Imperialism, Colonialism, Fascism
He`s back, everyone`s favourite straight talking, straight shooting shit disturber, or if you like, "The Mirror"...For what he sees, you`ll see, in full colour, panoramavision, all the shocking details....
No, we aren`t talking Zombies, not Stepford wives, we aren`t talking Cuban style socialism, we are talking the big F, as in $%@# HARPER....ACTUALLY WE ARE TALKING FACISM
CANADA. THE ROAD TO FASCISM FROM 1945 to Stephen Harper........Written by Robin Mathews
Copyright: 2012 by Robin Mathews
A portion or portions or all of this book may be reproduced electronically or in print on the condition that the portion or portions or all of the book are not offered for sale. Sale of any part of the book or the whole book will constitute a violation of copyright.
Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data/Mathews Robin 1931/Ist edition/ISBN 978-0-9686324-4-4 (electronic version).
Books by Robin Mathews: CULTURAL STUDIES/PUBLIC AFFAIRS. The Struggle for Canadian Universities (ed. With James A. Steele) 1969; Canadian Literature – Surrender or Revolution, 1978; Canadian Identity, 1988; The Canadian Intellectual Tradition, 1990, 1998; Treason of the Intellectuals: English Canada in the Post-Modern Period, 1995; George Grant’s Betrayal of Canada, 2004. POEMS. The Plink Savoir, 1962; Plus Ca Change, 1964; This Time, This Place, 1965; This Cold Fist, 1969; Air 7, 1972; Geography of Revolution, 1975; Language of Fire, 1976; The Beginning of Wisdom, 1978; The Death of Socialism, 1995; Being Canadian in Dirty Imperialist Times, 2000; Think Freedom, 2004. PLAYS: Selkirk, 1977; Playmakers, 1980.
Table Of Contents.
Canada in North America and the World…………………………….................... 1
The Longest Undefended Border………………………………………....................................... 15
The Early Twentieth Century and the Second World War…...........................………………………………………………..................... 35
The Mirror of Culture in a Contested Society………………………......................... 42
Economic, Politics, War, and Cold War………………………………...................... 50
The Diefenbaker Quandary. Liberal Dissension, Culture. Economics. Colonialism
The Struggle Between Lester Pearson and Walter Gordon. Economics, Culture, and Survival. Part One……………………………........................................................ 73
The Struggle Between Lester Pearson and Walter Gordon. Economics, Culture, and Survival. Part Two……………………………........................................................ 93
The Battle for a Canadian Economy and a Canadian Voice…………………………………………………………………....................... 111
The Build-Up to a Neo-Liberal State. Trudeau and the Fight Against Independence……………………………………………………............................ 126
The Biggest Sell-Out. Brian Mulroney and the Move To Free Trade……………………………………………………………………….............. 140
Globalizing Canada. Canadian Cultural Consciousness. Takeover of the Mind…………………………………………………………………………........... 157
Canada and Culture: Destructive Forces at Work………………………................. 170
The Military Nature of Canadian Colonialism Hardens…………………………….. 194
Media and Film in Canada: Blinding the Population……………………................. 207
Conclusion: The Harper Attempt at a Coup d’Etat and the Call to Freedom ………..224
Canada in North America and the World
This book is, centrally, about the imperial-colonial-nationalist-independence battles in and involving Canada after the Second World War (1939-1945). It is about the move towards fascism in Canada – which cannot be separated from its failure to get free of U.S. dominance in economics, politics, culture, and foreign policy.
The book records political, economic and cultural battles that reveal a single direction. A continuing and predominating colonialism forged and supported by the taste-making leaders in all spheres has conditioned the population to accept a subservient position it its own country – and will continue to do so until that population decides to have change ….
Up front and close our history has involved (and continues to involve) apparently unrelated skirmishes about political philosophy, economic theory, ideas about social responsibility, law and the rule of law, visions about the role of the arts and education, the media, and – of course – about Canada’s colonial condition, its place in the U.S. imperial system, and its right to full and meaningful independence.
More and more all of those questions are coming down to a persistent concern about Canada losing its democracy…about Canada moving towards fascism. That is a concern which is significantly sharpened since the dubious (questionable in law) taking of government by the Stephen Harper forces in 2006 and in 2011. The Harper tactics to gain what many believe is illegitimate federal power are discussed in the “Conclusion”.
The argument of this book turns on the claim by the powerful – in private corporations, in their foundations and institutes, in governments which are essentially in the grasp of those forces, and in the mainstream press and media – that extreme neo-liberal values fairly describe democratic values. But, more and more, people of persuasions different from the neo-liberal persuasion believe neo-liberal values are anti-democratic values and – at their most highly developed – are fascist values. I will explain that apparently extreme statement a little farther on.
The democratic values held in Canada have generally taken for granted that candidates as members of political parties are elected to legislative bodies which independently make laws for all, following careful due process. Those legislative bodies and/or their designates oversee rules and regulations for the conduct of persons and organized entities such as churches, fraternal groups, labour unions, corporations, and political parties. The saying that “Parliament is supreme” is older than Canada, as is the statement that “we are a country that lives under the rule of law.” Both of those statements are seriously in question, now, in Canada.
Canadians have taken for granted that democracy in this country means that all participate in the life of the nation and all receive consideration and a degree of care, and all do so through the rule of law.
For believers of neo-liberal theory those ideas are by no means taken for granted. Rather, neo-liberalism argues that the practice, the maintenance, the (apparent) needs, the health, and the unexamined operation of private corporations come before all other priorities in society. To assure the safety of their unexamined wealth, they argue that corporations are the central force operating in our democracy. Believers in neo-liberal theory argue that corporations provide employment and so must be given great power. At the same time neo-liberals attack all government employment and all Crown Corporations. Neo-liberals denigrate (falsely) all socially owned corporations as not only uneconomic but also as undemocratic.
They believe that private corporations have little or no responsibility to the society or to their employees. Common statements made presently are that “no one deserves a job” and “permanent employment is a thing of the past.” Following the same train of political thought, private corporations and their spokespeople argue their wealth must be unexamined, untaxed, unredistributed and – in these hard times – the population must be ready and willing to see heavy cuts to all Social Services – education, the judicial system, health care, etcetera.
Corporations make those claims partly on the basis of what is called globalization – the condition in which corporations become more wealthy and powerful than governments and in which they enlist particular governments in their global policies. “Globalization” is, in fact, planetary fascism. Corporations advocate and achieve the destruction of workers rights, the breakdown of legislation for social well-being, the removal of national industries from the countries they are in to slave economies, the creation of false money to take over and/or destroy national governments and to enrich a very few at the expense of stable countries and investing communities believing in the rule of law.
