In Search of Canadian Liberalism

In Search of Canadian Liberalism

In Search of Canadian Liberalism

In Search of Canadian Liberalism

Excerpt

(This paper represented my first appearance in public as a student of Canadian history. It was read at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in 1927, when most of the programme, on this sixtieth anniversary of Confederation, was devoted to the Confederation period. It was written while I was a professor in Saskatchewan and therefore particularly apt to see the parallels between agrarian movements in Upper Canada in the 1860s and agrarian movements on the prairies in the 1920s. It rather overemphasized the agrarian aspect of Grittism; and I modified this view somewhat by the time of my address in 1946 to the C.H.A. on the Canadian liberal tradition.

The Canadian Historical Review for June, 1959, contains another article of mine on "Canada's Relations with the Empire as Seen by the Toronto Globe,1857-67" which continues this analysis of Upper Canadian opinion in the years just before Confederation. Because it is long, and with many quotations from the Globe , I have had to omit it from this volume. It brings out the Globe 's faith both in Canadian autonomy and in imperial unity, a faith which has been characteristic of Canadian liberal thinking from the start. What liberals in Canada have sought throughout has not been the breaking of the tie with Great Britain but the changing of its nature to that of a free association of equals.

Professor J. M. S. Careless in Brown of theGlobe , 1818-59 : Volume I-- The Voice of Upper Canada gives an illuminating account of the development of Reform movements in Upper Canada during the forties and the fifties, the period just before the decade dealt with in this paper of mine. I think that he rather overemphasizes the British Liberal side of Brown as against his North American radical side.)

Present-day popular knowledge of the Confederation movement seems to be largely confined to biographical details about the leading actors in the drama. The story of the political matchmakings and breaches of promise, of the party marriages and divorces of the time, has been narrated to us ad nauseam; and it is the general familiarity with it which has led, no doubt, to the general acceptance of the dictum that "our Canadian History is as dull as ditchwater and our politics is full of it". What is needed for the Con-

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