Canada - The Coming Of The English
( Originally Published 1915 )
For a hundred years England's colonies have been distinctively dependencies self governing dependencies, if you will, in the case of Canada and Australia but distinctively dependent on the Mother Country for protection from attack by land and sea. Has the day come when these colonies are to be, not lesser, but greater nations offshoots of the parent stock but transcending in power and wealth the parent stock a United Kingdom of the Outer Meres, becoming to America and Australasia what Great Britain has been to Europe?
Ten years ago this question would have been considered the bumptious presumption of flamboyant fancy. It isn't so considered to-day. Rather than a flight of fancy, the question is forced on thinking minds by the hard facts of the multiplication table. Between 1897 and 1911 there came to Canada 723,424 British colonists ; and since 1911 there have come half a million more. At the outbreak of the war settlers of purely British birth were pouring into Canada at the rate of two hundred thousand a year. A continuation of this immigration means that in half a century, not counting natural increase, there will be as many colonists of purely British birth in Canada as there are Americans west of the Mississippi, or as there were Englishmen in England in the days of Queen Elizabeth. It means more one fourth of the United Kingdom will have been transplanted overseas. If there be any doubt as to whether the transplanting be permanent, it should be settled by homestead entries. In one era of something Iess than three years out of 351,530 men, women and children who came, sixty thousand entered for homesteads. In other words, if each householder were married and had a family of four, almost the entire immigration of 351,530 was absorbed in permanent tenure by the land. The drifters, the floaters, the disinherited of their share of earth became landowners, proprietors of Canada to the extent of one hundred and sixty acres. From 1897 to 1911 the Canadian government spent 82,419,957 advertising Canada in. England and paying a bonus of one pound per capita to steamship agents for each immigrant; so that each colonist cost the Dominion something over three dollars. I have heard immigration officials figure how each colonist was worth to the country as a producer fifteen hundred dollars a year. This is an excessive estimate, but the bargain was a good one for Canada.
In 1901, when Canada's population was five millions, there were seven hundred thousand people of British birth in the Dominion ; so that of Canada's present population of 7,800,000, there are in the Dominion a million and a half people of British birth.* Averaging winter with summer for ten years, colonists of British birth have been landing on Canada's shores at the rate of three hundred a day. Canada's natural increase is under one hundred thousand a year. British colonists are to-day yearly outnumbering Canada's natural increase.
Only two other such migrations of Saxon blood have taken place in history : when the Angles and Jutes and Saxons came in plunder raids to English shores at the dawn of the Christian Era; when in the seventeenth century Englishmen came to America; and both these tides of migration were as a drop in an ocean wave compared to the numbers of English born now flooding to the shores of Canada.
Knowing the Viking spirit that rode out to conquer the very elements in the teeth of death, it is easy to look back and realize that these Angles and Jutes and Saxons were bound to found a great sea empire. So, too, of the New England Puritans! Men who sacrificed their all for a political and religious belief were bound to build of such belief foundation for a sturdy nation of the future. It is easy to look back and realize. It is hard to look forward with eyes that see ; but one must be a very opaque thinker, indeed, not to wonder what this latest vast migration of Saxon blood portends for future empire. The Jutes and Angles and Saxons poured into ancient Albion for just one reason to acquire each for his own freehold of land. Look at the ancient words! Freehold of land! For what else have a million and a half British born come to the free homesteads of Canada? For freehold of land land unoppressed by taxes for war lords; land unoppressed by tithes for landlord; land absolutely free to the worker. That such a migration should break in waves over Canadian life and leave it untouched, uninfluenced, unswerved, is as inconceivable as that the Jutes and Angles and Saxons could have settled in ancient Albion and not made it their own.
