, and professional men numberless as the sands of the sea.
Again, like the people of Great Britain, they are not giving to boasting about their accomplishments, only when driven to it, as I am here; but I will say | that, like the Briton, their calm air of j conscious superioi'ity is sticking out all j over them.
It is this feeling they have tow'ards Onj tario and the West; the feeling towards ; Quebec is more akin to the féeling they j have for themselves: Quebec is no ¡
parvenu. They feel, as I have already | shown, that they were dragged into Confederation against their will; that it was never any advantage to them and never will be. Latterly, the paternal interest of the Government of Canada, and the allocation of her resources, has been entirely for Ontario and the West. The constant irritation emanating from Ontario in the way of slighting criticism of the Maritime Provinces) and their j people, which is more common than the j people of Ontario perhaps realize, has ; intensified the feeling of estrangement. !
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The U.S. and Reciprocity 'HE feeling towards the United I States is warm, and always has been. The trade of the Maritime Provinces was with the people of the New England States long before Ontario was ever more than a name to them; and the tradition is that trade relations were far more satisfactory than they have ever been with Ontario. The people of the Maritime Provinces were at heart strong for reciprocity no matter how they voted ; and, I believe, would be still, if the issue were again presented. How that issue was bedevilled by political casuistry, is an old story. The present writer, having no preconceived attachment one way or the other, and a year before reciprocity became a partisan issue, spent weeks interviewing men of all shades of opinion in Nova Scotia on the question ; putting to them a suppositious reciprocity ar rangement far wider than the one afterwards introduced in Parliament: and there was practical unanimity from men of both political parties as to the value it would be for the Maritime Provinces. Long ago, when the question of union with Canada was being agitated in Newfoundland, it is said that the fishermen in the remote parts of that island were warned by those who opposed it that “their babies would be taken for gun wadding” if they went into any such scheme. Some of the arguments against reciprocity in Nova Scotia were based on fears not much more complimentary to the intelligence of the people.
The East—and Strong Drink
A S an abstract proposition, the Mari-
time Provinces seem in favor of prohibition. The majority of them voted for it when the plebiscite was taken. It was then largely academic, and it gave one a virtuous feeling to banish the demon for a day, through the ballot box. Prince Edward Island was one of the first parts of Canada to go “dry”; and the druggists there for a time vied with the promoters of fox ranches as the plutocrats of the island. In New Brunswick, a referendum will be submitted to the people this summer somewhat along the lines of that proposed in Ontario. The women will not have a vote, and it would not be surprising if New Brunswick should become one of the oases in the great prohibition desert in Canada. Meanwhile, a brisk trade in liquor is being carried on illicitly; and it was amusing in St. John to hear “wholesale bootleggers” and “retail bootleggers” referred to in the most casual manner.
Nova Scotia will probably remain dry; but it will be an awful wrench for the Highlanders. Cape Breton is Highland to the core; and the number of stills operated in the hills there is said to be enormous. That was what I was told in Sydney:
“A feature of the hardware trade is the great demand for copper pipe : Dealers do not ask to what use it is going to be put. As one of them said: ‘We keep still about it’.”
Can you imagine a country which puts on a Gaelic play (as was being done in Sydney when I was there) refreshing itself with buttermilk? It
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may be different in Halifax. The bill at the local theatre there was commended as featuring “Laughter, Loveliness, and Lingerie.” Presumably that end of the province will go in for light wines.
WHEN D. D. McKenzie, the Leader ’ » of the Opposition, announced in the House this spring in the most casual way that he was a moderate protectionist, some people thought that he had made terrible “break.” As a matter of fact, he was not more than two jumps ahead of his party in the Maritime Provinces, if that. If the future of Nova Scotia and, to a large extent, New Brunswick, with abundant raw materials, water power, coal, shipping facilities, and a reasonable supply of labor is not as a manufacturing country, all precedents in the New England states and elsewhere, are valueless. Nova Scotia is now the third manufacturing province in Canada—but a poor third; yet her manufactured products more than doubled in the decade ending 1910. With the rise in manufacturers comes an inevitable leaning towards a protective tariff. The pure free trader is as rare in the Maritime Provinces as anywhere else, although there are some. Generally speaking, the McKenzie attitude of moderate protection is not likely to antagonize many” of his supporters outside of the West. The feeling in the East is that the tariff is not a sacred thing, the ai*k of the manufacturers’ covenant, from which unholy hands are ordered off. It should be ordered on a scientific basis; applied where necessary, and removed or lowered where unnecessary. The tariff was made for "man; not man for the tariff.
The East and the War
THE Scotch and English people of the Maritime Provinces took an active part in the war. There could not be any finer men in the world physically than the Highlanders of Cape Breton. They went without much fuss, and they are coming back the same way. Looking out of the train window early one morning, I saw two returned ssldiers, who had just alighted at a lonely platform at the foot of a steep hillside, with nothing but trees and snow for a background, as far as the eye could reach. They were fine types of the young Cape Breton Highlander and they stood tightening up their straps, and looking after the train. I could imagine them climbing the hills together, perhaps thinking about some of the companions who had gone away with them but who did not come back; and keeping the thoughts to themselves. When they came to the parting of the paths, they would go their separate ways without any elaborate ceremony" of leavetaking. And when they reached home I question if either got any more effusive greeting, from the head of the house, at least, than an: “Aye, Sandy; you’re back!” Somebody down there told me a typical story of the coming home of one of these boys. He had been away four years; and when he came back he thought there was some kind of little outburst of diversion coming to him, but his pooch was bare. There was a picnic to be held in the neighborhood, and he approached his father, as diplomatically as a Scotchman can, for the necessary finances. There was no enthusiasm for the proposal visible; but it was finally agreed that, if he went out and caught a sheep, he could have part of the proceeds. They w'ere wild hill sheep ; and he had expended enough energy to capture a German trench before the animal was finally brought in; but he was spurred on by thoughts of the revelry to come.
“I see you catched him,” said his father. “Ay.” “It’s a fearful fine day for makin’ the hay, Donald. I’m thinking we will not go to the picnic the day, but we’ll all drive over to the Sacrament on Sunday.”