Canada - Americanization
( Originally Published 1915 )
"THE Americanizing of Canada" is a phrase which has been much in vogue with a section of the British press ever since the attempt to establish reciprocity between the United States and the Dominion. It is a question if the glib users of the phrase have the faintest idea what they mean by it. It is a catchword. It sounds ominously deep as the owl's wise but meaningless "too-whoo." English publicists who have never been nearer Canada than a Dominion postage stamp wisely warn Canada against the siren seductions of Columbia's republicanism.
If the phrase means that reciprocity might lead to annexation, Canada's repudiation of reciprocity is sufficient disproof of the imputation. If it means in-creased and increasing trade weaving a warp and woof of international commerce then yes there is an "Americanizing of Canada" as there is a Canadianizing of the United States through international traffic; but the users of the phrase should remember that the country doing the largest trade of all countries with the United States is Great Britain ; and does one speak of the "Americanizing" of Great Britain? If it means that in ten years two-fifths as many Americans have settled in Western Canada as there are native born Canadians in the West then yes Canada pleads guilty. She has spent money like water and is spending it yet to attract these American settlers ; and they, on their part, have brought with them an average of fifteen hundred dollars a settler, not counting money invested by capitalists. If in the era between 1900 and 1911, 650,719 American settlers came to Western Canada, and from 1911 to 1914, six hundred thousand more or say, with natural increase, a million and a quarter in fifteen years; to counterpoise that consideration remember that in the era from 1885 to 1895 one-fifth of Canada's native population moved to the United States.
There is not the slightest doubt that within ten years the balance of political power in Canada has shifted from the solidarity of French Quebec to the progressive West ; but that can hardly be considered as of political import when two out of four western provinces rejected reciprocity.
What, then, is meant by the phrase "Americanizing of Canada"?
Consider for a moment what is happening! Twenty years ago the number of American and Canadian railroads meeting at the boundary and crossing the boundary numbered some six. Ten years ago in the West alone there were sixteen branch lines feeding traffic into one another's territory across the border. Today, if you count all the American railroads reaching up from trunk lines north to Canada, and all the Canadian spurs reaching south from trunk lines into the United States, and all the great trunk lines having subsidiaries like the South Shore and "Soo" crossing the border, and all the lines having international running rights over one another's road bed, there are more than sixty railroads feeding Canadian traffic into the United States and American traffic into Canada. This explains why of all the export grain traffic from the Northwest forty four per cent. only goes from Canada by all Canadian routing, while fifty-six per cent. comes to seaboard over American lines ; and all this is independent of the enormous American traffic through the Canadian "Soo" by the Great Lakes, in some years reaching a total five times as large as the traffic expected through Panama. One can not contemplate this constant interchange of traffic without recalling the metaphor of the warp and the woof, of the shuttle weaving a fabric of international commerce that ignores dead reciprocity pacts and an invisible boundary. Yet England does three-fourths of the carrying trade for the United States across the Atlantic. Spite of high tariff on one side of the ocean and no tariff on the other side, spite of eagle and lion rampant, British ships weave like busy shuttles across the silver lanes of the sea an invisible warp and woof that are stronger than cables of steel, or political treaty.
So much for lines of traffic between Canada and the United States! What of the traffic carried?
American imports to Canada have doubled in three years ; or increased from two hundred sixteen million dollars' worth in 1910 to four hundred fifteen mil-lion dollars' worth in 1913; and instead of the war causing a falling off, it is likely to cause an in-crease ; for Canada's purchases from Europe have been cut off and must be supplied by the United States. Of the imports to Canada, two-thirds are manufactured articles motors, locomotives, cars, coffee, cotton, iron, steel, implements, coal. At time of writing exports from the United States now rank the United Kingdom first, Canada second, Germany third. When you consider that Canada's purchasing power is that of seven million people, where the United Kingdom's is forty-five and Germany's sixty-five million, the significance of these comparative ranks is apparent.