For years Canada was regarded chiefly in England as a dumping ground for slums. "You have broken your mother's heart," thundered an English magistrate to a young culprit. "You have sent your father in sorrow to the grave. Why I ask you do you not go to Canada?" That such material did not offer the best fiber for the making of a nation in Canada did not dawn on this insular magisterial dignitary; and the sentiments uttered were reflected in the activities of countless philanthropies that seemed to think the porcine could be transmogrified into the human by a simple transfer from the pig-sty of their own vices and failure to the free untrammeled life of a colony. Fortunately Canada has a climate that kills men who won't work. Men must stand on their own feet in Canada, and keep those feet hustling in winter or die. It is, not a land for people who think the world owes them a living. They have to earn the living and earn it hard, and if they don't earn it, there are neither free soup kitchens nor maudlin charities to fill idle stomachs with some other man's earnings.
"Why do you think so many young Englishmen fail to make good in Canada?" I asked a young Yorkshire mill hand who had come to Canada with his five brothers and homesteaded nearly a thousand acres on the north bank of the Saskatchewan. The house was built of logs and clay. There was not a piece of store furniture in it except the stove. The beds were berths extemporized ship-fashion, with cowhides and bear-skins for covering. The seats were benches. The table was a rough-hewn plank. These young factory hands had things reduced to the simplicity of a Robinson Crusoe. They had come out each with less than one hundred dollars, but they had their nine hundred and sixty acres proved up and wintered some ten horses and thirty head of cattle in a sod and log stable. They had acquired what small ready cash they could by selling oats and hay to newcomers. The hay they sold at four dollars a ton, the oats at thirty cents a bushel. The boy I questioned had all the characteristics of the overworked factory hand abnormally large forehead, cramped chest, half-developed limbs. Yet the health of outdoor life glowed from his face, and he looked as if his muscles had become knotted whipcords.
"Why do I think so many young Englishmen fail to make good settlers?" he repeated, changing my question a little. "Because, up to a few years ago, the wrong kind of people came. The only young Englishmen who came up to a few years ago were no goods, who had failed at home. They were the kind of city scrubs who give up a job when it is hard and then run for free meals at the soup kitchen. There aren't any soup kitchens out here, and when they found they had to work before they could eat, they cleared out and gave the country the blame. Men who are out of work half the time at home get into the habit of depending on charity keeping them. When you are a hundred miles from a railroad town, there isn't any charity to keep you out here; you have to hustle for yourself. But there is a different class of Englishmen coming now. The men coming now have worked and want to work."
And yet at another point a hundred miles from settlement I came on a woman who belonged to that very type that ought never to emigrate. She was a woman picked out of the slums by a charity organization. She had presumably been scrubbed and curried and taught household duties before being shipped in a famous colony to Canada. The colony went to pieces in a deplorable failure on facing its first year of difficulties, but she had married a Canadian frontiersman and remained. She wore all the slum marks -bad teeth, loose-feeble-will in the mouth, furtive whining eyes. She was clean personally and paraded her religion in unctuous phrase ; but I need only to tell a Canadian that she had lived in her shanty three years and it was still bare of comfort as a biscuit box, to explain why the Dominion regards this type as unsuitable for pioneering. The American or Canadian wife of a frontiersman would have had skin robes for rugs, biscuit boxes painted for bureaus, and chairs hand-hewn out of rough timber upholstered in cheap prints. But the really amazing thing was the condition of her children. They were fat, rosy, exuberant in health and energy. They were Canadians. In a decade they would begin to fill their place as nation makers. Back in England they would have gone to the human scrap heap in hunger and rags. Ten years of slums would have made them into what their mother was an unfit; but ten years of Canada was making them into robust humans capable of battling with life and mastering it.
The line is a fine one and needs to be drawn with distinction. Canada does not begrudge the down and outs, the failures, the disinherited, the dispossessed, a chance to begin over again. She realizes that she has room, boundless room, for such as they are to succeed —and many more; but what she can not and will not do is assume the burden of these people when they come to Canada and will not try and fail. What she can not and will not do is permit Europe to clean her pig sties of vice and send the human offal to Canadian shores. Children, strays, waifs, reforms who have been taken and tested and tried and taught to support themselves she welcomes by the thousands. In fact, she has welcomed 12,260 of them in ten years, and the cases of lapses back to failure have been so small a proportion as to be inconsiderable.
