Here’s a typical postcard view: the Chateau Frontenac from the streets of the Lower Town.
The arms of Laval are carved on a nearby wall.
Monument to Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec, on the Dufferin Terrace.
Here’s a typical postcard view: the Chateau Frontenac from the streets of the Lower Town.
The arms of Laval are carved on a nearby wall.
Monument to Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec, on the Dufferin Terrace.
The eight-mile Confederation Bridge, connecting Cape Jourimain, N.B., and Borden-Carleton, P.E.I., approved by plebiscite in 1988, made possible by constitutional amendment in 1993, and opened for traffic in 1997.
Charlottetown City Hall, built in Romanesque Revival style in 1888.
St. Dunstan’s Basilica, the Roman Catholic Cathedral for the Diocese of Charlottetown, completed in Gothic Revival style in 1919.
St. Peter’s, one of the two cathedrals of the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (the other is All Saints’ in Halifax).
The Sunday service featured beautiful church music and liturgy conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer. I was very pleased!
To the north side of the church: All Souls’ Chapel, designed in Victorian Gothic in 1888 by William Critchlow Harris and featuring sixteen paintings by his brother, Robert Harris.
All Souls’ was designated a national historic site in 1990.
On the other side of the island, a literary landmark of some importance: Green Gables, the home of L.M. Montgomery’s uncle David MacNeill and the setting of her most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908).
In the interpretive center, editions of Anne of Green Gables translated into thirty-nine different languages. It really is a wonderful book.
In O’Leary, on the western side of the island: the Canadian Potato Museum. The fiberglass potato might be a little cheesy, but the potato is a very important crop in world history, and on the island in particular, and the museum tells this story very well. Recommended if you ever get to PEI.
St. Andrews, New Brunswick is right across the border from Maine. As you might imagine, it was founded by refugees from the American Revolution; thus is All Saints’ Anglican Church quite “Loyalist” in tone.
It even has a coat of arms, with the monogram of King George III at the fess point and the eminently Loyalist motto “Fear God Honour the King” (from 1 Peter 2:17).
A nearby Loyalist cemetery features the badge of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, which also contains the cypher of George III.
Now obsolete, but nevertheless still standing: a blockhouse and cannons guarding the border against Americans.
To the northeast is Fredericton, the provincial capital. This is the back end of the provincial legislature (my photograph of the front end didn’t really turn out).
The interior of the legislative chamber (Canadian provincial legislatures are all unicameral). I was pleased to learn that New Brunswick still has a Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, who gets a door slammed in his face and who must knock three times to request admission to the chamber.
Down the street, Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, also armigerous.
I am from Canada, and an historian, but I’m afraid that my knowledge of Canadian history is not what it ought to be. I was pleased, therefore, to be able to visit the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and to see their exhibit and film on the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. This event was the first formal step towards the union (“confederation”) of four British North American colonies into a new polity, which was granted home rule (“dominion”) status within the British Empire on July 1, 1867.* This “Dominion of Canada,” like the American union to the south, was expandable, eventually stretching “From Sea to Sea,” and all the way to the North Pole for good measure. It achieved legal equality with the UK in 1931 and full constitutional independence in 1982, and is today a first-world liberal democracy, a member of the G7, NATO, NAFTA, and “Five Eyes,” with a 1.8 trillion dollar GDP, a “very high” human development index, and an international reputation for inoffensive blandness.
From 1859, the UK Parliament was under the control of the Liberals, who favoured both dominion status and confederation: they wanted to offload the expense of running the colonies onto the colonies themselves, and were prepared to allow them greater control over their domestic affairs as the price of doing so; they also wanted to strengthen “British North America” against the United States, engaged as it was in a bloody Civil War, which might turn north at some point. Thus the Charlottetown Conference, which was held September 1-9, 1864. It was originally called to discuss the possibility of the union of the three British maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and it was held in PEI because that colony was the most initially recalcitrant: it was the smallest, and feared that it would be swamped in any proposed union; it also was doing quite well economically and saw only a downside to joining up with others. But politicians from the United Province of Canada heard about the conference and asked to join, and they ended up dominating it, with John A. Macdonald and George Brown presenting a suave and ultimately convincing case for a union that included Canada (i.e., Ontario and Quebec), in between lots of eating, drinking, and socializing. Canada was itself a victim of frequent constitutional deadlock, and was presumably hoping for a new arrangement that might break this unfortunate situation.
