I Think Evan Was Right
When Honorable Evan Morgan, English nobleman, declared that because it lacked pubs and social amenities, the Peace River district was no place for the average English workman, Canadian editors rose, almost to a man, to cry him down. Now comes a Canadian, a journalist of wide experience, who says that while Mr. Morgan's choice of words was inapt, he enunciated a truth of vital significance to this Dominion
LIKE Mark Antony following Caesar’s departure, I come not to honor Hon. Evan Morgan but to bury him.
Now that the righteous indignation stirred up by his untasty words has calmed down, how about discussing the unhappy orator more in the philosophic spirit of the small boy who cried, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” than with the rancor of the other small boy who shouts, “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal?”
Canada has been extremely fortunate in her visitors from the old land. There does not seem to be a recent instance when any old-world visitor did not say exactly what we wanted him to say. The majority of them said much more. This is quite remarkable. The travelling Englishman has never been famed for the ease with which he assimilates a strange or foreign point of view. And this, I would say, was the essential basis of successful public travel in Canada. Of a race skilled in diplomacy and noted for the perfection of its dinner table manners, the English aristocrat is not at his best at luncheon. It is a ceremonial that takes him unawares. If he is going to indulge in unfortunate frankness, you may be sure that the madness will come upon him during luncheon.
It must be admitted that Mr. Morgan blundered to new heights of ineptitude. No visitor to this land of lakes and prairies has made a less Caesar-like impression. Caesar, it will be remembered, came, saw and conquered. Mr. Morgan was only one-third as good as Caesar. He only came. He left unsaid all those things he ought to
have said, and said all those things that only Diogenes or one of P. G. Wodehouse’s less alert heroes would have dared to utter had he the faintest glimmering of Canadian beliefs about Canada. Mr. Morgan stumbled to an assault on the national religion, which is unshakeable faith in the future, and particularly the British future, of this country. And of all the unwholesome weapons imaginable, he chose the least savory— the English pub.
With one blow he aroused every patriot, every editor, and the massed cries of vox populi. Thus a considerable section of the Canadian public was immediately involved. To the editorial boys Mr. Morgan’s opinions were a gift from above. From Vancouver to Charlottetown columns glittered and sparkled for the first time in months.
To vox populi, that amorphous half-world between press and street, the restraint of Mr. Morgan’s enthusiasm for the Peace River country as a magnet to British settlers was a clarion call to battle for the faith.
As for the pub, only its absence from the Canadian scene makes possible the fragile stability of our liquor legislation. To hint of its revival as a necessary lure to British immigration was the crowning breach of an address now famous for its tactlessness.
And so we wiped the earth with Mr. Morgan.
I wonder if the reaction was not unnecessarily violent.
Can We Stand Criticism?
CURELY Canada is adult enough by this time to still ^ her pained surprise when peripatetic speechmakers offer other fare than lollipops. In Britain the most outrageous criticism is received seriously and without rancor, never with ribaldry and venom.
Suppose someone examined Mr. Morgan’s Peace River impressions with that same studious courtesy—with that aloof detachment that seeks rather to find what good, if any, may be lurking in them than to assail their unorthodoxy simply because they are unorthodox.
Such a person would first clear away the nonessentials. He would accept with mild amusement, certainly with understanding, the ferocious incident of the railway tickets seven coaches for’ard and the honest
conductor who would not stoop to pick a pocket even at the behest of a member of the British aristocracy.
And that business about Mr. Morgan’s lineage. He explained, according to reports, that he was born in the purple, or if not in the purple at least the very dark blue. Personally, I can see nothing more objectionable in an occasional speaker admitting an aristocratic origin than in nine speakers out of ten claiming a log cabin for a birthplace. Both practices suggest a grave misconception of the importance of the rôle played by the speaker. In these matters, honesty seems the important thing, if one must produce his natal credentials. Now, if Mr. Morgan had claimed a log cabin birthplace, or the selfmade immigrant a toe-hold on Burke’s Peerage, then we might have something to brawl about. As it was, it seems to me, honors were easy.
