This Home of Freedom
Canada's history is the history of a people who craved liberty and ensued it
IS IT treason to say that, much as I love to gaze upon the picture of the Fathers of Confederation, sitting in the big-windowed room at Quebec, sixty-three years ago, the most inspiring thing about the sight is that it produces a comparison with pictures of the Versailles Conference of 1919.
At Versailles we see Clemenceau and Lloyd George, Wilson and Orlando, and others too numerous to mention; and it is very good. But we know that the real magnificence incorporated there is not in these mighty conferees, or in the chamber which reflects the dazzle of Louis Quatorze. What gives immortality to Versailles is the multiplied splendor of obscure boys, immured in dirty, ghastly trenches, facing sublimely the zero hour, and laughing in the face of Death. And behind them their heroic women, not seeing the gory panoply of war; but bearing up their husbands, sons and lovers, in matchless devotion and exquisite suffering. The fame of the men who gathered at Versailles, historic figures as they are, does not compare with the marvel of the private and corporal, willing to have their names blotted out, if only they did their duty by the folks at home.
The shrine before which men most deeply feel their debt to fellow men—and women give deepest thanks that they may bear the brave—is the shrine of the Unknown Soldier. After olden wars he was forgotten. Now he receives the praise.
It is that way with Confederation. The Fathers did nobly, in a situation they did not create—a deadlock in government which brought out the best that in them lay. But whom did they represent? What lifted them above themselves? Is it possible to give to the picture of old Quebec, the touch, the thrill, the silent majesty of the Unknown Soldier? Try. Put somewhere in the scene the shade of a man, with his axe on his arm; and of a woman, distaff in hand—types of the pioneers—and let them say: "Build on our House of Freedom.”
Forelopers of Freedom
TP HE other day, in synod, a preacher told his fellow -*■ pillars of the faith that if Peter and James and John the beloved, came off their smack, hung up their nets, and walked up street, no elder or deacon bold ■would ask them in to tea. Similarly'—well, you know what I’m going to say about the ancestral farmer coming to some parts of town.
Without the pioneers, who washed outdoors, and stuffed moss in the wall, to keep out the wind, and embedded themselves in sweat and grime, logging and burning to make ground for grain—where would we be? Certainly' not where the man in the audience said, when the eager equal righter on the platform shrilled: “Where would man be without woman?” There would be no Canadian paradise for us.
Pardon, then, for seeming to neglect the chastened party stalwarts at Quebec who passed the seventy-two resolutions, out of which the British North America Act
was born. Honor and glory be to their prophetic vision, and the courage which led them to sink their parties for their country’s good. Count us all in with a loud ‘Amen’ after every eulogy that is pronounced upon them and their abiding work. But turn aside now to meditate upon their masters; their creators; the unsung artificers of this Confederation who builded, indeed, better than they knew.
We Canadians don’t know how free we are. This north was reserved for a Home of Freedom. In the very nature of things, what is carried in the spirit comes out in the politics. It is pretty thickly disguised, sometimes, but look and see.
What made the first settlers in any pare of Canada come to the wilderness, and throw down their bold, and often reckless challenge to climate, distance, isolation, hardship, school-lessness, the barbarian and the future? In a very large sense it was the same thing which caused father Abraham to come over to the Jordan Valley from Ur of the Chaldees; only what Abraham called the angel of the Lord presented himself to them as an immigration agent, after nobody’s good but his own, though serving the long future of Canada all the same.
Sometimes they were people of some substance and much refinement. They included thousands to whom life in the Old World had not been kind. Take a specimen of the first kind, now, and several specimens of the second a little later in this discourse.
The Indomitable Magraths
A/IRS. JAMESON, in her incomparable ‘Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada’ describes her visit to the Magraths at Erindale, several miles up the Credit River from Lake Ontario, ninety years ago. They were an Irish family the father a clergyman,
the mother a daughter of the patrician house of Douglas. There were four boys and a girl, and the whole family represented as fine a stock as hearts could wish or eyes behold. They had sold their property in Ireland because the country was unsettled. As Mrs. Jameson says; ‘Canada was an asylum for those who could not collect [as well as for those who could not pay tithes.’
The good cleric brought his family to Canada for greater independence. They all worked as they would have considered it inappropriate to work in Ireland, at clearing the land, building their barn, doing their blacksmithing—everything, indeed, that the pioneer had to do.
The Magrath clerical duty, for years, had the North Pole for its limit. It brought small recompense. The farm offered a living but no fortune; so the high-born old gentleman, with many a struggle against his ancient prides, set up his boys as storekeepers.
The delusion still was very strong that, while it was honorable to buy goods over a counter it was disgraceful for a gentleman to sell them. Mrs. Jameson tells of a military parade at the village, with the young Colonel Magrath in command; and then of the colonel going to his store to sell to one rustic a pennyworth of tobacco and to another a yard of check.