The film (which I wish I could find on YouTube) makes apparent that this gathering was a men’s club; no women formally participated, and no Native people either. All the same, the Conference was a success, leading to the Quebec Conference the next month, at which the 72 Resolutions were adopted, outlining the framework for a proposed union that potentially included Newfoundland, British Columbia, Vancouver Island (at the time a separate colony), and the Northwest Territory as well. The central issue was whether the union would be a unitary state or a decentralized country on the model of Switzerland; the result was a compromise between these two poles, with an elected lower house and an appointed senate.
Two years of debate followed before the London Conference of 1866, which hammered out the British North America Act for the three colonies still interested: Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The BNA Act received royal assent on March 29, 1867, and passed into law on July 1 of that year. Prince Edward Island ultimately decided that it was not interested, and even the other maritime provinces had misgivings: in New Brunswick, the Anti-Confederation Party won the 1865 election, but was defeated the following year; in Nova Scotia, Anti-Confederates won 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature in 1867, unfortunately (for them) too late to prevent Confederation from happening. The Anti-Confederates thought that the Maritimes would be overwhelmed in the new country. Their opponents claimed that the Maritimes were powerless anyway, and union with Canada was their only hope of influence, a view that ultimately prevailed.
This is the facade of Province House in Charlottetown, where the PEI Legislature sits and where the Charlottetown Conference was held. As you can see, it is currently under restoration, so this is the only view of it I can provide.
In the Confederation Centre for the Arts, however, one can see a replica conference table for delegates…
…and (for now) a statue of an important participant and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald.
Prince Edward Island, as it happens, did join Confederation in 1873. In just a few years it went from prosperity to near bankruptcy, largely as the result of that archetypical nineteenth-century prestige project: a railway. The story was that the builders were paid by the mile, and that every small town on the island demanded railway access, so the railway took a meandering path across the island, raising its cost significantly. Canada agreed to take on these debts and to finish the project, and to provide a permanent link with the mainland; thus did PEI become a province, and Charlottetown can now boast that it is the cradle of Confederation.
This was not the case in Newfoundland, which joined Confederation only in 1949. Newfoundlanders had heard of the Charlottetown Conference, but too late to attend it; they had come to the Quebec Conference, but only as observers. The Newfoundland election of 1869 was fought largely on the issue of Confederation, with the anti-confederates winning 21-9, and putting the issue to rest for the time being. It resurfaced in 1895 after the failure of Newfoundland’s Union and Commercial Banks, but no agreement with Canada could be reached, and Newfoundland retained its independence and weathered the financial storm. In 1907, as the result of the Imperial Conference that year, Newfoundland received dominion status within the British Empire – but this was largely a formality, as the colony had enjoyed responsible government since 1855.
However, Newfoundland lost this status in 1934, and reverted to being a crown colony, the only dominion ever to do so. No longer did Newfoundland enjoy even responsible government – instead, it was run by an unelected seven-man Commission of Government, civil servants directly answerable to the British Parliament. The Great Depression had hit Newfoundland hard, and rather than default on its debt payments, it agreed to a suspension of its parliament until such time as it could become self-sustaining. But this never came to pass. According to Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders (2012), a secret deal was struck between Canada and the United Kingdom during World War II which would deliver Newfoundland into Confederation, in return for Canada forgiving certain wartime loans it had made to the UK. With Newfoundland a province, Canada’s strategic position could be improved – it would have the Gander and Goose Bay airfields, at the time essential refueling stations for transatlantic flights, and the risk of Newfoundland joining the United States and becoming a sort of eastern Alaska would be obviated. Disputes over the fishery would be minimized, and Canada would get its hands on the potential mineral and hydroelectric resources of Labrador.