Mr. Morgan Views the Peace
V\ 7TTH the conductor and this last matter pleasantly disposed of, we now approach the kernel of Mr. Morgan’s discourse. This had to do with his impressions of the Peace River country. Before proceeding, it would be well to register one point, possibly two, emphatically in Mr. Morgan’s favor. Whatever his opinion of the northern empire, in discussing it he had an advantage over ninety-nine per cent of his critics. He had at least been there. But this is possibly beside the point.
What he said was that while the Peace River country might be a wonderful farming country, without the pub and close neighbor contact it was a land that offered few attractions to the British settler. Mr. Morgan used symbols. The pub simply represented the social institutions developed by an intensely gregarious people, without which their lives could not be fully rounded. The symbols may not have been perfect, but they were good enough. Any serious-minded person could grasp their import. This was, simply, that the great empty spaces, however fertile, presented few charms to men and women accustomed to the close human contacts of a complex urban life. They are too vast, too empty, too lonely. In exchange for the thousand-and-one escapes from self the old land affords, the plains offer hard work, a possible future for the second generation, and the nearest neighbor a mile or more away. Mr. Morgan gave it as his considered opinion that his compatriots were no longer anxious to exchange the known pleasantness of city life for the certain unpleasantness of pioneer life.
Could Mr. Morgan possibly have been right? The fact of Canada’s failure to induce British settlers to come in any numbers to go on the land would seem to bear him out. A most casual examination of the social and economic changes in post-war Britain would also seem to bear him out. The static population of Canada would also bear him out. One almost wonders if among all those who have extolled the wonders of the magnificent country of the Peace, Mr. Morgan is the only one who has skirted the simple fact. Hooted and jeered, scorned and ridiculed, he alone seems to have had a grasp of honest reality.
He expressed the fear that has assailed every detached observer of the Canadian west, the fear that it can never be settled entirely by Anglo-Saxons. Here the term Anglo-Saxon is intended to connote the people of the British Isles. I use it in preference to the word British because of the now all-embracing implications of the latter word. Consciously or unconsciously, he expressed a fact of tremendous moment to Canada, with her conflicting desires to increase her population and yet to remain predominantly a British country. The fact is that as far as the Anglo-Saxon race is concerned, the day of the pioneer is passing. The war rang the agricultural pioneer’s deathknell. Social legislation in the Old Land and the combine-harvester in the new have buried him. Mr. Morgan was right. If we want to populate the west we must seek people in some other place than Britain.
“The Britisher is Nobody’s Fool’’
THE Britisher is an intelligent fellow. For purposes of argument let us admit that he is at least as intelligent as the Canadian. If our own agricultural class is moving with alarming rapidity into the
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cities, is it not the height of naivete to expect that we can induce Britishers, accustomed to a complex and satisfying urban life, to break for us the new lands that our own people will not break? The Britisher is nobody’s fool. That stirring phrase, “A million fertile acres waiting for the plow” may rouse luncheon gatherings to enthusiasm, but it means less than nothing to the man whose soul’s nourishment comes chiefly from the weekly meetings of the Little Topping Riding, Driving and Sliding Association. To such, Canada is not a promise but a threat.
Next to the stokehole of Atlantic liners, farming is probably the least profitable, the hardest and the most discouraging of human occupations. The first to admit this fact is the farmer: the last the urban dweller who sees national greatness only in terms of population, regardless of the prosperity or happiness of the teeming millions.
Canadians who have come in contact with potential immigrants in the Old Land report that the post-war British workman has no illusions concerning pioneer life. Whatever his conditions at home, he suspects they will allow him a more tolerable existence than he is likely to find in an undertaking in a new land for which he has neither aptitude, capital, training nor liking. At home he enjoys the advantages of social legislation as yet only dreamed of in Canada. Paternalistic laws protect him against the worst evils of sickness and unemployment. He may become destitute, but he is not likely to starve to death. Some certain provision is made for his old age. And even in his misery he is sure of companionship. In his clubs, his trade unions, his pubs, even on his street corners, he knows that he will find men who understand his problems, who speak his idiom, who will rejoice in his gladness and sympathize with his depressions. I do not pretend to suggest that the British unemployed would not be better off on the lands of the Peace, but he apparently does not think so.