The description of neo-liberalism given above is also the description of fascism or the fascist state. Such a state is characterized by the integration of private corporations and government into what is almost a single entity. That entity forces the population to conform to state policies by the use of the police and the military. It is, of course, a totalitarian structure, in which the balance between corporations and government is sometimes uneasy – and sometimes tips out of balance into military rule.
Those developments have been shaping most persistently in the last three decades – especially since the fall of the Soviet Union (1989) as a major (non-capitalist) power in contestation with the U.S.A.
The large movement of what we might call world history has affected Canada far longer than most Canadians realize. Their failure to recognize that fact has arisen, partly, from Canada’s small and far-flung population in its early decades and from problems of communication in those times. But other factors have been more determining.
Understanding them, grasping their implications – there lies the key to Canadians moving out of dependency, out of colonial status and the move towards fascism to independence.
Six factors are primary in an understanding of Canada’s colonial status, its status as a dependency, as servant of imperial policy. First, Canada’s long formal status (until 1931) as a colony and dependency of Britain probably conditioned Canadians to look outward for leadership. Among the francophone population of New France – a colony of France – a strong sense of independent identity was established, perhaps more so at the start than was the case with anglophones. That sense, especially in Quebec, has played a strong role in the internal life and politics of Canada, sometimes contributing a force directed against colonial-mindedness.
After the Conquest of 1760 there is no doubt Canadians were in a colonial structure and thought in those terms. But a reason for the long, apparently willing, dependence is absolutely key to understanding Canada and its people. From very early in the European settlement of North America people in what we now call the U.S.A. wanted power over and control of the whole continent. The invasions of Canada in 1775 and 1812 were only the military signs of that never-ending intention. Possessing one-tenth of the population of the U.S.A. for nearly all of Canadian history, Canada needed Britain to prevent the U.S. from seizing the country. The mere connection helped rein in U.S. continental ambitions.
Full political independence was achieved in 1931 – only eight years before world events in the shape of The Second World War (1939-45) thrust Canada – in defense of what might be called European civilization – into the arms of the U.S. in military, economic, and other agreements that otherwise might never have been entered into.
Secondly, ideas of Canadian independence were always (and are today) in contestation. One thinks immediately of historical British pressure and influence. But that influence – symbolized by the monarchy – has been used as a defence against U.S. takeover as much as, and probably more than, it has been used as a force to shape colonial-mindedness.
Perhaps the most important factor in weakening the Canadian demand for independence has been the U.S.A. – both in its conscious and unconscious relations with Canada. The U.S. has always wanted to own Canada. The pressure from settlers (and others) who felt loyalty to the U.S.A. at the time of the invasions of 1765, 1812, and through the period of the Fenian Raids into Canada of the 1860s seriously complicated defence. There were always local inhabitants drawn to the U.S.A. Their opinions were often shaped and sharpened by the presence of recent U.S. immigrants strongly attached to the U.S.A. The presence of U.S. immigrants to Canada – faced honestly as a phenomenon – has always complicated Canada’s will to develop independence.
The third factor working against the development of a firm determination to have independence for Canada has been what we now call private corporate enterprise but which has borne different names through the generations. The first Annexation Movement which occurred in Lower Canada (Quebec) in the 1840s was led by Montreal merchants (mostly anglophone). Feeling ill-used, the merchants called for separation from Britain and
“a union upon equitable terms with the great North American Confederacy of sovereign states.”
The reasons given have never stopped being repeated in Canadian history. U.S. capital would enter Canada. Property would become more valuable. Prosperity would be assured. Trade would increase. An unhindered market would open. And so on …
Expressing a painful fact, and using humour to do it, J.W. Bengough, creator of the satirical weekly Grip, wrote a piece for the New York Canadian Club publication Canadian Leaves of 1887. In it he praises the U.S. for its shrewdness in dropping invasion as the way to take Canada. And he adds that he has no doubt “your calculation is correct that as soon as the absent boodle aldermen and bank presidents form a majority of our population … they will cast a solid vote for annexation … ” He goes on to write that
“as soon as our most wealthy citizens so decide, annexation will be all right.”
The fourth factor which is primary in understanding Canada’s colonial status relates closely to the third. What J.W. Bengough called “our most wealthy citizens” have often been (as they are today) the leading advocates of Canadian subordination, of an inferior status for Canada in relation to the U.S.A. In our own day they are the primary advocates of Canada’s absorption into the U.S.A. Today the term “our most wealthy citizens” is even confused, for the reach of the U.S. multinational corporations into Canada often confers a kind of “citizenship” on major actors in the Canadian economy who are without a shred of loyalty to Canada except as a ripe fruit from which to squeeze all possible riches.
Their lives and their interests create, largely, the fifth factor affecting the desire for Canadian independence. That is the factor of the persuasion of Canadians to accept subordinate status in their own country. It is the propaganda factor, the large and continuing production of false explanations for and the desirability of Canadian submission to U.S. imperial policy and to its active supporters in Canadian government, media, press, and formal education.
Canadians are trained and educated to be colonials. Being effectively trained and educated, we provide the sixth primary factor that explains Canada’s continuing colonial status, its role as a dependency in an imperial system, its failure to take hold of its immense wealth and to direct it as a majority of Canadians wish it to be directed – for the good of Canadians and for an enlightened, humanitarian foreign policy in the world.
The sixth factor is, perhaps, the most painful for it is what we willingly do to ourselves. Using contemporary language, the super-wealthy “one per cent” in the Western World have convinced the “ninety-nine per cent” of Canadians to be colonials, drones, servants, “hewers of wood and drawers of water” for their “masters.” They have even been, recently, convinced that a system of neo-liberal looting of their wealth is democratic. The sixth factor is the hardest to swallow. It is the major obstacle to be overcome. Canadians will – when they decide to do so – take back their country and set it on a great and noble path. But to do so, the ninety-nine percent will have to move the one percent aside – and so far they have been doing just the opposite.
Canadians have – for two centuries at least – been failing to secure Canadian independence, or they have been securing it in such a slender fashion that the one percent – behind the backs of ninety-nine percent of Canadians have been looting and levelling Canada and moving it increasingly under the power and control of the U.S.A. and, lately, even of China.
The sixth factor sees us rejecting our own possibilities of excellence, our own ideas of community minted here. It makes us sharply critical of the anti-colonials in our midst.