From Canada to the United States, exports in-creased from $95,000,000 in 1910 to $120,000,000 in 1913, not because Canada's producing power is so much smaller than her buying power, but because she is growing so fast that she consumes much of what she produces. To put it another way, of all Canada exports, the United States takes four-fifths of the coal, nine tenths of the copper, four fifths of the nickel, ten elevenths of the gold, two fifths of the silver, four fifths of other minerals, one third of the fish, one third of the lumber, one fourth of the animals and meat, one-tenth of the grain. It need not be told here that the other portions of Canada's farm, mine and lumber exports go almost entirely to Great Britain.
It has been estimated that half a billion of American capital is invested in Canada. A moment's thought reveals how ridiculously below the mark are these figures. Between 1900 and 1911 by actual count there entered Canada 650,719 American settlers. Averaging up one year with another by actual estimate of settlers' possessions at point of entry, these settlers were possessed of fifteen hundred dollars each in cash. This represents almost a billion, and almost as many more American settlers have entered Canada since 1911. This represents not the investments of the capital class but of small savings. It takes no account of the nickel mines, the copper mines, the smelters, the silver mines, the coal lands, the timber limits, the fisheries, the vast holdings of agricultural lands in the West held for speculative purposes for all of which spot cash was paid down in large proportion.
The largest steel plant in the East, the largest coal areas in the West, the only nickel mines in America, three-quarters of all the copper and gold reduction works of the West are financed by American capital. To be more explicit, when the MacKenzie-Mann interests bought one large coal area in British Columbia, the Hill interests of St. Paul bought the other large coal area. This does not mean there are not large coal areas owned by Canadian capital. There are colossal areas ; but for every big area being worked by Canadian capital there are two such being worked by American.
Before a single Canadian railroad had wakened up to the fact there were any mines in East and West Kootenay and the Slocan, American lines had pushed up little narrow gauge lines to feed the copper and gold ores into Butte and Helena smelters. By the time Canadian and British capital came on the scene in Kootenay the cream had been skimmed from the profits, and the mines had reached the wildcat stage of beautifully gilded and engraved stock certificates taking the place of real profits of almost worth nothing shares in worthless holes in the ground selling on a face value of a next-door profit-yielding neighbor. The American is without a peer as pioneer on land, in mine, in forest ; but the boomster, who invariably follows on the heels of that pioneer, is also the most expert "houn' dawg" to rouse the wildcatter. Canadians have too often wakened up only at the wildcat stage, and British capital has come in to reorganize inflated and collapsed properties on a purely investment basis. The American pioneer does nothing on an investment basis. He goes in on a wild and rampant dare devil gamble. If he loses as lose he often does he takes his medicine and never whines. If he wins, the welkin rings.
What happened in Kootenay was largely repeated ten years later in Klondike and ten years yet later in Cobalt, and it must not be forgotten that when Canadian capital refused to bond the nickel mines of Sudbury, it was American capital that dared the risk.
What happened in the mining booms was only a faint foreshadowing of the furore that broke to a madness in real estate when American settlers began crossing the boundary in tens and hundreds of thou-sands a year. Canadians knew they had wonderfully fertile farming land. Hadn't they been telling them-selves so since confederation, when they pledged the credit of Canada to build a transcontinental? They knew they had the most fertile wheat lands on earth, but what was the use of knowing that when you could not sell those lands for fifty cents an acre? What was the use of raising forty bushels of wheat to the acre, when you burned it in the stack or fed it to cattle worth only ten dollars a head, because you could get neither wheat nor cattle to market? You really believed you had the best land on earth, but what good did the belief do you? Sons and daughters forsook the Canadian farmstead for the United States. Between the early eighties and the early nineties, of Canada's population of five millions, over a million some estimates place it at a million and a half Canadians left the Dominion for the United States. You find the place names of Ontario all through Michigan and Wisconsin and Minnesota and the two Dakotas ; and you find Jean Ba'tiste drifting from the lumber woods of Quebec to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and to the redwoods of California and to the yellow pine uplands of the Southwestern Desert. I have met men who worked for my brothers in the lumber woods of Wisconsin down among the yellow pines of the Arizona Desert. All that was back in the decrepit and languid and hopesick nineties. It was then you could see the skies of Southern Manitoba luridly aflame at night with wheat stacks it didn't pay to thresh.