Another important fact is that with the increased political consciousness of the working classes and the growing strength of the Labor Party, the British worker has faith in his future. With power in his own hands, he believes that his conditions must grow better and that they cannot grow worse. Since there is no longer any surplus of agricultural workers in the islands—for the same reasons that there is no surplus in Canada—it is from the industrial classes that emigrants must be sought. Of these classes how many are going to exchange the doubtful rewards of a pioneer existence for the known amenities of an industrial civilization? Canadians will not. What supreme innocence makes us insist that Britishers will? It seems obvious that if we are to settle the great fertile plains of the northwest we shall have to seek our settlers among some people more simple, naive and unsophisticated than those now living in the British Isles.
This is substantially what Mr. Morgan said. I find it difficult to believe that he was the unmitigated fool the press insisted that he was. He simply stated a fact that has been growing more obvious every year since the war. The gains of pioneer life no longer outweigh the losses incurred by embracing it.
The Legendary Pioneer
ON THIS continent the pioneer is regarded with sentimental awe. He is a legendary figure from the past, a kind of super-being endowed with qualities of sacrifice and vision, who consciously embraced incredible hardships that the wilderness might be tamed and great cities grow on the sites of cedar swamps. The hostile comments on Mr. Morgan pictured such a figure. There were uncounted references to the “spirit of the pioneer.” This spirit, it was stated, still burned in British breasts. If one considers this statement in the light of sober facts, he will realize that it does nothing of the kind. What once may have been a conflagration seems nothing more today than a flickering ember.
Any Canadian who has followed the immigration question in the daily press during the past few years, and who is old enough to compare the pre-war influx of British immigrants with the trickle of the post-war period, knows that the joint efforts of the Dominion Government, the railways, the provinces and of semipublic organizations have been a flat failure. Before the war one felt that the country was filling up. There was a steady current of movement as when a vessel slowly fills. The surface of things was broken and agitated. New people, new faces, new problems; a jostling for jobs, the seething restless atmosphere of people arriving. There has been no such atmosphere since the war. The pioneering days of the Anglo-Saxon are over. The migratory phase of race history is finished.
The popular notion conceives the pioneer as being driven by some inner spiritual urge to find what lies beyond the horizon. Cheap land exerts on him such an irresistible magnetic force that it is only necessary to discover a great new country such as the Peace undoubtedly is, to have thousands of human beings flow toward it as the surrounding air flows into a vacuum. This, of course, is sheer nonsense. The movement of population is not governed by Boyle’s law of gases. Simply because a country is empty there is no reason that it must automatically fill. The need of population is not of itself a certain means of acquiring it. Migration has always been caused not by the attraction of the periphery but by pressure at the centre.
The idea that the pioneer has always been drawn toward something is more romantic than the fact that in the majority of cases he was pushed away from something. The conditions which make the pioneer are not those in the places he goes to, but those existing in the place he leaves. The basic act in pioneering is one of going away, not one of arriving, nor of labor performed when it is too late to turn back.
De-barking the Covered Wagon
TN COMMON with the United States, our appreciation of the men and women who developed this continent is so great that we have idealized the motivating impulses out of all relation to reality. This is proper when we place our tributes on the graves of those who, for whatever reasons, made the America of today possible. But it is nothing short of insane
to base our hopes for the future in our idealized misconceptions of the past.
In the settlement of this continent, more pioneers were created by the conditions they sought to leave than by the attractions they expected to find. That they all hoped to better their circumstances goes without saying. But the chance, or even the certainty, of improvement is not enough to move people in any considerable numbers, if they find life fairly satisfactory where they are. Even among the millions who have come in the hope of finding great and easily acquired riches, few left such economic security that their gamble entailed a sacrifice of either money or position.
We are living in the post-war world. Conditions have altered. For instance, the earliest immigrants left England to escape religious persecution. America offered freedom. Need anyone leave England today because of religious interference? Would anyone today seek such freedom in America?
