A NEW BOOK THAT CHALLENGES OUR MYTH
Are we really a second-rate people?
If Canada has an "angry old man" of letters, his name must be Arthur Reginald Marsden Lower. This distinguished and always controversial historian, who is 69 this month, gained international renown twelve years ago when he published Colony to Nation: A History of Canada—by all odds the liveliest and most penetrating work of its kind. In a country often absurdly sensitive to criticism, his sharp and brilliant pen has been busy for forty years both puncturing our pomposities and sketching a clear route-map for the future. Now, from his Kingston seat as Douglas professor of Canadian History at Queens University, Dr. Lower has turned his private spotlight on the social structure of his nation. The result is a major work, entitled Canadians in the Making, to be published this fall by Longmans, Green. With unmellowed aggression he rips into our coziest myths and our most hallowed traditions, giving us—perhaps for the first time—a true glimpse of how the Canadian grew to be what he is today. The following excerpts are taken from his new book; a second article will be presented in a later issue.
DIKING THE LAST century, the millions of immigrants Canada luis taken in are just about equal in number to the millions of emigrants. This has been a country of nomads land it is hard to see how a society of much worth can arise among nomads), who pitch their tents here for a generation or two and then move on to greener fields. To this aspect of migration Canadian statesmanship, past and present, has been almost totally blind.
It has tended to be the more able, and especially the spontaneous, the extroverts, “the up-and-coming” who have gone to the l nited States. It’s possible to predict fairly accurately which members of a given group of young people will end up "in the States. ’ Canada has retained the withdrawn people, the sedate, and those with the least energy and ability.
What this century-old export of brains and energy has done to our society cannot be estimated, but it would seem that it has been one of the large factors in keeping it in that state of low-water which has always been the object of the Yankee’s good-natured scorn. The difficulties of nature have been great in Canada and they have led to its having had to get along with people who would put up with them, which, given the ease with which one can always go somewhere else, have been the passive and the acquiescent. There is no reason to think that the new immigrants are different from the old in these respects.
It would be overstatement to say that Canada consists entirely of second-rate people, hut by no means overstatement to say that it has never been oversupplied with first.
I oronto "nan'ow-mindednes's"
A PLAN MADE FOR YORK ill 1789, before it was chosen as the capital, provided a public square, with eight principal streets leading off it, each ninety-six feet wide. This plan, which would have given the metropolis of 1 oronto streets as wide as those enjoyed by most American towns, disappeared, to be replaced by a dismal rectangular cluttering: it was considered too ambitious.
In 1818. provision was made for a broad promenade along the whole water front. 1 he trustees of the scheme were John Beverley Robinson, W illiam Allen and other leading citizens. “The trustees failed to hold and (eventually) the railways succeeded in acquiring.”
In 1852. a plan was made for a “Road or Esplanade 100 feet wide, along Toronto’s harbor front.” “This design seems loo ornamental” is scrawled across the face of the plan. Nothing was done about it and it was at this period that “the railways succeeded in acquiring.”
In 1911. the city boggled the plan for drives and boulevards along the Humber. In 1955, it was busily filling up its remaining ravines.
Thus a site which originally had many assets of natural beauty was turned into a vast sprawling mass of self-strangulation, with little distinctive about it but its noise. And hardly a man among its “up and coming” citizens who would not call this century and three quarters of narrow-mindedness “progress.”
"19th Century teachers"
ALL OVER GANADA, we have plenty of 20th century schools filled with 19th century teachers.
"No national pride"
WHEN POOR JOHN RICHARDSON, a Canadian who had actually written a book, came back home in the 1810s. he carried with him hopes that his production might make some appeal to his countrymen. “I actually obtained, he says, “among a population exceeding a million of persons, not less than two hundred and fifty subscribers . . “Not more than one twentieth of the Canadian people were aware of the existence of the book, and of that twentieth not one third cared a straw whether the author was a Canadian or a Turk.
We max comfort Major Richardson, in whatever Elysium lie may be resting, by assuring him that he would not find things impressively changed if he were to return to his native country today. There was no national pride in English Canada in 1817 and. except in limited circles, there is not much more today.
"Rude and dirty ,Montreal"
MONTREAL FROM THE FIRST was frontier and self-willed. It was the “jumping-off point for the pays d'en haul, the starting point of the canoe route that built Canada. As befitted a frontier town, until well down in its history, it was crude and rude and dirty, as some would say it still is.