Nothing delighted Mrs. Jameson more, in all her travels, than the excellence of this family, reduced to the necessity of working for itself, according to the standards of the land they left, but, to her discerning eyes, exalted into being ‘their own architects, masons, smiths, carpenters, farmers and gardeners’. She adds: ‘They are, moreover, bold and keen hunters, quick in resource, intelligent, cheerful, united by strong affection, and doting on their gentle sister, who has grown up among these four tall, manly brothers, like a beautiful azalea under the towering and sheltering pines’.
The Magraths had outlived some traditions; the parson felt he had lost some caste. But they had gained a vast new self-reliance, which is freedom, because they were in a new land. There may be nobler things for a man who has been brought up to regard a valet as a necessity, than to learn to become his own architect, mason, smith, carpenter, farmer, gardener, hunter, and to be quick in resource; but only a man who has so transformed himself could guess what they are. It is a bigger job to clear a farm than to collect a rent.
Before, behind, beneath, above, and ever after the Confederation of 1867 is the genius of the pioneer—the man and his wife who had to find new ways of doing things; who found within themselves courage and resources they never dreamed of. Get a whole country dedicated to this sort of personal discovery, and rooted in the toil of making communities out of wildernesses, and you are bound to have glories in government which weren’t expected, and which aren’t always realized for what they are—the living bulwarks of living freedom. Let me try to throw on the screen a few things that belong to the pre-Confederation story; but are as surely
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in the Confederation as the sunshine of sixty years ago is in the mightiest oak that shades the sward.
The Men Who Made An Empire
TN THIS notable year who adequately
will celebrate the place of the French in Canada; and their share in the guarantee of the freedom wherewith we are free. It can be said that the colonization of empty countries has been undertaken merely to glorify kings, and make merchants rich. But that is only half a tale; and the inferior half. It is not the exploiter who makes a country; but the settler.
There is talk to this day that suggests the British Empire has been made by those who stayed in Britain, and told other people how much more blessed it is to obey than to create. The Empire has been made by those who went out and made it; and stayed out. The French who came to Canada first, came because they wanted, however dimly, more freedom than they had in France. What else was there to make them face winters which terrified those who stayed by their vineyards to assail forests the very sight of which was enough to make soldiers flee? They multiplied as they made their
farms and kept the savage ' at bay When there were sixty thousand of them, strung along the St. Lawrence, where there was some little chance of keeping market with their distant kindred, the conquest befell—if it is softer, say the cession came.
Something happened that had not commonly occurred when communities were victims of the seeming chance of war. Instead of the iron heel of the repressor being ground into the helpless tiller of the soil, the terms of cession, in unmistakable accent, proclaimed that what these people held most precious in their own conquest of bush and soil, frost and snow, should be preserved unto them. They were guaranteed their language, their religion, their civil laws.
Since then, like the course of true love, the progress of this liberty has not been softly smooth.
CEEKING more freedom for themselves, the men and women who undertook the Canadian creation we now revel in, comprehended others, less happy than themselves. Long before Canning said: ‘I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the
Old’, the pioneers of Upper Canada led the Old World in assuring liberty to the captive. Though in 1772 the courts declared that any slave landing in Britain became free, it was not until 1834 that the Imperial Parliament freed a slave in a British colony. Until 1807, it was lawful for British men to steal Africans and take them to British colonies, in ships that were four feet high only, between decks.
But, in 1793, at its second session, the little legislature of Upper Canada, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, decreed that any slave landing within its territory became free; and that any children born of slaves in Upper Canada should become free on attaining their majority. Seventy years, before Abraham Lincoln smote the fetters from millions of natives of the republic, Canada became holy ground to those millions. If you would get a baptism of humble pride for what your forerunners in this land have achieved, read some of the truth about negroes kissing the soil you call your own, because, at last, they owned their own bodies.
The endless romance of the human race, including our own segments of it, is the story of how it has got rid of one delusion after another. The divine right of Kings was one of them. The fore-ordained inferiority of a ‘colonial’ was another. If the pioneers who made themselves so objectionable to Sir Francis Bond Head, and all but sent the Family Compact off its head, did nothing else but make responsible government inevitable in Canada, they would have deserved well of all generations of freedom-loving men.
When you get acquainted with Canadian life as it was before Confederation you increasingly admire the forces that were moulding the body in which we live to-day. There was scarcely any money in the country; and what there was wore a very worried look. At the time the battle for responsible government was finally won masons and carpenters were taking a third and half of their wages in goods. Farmers delivered hardwood at the Sarnia dock for a dollar a cord.