In the early days, "the remittance man" or young Englishman living round saloons in idleness on a small monthly allowance from home-fell into bad repute in Canada ; and it didn't help his repute in the least to have a title appended to his remittance. Unless he were efficient, the title stood in his way when he applied for a job, whether as horse jockey or bank clerk. Canadians do not ask "Who are you?" or "What have you?" but "What can you do?" "What can you do to add to the nation's yearly output of things done of a solid plus on the right side of the yearly balance ?" It is a brutal way of putting things. It does not make for poetry and art. It may be sordid. I believe as a people we Canadians, perhaps, do err on the sordid side of the practical, but it also makes for solidity and national strength.
Ten years have witnessed a complete change in the class of Englishmen coming to Canada. The drifter, the floater, the make shift, rarely comes. The men now coming are the land seekers of the blood and type that settled England and New England and Virginia of the blood and type, in a word, that make nations. Hard on the heels of the land seekers have come yet another type the type that binds country to country in bonds tighter than any international treaty —the investors of surplus capital.
It is possible to keep a record of American investments in Canada; because possessions are registered more or less approximately at ports of entry and in bills of incorporation ; but the English investor has acted through agents, through trust and loan companies, through banks. He is the buyer of Canada's railway stocks, of her municipal, street railway, irrigation and public works bonds. Of Canadian rail-road bonds and stocks, there are $395,000,000 definitely known to be held in England. Municipal and civic bonds must represent many times that total, and the private investments in land have been simply incalculable. The Lloyd George system of taxation was at once followed by enormous investments by the English aristocracy in Canada. These investments included large holdings of city property in Montreal and Winnipeg and Vancouver, of ranch lands in Alberta, town sites along the new railroads, timber limits in British Columbia and copper and coal mines in both Alberta and British Columbia. The Portland, Essex, Sutherland and Beresford families have been among the investors. It does not precisely mean the coming of an English aristocracy to Canada, but it does mean the implanting of an enormous total of the British aristocracy's capital in Canada for long time investment.
It would be untrue to say that these investments have all been wisely made. One wonders, indeed, at what the purchasing agents were aiming in some cases. I know of small blocks in insignificant railroad towns bought for sixty thousand dollars, for no other reason, apparently, than that they cost ten thousand dollars and had been sold for twenty thousand dollars. The block, which would yield twenty per cent, on ten thou sand dollars, yields only three per cent. on sixty thousand dollars. Held long enough, doubtless, it will re-pay the investor ; or if the investor is satisfied with three per cent., where Canadians earn twenty per cent. —it may be all right; but Canadians expect their in-vestments to repay capital cost in ten years, and they do not buy for profits to posterity but for profits in a lifetime.
Similarly of many of the ranches bought at five dollars an acre by Americans and resold as rawnches at twenty-five dollars to forty dollars to Englishmen. If the Englishmen will be satisfied with two and three per cent., where the American demands and makes twelve to twenty percent. the investment may make satisfactory returns; but it is hard to conceive of enormous tracts two and three hundred miles from a railroad bought for fruit lands at twenty-five dollars an acre. Fruit without a market is worse than waste. It is loss. When questioned, these English investors explain how raw fruit lands that sold at twenty-five dollars an acre a few years ago in the United States to-day sell for five hundred dollars and one thousand dollars an acre. The point they miss is that these top values are the result of exceptional conditions ; of millionaires turning a region into a playground as in the walnut and citrus groves of California ; or of nearness to market and water transportation; or of peculiarly finely organized marketing unions. If the rich estates of England like to take these risks, it is their affair; but they must not blame Canada if their investment does not give them the same returns as more careful buying gives the Canadian and American.
