Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

By Arthur R. M. Lower | Go to book overview
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19: A nation begun

WHEN IN 1867 CONFEDERATION was at last achieved, thoughtful people must have pondered the meaning of the accomplishment. The question had been under debate for a number of years, but in not much more than an academic way right down to the last. It is true that many Nova Scotians had taken alarm, and that a government had been defeated in New Brunswick, presumably on the issue. But the impression is strong that, with the exception of Nova Scotia, it was more an affair of governments than of people, that the temperature of the movement was not high, that the British North American provinces eventually were carpentered together, not smelted. If they had been smelted, as the American states had been, the 'climate' of the years succeeding their confederation would have been altogether different and Canadians would be different people to-day, with much greater consciousness of themselves and much more mutual readiness to accept and understand the other cultural group and the several sections. This was not to be: the pressure was weak, and the composing elements did not flow together.

Carpentering or smelting?

The pressure was weak, yes. Confederation was arrived at through rational channels, not emotional. On emotion over the movement the opposition had almost a monopoly: the case for the affirmative was put mostly on grounds of reason, good substantial reason. For any student of Canadian history this is familiar territory; one instance may, however, be cited to show how far from the emotional the average discussion was. Writing in La Revue Canadienne, 1865, Joseph Royal, highly conscious of the volcano erupting next door, considers the proposed union largely for the sake of defence. He comes out for a regular army, as against volunteer and militia. "The volunteer and the militia are worth something only as auxiliaries. Never can they replace regular troops. . . . We lack sol


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