After Confederation—I have the correspondence on the subject—a Lambton County school board offered four dollars and a half for a corner quarter acre, on which to erect a school. Farmers’ wives brought chickens to town, and got a quarter a pair for them. He was a marked man who could pay promptly the interest on his mortgage. Read many letters of that time, and you get this clear, irremovable impression that in essentials, the foundation laying of communities, was being well and truly done. They didn’t talk much about creating a country but went on doing it.
The people who answered the same call that Abraham heard, were the pick of the lands from whence they came. They had the initiative to move from where their fathers had been foot-tied for uncounted years. They had the courage to face the unknown, and the endurance which defied discouragement and laughed at impossibilities. They were looking for better times for themselves? Surely they were. But that was because better times meant better freedom; wherein they could forget the things that were behind. Consider the mere skeleton of as noble an epic in the fight for freedom as our age has brought forth, so you may judge what quality has gone into the halfappreciated countryside.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs
NINETY-FOUR years ago, during the first great appearing of trade unionism in England—the cotton-spinning Virgins of Oldham organized into that name and testament—a handful of laborers joined themselves into the first agricultural union at Tolpuddle in Dorsetshire, hoping to raise their wages again to the ten shillings a week, from which they had been reduced to six.
They were Methodists, four of them
local preachers. The Church of England parson first befriended, and then denounced them to the squire. They were arrested, and for taking these illegal oaths, were sentenced to seven years transportation.
Their leader was George Loveless. In the dock he made an imperishable defence and while waiting for the verdict he wrote four verses, the second of which was:
‘God is our guide: no swords we draw;
We kindle not war’s battle fires.
By reason, union, justice, law
We claim the birthright of our sires.
We raise the watchword “Liberty!”
We will, we will, we will be free!’
They went to the Antipodes in the hulks; shipped away while Hume and Roebuck, in the Commons, were beseeching injustice to hold its hand. A great agitation arose. They were pardoned, and returned triumphantly to little farms that were bought for them in Essex.
Eighty years ago, four of the Tolpuddle martyrs came to Ontario and cleared bush farms in Middlesex and Perth. They straightly charged their children to tell no man that they had been convicts. Was there ever such a modesty in men who were assured of immortality wherever Freedom is celebrated? What manner of men were they? John Stanfield took his choir through Western Ontario, became reeve of his township, and ran for parliament. George Loveless founded the church at Siloam, seven miles east of London. He told nobody why he chose for the stone which now for fiftythree years has been over himself and wife, the text ‘These are they that came out of great tribulation.’
Five years ago, I found a farmer across the road from the wayside cemetery. Did he know old Mr. Loveless?
“When I was twelve years old,” he said, “my sister died of diphtheria. The preacher was too frightened to bury her. My father asked old Mr. Loveless if he would do it. Sure he would. He never hesitated a minute, but came to the house and all. He wasn’t afraid; not he. Did I know7 him? Didn't I?”
“We will, we will, we will be free,” the condemned Loveless wrote in the court where Jeffreys had held a bloody assize. In Canada he fulfilled his prophecy; and hailed Confederation in sure and certain hope of greater things to be.
Has anybody attempted to appraise our crowming economic freedom from old-world bonds? We have that, all across Canada to an extent which amazes the devotee of the good old customs of the good old lands. The owner of the soil is also the tiller of the soil. It is easy enough to condemn the typical farmer for narrow vision, for suspicion and fear of his fellow countrymen. If you w'ould take his real measure, go to his county picnic, see him and his women folks listening to their leaders; watch the array of cars in which they come to the gala; and compare what you see with what you know of the land-worker of England. The landowner wielding a pitchfork—conjure that picture of Oxford in Canada, with the notion of a similar spectacle in the English county of that name. It can’t be done! The English spectacle does not exist.
Stretching Abroad: The Prairies
AND now, having reached the Free^ dom of the tiller of the soil—the foot soldier of industry, as the present-day driver of his motor car has been called— see what it has most strikingly done since Confederation. To till soil you have to have soil to till. At Confederation, Canada ended at the Lake of the Woods, and some halting patriots were afraid to take on more. Long afterwards, Robert Jaffray, who died President of The Globe,
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said he wouldn’t risk his life in midwinter on a railway on the Lake Superior shore.
The illimitable plain became Canadian territory only in 1869. Within less than a thousand days of Confederation, then, this infant state of four provinces, annexed over two million square miles of land— something that has never been done in any infant state since history was written. What has happened in the prairie country can be judged as the first fruits of Confederation. It will be estimated here, not in the terms of land selling, railway promoting, or election winning, but from the point of view of the pioneering genius of Freedom, half realized as yet, hut unfolding itself more and more unto the perfect national day.