In a general sense, all immigrants are pioneers. In the narrower sense, and the one used generally by the rebukers of Mr. Morgan’s heterodoxy, a pioneer is one who goes on the land and carves for himself a home out of the wilderness. Such was the pioneer British stock that developed Old Ontario. It is pointless to describe here the heroic scope of their accomplishment. But is it any longer possible for men to pioneer in the manner of the early settlers? In those days industry was in the home. A family was a self-contained industrial unit, whose raw materials were furnished by the farm; which manufactured its own goods, and was its own market. Food was grown and consumed, wool spun, and clothing made on home looms. Leather was tanned and grain flailed. There was no great need for any medium of exchange. There was little need for capital. Equipped with nothing but an axe, a man could build himself a home, feed and clothe himself. Apart from acquiring iron from which to forge his tools, he need never go outside his own domain for a single necessity of life. Food, clothing and shelter were the products of unskilled labor.
In retrospect, the pioneer’s life stirs us by its fortitude and courage, but it could have had few attractions for the pioneer, since he dispensed with each picturesque detail as soon as he was able. One by one the products of home industry have been replaced by those of the machine. Home craftsmanship has become atrophied. Today, the farm is no more self-contained than a light housekeeping apartment in the city. Each is dependent on the products of the factory. But where a wage earner with no tools but his bare hands and no equipment but a fairly decent suit of overalls may put into operation and support the apartment, capital is essential to the man who seeks to farm.
We have definitely closed our doors to the workman. We insist upon the pioneer—although without the conditions that bred him, the pioneer is as dead as the dodo. As an economic force in the development and settlement of a new country he is gone. To shout down Mr. Morgan by declaiming that the Peace River country will be developed by the same kind of pioneer that developed old Ontario is mere noisy rhetoric. The kind
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The Immigrant’s Outlook
Vl/HAT of the pioneer in the more v * general sense—the man who leaves the known for the unknown in the conviction that the change will be for the better? The ordinary agricultural immigrant? The first difficulty here is one already mentioned. Our appeal for farm settlers is directed to a class no longer numerous enough to provide any exportable surplus. Failing them, we appeal to men of the cities whose lives have been most influenced by the complexities of modern civilization and who would feel the loss of these intricate contacts the more keenly. Such people must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of immigrating very carefully. They would place on one side of the scales hoped-for gains, in the other known losses. And then they would see which outweighed the other.
This process has been undertaken by many thousands living in the old land during the past decade. It takes place unconsciously every time an old countryman pauses before a poster of Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Is it not evident by this time that when the scales are examined, the known losses are found to outweigh the imagined gains? However high an opinion Canadian publicists may entertain of Canadian farm life, it is evident, after five years of strenuous immigration effort, that this opinion is not shared by any considerable numbers in the old country.
What of the pioneering spirit—that spirit which sped the old mariners on their voyages of discovery, that urge to seek the unknown? It still exists, but it no longer seeks the farm. You will find it in the cockpits of airplanes, behind the steeringwheels of automobiles, in the laboratories of industry, and in the development of a northern mineral empire.
A/f R. MORGAN’S statements were not a maundering, churlish prophecy. They seem to have been rather a halting confirmation of an established fact. We might as well face this fact and decide which is the more important—that Canada remain predominantly British, or that she materially increase her population. She cannot do both. If she is to remain British, then she must be content to see her population remain virtually static, until in the course of time the natural increase of population in the United States will cause an overflow into this country. If she is to have population, then she must seek it in those countries where the magic of the machine has not yet penetrated, and where there is a peasant class sufficiently primitive and unsophisticated to regard the attractions of Canada as more desirable than those of their home land.
I do not suggest which of these Canada should embrace, but there can be no question that she should embrace one of them. At the present time she is riding two horses going in opposite directions. She should choose her direction and abandon one of the mounts. Retaining both gets her nowhere, and induces a state of mind prejudicial to the colossal task that lies ahead of her.
It has never been absolutely proved that population is of itself a desirable factor in a nation’s life. Whether the happiness, prosperity or dignity of any save a very few now living in Canada would be augmented by an increase in our population is highly questionable. The United States has a population twelve times the size of Canada’s. No one would suggest that her citizens are twelve times better off. On the other hand it is debatable whether the British race has reached such a peak of perfection in its present amalgams that no further experiment in blending dare be ventured.