Malone claims that Confederation may have been inevitable, but he insists that Newfoundland should have had responsible government reinstated first, as had been promised. Then the place would have been in a much better bargaining position with Canada. As it stands, the British essentially negotiated with Canada on behalf of Newfoundland, not particularly caring for the details so long as it was no longer their problem. A referendum on the arrangements was still seen as politically necessary, however, and three choices appeared on the ballot in 1948 – continuation of the Commission of Government, a return of responsible government, or confederation with Canada. In the first round responsible government won, but it did not receive an absolute majority, so a runoff was held the next month, which Confederation won with 52.3% of the votes cast. The option of union with the United States was kept off the ballot, and the Confederates, led by the charismatic Joey Smallwood and secretly funded by Canada, enjoyed an immense tactical advantage.
But whatever the details, the Newfoundlanders voted for it, right? Ultimately, there’s no arguing against the results of a referendum. The really shocking claim of Malone’s book, though, is that the vote was rigged; that responsible government really won the second referendum of 1948, and that dirty tricks, of the sort allegedly played in Illinois during the presidential election of 1960, ensured a surplus of about 7000 votes in favor of the correct outcome. Thus did Canada get control of Newfoundland’s fishery, which it has mismanaged, and of the development of the iron mines of Labrador, which employ many locals but whose profits flow elsewhere. The Churchill Falls Generating Station, a joint project between Newfoundland and Quebec, ended up being a terrible deal for Newfoundland, but according to Malone Ottawa forced them to ratify the agreement for the sake of bribing Quebec not to secede.
It was eye-opening for me to visit a part of Canada that has such genuine and persistent grievances against the federal government. This is very seldom an issue in my home province of Ontario. And yet, if the ubiquitous appearance of the maple leaf flag indicates anything, Atlantic Canadians are not hoping to secede any time soon.
* It seems to me that the word “Confederation” has survived much better than “Dominion” has in the Canadian vernacular. “Dominion” now connotes a colonial junior-partnership, and was never really translatable into French. “Confederation” suffers neither of these drawbacks, and lives on in the names of such things as the Confederation Centre, Confederation Bridge, Confederation Square, etc. In my youth there existed a supermarket chain named Dominion which has gone the way of all corporate mergers, and I believe that at one point there was person known as the Dominion Geographer in Ottawa. Otherwise, I can think of no other everyday appearances of this word. Good thing Canada is a “Confederation,” though, not a “Confederacy.”
“History is no panacea for our national ailments. But a nation cannot forget its past, obliterate it, subdivide it into micro-histories, alter it, and bury it. Too often in the last half-century, Canadians seem to have done just that, and it is time to restore the past to its proper place in our national cultural consciousness, in our schools and universities, and in our public discourse.”
-Jack Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History? (1998).
Apologies for my long absence this past month, dear reader, as my family and I were on an extended road trip through Atlantic Canada, with a return leg through Quebec and Ontario. We saw and learned a lot, and I’m hoping to write some posts about our experience. This one, following a great theme of this blog, will be about… flags!
The provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia comprise “the Maritimes,” and they all feature the same type of flag:
That is, all the Maritime flags are essentially banners of the provincial arms:
The only difference between any of the arms and any of the flags derived from them is the red and white border added to the flag of PEI.
Design-wise, this is a good way to do things. Most provincial flags date from the mid-1960s, around the time that the current Maple Leaf flag replaced the Canadian Red Ensign. Both Ontario and Manitoba adopted provincial Red Ensigns out of spite, but in the Maritimes “banners of arms” prevailed.
Aesthetically, the Red Ensign motif is a little too cluttered, and symbolically it is a relic of the past. Ontario and Manitoba now suffer, rather needlessly, the same problem that Canada itself had in the 1960s!
For the record: the arms of New Brunswick reference its historic shipbuilding industry; the arms of PEI illustrate its motto “the small under the protection of the great” (the large tree represents Canada, and the three small trees PEI’s three counties); and the arms of Nova Scotia reference Scotland twice, with a blue-on-white saltire of St. Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint, and an inescutcheon of Scotland’s royal arms. These date from King James VI’s original settlement efforts in the 1620s but were forgotten by the time of Confederation in 1867, when different arms were devised for the new province. The original arms were rediscovered in the 1920s and were officially readopted in 1929.