Not all investments are of this extravagant character. Hundreds of thousands of acres and city properties untold have been bought by English investors who will multiply their capital a hundredfold in ten years. I know properties bought along the lines of the new railroads for a few hundred dollars that have resold at twenty thousand and thirty thousand and fifty thousand. It is such profits as these that lure to wrong investment.
Horse and cattle ranching has appealed to the Englishman from the first, and as great fortunes have been realized from it in Canada as in Argentina. However, the day of unfenced pasture ground is past; and in reselling ranches for farms, many English investors have multiplied their fortunes. In the outdoor life and freedom from conventional cares there has been a peculiar charm in ranch life. In no life are the grit and efficiency of the well-bred in such marked contrast with the puling whine and shiftlessness of the settler from the cesspool of the city slums. I have gone into a prairie shanty where an English woman sat in filth and rags and idleness, cursing the country to which she had come and bewailing in cockney English that she had come to this; and I have gone on to an English ranch where there presided some young Englishman's sister, who had literally never done a stroke in her life till she came to Canada, when in emergency of prairie fire, or blizzard, or absent ranch hands, she has saddled her horse and rounded to shelter herds of cattle and droves of ponies. She didn't boast about it. She probably didn't mention it, and when winter came, she would go off for her holiday to England or California. Having come of blood that had proved itself fit in England, she proved the same strain of blood in Canada ; and to this class of English Canada gives more than a welcome. She confers charter rights.
Lack of domestic help will long be the great draw back for English people on the prairie. You may bring your help with you if you like. If they are single, they will marry. If they are married, they will take up land of their own and begin farming for them selves. It is this which forces efficiency or exterminates on the prairie. Let no woman come to the prairie with dolce far niente dreams of opalescent peaks, of fenceless fields and rides to a horizon that forever recedes, with a wind that sings a jubilate of freedom. All these she will have ; but they are not ends in themselves ; they are incidental. Days there will be when the fat squaw who is doing the washing will put all the laundry in soap suds, then roll down her sleeves and demand double pay before she goes on.
Prairie fires will come when men are absent, and women must know how to set a back fire; and whether the ranch hands are near or far, stock must never be allowed to drive before a blizzard. The woman with iron in her blood will meet all fate's challenges half-way and master every emergency. The kind that has a rabbit heart and sits down to weep and wail should not essay adventures in the Canadian West.
I said that England's colonies depended on the Mother Country for protection from attack by land and sea. Of the vessels calling at Canadian ports, three fifths are British, one fifth foreign, and one fifth Canadian. Where England is the great sea carrier for Europe, Canada has not wakened up to establish enough sea carriers for her own needs.
Canada's exports to the whole British Empire are almost two hundred millions a year.* Her aggregate trade with the British Empire has increased three hundred percent. since confederation, or from one hundred and seven to three hundred and sixteen millions. With the United States, her aggregate trade has increased from eighty-nine to six hundred and eight millions. For one dollar's worth she buys in England, she buys four dollars' worth in the United States. Here trade is not following the flag, and the flag is not following trade. Trade is following its own channels independent of the flag.
What is the future portent of the great migration of Englishmen of the best blood and traditions to Canada? There can be only one portent a Greater Britain Overseas, and Canada herself has not in the slightest degree wakened to what this implies. She knows that her railroads are a safe and shorter path to the Orient than by Suez ; and in a cursory way she may also know that the nations of the world are maneuvering for place and power on the Pacific ; but that she may be drawn into the contest and have to fight for her life in it she hardly grasps. If you told Canada that within the life of men and women now living her Pacific Coast may bristle with as many forts and ports as the North Sea you would be greeted with an amused smile. Yet all this may be part of the destiny of a Greater Britain Overseas.
With men such as Sir John Macdonald and Laurier and Borden on the roster roll of Canada's great, one dislikes to charge that Canadian statesmen have not grown big enough for their job. The Aztec Indians used to cement their tribal houses with human blood. Canada's part in the Great War may be the blood-sign above the lintel of her new nationality.