THE ACHIEVEMENT OF SELF- GOVERNMENT
IN the long-drawn-out reconstruction of the Empire after the American Revolution, British North American problems attracted comparatively little official attention. The unhappy experience with the Thirteen seceding colonies had induced in Britain a mood of irritated disillusionment with white colonies of settlement, a feeling that was indirectly intensified as a result of growing interest in the commercial potentialities of the Far East. The Old Colonial System had been intended to secure for Great Britain not only the sole exploitation of British North American resources, but full control over colonial import and export trade. Unhappily, this grandiose ideal of a self-sufficient empire--never more than partially attained--had been broken by a successful colonial revolt, and any efforts to redeem it seemed hopeless.
It was natural, therefore, that many statesmen should be sceptical of further colonial projects and expenditures. Angry and disillusioned they cursed the costs of empire. Only a scant few zealots, in an effort to stem the tide of economy and calumny, tried to right the balance, and portray within the wilderness of the new world 'an inexhaustible mine of wealth' waiting the endeavours of an impatient and short-sighted mother country. Sir Guy Carleton, with unequalled prestige and authority in the field of colonial affairs, had solemnly asserted that the Maritimes and Canada would be fully capable within a few years of supplying the West Indies with all the food and lumber they required. His glowing panoramas impressed colonial officials, who for a fleeting moment were able to visualize a colonial granary, a vast reserve of naval stores and timber, and a potential market for British manufactures and West India sugar and rum.
As events turned out, however, these provinces continued to have great difficulty in meeting their own bare needs. For