“Who does he/she think they are anyway?” we ask. The sixth factor makes us crave the products of the imperial country. It makes us want to be like them. It undermines Canadian self-respect and leads us to be hoodwinked easily by expertise and authority – if it is said to come from the U.S.A. Our colonial-mindedness leads us to permit huge looting of Canadian wealth and huge pollution of the Canadian environment. It lets us see our own Native Peoples not as a founding first and treasured part of the country but as an impediment to development. Only by shedding our colonial mentality will Canadians be able to seize control of our own country for the good of all Canadians and for the good of the larger world community. The recent turn to a globalized colonialism, to the subjection of Canadians under treaties forged outside the North American continent is – if anything – more threatening even than the colonialism forged under U.S. power.
Before glancing more carefully at the concept of neo-liberalism, it must be seen from another vantage point. Perhaps surprisingly, neo-liberalism is directly connected to the idea of individualism. How, one might ask, is it that a powerfully oppressive force that can develop into what we call fascism – a police state forcing conformity by police and military might – can be connected to the idea of individualism? For individualism, many believe, is the highest expression of freedom, of liberty, of unimpeded choice for the person. The protection of individual freedom, however, is dependent upon a highly organized, democratic community under the rule of law. To put the matter as if in contradiction – for the individual to be free, the democratic state must be powerful.
The individual who rejects that perspective often calls himself or herself an anarchist. The word “anarchist” simply means someone who is “without government” because he or she governs himself or herself. The individual possessing an individualist perspective rejects government outside the self.
The idea of being a free person in the world, recognizing no government but conscience, admitting no limitation upon action but self-limitation – can be powerfully attractive. When that position is taken by deeply moral people who feel strong responsibility to justice and to the well-being of other people, what is called anarchist individualism may produce good results for the person and for others. But – the argument always arises – how do people who recognize no government but conscience and no limitation but self-limitation get prosaic things done like national highways, sewer systems for large cities, structures of medical treatment for whole populations? If they reject having representatives elected – given shared power in constitutionally limited parliaments – to act for the best interests of all, how do they get big tasks done? The question hangs there.
The fact is, however, that the anarchist individualist position is not taken merely by deeply moral people who feel strong responsibility to justice and to the well-being of other people. Just the contrary. It is taken by people who want no government other than conscience because they want no government outside themselves over the range of their action to gain power, to exhaust natural resources, to take what they want from the environment, to violate social structures, and to exploit individual people for their own profit and power. They want no idea of justice that interferes with their own drive for wealth and power.
The success of such people is easy to picture. They battle their way to positions of influence. They break down, wherever possible, systems of government that impede them, regulatory structures that prevent what is, in fact, lawless activity, and laws that limit their actions. They make alliances with others of like mind. They – finally – get into the position to buy governments and/or military structures, and they erase democratic rule as an impediment to their own success. In the place of democratic rule they erect fascist government (whatever name they may give it). It is rule by government/corporate alliance, using the police and the military to enforce conformity – and to end all ideas of individual freedom that might challenge the fascist state.
In very brief definition fascism is, partly, a belief that the State is all – that everyone must work for the State, and the State must be all-powerful. Neo-liberals quote that much of the definition of fascism as a part of their attacks on democratic government. They pretend democratic government which creates, for instance, universal medicare and pensions and which demands a fair and progressive tax system is a repressive force, proof of an all-powerful state. They pretend those things in order to attack democracy and attempt to destroy job security, fair pay scales, and benefits provided by government to its employees.
Fascism, in fact, is a system that unites private corporations and governments to strip away democratic choice and all structures built for the benefit of the whole population and to concentrate all wealth and power in the hands of an elite few. Fascism is a marriage of the State and corporations who use the police and the military to oppress violently any and all dissenters. Architect of fascism and source of the word in the world, Benito Mussolini, in 1921, “allied his group with the propertied classes, with the landowners and industrialists.” Adolf Hitler did the same in the operation of Nazism in Germany. The slave labourers he employed were worked to death, frequently, in brutal conditions, for German private corporations, some of which still exist and are major names in international commerce. In both countries, private corporations assisted in the fascist rise to power. And in both cases they did so in order to profit from instability, war, and the calculated brutalization and oppression of parts of humanity.
Anarchism and anarchists of the kinds described appear as a part of national character in the U.S.A. – in its government and among its foreign policy makers. Through its history, the U.S. as a country has acted as anarchist individualist. Preaching democracy, individual rights, the rule of law, and the right to the sovereign self-rule of nations, the U.S. repeatedly suppresses those ideals throughout the world where it deems its power interests are concerned – especially in its backyard: Central and South America – but not there exclusively by any means.
Practising an exceptionalism which is not exceptional, the U.S. acts – as its first priority - to uphold the dominance of its policy and power in the world. It claims to incarnate democratic ideals at the same time as it erases or resists the development of democracy in many countries. Backed by a huge propaganda machinery, the claims the U.S. makes to be democratic and to wish democracy for all peoples of the world are often believed with deep conviction … by Canadians.
The dominance of neo-liberalism across the globe, and its growing power in Canada, is a present form of the struggle against Canadian independence that is as old as this country. Neo-liberalism is the surrendering of the power of the nation’s population to private corporations acting, often, with the support of apparently freely elected democratic representatives. It is, especially, the surrendering of that power to homeless or multi-national corporations for whom the populations of countries have no legitimacy. Neo-liberalism is, therefore, simply one more face of the outside, absentee landlord, imperialist forces wishing to own, control, and exploit Canadian wealth for a few people who have no interest in the well-being of Canadians.
The present collaboration of elected Canadians with private (mostly foreign) corporations and their partner-governments is not a new phenomenon. It is simply another form of colonialism. In the last five hundred years, at least, the story of imperial/colonial relations has often turned on the willingness of representatives of the people to sell-out to rich, powerful, seductive agents from outside.
Sometimes sell-out to foreign powers is easily done – as Canada seems to have done in its early relation with Britain. Canada’s clinging to British power through most of the nineteenth century, however, cannot fairly be thought of as sell-out to a foreign power. It was partly a product of the immigration pattern of the time and partly a product of the need to be able to call upon British forces if Canada was invaded by the U.S.A. – a constant and lingering threat. But the willing subjection of Canada to the U.S.A. in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – giving up ownership and control of huge natural resources, tying itself to punitive trade agreements with the U.S., and moving politically into the U.S. imperial, expansionist trade and military structures – is very hard to explain. As is the Stephen Harper move to a subordinate position in relation to China. With a highly educated population, a high standard of living, and huge natural wealth to develop, Canada has repeatedly put itself in the hands of foreigners dedicated to exploiting Canadian wealth for themselves.