"Submerged by city values"
THE STURDY YEOMAN no sooner emerged in Canada than he began to change into something else. By modern times he seems to have become either the owner of a machine shop for extracting food values from the soil, a man chained to a herd of cows and the city dairies, a fairly large-scale capitalist, with a capitalist’s attitude toward the land—tin* land as a factory—or at the other end of the scale, a poor white skulking on the margins of the better farming districts. Or it would he fairer to say he is becoming such things, for there are still sturdy farmers left, and there will be until they are submerged by city values.
"The demon rum"
THE COLLAPSE of the Prohibition movement supplies a conspicuous example of the way in which our society “matured,” “lost its zeal,” "broadened." "slumped" (take your choice). Before the birst War. it was not just a few cranks who were rallying their forces against the demon rum. but large, intelligent and prosperous sections of nearly every community—every Methodist and Baptist, most Presbyterians, and groups of some size from the ( atholics and even the Anglicans. The drive against the liquor traffic was conducted in every form and on every plane, educational, emotional, evangelical, economic. It was compounded ot social disinterestedness, religion—from hot and strong to staid and dignified—fanaticism, detached analysis of the situation. It caught up all ranks and classes, and the debate, which went on with growing intensity through the early years of the century, provided as big an opportunity for education in self-government as this country has ever received.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 35
Continued from page 13
A new book that challenges our myths
During the war. the Prohibition forces rolled to triumph and, just after it. consolidated their triumph in further victories. Then even more quickly than the achievement came crashing defeat, and the country descended into the ugly and unsatisfactory situation with respect to alcohol in which it lias continued. I here can be no doubt about the collapse. No middle course for Canadians in the matter of "the demon rum." Today, the Prohibition movement is as dead as the proverbial doornail.
“The Swiss of North America”
English Canadians rushed ofl to war in 1914-15 without knowing much about the issues involved. I here was never any doubt among either the men themselves or their people that they would make good soldiers. There never has been any doubt since. In the army, as elsewhere, their qualities lay about midway between British and American: more discipline than Americans, more adaptiveness than British, less innovating initiative than the Americans, less original genius than the British, more general average capacity perhaps than either of the others.
In the Second World War. Canada s lighting forces had an extraordinary percentage in them of men with more than common school education.
Canadians are tfie Swiss of North America. One does not look to the Swiss, with Frenchmen on one side of them and Italians on the other, for original genius. One does, however, look to them for solid dependability. I hat perhaps explains why Canada has not yet produced a commanding military figure —that and the extreme distaste the average man evinces toward anyone with abilities too far in excess of his own.
One PM from the farm
In the United States it used to be thought necessary to believe that presidential candidates had been born in loghouses (though few of them had been). In Canada, such a birthplace would have been no demerit for high office, though here again, relatively few could “In any war, woman reverts (without much persuasion) to her ancient role of prize of the warrior”
boast it: of the prime ministers of Canada only Arthur Meighcn seems to have been a farm boy. But the farms have furnished many of the secondary figures and numbers of the rank and file.
Timothy Eaton’s catalogue
One name conspicuous by its absence from a portrait gallery of the businessmen in the 18SOs was that of Timothy Eaton. Vet by the year in which his first mail-order catalogue was sent out, 1884, he had been some fifteen years in business and had had a major share in establishing that which we have long since taken for granted, the cash-over-thecounter, one-price, no-bargaining system of selling goods, thereby rescuing retail shopkeeping from the vestiges of the oriental bazaar which had clung to it throughout the ages.
Since 1884 Eaton's catalogues have become a national institution. The first one. of 32 pages, had no illustrations. There were 35 departments represented, nearly all textiles. Few ready-made goods were offered. Two years later, a picture of the store appeared and it was announced that it was in possession of a telephone—one telephone—-No. 370.
These first catalogues underline the fact that in the 1880s we arc standing between two worlds, [here is still some Victorian dignity even about a mail-order catalogue. There is no high-pressure salesmanship, rather a desire to inform: the letterpress is instructive and logical. The class distinctions of the day are recognizable and recognized: House-
maids’ aprons are plainly labeled such. Bustles and corsets were advertised from the first, and you could buy them from one dollar up, but ladies’ dresses were modeled with sour dowagers inside them, and night clothes, far from gracing some youthful female sprite, were exhibited in wrapped-up form: there were none of those alluring figures which are alleged to make the modern mail-order catalogue favorite reading—or, rather, inspection— for rude youths in regions remote from city sophistication.