Came a turn of the wheel! Was it Destiny or Providence? We talk mistily of Cause and Effect, but who drops the Cause that turns the Wheel? Who of us that witnessed the crazy gold stampede to Kootenay and the crazier stampede to Klondike could guess that the backwash of those foolish tidal waves of gold mad humanity would people the Northwest? Why, we were mad with alarm over the gold stampede ! ! Men pitched their homesteads to the winds and trekked penniless for the mines. Women bought mining shares for a dollar that were not worth ten cents. Clerks, railroad hands, seamstresses, waitresses -all were infected by the mania. In vain the wheat provinces pointed out that one single year's wheat crop would exceed in value all the gold mined in the North in fifty years. Nothing could stem the madness. You could pave Kootenay with the fortunes lost there or go to Klondike by the bones of the dead bleaching the trail.
But behold the unexpected Effect ! Adventurers from all the earth rushing to the gold mines passed over unpeopled plains of seeming boundlessness. Land in the western states was selling at this time at from seventeen dollars in the remote sections to seventy-five dollars an acre near markets. Here was land in these Canadian plains to be had for nothing but the preemption fee of ten dollars and three years' residence.
"I didn't take up a homestead meaning to farm it," said a disappointed fortune seeker to me on the banks of the Saskatchewan. "I did it because I was dead broke, and it seemed to me the easiest way to make three thousand dollars. I could earn three dollars a day well-driving, and then at the end of my homestead term sell this one hundred and sixty acres for three thousand dollars."
Do you appreciate the amazing optimistic confidence of this bankrupt argonaut? We could not sell that land for fifty cents an acre. To use the words of a former Minister of the Interior, "We could not bring settlers in by the scruff of the neck and dump them on the land." (There had been fewer than two thousand immigrants the year that minister made that apology for hard times to an audience in Winnipeg.) But this penniless settler had seen it happen in his own home state of Iowa. Ile had seen land in-crease in value from nothing an acre to ten dollars and twenty dollars and seventy-five dollars and one hundred dollars, and he sat him down on the bare prairie in a tar-papered shanty to help the same process along in Canada. He never had the faintest shadow of a doubt of his hopes materializing. He had gambled on the gold and he had lost; and behold him casting another throw of the dice in the face of Fate, and gambling on the land; and please note he won out. He was one of the multitude who won out of the land what they had lost on gold who plowed out of the prairie what they had sunk in a hole in the ground in a mine!
Another twist of the capricious Wheel of Fate! We didn't send Clifford Sifton down from the West to boom Canada. We didn't know a boom was coming.
Nobody saw it. Clifford Sifton was one of the youngest Cabinet Ministers ever appointed in Canada. There was a fight on between the Province of Manitoba and the Dominion government as to the right of the province to abolish separate schools. Had the province exceeded its rights? The dispute was non-religious at first, but finally developed into a bitter Catholic versus Protestant controversy. Not all Protestants wanted non-religious schools ; but when Catholic Quebec said that Protestant Manitoba should not have nonreligious schools, a furious little tempest waxed in a furious Iittle teapot. The entrenched government of Sir John Macdonald, who had died some few years previously, went down in defeat before Laurier, the Liberal, the champion of Quebec and at the same time the defender of Manitoba rights. Cardinal Merry del Val came from Rome, and the dispute was literally squelched. It was never settled and comes up again to this day ; but the point was the champion of Manitoba, Clifford Sifton, entered the Dominion Cabinet just as the Klondike boom broke.