Sometimes sell-out to foreign powers isn’t easily done – as in Chile. I use that example because most Canadians don’t even know the example exists. It is instructive. After the middle of the twentieth century, Chileans began, restively, to demand greater control of the wealth of the country, and greater democracy. Chile’s huge copper resources (the largest in the world) were largely in the hands of U.S. and other foreign interests. Chileans threw up a strongly democratic leader in Salvador Allende. The U.S. was determined to prevent him from nationalizing copper extraction and from making other reforms in the society. To that end it flooded money into Chile to purchase newspapers, to bribe union leaders, and to gather other support. Allende refused advice to close newspapers and other media attacking him relentlessly and unfairly. He insisted upon an open democracy.
When in 1973 he announced the government’s intention to nationalize copper, the neo-liberal forces were unleashed in a coup taken up quickly by Augusto Pinochet, a general in the armed forces and silently backed by the U.S. government. Pinochet’s whole effort (quietly supported by the U.S.A.) – seen in retrospect – was to clear Chile of progressive forces and to set it up for a long history of neo-liberal rule. To that end Pinochet captured, tortured, and murdered most of the legitimate opposition leaders and activists. His rule is famous for torture and “disappearances.” The number of the murdered regularly quoted by the North American press is hugely inaccurate.
In a seventeen-year term of severe repression, Pinochet wrote a new constitution – still in force long after his removal. During his years, and to some extent after – energy production, higher education, the health system, retirement benefits, water management, and much of the production of copper was privatized. Copper production is seventy three percent in the hands of foreign interests and, by law, they pay very low tax.
By Pinochet law, still standing, any decision to nationalize mining demands such extravagant payment that no nationalization can be envisioned without a major change in legislation – which, also by Pinochet law, has been made difficult to effect. In fact, according to a Chilean economist, the present law treats Chilean copper in the ground as owned by the foreign corporations exploiting it – not by Chile. The president of the Chilean senate, M. Guido Girardi sums up: “Chile has been the laboratory of neo-liberalism.”
Now Chile ( almost unannounced by North American mainstream media) is bursting with large-scale discontent and demonstrations against the price of gas, hydro-electric expansion, against the cost of higher education – and more – all backed by a majority of the Chilean people … which in the wealthy, neo-liberal society are economically disadvantaged as prices rise and profits rise for the tiny elite owning Chile.
Chile is an excellent example of neo-liberalism instituted by gun and truncheon. When Pinochet was removed, the Western press and media hailed the return of democracy to Chile. But it did not return. Pinochet introduced a fascist state. Pinochet law exists behind a mask of democratic government which – as is the case more and more in Canada – serves private, corporate, anti-democratic interests. The Chilean political system, which Chileans are fighting against more and more, is precisely the system the Stephen Harper (so-called) Conservatives, apparently, intend to reproduce in Canada. That subject is addressed in the Conclusion.
Historically, Canadians have faced huge pressures to give up their democracy. That is especially so since the U.S.A. became the dominant imperial power in the world and determined that it wanted Canada, by hook or by crook, openly – by annexation, or covertly – by takeover of the Canadian economy and its politicians and by the subversion of Canadian culture and identity. The U.S.A. never wanted Canada to exist and from at least the early eighteenth century planned and preached to have it erased as a separate sovereign entity on the North American continent.
The Longest Undefended Border
The centrality of U.S. interest in Canada and its desire to absorb or at least to dominate this country go back to early years of European settlement on the continent. In the early eighteenth century, for instance, when “Canada” (as we think of it now) was in the hands of a small francophone population, representation was made by settlers on the U.S. East Coast (as we think of it now) to the British to assist in organization of a force to overthrow and erase French presence. That was not a part of big-power European ideas at the time but a desire of the thinly occupied settlement community to expand and to have power over all North America.
Manifest Destiny is the nineteenth century term that identifies the driving force in the U.S.A. to occupy and to control all of North America. John L. Sullivan brought it into circulation in an article written in 1845. It is called Manifest Destiny because believers assume it is the manifest (obvious to eye or mind) Will of God that the destiny of all North America is to exist under the flag of the U.S.A. The name was given to the idea in the nineteenth century, but it was a part of the fabric of the thinking of people who occupied parts of what is now the U.S.A. from very early days. The concept is related to the term American Exceptionalism created by U.S. thinkers to describe and/or explain actions of the people of the U.S.A. that shock and dismay much of the rest of the world.
Slavery in the U.S.A. and the U.S. government policy of extermination of the native peoples, for instance, are attributed to American Exceptionalism. By giving those offensive policies and actions a high-sounding name, U.S. intellectuals attempt to tame and legitimate them. It is their way of saying
“we in the U.S.A. are quite normal and we do things which are perfectly reasonable to us, though they offend others. It is not that we are brutal or inhuman but that it is in our nature to do things occasionally which are exceptional to normal practice. People in the world must come to accept actions which characterize our exceptionalism. Our exceptionalism is really quite normal.”
In the later eighteenth century, when in its War for Independence (1775-1781) the U.S. cut ties with Britain, and Canada retained ties, the U.S. wanted (and sought) dominating power over Canada. The U.S. invaded Canada – attempting to conquer it – in 1776, in 1812, and in a few flurries in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the later attacks Fenians (Irish loyalists in the U.S.) made raids into Canada from U.S. soil, hoping to bring Canada under U.S. rule. Since the raids occurred just before and after Confederation when government was firmly established here, the U.S. government could not consider the attacks random assaults by non-government forces – and then claim the territory occupied as U.S. territory. Besides, Canadians were quick to repulse the attacks.
The War of 1812 is especially important to the theme of this book – as historical fact, as concentration of political forces, and in the subsequent interpretation it has received by many Canadian historians. The war was, in large part, faked by the U.S. in order to conquer Canada while Britain was absorbed in a major war. The conduct of the politics inside Upper Canada was complicated by people with loyalty to the U.S.A. The reading of the War by Canadian historians has often had an apologetic or neo-liberal tinge. Canada’s achievement is downplayed. And many of the boldest defenders of Canada in 1812 are now aspersed and ridiculed because of the role they are accused of playing later in Canadian society.