One who broke his first sod, in Saskatchewan behind oxen in 1885 may escape the charge of unsympathy towards the western farmer, if he doesn’t weep with the economic hardships of a man who yesterday owned nothing, and to-day is struggling to get in three hundred acres of wheat, but admires him for his unexampled feats in agricultural and political history. The western farmer has wrought a vaster transformation in a virgin country than has been done in similar time in any other part of the British Empire.
He has built systems of railways the like of which exist in no similar area of the globe. He has organized himself into a grain storage and grain moving business that make Joseph’s Egyptian granaries look like puppy kennels. Almost as an unconsidered trifle, he has made Vancouver the greatest grain-shipping port on any littoral of the Pacific. He has made of himself the government in his own provinces, and the cause of governments elsewhere, after a fashion of which no other tiller of the soil ever dreamed. And, with it all, this farmer has begun to mingle races in a style that will prove him to be the unique alchemist in human reproduction.
Mr. Bird, M.P., comes of tenant farmer stock in Westmoreland, England. He tells of the far greater freedom his children enjoy at The Pas than he knew, where orthodoxy was to pray God to bless the squire and his relations, and keep the people in their proper stations. Mr. Lukhovich, M.P., of Vegreville, tells how his people flourish, compared with how they almost perished in the Austrian Empire. A Doukhobor woman in Saskatchewan, telling me how her husband was sent to Siberia from Caucasia, said, with her face alight: “If we had a little more fruit here, it would be beautiful, beautiful!’’
Some day there will be a great experience meeting on ‘What Canada has done for me’, at which the testimonies will come from people who have found out how good and blessed a thing it is to know two countries instead of one. In that cloud of witnesses you will be surprised at the quantity and force of the evidences from the British Islands: and at the proportion of Englishmen who will laugh over their conversion to what some will call Canadianism, and some will say is the gospel of their own children.
Did you ever ask what is involved in the old idea that the English and French are natural enemies? That used to he taught on both sides of the Channel. A glance at history explains the feeling. There was more in it than the notion that one Englishman could lick seven Frenchmen any old time.
Traditionally, the Englishman was pretty well scared lest some fine day a resurrected Napoleon would appear.
So, you see, we used to bring to Canada the old fear of the foreignerit is one of the most ancient terrors in human history; and only now really giving place to the confidence that, after all, God hath made his children of one blood.
But let’s get off what we want to say through a couple of examples of how the liberty to know people of different origins
from our own, enlarges ourselves and serves the future unity of our country.
Next time you visit the Parliament Buildings of Saskatchewan, see in the rotunda the portrait of Speaker MacNutt who was later chairman of the Liberal party caucus at Ottawa. He represented Saltcoats, a riding containing thousands of farmers from central Europe—Galicians and Ruthenians, and so forth. He was fond of telling this story:—
Some time after these people settled there, an agitation arose against their immigration. The most prominent writer to the press against them was a fiery Scotchman. The agitation died. MacNutt was coroner for his district, as well as member. He had to go down the line, and out to a Galician settlement to hold an inquest on a boy who had been killed. At the railway station he was met by the doctor, who was to drive him to the inquiry.
“Can these people speak English?” the coroner asked the doctor.
“Not very well; but I have arranged for a very good interpreter to be there, Mrs. Wilson. There’ll be no trouble.”
The interpreter was pretty and young. Her English was as good as the coroner’s Her facility in Galician was so evidently perfect that MacNutt wondered how a school teacher, as he was sure she was, could pick up their language so well while teaching them her own.
The inquest over, he spoke with Mrs. Wilson and found her indeed a charming girl. She had about five miles to go. Could they drive her home?
“No, thank you, very much,” she said, “I expect my husband to come for me any moment now.”
In five minutes, Wilson appeared. He was the Scotchman who had written so furiously against Galician immigration. His wife was a Galician, who could not speak a word of English six years before.
The True Confederation
"OECENTLY after an absence of twenty years, I was where that first sod furrow in Saskatchewan was turned forty-two years ago. Instead of a lonely siding, there is a Lutheran church, and a school where the children answer to Swedish names, but use the English tongue. The most prominent early settler was an Englishman. When one of his boys began to court a girl from Sweden the adventure was severely frowned on. Being British, the boy stuck to his girl, and his brother followed his lead. Two of their sisters have married Swedish gentlemen. Everybody is satisfied and father’s and mother’s prejudice has turned to joy. This British family has become gloriously free of ancient racial prejudice, begotten of ignorance of how good the good God makes all His fair children.
In theWest, and in the East, the process of discovering unity in variety proceeds apace; of the sweet and blessed fellowship that leads men and women to the cradle— the new, the irresistible Confederation of kindreds and tribes and tongues, which will be Canadian over all, as surely as the dawn outrides the dark.