He saw the backwash of disappointed gold seekers. He realized the enormous possibilities of free advertising for Canada, and he launched such a campaign of colonization for Canada as the most daring optimist hardly dreamed. Agents were appointed in every hamlet and city and town in the western states especially those states like Iowa and Illinois and Minnesota and Wisconsin, where land was becoming high priced. The personal testimony of successful farmers was bill-posted from station platform to remotest barb-wire fence. The country was literally combed by Sifton agents. Big land companies which had already exploited colonization schemes in the western states pricked up their ears and sent agents to spy out the land. Those agents may have deluded themselves that they went to Canada secretly; it is a safe wager that Sifton's agents prodded them to activity at one end and Sifton's agents caught and piloted and plied them with facts at the other end. I know of land that English colonization companies had failed to sell at fifty cents an acre that was sold at this time to these American companies at five dollars and resold by them at fourteen dollars to thirty dollars.
Such profits are the best advertisement for a propaganda. There followed a land boom compared to which the gold boom had been mild. American settlers came in special cars, in special trains, in relays of special trains. Before Canada had wakened up to it fifty thousand American settlers had trekked across the border. You met them in Peace River. You met them at Athabasca. You met them on far reaches of the Saskatchewan. And land jumped in value from five dallars to fifteen dollars, from fifteen dollars to thirty dollars an acre. When Canada's yearly immigration reached the proportions of four hundred thousand—half Americans it is not exaggerating to say the prairie took fire. Villages grew into cities overnight. Edmonton and Calgary and Moose Jaw and Regina formerly jumping-off places into a no-man's-land---became metropolitan cities of twenty-five to fifty thou-sand people. If every American settler averaged fifteen hundred dollars on his person at this period as customs entries prove it may be confidently set down that his value as a producer and worker was an-other fifteen hundred dollars. Wheat exports jumped to over one hundred million dollars a year. Flour mills and elevators financed by western American capital strung across the prairie like beads on a string.
If this was an "Americanizing of Canada," it was not a bad thing. Every part of Canada felt the quickened pulse. Two more transcontinental railroads had to be built. All-red routes of round-the-globe steam ships were established; all-red round-the-world cables were laid. The quickened pulse was Canada's passing from hobble-de-hoy adolescence with a chip on the shoulder and a tremor in the throat to big strong, silent, self-confident manhood.
John Bull is a curious and dour foster father in some of his moods. He never really wakened' up to Canada as a desirable place for his numerous family to settle till he saw Jonathan's coat tails going over the fence of the border till somebody began to howl about "the Americanizing of Canada." Then, in the words of the illustrious Governor-General, "what was good enough for Americans was good enough" for him. Clifford Sifton's agents had been combing the United Kingdom as they had combed the western states. British immigration jumped from almost nothing to a total of 687,067 in ten years with accelerating totals every year since.
If this was "the Americanizing of Canada," it was a good thing for the Dominion.
There was another feature to the tidal wave of four hundred thousand immigrants a year. The American is a born pioneer, a born gambler, a born adventurer. The Englishman is a steady-going, dogged-as-does-it plod-der. The American will risk two dollars on the chance of making ten dollars ; he often loses the two dollars, and he often makes the ten dollars; from his general prosperity, I should say the latter results oftener than the former; but the American never in the least minds blazing the trail and stumping his toe and coming a hard fall. John Bull does. He takes himself horribly seriously. He will never risk two dollars to gain ten dollars. He will not, in fact, spend the two dollars till he is sure of four per cent, on it. Four per cent, on two dollars and ten dollars on two dollars do not be-long to the same category of investment. Jonathan makes the ideal pioneer; John Bull, the ideal permanent settler who comes in and buys from the pioneer.
If this, too, be "the Americanizing of Canada," it has been a good thing for the country.
To be sure, there have been hideous horrible abuses. The real estate boom reached the proportions of a fevered madness before it collapsed. Americans bought ranches for five dollars an acre and resold them as rawnches for fifty dollars to young Englishmen who will never make a cent on their investment; chiefly because fruit trees take from five to ten years to come to maturity, and because fruit must be near a market, and because only an expert can succeed at fruit.