The War of 1812 was based upon apparent U.S. rage at British interference with U.S. shipping to the enemy [France] during the war with Napoleon’s forces. And it was based upon U.S. rage at the British impressments of sailors. The British insisted upon boarding U.S. ships to examine them for sailors suspected of defecting to U.S. merchant service. But neither of those causes was serious enough or unreasonable enough to spark a major war. Britain was deeply involved in its war with Napoleon’s France. The U.S. decided it was a good time to takeover Canada. As with the drive for Commercial Union in the 1880s and 1890s the real goal was to cut Canada off from Britain and annex it. The change of Atlantic Triangle politics in the twentieth century made the drive to free trade in the 1980s and 1990s more a matter of a massive propaganda campaign among Canadians conducted by continental corporations and by a Canadian government won to U.S. designs for the continent. In 1812 U.S. politicians thought the taking of Canada would be a pushover. Thomas Jefferson made his famous statement that the conquest of Canada would be “a mere matter of marching.”
After the first wave of Loyalists came to Canada around 1776, many more immigrants came from the U.S.A. – a number of whom felt first loyalty to their birth country. They are the Yankees Susannah Moodie (of the book Roughing It in the Bush) met upon her arrival in Canada in the 1830s and depicts in that work.
Some Canadian writers after the mid-twentieth century find Susannah Moodie repugnant. She is one of the best known in the long tradition of writers recording the immigrant experience in Canada. Her negative critics won’t grant (a) that she was an immigrant struggling to take root in Canada, and (b) that she was not describing United Empire Loyalists but later arrivals, tenaciously Yankee, often contemptuous of Canada, and perfectly willing to see Canada annexed to the United States. Mrs. Moodie’s meeting with a young immigrant in the chapter entitled, “Our First Settlement, And The Borrowing System” tells much. Turning upon Mrs. Moodie, the young U.S. immigrant says: “We are genuine Yankees, and think ourselves as good – yes, a great deal better than you are.”
In the legislature of Upper Canada some of the late arrivers attempted to stall preparations for defence against U.S. invaders. And when hostilities broke out, a few in the legislature (many outside of it) defected across the border to assist the U.S. The resistance to U.S. ambitions was complicated by people in Canada working actively for a U.S. victory. Nearness to the U.S. and the influence of U.S. residents in Canada helped to divide opinion. The loyal forces made up of Native people, Canadians, and British troops effected the defence of Canada against an aggressor possessing ten times the population and wealth. Canadian historians often say that it was an accidental war, a useless war – for neither side gained advantage. But Canadians defended their country and preserved its sovereignty. If the U.S. had won, a day would surely be celebrated annually to celebrate
“the liberation of the Canadian people from the oppressive yoke of British oppression.”
Finally, the group which was first and most solidly prepared to defend Canada in the War of 1812 was one that, later, became known as The Family Compact and is accused of impeding democratic development in Canada. There is no doubt some truth to the charges – that those people played a sometimes negative role in the events leading to the 1837 Rebellions before the superb alliance was formed between John A. Macdonald and Etienne Cartier leading to Confederation. But at the time of the War of 1812, people like John Beverley Robinson and John Strachan organized brilliantly, responded rapidly, and were very important in establishing a belief that Canadians could not only hold off the U.S. invaders but could win a war against them.
They were deeply suspicious of U.S. society. The recent enemy was actively anti-monarchist, partly as an attempt to destabilize Canada and make it an easy prey. Moreover, it traded in slaves and built its economy on slavery. Its presidents were often major slave holders. After U.S. independence, slavery increased and a virtual war of extermination was conducted against the Native Indians. The men who were later part of The Family Compact looked South and didn’t very much like what they saw there. They saw what they thought was a vicious government, practicing lawless expansionism which travelled under the name “democracy.” They watched free-booters grab land illegally for personal profit – and the U.S. government include that land as part of the U.S.A. Because the U.S.A. constantly boasted of itself as a democracy, the word was sometimes used in Canada to indicate slave-drivers and Indian-killers and land-grabbers – anything but what Canadians would mean using the word “democracy” today.
In earlier history U.S. government encouraged or turned a blind eye to the kind of so-called private incidents undertaken by free-booters who invaded territory – which was then included as U.S. territory. U.S. forces also engaged in what was referred to as filibustering. The term simply meant to fill land with settlers and then (by force if necessary) to annex it to the U.S.A. In one case – the case of a large part of Mexico – that nation welcomed U.S. settlers. The settlers, then, called upon U.S. government to include the territory as part of the U.S.A.
The territory in question annexed was the Mexican province of Texas and the land adjacent to it that the U.S. claimed as in dispute. The Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 15, 1962, p.391) suggests the annexation took place because there was an “incompatibility of Mexican and American settlers.” That is the U.S. writer’s way of glossing over a calculated policy intended to lead to war. Thus the war with Mexico (1846-47) came about. The U.S. seized a huge tract of Mexican land, including Texas. Of expansion by free-booters in earlier U.S. history, Jason Kaufman remarks that “[this] has been a hall-mark of American diplomacy ever since. Such extra-governmental military actions fit nicely with the emerging belief in “manifest destiny” – Americans’ God-given right to take control of all North America by any means necessary.”
The U.S. did much the same in the Oregon territory, without using free-booters. It agreed with Britain in 1818 that the nationals of both countries could occupy the territory to conduct commerce for the time being without prejudice to the claims on it by the two states. Using the time that followed before more negotiations, U.S. government pumped settlers into the region – and then claimed it as U.S. territory based on the rights of first settlement. Indeed, warlike president James K. Polk who went to the aid of U.S. settlers in Mexico and seized Texas for the U.S.A. demanded – in his election campaign of 1844 – all Canadian territory to the 54th (not the 49th) parallel. “Fifty-four forty or fight” was his slogan. In 1846 the British drew back from their claims for some territory south of the 49th parallel and agreed to the 49th parallel running to the sea.
President Polk knew he could defeat Mexico in a battle between the two countries, and he did. He didn’t know if he could beat Britain, and so “Fifty-four forty” was dropped without a “fight.” Though in 1903, at the time of the Alaska Boundary Dispute, Theodore Roosevelt sent troops and threatened that if Britain didn’t accept the U.S. terms, he would be willing to use military force. And so into the twentieth century the U.S.A. was still rattling swords as a way of extorting land from Canada.
The drive West in Canada (and the building of the CPR) was a drive to prevent U.S. seizure of more western lands. During what might be called the Riel period (1868-1885), a period of unrest and territorial demands by the Metis people, northern U.S. papers took up a cry for annexation of Canadian territory. In 1867, U.S. secretary of state William Seward told a Boston audience: “I know that Nature designs that the whole continent, not merely these thirty-six states, shall be sooner or later, within the magic circle of the American union.” In 1870 U.S. people began a Winnipeg newspaper in which annexation was regularly advocated. In addition, the U.S. consul in Winnipeg sought U.S. money to overthrow Canadian rule. W. B. O‘Donoghue, an Irish American who represented St. Boniface, travelled to Washington to convince president Grant to turn the discontent of the Metis into a demand for the incorporation of Manitoba into the United States.
