A History of Canada: Volume One: From its Origins to the Royal Regime, 1663 - Vol. 1

By Gustave Lanctot; Josephine Hambleton | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

Canada became an international power by affixing her signature to the Treaty of Versailles, and since the Second World War she has won for herself world-wide attention owing to her economic wealth, financial stability and geo-political potentialities. Sudden though it at first may seem, her exceptional rise was the inevitable outcome of her growth in history, as becomes evident when one reads the pages of her past.

Presenting impressive façades to the three oceans at her gates, Canada may lay claim to being the largest country of both Americas. Originally peopled in the prehistoric past by Mongoloid Asiatics, she witnessed in the ninth century the arrival on her eastern shores of Irishmen fleeing in coracles from their colony in Iceland. Two centuries later Icelanders sailed in drakkars from their settlements in Greenland and landed in Newfoundland. The official discovery of Canada, however, is credited to Cabot, who claimed it for England in 1497, though it was a Frenchman, the Breton sailor Jacques Cartier, who first sailed up the St. Lawrence to explore it in 1535. The land was subsequently settled and held by France until 1763, when, by virtue of the Treaty of Paris, the possessions known as New France--or Nouvelle-France--passed into the dominion of Great Britain.

Twenty years later, upon Canada's refusing to make common cause with the American revolutionaries then rising in arms against the mother country, some forty thousand United Empire Loyalists left the Thirteen Colonies and sought new homes in Canada. Out of this mass exodus eventually grew five provinces, independent of each other, but together covering all the territory from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes. The provinces became farming communities exporting furs and wood, and before the end of the century they were handling public affairs through legislative assemblies. Thanks to continuous immigration sponsored by Britain, they made slow but steady progress.

Following the Anglo-American conflict of 1812-14, last of the wars fought on Canadian soil, political reformers launched and for years tenaciously pressed vigorous attacks on the local oligarchies

-xiii-

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