the critical years
AFTER THE NEW DOMINION had been laboriously brought into existence, both men and circumstances seemed to combine in an effort to destroy it. The first scheme for a transcontinental railway failed dismally. Economic depression descended, and clung to the country year after year. As a result, people emigrated in their tens of thousands and the total population grew only at a snail's pace. In the new West, instead of rapid settlement, the curse of racialism descended and its two armed outbreaks disturbed the peace of the entire country. Canada's tragic leit-motiv, which for a few years seemed to have been left behind, once more made itself evident, and rose to new heights.
Twenty years after Confederation, few would have cared to risk a large wager on the continued existence of the Dominion. "The Separatist policy--that is, the policy of trying to form a nationality of the disjointed and scattered provinces of British North America cut off from the rest of the continent--is a palpable failure. . . . I declare for Commercial Union with the United States as a substitute for the National Policy." Thus spoke J. W. Longley, Attorney-General of Nova Scotia.1 The Manitoba Free Press, commenting upon a suggestion that Newfoundland might enter Confederation, put the same point of view with the true western brusqueness: "If the people of Newfoundland know when they are well off, they will give the Dominion a wide berth. There are few provinces, if any, in it to-day that would not rejoice to be out of it, and that would not forever stay out if they were."2
The Week, a journal for the thoughtful, put its finger on several of the spots causing the difficulty. They are all almost equally familiar to us to-day--geographical dispersion at the bottom of it all, with sectionalism and racial division thrown in for good measure. The greatest curse was racial division.