In 1867, as well, the U.S. moved to dissipate – as much as possible – the power and meaning of Canadian Confederation by buying Alaska from the Russians. The event can best be described, perhaps, by P.B. Waite. "For Confederation the American purchase of Alaska was a significant flanking movement." The Queen signed the British North America Act on March 29, 1867. In Washington that same night the American Secretary of State, William Seward, and the Russian Minister were up until the small hours completing the agreement for the purchase of Alaska. It was signed then and there – about 3 o’clock in the morning on March 30, 1867. It went to the Senate a few hours later. The remarkable concurrence between the signing of the British North America Act and the American purchase of Alaska, accidental though it was, underlined the connection between the two events. Alaska, said the London Morning Herald on April 2, was the American riposte to Confederation; Americans regarded the creation of a union to the north of them as a kind of grievance. It seemed to them an aggravating agglomeration of British colonies whose main purpose was to frustrate American ambitions. J.L. Chamberlain, the governor of Maine said as much, at the opening of the Maine legislature in January, 1867: “If it [Confederation] is successful, the result cannot but be injurious to us. The friends of this country in the Provinces are earnestly opposing the scheme.” The Maine Senate protested that the monarchical consolidation to the north was a violation of the Monroe doctrine. So did the United States Congress … Charles Sumner urged the Senate to ratify the purchase of Alaska on the ground that it was a ‘visible step in the occupation of the whole North American continent … The [New York] World consoled itself with the belief that Alaska was ‘an advancing step in that manifest destiny which is yet to give us British North America.’ The New York Sun agreed. English papers recognized the same logic. The Morning Post said the reason for the ‘American purchase was not the intrinsic value of Alaska but the hope of acquiring the territory south of it. Sir Frederick Bruce, the British Minister in Washington, wrote in exactly that vein to Lord Stanley.’”
The attempt to sway the people of the Canadian Northwest into annexation was not only the work of U.S. interests. In Winnipeg, editor of the Sun, Edward Farrer, a Canadian and a lifelong annexationist, worked at the task. He was, as we shall see, a major force in the Commercial Union/Annexation Movement of the late 1880s and the early 1890s. In 1884 he was editor of the Winnipeg Sun. “The Sun’s most notable feature that summer … was a consistent subtle campaign to undermine Confederation and to promote either Western independence or annexation … ”
In August, Farrer wrote in the Sun that “it is as certain as anything can be in human affairs that independence or annexation is the ultimate fate of Canada … ” Carman Cumming, biographer of Farrer, reports the editor was alleged at that time to be part of a
“bizarre plot … to annex the Northwest to the United States” – during which time he may well have made first connections with powerful names later involved in the Commercial Union/Annexation movement in the late 1880s and early 1990s.
Nor did U.S. ambitions to rule Canada falter, even after Confederation. On July 2, 1886, almost twenty years later, General N.P. Banks, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced “An Act for the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and for the organization of the territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia into the U.S.A.” The attempt by General Banks didn’t go far, though it may not have been coincidental. Annexation was on the minds of many in the U.S. In the same year that Banks made his attempt, Protection or Free Trade was published by Henry George the “grass roots” U.S. economist who became internationally famous for his advocacy of a single tax. His book on the subject, Progress and Poverty, (1879) had a huge sale and was translated into many languages.
In 1886, in his book Protection or Free Trade, Henry George is an unalloyed advocate of free trade. Asking what the U.S. might do with free trade, he answers the question:
We may annex Canada to all intents and purposes whenever we throw down the tariff wall we have built around ourselves. We need not ask for reciprocity; if we abolish our custom-houses and call off our baggage searchers and Bible confiscators, Canada would not and could not maintain hers. This would make the two countries practically one. Whether the Canadians chose to maintain a separate Parliament and pay a British lordling for keeping up a mock court at Rideau Hall, need not in the slightest concern us. The intimate relations that would come of unrestricted commerce would soon obliterate the boundaryline …
All was by no means silent inside Canada at the same time both for and against the U.S. desire to take over the new country. As General N.P. Banks was attempting, within the U.S., to get an Act of admission to the U.S.A. for the organized Canadian territories and Confederated Canada, and as Henry George was advocating free trade as a way of virtually taking over Canada, U.S. interests and their Canadian allies, in Canada, were making their first moves to create what we now call a free trade agreement, then called Commercial Union. As the comment by Henry George makes clear, it was believed by some – both advocates and enemies of the idea – to be the first step towards full political union of the two countries under the U.S. flag. Manifest Destiny.
The battle against Commercial Union was fronted very much by one of the founders in 1868 of The Canada First Movement, George Taylor Denison. That Movement, important and active in the next decades, came about partly as a result of the assassination in 1866 of Irish-born Thomas D’Arcy McGee, powerful and eloquent advocate of Confederation. McGee focusses many of the most important developments of the times in Canada … before and after his assassination.
Born in Ireland in 1825, he travelled back and forth to the United States until he was thirty-two. He settled in Montreal in 1857 where he began a newspaper named The New Era. In it he called for what became Confederation, for a transcontinental railway, settlement of the West, a protective tariff, and (himself a poet) a distinctive Canadian literature. He was elected to office, and was part of the “Great Coalition” leading to the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, preceding Confederation. Falling out of favour with Irish voters, he was dropped from the cabinet in 1866. His Irishness was telling in his destiny. Opposed to the Fenians and to their desire to gain Irish independence from Britain by revolution and the conquest of Canada, his assassination is attributed to a Fenian conspiracy. For Fenians, who wanted to take from Britain the territories that are now Canada, Thomas D’Arcy McGee’s eloquent advocacy of the consolidation of those territories into a single nation stretching from sea to sea would have been galling.
George Taylor Denison, prize-winning military theorist, long-time Toronto magistrate (1877-1921), and commander of the Governor General’s Bodyguard established and supported by his family, saw action in a Fenian Raid in 1866 at Fort Erie where some defenders were killed, others wounded. That was a year in which there were three separate Fenian raids into Canada. With four other young men, in 1868, Denison founded The Canada First Movement in a small hotel room in Ottawa. Realizing the strength of loyalties from pre-Confederation, the men – spurred on by the assassination of Thomas D’Arcy McGee – set out to encourage a sense of national being and purpose among the newly-minted Canadians. And they wanted to encourage and produce written materials to help locate the new identity. In Montreal McGee himself (among a number of interesting pre-Confederation poets from all regions) had published poems in the 1850s and 1860s. Charles Mair – one of the founders of Canada First – was the first to publish a volume of poetry in the newly-confederated Canada: Dreamland and Other Poems, 1868.
