TWO OF THE GREAT FORMATIVE EXPERIENCES of English Canadians have been the English Conquest of French Canada and the American Revolution. While the great events constituting them were unfolding, English Canadians hardly existed, but as they came into existence, they found the two experiences there ready-made, waiting for them. The English Canadians were the heirs of the Conquest, and they were only too much aware of what it entailed in the way of fancied racial superiority. As for the American Revolution, it split the English race: that is its major significance in English Canada. For Americans, the Revolution did what revolutions always do, unloosed new springs of energy, opened new horizons, changed the direction of the stream of history. It gave them shining new gospels, which fitted their circumstances and have been their chart and compass ever since.11 It gave them the necessary enemy. It gave them the pride of equality with the former mother country, whose measure they had so decisively taken. It changed them from adolescents to men.
The Revolution did none of these things for Canadians. As an English population slowly gathered north of the line, it inherited, not the benefits, but the bitterness of the Revolution. It got no shining scriptures out of it. It got little release of energy and no new horizons of the spirit were opened up. It had been a calamity, pure and simple. And to take the place of the internal fire that was urging Americans westward across the continent there was only melancholy contemplation of things as they might have been and dingy reflection of that ineffably glorious world across the stormy Atlantic. English