Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada

By Arthur R. M. Lower | Go to book overview

17: The height of prosperity:
British North America
during the eighteen-fifties

THE EIGHTEEN-FIFTIES were to provide the most prosperous decade the colonies enjoyed down to the settlement of the West in the early twentieth century. There were several explanations, and as many consequences. The decade began with depression but by 1853 recovery was well under way, and by 1855 the country was 'booming'. Like all nineteenth-century 'booms', that of the eighteen-fifties ended in a 'bang' and the depression of 1857-1858 ensued. But things quickly picked up again and some of the eighteen-sixties were almost as 'succulent' as were the eighteen-fifties.

In general terms it was the upswing of the business cycle which explained the eighteen-fifties, but a number of specific factors may be easily identified. Great Britain's war with Russia drew wheat and timber abroad in vast quantities. A second gift fell off the Christmas tree in the form of many millions of pounds of British capital dumped into the country to build railroads. A third was provided by the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, which made British North America for twelve years an associate member of the United StatesZollverein.

The consequences of all these big matters were a continuing rapid growth in population, the occupation of most of the remaining good crown lands, an increase in the size of cities and the complexities of their life, the emergence of new social classes, and most important of all, an observable gain in confidence that led people out a little beyond the timidities of the colonial state. Much of all this is to be set down to the credit side of the new regime in politics with its union of the two provinces and its internal self-government.

In 1851, the population of all British North America was 2,313,000. In 1861 it was 3,174,000. This was an increase of 37 per cent in the ten years, a rate not yet again attained. Upper Canada alone added nearly half a million people to its population, Lower Canada just under one quarter of a million. It was this disparity in growth which produced George

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Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xv
  • Part I: New France xxv
  • 1: France Comes to America 1
  • 2: the First Impact Of the Wilderness 10
  • 3: the Foundation Stones Of New France 18
  • 4: A Community Formed 27
  • 5: the Community Established 40
  • 6: New France And Roman Catholicism 56
  • 7: New France Reaches The Provincial Stage 71
  • 8: the Lilies Come Down! 81
  • Part II- British North America 93
  • 9: Aftermath of Conquest 95
  • 10: the First Attempt At Living Together 116
  • 11: the Private Quarrel Of the English 135
  • 12: the First Wave Of English Settlement 143
  • 113: the War of 1812, Constructive Conflict 173
  • 14: the Great Days of Settlement, 1820-1850 187
  • Notes to Chapter 15. 212
  • 16: Mid-Century 240
  • 17: the Height of Prosperity 259
  • 18: the Period of Confederation 273
  • Part Iii: Canada 287
  • 19: A Nation Begun 289
  • 20: the New Nation 299
  • 21: A Sturdy Yeomanry 327
  • 22: the Birth of Modern Canada 345
  • 23: the Transcontinental Country 358
  • 24: New Canadians 371
  • 25: the Immigrant Stocks In Canada 384
  • 27: Yesterday and To-Day 408
  • 28: New Gods for Old 423
  • Index *
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