Eaton’s shared with the age its universal feeling for self-respect. There was an intangible note of honest pride about its catalogues, the mark of a strong individuality with strong convictions. Today’s impersonality was absent. The feeling of manifest destiny hovered everywhere. Time has proved the presumption correct.
It might almost be said that Toronto rose to national fame on Eaton's catalogues and on that other institution which was forging ahead parallel with Eaton's, the Canadian National Exhibition.
Distance makes the heart . . .
. . . No Canadian has difficulty envisaging Canada once he gets three miles off shore, and usually his sentiment for it rises with the distance.
“The cancer of race hatred”
Nothing is too small to be seared by Canada’s cancer of racial hatred, nothing too large. If quiescent one moment, it breaks forth the next. In no period, not even at the Conscription crisis of 1917, was it more constantly in play than in the generation following Confederation. That it did not ruin us we may owe to the fact mentioned by Adam Smith that “there is a lot of ruin in a nation." There must have been a lot of ruin, even in the youthful Dominion of the 70s and 80s,
or it surely would have been destroyed. And that it was not was perhaps owing in part to men’s attentions being drawn away from the central issue by the other interests and occupations of the period.
“Scandals in the west”
The present socialistic governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta are logical evolution from the original conceptions of social efficiency that a new start called out: the idea of a “co-operative commonwealth’’ (and indeed the words) long preceded the organization of the party which formally adopted the name and this idea, growing out of the local circumstances, was far wider than mere party concepts. This is the foundation, this conception of a new, efficient and prosperous society, with all the middleclass virtues, from which, in party as in other matters, the experimentalism of the west springs.
Naturally, the old Adam must out, and the west has had its share of public scandals. In new communities, with a great deal of natural wealth lying about waiting to be seized, human nature's defenses against dishonesty, never robust in the best of societies, break down, and the strong and advantageously placed rush in and get what they can—that is the record of every society known to man, and to it the west was no exception: public honesty in new countries seems to begin when there is nothing much left to steal.
British Columbia’s rich natural heritage was tucked out of sight and more difficult to exploit. The two factors opened the way to big enterprise, in contrast to the ordinary man’s attack on the land which marked the prairies. The old crown-colony tradition which lingered on in Victoria for a number of years continued an atmosphere of easygoing privilege. There was also the character of the people. The prairies were made by the hard-working evangelical Protestants of the east, chiefly Ontario, led by wellendowed and public-spirited men. While British Columbia drew many people of this class, it also drew a large component of its people direct from England, and while the basic qualities of these newcomers were not overly different from those of the prairie people, their experience of the new world was less,
and, what is more, they established mainly an urban society. To all this add a more or less relaxing climate and the isolation of the mountain valley.
The results manifested themselves in a less certain aim, a less homogeneous society, and one not so much impressed with the dreadful fact that it must work, for the night would be coming when man would work no more!
While British Columbia’s coastal strip is not another California and its people do not share all of the pagan life which marks southern skies and beaches, they have leaned rather farther toward it than have the hard-bitten people who must face the winters of the interior. Nor has there been the same ancestral Puritanism among them: there is a world of difference between a gentle Anglican from southern England and some stern Biblical Scot or Irishman, even unto the third and fourth generation.
It is not surprising that this magnificent but rather easygoing province should for years have led the country in the high state of its public health and the low number of its births, in the handsomeness of its people’s incomes and the frequency with which they divorced each other, but not in leaders of large calibre and should have found for itself no prophets at all.
The immigration paradox
Everyone has been in favor of immigration but against having immigrants.
“The decline in morals”
During the 1920s, much used to be heard of the loosening of sexual morality. The American magazines were filled with stories about “petting” and “necking,” which were apparently new activities for young people. We are under the disadvantage in Canada of having a great deal of our social discussion conducted for us by our American friends and in reference to American conditions, which differ from Canadian: for illustration of this, see the women’s pages of almost any daily newspaper. Despite the increasing frequency of divorce in Canada (a peak of 8,199 in 1947), the social situation here does not provide a parallel to the American abolition of marriage for keeps. Consequently when we hear how
youth “flamed” in the 1920s, we must first enquire whether it was American or Canadian youth that “flamed.”
