Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

By Arthur R. M. Lower | Go to book overview
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16: Mid-century

BY MID-CENTURY THE TERM ' British North America' is beginning to take on an observably collective meaning. The historian can feel the various colonial streams converging: the most difficult of his problems, tracing a number of separate watercourses, is being eased. But it is eased only to be immediately increased, for once the scattered colonies have come together into Canada, the scene becomes so wide and so varied that it requires the utmost effort to make a single picture. This chapter is concerned with ascertaining whether each individual colony (in the political sense) had grown through the level of 'colony' (in the social sense) to that of 'province' (in the same sense) and whether any of them had advanced beyond the 'provincial' level to the next one, that of independent community or nationality. By approximately mid-century, all the eastern colonies had been given Responsible Government.1 There could have been no more distinct milepost in their march than that: as self-governing entities, they must have been more than mere collections of newly arrived individuals. Yet they were nearly all in different stages of social evolution.

The Maritimes

Until as late as 1817, in the eyes of the Colonial Office Newfoundland had been merely a fishing station, and its governors had come and gone with the fishing fleet. About the same time provision was made for titles to land, for regulation of the marriage ceremony and for other fundamentals. In 1832, representative government was introduced and then in 1855 Responsible Government. Newfoundland is traditionally 'Britain's oldest colony', but while the tradition is a pleasant one, it has little significance, for the mainland colonies were all ahead of it in actual development. Newfoundland at midcentury had passed beyond the mere fishing station, its people


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