Mair figured, too, in the events surrounding Louis Riel (The Red River Rebellion, 1869-70), as did George Taylor Denison (The Battle of Batoche, 1885). Both men were participants in resistance aganst forces they saw working to the break up of the country. Both had been made especially aware of threats to its unity when they helped form the Canada First Movement.
Accounts of the Canada Firsters written by Canadian historians and literary critics are often biased and incomplete. The reason may well be connected to the colonial mentality, a condition that is everywhere a part of the attitude of a colonized people. Ashamed of strong advocacy and action of an anti-colonialist kind, embarrassed by people who undertake such action, and subtly seeking favour with the imperial forces in the colony, colonial “critics” and “theorists” are often subtle advocates of the imperial domination under which they live. At times they are wholly unaware of that role – possessing an opaqueness that makes their collaboration with domination hard to pierce. The colonial mentality marks almost all attention paid to the Canada Firsters after the first half of the twentieth century. All formal and scholarly publication on the Canada First Movement and its members must be carefully scrutinized. Little of it is balanced and fair.
Charles Mair was one of a party of men who intended to attempt forcefully to overthrow the peaceful provisional government set up by Louis Riel and others in 1869. Riel and his party had responded forcefully to the decision in Ottawa to send Wm. Macdougall - without consultation - as Lieutenant Governor of the territory. The party of which Mair was a part was captured and imprisoned. Charles Mair escaped, and he made his way through the difficult winter season back to Ontario – considered a daring and remarkable trip. Lionized by many, he advocated the suppression of Riel’s movement – and helped to inspire antipathy against the “rebels.” Riel’s execution of Thomas Scott – an angry, anti-Metis – confused and complicated the Riel movement until long after it had passed. (Not long after Mair escaped all the prisoners were released.) Moving to Prince Albert in 1877, he twice travelled to Ottawa before the 1885 Riel uprising in vain attempts to have the federal government turn attention to the dissatisfaction of the Metis. If he had been listened to, the second Riel uprising and the battle of Batoche might never have happened.
George Taylor Denison, who Canadian writers regularly insinuate was a racist, went to the 1885 events centred at Batoche, but would only do so in a communications role because he disliked the armed action against Riel and the Metis. Wishing to protect innocent Indians in the area, he urged them to return to their homes and show plainly their uninvolvement in the conflict. When General Wolseley (who probably was a racist) unfairly convicted and imprisoned Poundmaker, the great Indian leader, Denison was one of the most vocal and insistent that Poundmaker be released. A friend of John A. Macdonald, prime minister, Denison nevertheless took up the cause of Poundmaker and was one of those instrumental in gaining the release of the great and tragic Indian. (Notice that no one suggests Macdonald was racist for sending Wolseley to Batoche or for permitting the hanging of Louis Riel.)
To George Taylor Denison fell the task of exposing and challenging the campaign for the Commercial Union of Canada and the United States. The campaign began in the middle 1880s (upon, it is suggested, the completion of the CPR across Canada) and Denison discovered it in 1887. Though it had supporters in Canada without doubt and a Canadian led the movement from New York, a very large number of silent and other U.S. supporters were pushing for its adoption. It ended in the famous 1891 federal election when John A. Macdonald spent his final weeks and, many believe, achieved his finest hour defeating the movement. In that election, he declared his total repudiation of Commercial Union. Macdonald made perhaps his most famous (and often misunderstood) statement: “A British subject I was born, and a British subject I will die.” Canadian citizenship was not in existence until the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947 established for the first time a status of Canadian citizen additional to that of British subject. And so John A. Macdonald was simply saying he was a Canadian of the time and intended to remain one.
The Commercial Union campaign was fronted by Erastus Wiman, a Canadian who had achieved some success in Canada and the U.S. as a manager and part owner of Dun, Wiman and Co., a mercantile agency. In New York he became the leading spokesperson for Commercial Union – appearing in both Canada and the U.S.A. He is alleged to have telegrammed a letter to Canadian newspapers in September of 1888 in which he declared the U.S. Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs had moved seriously to propose political union with the U.S. He then attempted, Denison reports, to pull the letter back before it could be published but his attempt failed. Wiman achieved a measure of financial success in the U.S. and founded the Canadian Club in New York in 1885, largely to further the ideas of Commercial Union.
In 1887, delayed almost a year because of fire in the printing shop, the Canadian Club published an anthology of addresses to the Club entitled Canadian Leaves. Among the presenters, Goldwin Smith, identifying himself as an Englishman, provides an erudite criticism of the U.S. War for Independence and U.S. support of lawless Irish acts against the English rulers. Support of the balky Irish, we learn at the close of the piece, unhappily retards the move to Commercial Union – which Smith also calls free trade.
J.W. Bengough, cartoonist and creator of the satirical weekly Grip, provides a satirical piece about Canada, which ends with a humourous endorsement of annexation. He observes that the U.S. has failed to take Canada by force, and so it is “a tribute to American shrewdness…that you have dropped the military plan and resorted to this present scheme.” He adds that “as soon as our most wealthy citizens so decide, annexation will be all right.” Congressman B. Butterworth makes an exhaustive plea for Commercial Union in which he says that the “resources of Canada in material wealth, her supply of the materials indispensable to our people, are boundless.” (p. 194) The Reverend George Grant, Principal of Queen’s University, makes a presentation called “Canada First.” He refers to the fading Canada First movements, and concludes that “unrestricted commercial intercourse between Canada and the United States … must be considered from the ‘Canada First’ point of view.” (p. 266)
Erastus Wiman makes a forceful plea for Commercial Union and repeats Congressman Butterworth’s contention, saying, “In a certain sense, Canada is a treasure-house from which can be drawn the commodities the United States need most, and which can be made in the highest degree contributory to her progress.” (p.278) Erastus Wiman’s wealth quickly melted away as a result of his unsuccessful investment in Staten Island development. He lost his position as general manager of the Dun firm, as well, when it became clear he had diverted funds from the firm for his own use. That revelation doubtless pleased the enemies of Commercial Union.
Wiman’s counterpart in Canada was the influential and wealthy English immigrant Goldwin Smith. He is still famous as author of the first Canadian book advocating annexation: Canada and the Canadian Question, published in 1891 and intended to affect decisions about Commercial Union. In England Smith was influenced by Richard Cobden and John Bright who he befriended – advocates of free trade. In 1866, before leaving England to teach at Cornell University in the U.S.A. Smith, in an address at Manchester, suggested Canada’s integration into the U.S.