“Flaming" was always understood as referring to hot passions spilling over. The only statistical index to sexual morality that wc Canadians possess is to he found in the dry-as-dust columns of the Report on Vital Statistics, where the curious may see an exact record of illegitimate births, province by province, from 1921 to the present. Illegitimate births may be a reflection of ignorance and their absence not one of good conduct, but nevertheless there is probably some correlation between illegitimacy and lax morals.
For Canada as a whole, for 1921, 1.97 percent of all live births were illegitimate. This rate slowly but unvaryingly increased to a peak of 4.47 percent in 1945. Since then, it has receded slightly, being 3.83 percent in 1955. In all provinces but two the line would show about the same curve. The two exceptions are Quebec and British Columbia.
In Quebec, the illegitimacy rate is low and the variations from year to year small. The maximum, 3.4 percent, was reached in 1939, the minimum, 2.7, in 1946 and today it is 3.2. British Columbia began in 1921 with a lower rate of illegitimacy than the average, 1.2, but there is hardly a year since which has not seen this increase, so that in 1954, it stood at 6.2 percent — that is, one child in every 16 was illegitimate.
British Columbia’s only rival in bastardy is Nova Scotia, which has only recently lost the lead. In 1945, Nova Scotia’s illegitimacy rate rose to 7.9, or roughly one in twelve births. Let us hope that the phenomenon does not too closely resemble the iceberg.
in all provinces, the rate ascended rapidly during the Second World War, for in any great war, woman reverts (without too much persuasion) to her ancient role of prize of the warrior.
If wartime records are to be relied on, illegitimacy and venereal diseases have no coincidence. During 1940 the rate of venereal disease among the troops varied from 24 per thousand in British Columbia to 202 in Military district No. 5. Quebec City. Montreal stood next at 116. Toronto, district 2, had a rate of 45. These rates decreased in each of the following years, but the order of incidence remained about the same, except that Montreal displaced Quebec.
The figures are difficult to interpret, for bastardy and syphilis ought to occur together. Instead—the more bastardy, the less syphilis!
The relation between uniforms, a great city and venerea! disease is plain. But why the discrepancy between, say, Montreal and Toronto? Toronto’s undoubted virtue? The much lower economic level in the crowded slums of Montreal and Quebec, which forces more girls into prostitution?
Whatever the explanation, in the face of such figures it would appear that male chastity, a strict article of the code before the First World War, was no longer what it had been.
Temporarily at any rate, the two wars wrested morals out of their older groove, away from the strict and creative Puritanism of the 19th century, closer to a secularism, and even paganism, that Canadians of an older generation had been accustomed to associate with unregenerate foreigners and suchlike lesser breeds. The old reticences disappeared and manners became freer and conversations, as noticed above, more frank than they were at the beginning of the century.
When in the 1910s a medical man, addressing a group of students of both sexes, told the young ladies they should get rid of their corsets, their embarrassment on the mention “out loud” of the intimate word was evident. In the early 1930s the author well remembers a young lady of eighteen holding forth among her elders on the subject of birth control, without embarrassment to anyone there present.
This was all for the good: it was only recapturing for urban children the healthy familiarity with biological processes that country children had always possessed. It probably carried its analogies to the sudden rush in the 1920s on the part of young ladies to discard not only the heretofore unmentionable corsets but as much as they dared of the rest of their clothing.
It is no wonder that cultural standards in Canada remain at a low level, when education has had to begin anew' at the beginning w'ith each generation and has also so often been regarded merely as a vocational can opener.
“What is a bohunk?”
The term "New Canadian" struggled into existence during the first decades of the century, perhaps because it was not so insulting as "bohunk" or "dago." From the first, insular natives were puzzled by the ingress of strangers of whom they had never previously heard—it was like the arrival of Gaelic-speaking Highlanders two or three generations before, only, so to speak, "more so."
