1902 Encyclopedia > Canada > Canada - General Remarks. Observations by Earl of Dufferin, 1874.

(Part 14)

General Remarks. – The position which Canada now occupies as a Dominion formed by a confederation of self-governing provinces, united under a central Government, with its own governor-general, cabinet ministers, senate, parliament, and supreme courts of law, - yet nevertheless remaining an integral part of the British Empire, and acknowledging the sovereignty of its Queen – is unique in the history of nations, and strikingly illustrates the adaptability of British institutions to the novel requirements of a free people. The peculiar circumstances resulting from the union of a colony formed under the fostering restraints of French ecclesiastical and civil rule with one of purely English origin, and settled I part by loyalist emigrants from the United States, begot difficulties which were more and more felt as the mother country removed from Canada one after another of the restrictions of self-government. It will form an interesting chapter in the history of Britain in relation to her colonies, to note the freedom with which, when those of British North America had, as it were, attained their majority, they were left to frame a scheme of confederation suited to their circumstances; and when, after free deliberation, it had been matured to the satisfaction of those most directly interested in the results, the Imperial Government received it at their hands, and the British Parliament gave it the force of law.

Observations by Earl of Dufferin, 1874. - At the very period when this novel experiment in the history of colonization had been carried out to completion, and was open to the test of experience, the vice-regal duties were entrusted to the earl of Dufferin as governor-general of Canada. In the exercise of his duties he has visited many portions of the Dominion; and towards the close of an extensive tour in the summer of 1874, he thus gave expression to the results of his observations: - "Everywhere I have learnt that the people are satisfied, - satisfied with their own individual prospects and the prospects of their country; satisfied with their Government, and the institutions under which they prosper; satisfied to be the subjects of the Queen; satisfied to be members of the British Empire. Indeed, I cannot help thinking that, quite apart from the advantage to myself, my early journeys through the provinces will have been of public benefit, as exemplifying with what spontaneous, unconcerted unanimity of language, the entire Dominion has declared its faith in itself, in its destiny, in its connection with the mother country, and in the well-ordered freedom of a constitutional monarchy. It is this very combination of sentiments, which appears to me so wholesome and satisfactory. Words cannot express what pride I feel as an Englishman in the loyalty of Canada to England. Nevertheless I should be the first to deplore this feeling, if it rendered Canada disloyal to herself,- if it either dwarfed or smothered Canadian patriotism, or generated a sickly spirit of dependence. Such, however, is far from being the case. The legislation of the Parliament of Canada, the attitude of its statesmen, the language of its press, sufficiently show how firmly and intelligently its people are prepared to accept and apply the almost unlimited legislative faculties with which it has been endowed; while the daily growing disposition to extinguish sectional jealousies, and to ignore an obsolete provincialism, proves how strongly the young heart of the confederated common wealth has begun to throb with the consciousness of its national existence. At this moment not a shilling of British money finds its way to Canada; the interference of the Home Government with the domestic affairs of the Dominion has ceased; while the imperial relations between the two countries are regulated by a spirit of such mutual deference, forbearbance, and moderation, as reflects the greatest credit upon the statesmen of both. Yet so far from this gift of autonomy having brought about any divergence of aim or aspiration on either side, every reader of our annals must be aware that the sentiments of Canada towards Great Britain are infinitely more friendly now than in those early days when the political intercourse of the two countries was disturbed and complicated by an excessive and untoward tutelage; that never was Canada more untied than at present in sympathy of purpose, and unity of interest with the mother country, more at one with her in social habits and tone of thought, more proud of her claim to share in the heritage of England’s past, more ready to accept whatever obligations may be imposed upon her by her partnership in the future fortunes of he empire." (D. W.)

The above article was written by Sir Daniel Wilson, Hon. Sec of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, 1845; Professor of History and English Literature, Toronto University, 1853; President of Toronto University, 1885; author of Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate, The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Chatterton, a Biographical Study, and Reminiscences of Old Edinburgh.

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