The British North American colonies will in time, and probably at no very distant time, unite themselves politically to the group of States, of which they are already by race, position, commercial ties and the characteristics of their institutions a part. No one can stand by the side of the St. Lawrence and doubt that in the end they will do this; but they will be left to do it of their own free will.
Arriving in Canada in 1871, and marrying the wealthy widow of Henry Boulton in 1875, he settled in The Grange (now the expanded Art Gallery of Ontario) where he lived a long and controversial life writing, editing, and publishing. He, at first, supported the Canada First Movement but soon abandoned it and returned to his earlier views. He not only supported Commercial Union but he became an ardent and eloquent writer and speaker on its behalf, and on behalf of the absorption of Canada into the U.S.A.
The battle fought over Commercial Union awaits its historian – and has probably not found it yet because of the colonial mentality in Canada, especially present among university historians who make up almost the only historians the country produces. The battle was colourful. It was intense, a furious battle. The characters involved were often larger than life. And it was of major importance in Canadian history. George Taylor Denison alleges he saw a list of 500 prominent U.S. supporters of Commercial Union. That list has never been found. Denison did publish a much shorter list. The U.S. president of the hour, president Benjamin Harrison, was aware of the movement, but how active he was in the cause is very difficult to determine. From all indications found to date, he stood back from it, awaiting developments.
That does not mean Harrison was uninterested or even “disinterested.” In a remarkable book, The American Search for Opportunity, 1993, U.S. historian Walter LeFeber makes clear the Commercial Union campaign was fully a part of U.S. government policy.
Blaine had begun talking about the need for peace and order. Harrison was completing Blaine’s Good Neighbour approach by threatening to declare war on the uncooperative, or using economic war to obtain long-sought prizes. Canada, in the view of Blaine and Harrison, was one of the greatest prizes. They wanted to annex it, but to do so only after the Canadians voluntarily asked to join the union. Reciprocity seemed to offer a no-lose policy: if Canada signed such a treaty, it would be integrated into the United States. If it did not, the many Canadians who depended on the U.S. market (both Blaine and Harrison kept in close touch with such people) would demand a treaty on Washington’s terms or annexation. Sir Alexander Galt, Canada’s leading financial expert, declared the 1890 tariff act was aimed at forcing Canada to break its “Colonial connection” with Britain, and further claimed it was “a hostile measure – an act of commercial war.” Galt was correct. Blaine urged Harrison not even to approach Canada for a reciprocity treaty because it could not be worked out to U.S. satisfaction. Canada, he added, will then “find that she has a hard row to hoe and will ultimately … seek admission to the Union.” Blaine was wrong. After a bitter political battle Canadian conservatives triumphed over Liberal continentalists in 1892 and turned towards Britain. United States officials had lost this battle.
In fact, the U.S. lost ‘this battle’ with the victory of John A. Macdonald’s Conservatives in the 1891 election. But LeFeber is correct that Blaine and Harrison – as well as other leading U.S. figures – kept in close touch with allies in Canada. Carman Cumming, writing of the major Canadian annexationist journalist Edward Farrer, reports that before being exposed by John A. Macdonald in the 1891 election, “Farrer was already known to have made several trips to Washington to meet officials favouring commercial or political union, including James B. Blaine, the powerful annexation-minded Secretary of State.”
One of the allies of Blaine and Harrison was a man on George Taylor Denison’s list – Frances Wayland Glen. He came from the U.S. to Canada to operate a firm owned by a relation. He was a strong and durable annexationist. After some years he returned to the U.S.A. A revealing letter to Glen from president Harrison says much. Unfortunately, I could not find Glen’s letter to Harrison in the Harrison papers. Harrison writes to Glen on August 27, 1892.
My dear sir: I have your letter of the 22nd and notice what you say upon the Canadian question. I cannot, of course, discuss it in a letter, but I beg to assure you that it has, in all its phases, had my most careful attention for two years past. It is quite likely that I shall have something to say upon the subject in my next annual address.
The antagonists played tag across Upper Canada (Ontario). Goldwin Smith would speak in a locality, to be followed by George Taylor Denison and his supporters who would circulate carefully prepared printed material to every household in the area. It was a bitterly fought and intensely felt battle. A crowning moment of high drama occurred when a typesetter at the Toronto Globe secretly spirited away from a print house incomplete proofs of an inflammatory, confidential pamphlet being prepared by the editor, Edward Farrer, the lifelong annexationist who had been hired to the Globe, in fact, to further Commercial Union. The pamphlet being produced was to be secret, to have only thirteen copies printed, to be made available to influential U.S. politicians, instructing them about how to treat Canada (punitively) in order to force Commercial Union. The proofs were put in the hands of George Taylor Denison who got them to John A. Macdonald. Macdonald used them to open the election campaign “to prove the intrigues that were going on. The revelation had a marked influence on the election … ”
The intention of the annexationists was defeated by John A. Macdonald’s last great election campaign. Even in the years preceding the 1891 election, the frankest actors were certain free trade would lead to annexation. As LeFeber writes Blaine and Harrison “wanted to annex” Canada, and they knew reciprocity (free trade) was the route to take. Henry George in Protection or Free Trade (1886) says with free trade “we may annex Canada to all intents and purposes …” Free trade with the U.S.A. went into effect at the beginning of 1989.
The role of Edward Farrer in the Commercial Union/annexation movement at that time was large and important as editor of both the Toronto Mail and then of the Toronto Globe. Farrer not only advocated Commercial union, but he is attributed by his biographer Carman Cumming with having intentionally stirred up strife between French and English, Catholics and Protestants in order to wreck Confederation on the route to annexation. He was thrust into the centre of the conflict when his pamphlet produced to show U.S. government how to force Canada to its knees was exposed and was used by John A. Macdonald, many believe, to turn the tide of the 1891 election.
Almost a century passed before the question of free trade/Commercial Union was again fought with passion in Canada, though a reciprocity agreement was defeated by voters in 1911. At that time, U.S. sources again spoke publicly of annexation in connection with the proposed agreement. The Liberals led by Wilfred Laurier were defeated and a Conservative government took power. In the later free trade battle of the 1980s, the prime minister, Brian Mulroney – revealing the huge turn Conservatism in Canada had taken – was a major advocate of free trade and close integration with the U.S.A. Though a majority of voting Canadians rejected the idea of a free trade agreement, the leader of the majority Conservative Party in the House of Commons, Brian Mulroney, signed the first Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agreement, as did president Ronald Reagan of the U.S., on January 2, 1988. ........................
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The Straight Goods
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