How deep the experience went is illustrated by a simple man of the north's answers to a catechism on this word he used so much, bohunk. All the bush camps of those days were full of hohunks and no one liked them much. What. then, was a bohunk? “Was a French-Canadian a bohunk?” Certainly not. "Was a Swede a bohunk?” No. "How about Germans?" No. about the same as Swedes. “Were Finns hohunks?” Well, they might be. "Were Galicians (later Ukrainians)?" Oh yes, of course, they were; Poles, too. So the bohunk evidently was the strange new brand of humanity from the east, the Slav.
l ike the earlier waves, the foreign immigration of the 2()th century upset a society just nicely getting on its feet and introduced a range ot social problems whose settlement would take many decades. It was all very well to expect the strangers to adapt themselves to you. but how about you having to adapt yourself to them?
In the face of the antagonisms, the hatreds, the surcharged emotions, which arose when new racial groups encountered old—to say nothing of the economic competition—the mystery is how. within the short space of a few decades, society succeeded in recapturing any measure of unity. In Europe, where the same situation has occurred time and again, societies so invaded often have dissolved in the chaos of racial war. How is it that the new world has escaped the disintegrating processes that have harried the old?
It has not lain in the dragooning methods of the lands from which so many of the new arrivals came. Our devices were many; some subtle and some easily distinguished. Among the latter the common school stands out, for in the classrooms, in district after district, racial differences have worn themselves down against the common background of the English tongue and the Canadian tradition.
The need for the English language as the open sesame to the continent's great attraction — improved circumstances, "getting on" in the old familiar sense— has powerfully reinforced the work of the common school. Among the more subtle agencies at work was the new land's spirit of freedom. No need to tell the immigrant what that meant!
Canadian immigration policy, like American, if not wide open, has been generous. Neither people has thought of keeping the continent to itself: both have talked in terms of a brave, new world, where all the white peoples (note the adjective) could join together in building a North American New Jerusalem. In practice the vision has been more narrowly glimpsed in Canada than in the United States.
In the United States, they were building the republic. In Canada, a third of our people were perpetuating the old regime and wished nobody's assistance in that preoccupation. A large proportion of the remainder were building a British colony. The big, overriding national objective, with its splendid cement of a common task, hardly existed in Canada at the beginning of the immigration flood. The result has been a greater sense of exclusiveness on the part of "old" Canadians as compared with Americans and a much sharper sense of race: this has delayed the process of society-building through intermarriage.
For English Canadians, getting their hearts across the seas has been more difficult than for “new" Canadians, so possibly one of the services of the new arrivals was to force the old hands to “Other countries may be bled white by war, but Canada has invariably found it a well of riches”
begin to think in terms of this new homeland of theirs rather than of the other homeland, the British Isles, from which most of them were themselves removed by only a generation or two.
The new immigration has helped to force a new conception of the Canadian people upon us. No longer can we think of ourselves as overseas British: we have put our feet on the American road and for more than half a century now have been building a new composite. If and when a new cake emerges from all these ingredients we have mixed, we shall have no option about it—it will be of native taste and texture.
“The blow to the church”
After the First World War the church lost its appeal to many young people . and the clerical profession in Canada has never recovered from the blow it received at that time, for students in theology suffered a reduction in numbers, in energy and in calibre.
“War is a good thing"
There has been no single war, from the American Revolution on, from which individual Canadians have not profited. This also holds good for the country as a whole: other countries may be bled white by war. but Canada has invariably found it a stimulus to her production and a well of unsuspected riches. Perhaps this is knowledge that should be withheld from Canadians or they may begin to think aloud, at a point in history when a new' situation has arisen, that thought which must be held halfformed and disowned within many a mind, that w'ar is "a good thing."
One of the major administrative innovations to come out of the First World War was the new financial structure. A national debt raised at home provides an additional anchor for society. Every respectable country should possess a substantial national debt: this Canada found no difficulty in accumulating, and from domestic sources. The second innovation was equally important, the revamping of/the tax structure, and especially the inauguration of the income tax. The income tax until recently was optimistically referred to as a war tax, but everyone knew that once levied, it would continue: “It’s a poor war out of which you can't get a new tax," the late President Taft once jokingly exclaimed. Jn principle it is a fair tax. and it is a useful device for maintaining a rough equality among the disparate economic areas of the country, taking away from metropolitan centres some of the wealth they have extracted from their hinterlands and putting it back.