If ever wildcat flourished in a gold camp or gambling joint, and that wildcat did not hie to Canada when the real estate boom broke loose, the wildcat species not in evidence was too rare to be classified. Property in small cities sold at New York and Chicago values. Suburban lots were staked out round small towns in areas for a London or a Paris, and the lots were sold on instalment plan to small investors, many of whom bought in hope of resale before payments could accrue. City taxes for these suburban improvements increased to a great burden. Fortunes were made and lost overnight. Railroad bonds were guaranteed plentifully enough to pave the prairie. All this applies chiefly to city real estate. Inflation beyond investment basis never touched farm lands; but as a prominent editor remarked, "No fool thing that ever failed was half as improbable as the fool things that have succeeded. Men have literally been kicked into fortunes; and the carefulest man has often been the biggest fool by not biting till the last."
The boom, of course, burst of its own inflation; but it is worthy of note that the year the boom collapsed immigration reached its highest figure four hundred thousand. Whether the boom was good or bad for Canada is hard to determine. It left a great many fortunes in its wake and a great many wrecks; but naturally it did for the country what years of hopes years of dogged silent work, years of self confidence could not do it jolted Canada and the world into a consciousness of the Dominion's possibilities. It is like the true story of the finding of coal on Vancouver Island a miner stubbed his toe and lo, a clod of earth split into a seam of shining worth !
Practically the very same story of the advent of American energy and daring and optimism into the lumber industry of Canada could be told; but it is the same story as of the mines and the land, except that the Canadians on the ground first reaped larger profits. A few years ago scarcely an acre in British Columbia was owned by interests outside the province. To-day as far north as Prince Rupert the great lumbermen of the United States own the timber limits. Canadians bought these lands round four dollars and five dollars an acre. They sold at from one hundred dollars to one thousand dollars. One understands why American lumbermen to-day demand low tariff on Canadian lumber. East of the Rockies from Edmonton to Port Arthur the fringe of timber along the great rivers and lakes is owned by operators of Wisconsin and Louisiana. In Quebec the most valuable pulp wood limits the last of the great pulp wood limits on the continent are owned by New York interests. Undoubtedly all this means "the Americanizing of Canada" industrially. Will it result in the entrance of Big Business into politics? That is hard to answer. The door is not wide open to Big Business in politics for reasons that will appear in an account of how Canada is governed. If Americans have entered so powerfully into Canadian industrial life, why was reciprocity rejected? That, too, is an interesting story by itself.
There is one subject on which Canada's inconsistency regarding "Americanizing influences" is almost laughable. It is the subject of the influence of periodical literature. Canadians are great lip-loyalists, but in all the history of Canada they have never accorded support to a national magazine that enabled that magazine to become worthy of the name. Facts are very damning testimony here. Very well then let us have the facts ! There is one American weekly which has a larger circulation in every city in Canada than any daily in any city in Canada. Of the American monthlies of first rank, there is hardly one that has not a larger circulation in Canada than any Canadian magazine has ever enjoyed. Even Canadian news-papers are served by American syndicates and press associations. The influence of this flood of American thought in the currents of Canadian thought can not be exaggerated. It is subtle. It is intangible. It is irresistible. What Americans are thinking about, Canadians unconsciously are thinking, too. The influence makes for a community of sentiment that political differences can never disrupt, and it is a good thing for the race that this is so. It helps to explain why there is no fort between the two nations for three thousand miles.
It may also be added that no Canadian writer can get access to the public in book form except through an American publisher. Unless the author assumes the cost or risk of publication, the Canadian publisher will rarely issue a book on his own responsibility. He sends the book to New York or to London, and from New York or London buys plates or sheets. This compels the Canadian book to have an Imperial or an American appeal. In literature, the modus operandi works; for the appeal is universal; but one might conceive of conditions demanding a purely national Canadian treatment, which New York or London publishers would not issue, when Canada would literally be damming the springs of her national literature. Canada considers her population too small to support a purely national literature. Not so reasons Belgium of smaller population; nor Ireland; nor Scotland. The fault here is primarily in the copyright law. A book published first in the United States gains international copyright. A book published first in Canada may be pirated in the United States or England ; and on such printed editions no payment can be collected by the author. The profits in England and the United States were lost to authors on two of the most popular books ever published by Canadians.