These far-reaching objectives were not envisaged when the tax was initiated. It is only gradually that its potentialities as a socialistic measure have been realized. If it could be administered by gods and angels, it would be ideal for its purposes. As it is, men being men, the income-tax system has forged fetters about the citizen whose effects have hardly yet been suspected, still less evaluated: for one not unimportant department of his life—his money—it provides a combination of Circumlocution Office with secret police that must powerfully affect the whole genius of our democracy. For this no alternative has been invented and the end is not yet.
This “efficient” side of Canada’s war experience was probably the most prominent of all the direct effects. It opened the vista of a managed, or planned, society, which is still being pursued: this, in turn, called for personnel, and the call was answered by the pouring into the Canadian public service of a good proportion of the best brains of the country. As a result it is now admitted (by Canadians) that Canada has one of the most efficient civil services in the world: il is no use debating whether she might not have been better off if she still had the easygoing office-holders of the 19th century, for the times have moved beyond that point and if we are to retain our free society our job now is to accept our new masters, the civil servants, and devise restraints to impose on them just as our ancestors imposed restraints on divine-right kings.
“The rise of class distinction”
Somehow or other, Sam Hughes’ World War I army adjusted itself to the English society of ranks and classes and without too much injury to Canadian conceptions of equality. Brother learned to salute brother in the street and. in England at any rate, to patronize the café appropriate to his rank. Battle experience soon sorted out the genuine article from the counterfeit and the Canadian army ended the war with no greater strain between officers and other ranks than did others. When the uniforms came off, men dropped back into their previous spheres. Nevertheless something remained, some residual deposit of class distinction that had not been there before.
Canada had entered the war a pioneer democracy: she came out of it a more experienced country, with tens of thousands of her people aware of another world, of its class distinctions, of its vices and. mostly in a vague way. of its ancient culture.
Most of those wfio had submitted themselves to the will of others must have enjoyed the experience, for it was not from the old soldiers that the equalitarian reform movements of the next generation were to proceed. The veterans, to judge from their organizations, came to stand for conservatism, a certain imperialistic jingoism and the small favors that they could extort from government.
But there were also thousands of exservicemen who did not maintain active association with veterans’ organizations. University youth, to name no others, came back basically unaffected by the dip into army life and the sophisticated society of the old world, but broadened by the experience and finding it easier to evaluate the moralities of Canadian life than it would otherwise have been.
This sudden expansion of view which had come to those who served abroad affected “the folks back home” in a dozen ways. "Returned men," as they were invidiously called by those who did not fight, at once began to prove "difficult.” The distinction remained until another war came along to renew it—that between those who had seen the world and those who had not. It received its characteristic expression on every social level.
Men who had been overseas had outgrown the stuffinesses of the lowermiddle-class society that marked most of Canada, that constricted, conventional society which had come in on the heels of pioneer heartiness. “Home - keeping youth have ever homely wits.” The soldiers' initiation into ritualism had given them a sense of form that the people at home often did not possess: they took their hands out of their pockets when the National Anthem was played. It had equipped some of them with habits that did not help them much in humdrum life: many had to find out that there was no more room in Canadian life for the officer-and-gentleman type which attempts to live on its quality than there is for the "bum.”
“The retreat from democracy”
One prominent effect of the American Civil War on Canada was a setback in the advance of democracy (but not of liberty). It was, according to British Tories, democracy that had started the Revolution, and now, after eighty years, democracy was proving, as they had contended all along, an impossible social attitude. It resulted not only in coarseness (and every Tory knew how coarse Americans were) but in a liberty which amounted only to anarchy. Uncle Sam was a loud, tobacco-chewing individual who bolted his food, ’lowed and guessed, and had absolutely no regard for distinctions of rank. His system of government, if system it could be called, was loose and weak, and now civil war was proving that the so-called union was little more than a league of states.
Most true-blue Canadians took their cue from this kind of estimate, no matter how much better they knew their American neighbors than did their English superiors. And many who were not trueblues shared these anti-democratic sentiments, especially in French Canada, where traditional instruction stressed the view that the king was the Lord's Anointed and that next to one's spiritual head, one must give obedience and respect to one’s sovereign. This teaching still leaves its traces in modern Quebec. It has also been a counter to nationalism: even an English and a Protestant sovereign is, after all, appointed by God to rule and as such commands more allegiance than a French Revolutionary principle like the sovereignty of the people.
The consequence of the retreat from democracy (or rather the retreat from the advance toward democracy) was that when the plan for Confederation was worked out, virtually no voices were raised for democratic principles—an exception was that valiant rouge, A. A. Dorion. The result was our present appointive senate, our property qualifications and, generally, an attempt to strengthen the executive side of the government.
The long-range effects of this tendency, accentuated by what appeared to be the failure of the American democratic experiment, have been important in differentiating Canadian society from American. The government of the United States is much more one of participation by the individual citizen than is the Canadian. It calls for constant expression of the individual’s opinion, and lends itself directly to the pressure of public opinion (legislators have no need to follow party lines in Congress or state legislature). In Canada the citizen registers his vote once in four years and then may go to sleep again, secure in the knowledge that “they” will look after things. Since "they" becomes increasingly the cabinet, what he does is to give full power of attorney to a small committee each four years or so, well knowing that virtually nothing he can do in the interval will have much effect on the group to whom he has given his blank cheque.
That this absence of republican responsibility suited the average colonist at the time wotdd be the impression from an examination of the Prince of Wales' visit of I860. It gave a new lease of life to the old class pretensions which, after the winning of Responsible Government, had begun to slumber.
Ehe psychology of English Canadians then or now on the subject of the monarchy is impenetrable. How, it might be asked, could people adhere to two such incompatible ideas as rule from above and rule from below, warmly in each case and without sense of their incompatibility? A partial explanation lies in the old-country birth of many leading citizens, who brought with them to the new world the ideas of the old. Yet native Canadians, too. rested with complete ease in monarchical institutions, and when the monarch sent her first-born son unto them, they responded in generous demonstration: those who would have dared to respond in any other way w'ould probably have been hit over the head by an Orange shillelagh, and the fact that the Orangemen acted so badly as to bar the Prince from landing at Kingston is no refutation of this, for Orangemen were their own best judges of “loyalty.”
Since those days both the Orange Order and old-country attitudes have weakened in Canada and today when royalty comes among us, the impression is that it is regarded mainly as providing an exotic spectacle.
It is related that when Clifford Sifton’s immigrants were arriving by the tens of thousands around the turn of the century, most of the menfolk were found to be able to speak just two words of English: curiously enough, having
regard to the dispassionate concern for the newcomers displayed by Sifton’s immigration agents, these turned out to be “me Liberal!” Those two words have had something to do with the inability of the Conservative party to make much permanent impression on Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“Is Canada better or worse?”
Is the world in general, and Canada, in particular, “getting better or worse?” The question has always been asked and it has invariably been answered according to the predilections of the person asking it. The present writer does not claim to be an exception to the rule.
There is one area of life in which it seems possible to return a cautious affirmative. Surely in alleviation of suffering and in attempts to establish communities that provide some reasonable kind of existence for their members, men are making a better world. Man must follow his destiny, so what alleviates his journey is probably “better.”
It would be idle to ring the changes on the marvels of modern progress in medicine, surgery, sanitation and the rest: everyone knows them in advance. So with the mysteries of nature: thanks to their solution, we are not too far from war over the ownership of the moon.
More interesting material lies closer at hand than the moon, in the way in which we have tried to organize our society in relation to the forces we have let loose and their concomitants in wealth and power.
The hard times of the 1930s, for instance, forced social integration along many channels. Direct methods of relief made many think in terms, not of relief, but of justice. Partly as a result, various social devices, now well known, have gradually come into being, such as mothers’ and children's allowances, old-age pensions and a measure of hospitalization. These, after all, are in exactly the same line of descent as, say, free education. At mid-century, Canada was much closer to a just society than she had been in 1920, though she still had considerable distance to go, notably in adequate standards of housing.
One problem which was not tackled, which was scarcely envisaged, had to do with the numbers and natures of men themselves. How long, it may be asked, can humanity just go on breeding, and expecting that vague entity society to shoulder the consequences. Unlimited breeding, however much approved by religious authority, when transmuted, as it must be, into poverty and poverty's consequences, becomes sin. Religious authority thus puts itself on the side of sin. If western life is to be further ordered in the interests of justice—and all its logic seems to go in that direction—the day will come when men will have to take into their hands the last, most difficult problem of all, that of regulating their own numbers. ★