An unofficial flag that I did not know about: the flag of Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton lies off the eastern coast of mainland Nova Scotia, and comprises about 20% of the area of the province. It was actually its own colony from 1784 until 1820, with Sydney as its capital. The flag is not very well designed (maps and writing are not good flag elements), but it’s certainly very popular, as I discovered.
The province of Newfoundland – or rather, “Newfoundland and Labrador,” as it has been officially known since 2001 – is somehow not considered part of the Maritimes, but of “Atlantic Canada.” It boasts an abstract flag designed by artist Christopher Pratt in 1980. I was told once that this flag was a project of the government at the time, which would have been Progressive Conservative, and in the 1980s you would fly it if you were PC, or otherwise a supporter of Premier Brian Peckford. But if this situation was ever true, the flag seems to have moved beyond its partisan origins and is now embraced by most everyone. Its symbolism is wide-ranging, with references to water and ice, both halves of the province, Innu and Inuit decorative pendants, the Union Jack, the sacrifice of Newfoundlanders in military service, and the fishing industry (see Wikipedia for more). It also cannot be flown upside-down.
Prior to the advent of Pratt’s flag, the provincial flag was the Union Jack, believe it or not. Newfoundland had been a dominion of the United Kingdom from 1907 until 1934, when it reverted to the status of a crown colony before joining Canadian Confederation in 1949. As a colony, of course, it flew the Union Jack, and they officially readopted this as their provincial flag in 1952. Strangely enough, Liberal Joey Smallwood, the one most responsible for getting Newfoundland to join Canada, was still premier. Was he having regrets? Was this a sop to certain disappointed people?
I do find it interesting how this is a reversal of the usual pattern. You would think, as it was with the national flag, that the Conservatives would be defending the traditional British design, and the Liberals the abstract modern one.
In any event, the Union Jack is still displayed quite a bit in Newfoundland, even officially.
But also appearing quite a bit is the Newfoundland tricolour. Some claim it dates from the 1840s and is essentially a local version of the Irish tricolour, illustrating the same hope for peace between Protestants and Catholics. A Wikipedia editor insists that it represents the “Roman Catholic fraternal organization the Star of the Sea Association (SOSA) established in St. John’s in 1871.” I was told that it emerged out of obscurity in the last thirty years to become universally popular, kind of like Inukshuks and poutine elsewhere in Canada. I was also told that it does not represent any desire for Newfoundland independence; it’s just an alternate, “historic” flag that people have come to embrace.
The “Labrador” part of Newfoundland and Labrador has its own (unofficial) flag, which dates from the early seventies. I saw it here and there. It represents snow, land, and water, with a sprig of black spruce, the provincial tree.
I’m afraid that most cities in Atlantic Canada do not have well designed flags. One exception is Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island. They did the banner-of-the-arms thing with their 1989 grant from the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Princess Charlotte’s crown appears in a grid pattern, representing the city’s layout.
Otherwise, cities in Atlantic Canada tend to put their entire coats of arms on their flags, as do Saint John, N.B., Fredericton, N.B., and St. John’s, N.L. Such a move tends to introduce both a lot of blank space and a lot of extraneous detail. Keep it simple!
Maritime Francophones, particularly in New Brunswick, are known as “Acadians” and have a distinctive flag, which dates from 1884. It takes the form of a French tricolor, defaced with a gold star, “the Stella Maris, the symbol of Mary, Acadian national symbol and patron of mariners.” The British had assumed control of Acadia in the early eighteenth century, and fears of disloyalty prompted them to expel its inhabitants during the Seven Years’ War. They couldn’t get them all, of course, and later many returned, to form a distinctive community that exists to this day (we stopped in Grand Falls, N.B. – the town was bedecked in Acadian flags, since the Acadian Games had just taken place there). That the Acadians should have adopted the French revolutionary tricolour, when they never lived under that regime, and were clearly quite religious themselves, has always been a bit of a mystery to me.
Outside of Quebec and Acadia, other Francophone communities in Canada have their own flags. That of the “Franco-Terreneuviens” was flying at Cape St. George in Newfoundland.
Another minority group in the Maritimes: the First Nations people known as the Mi’kmaq. I saw the flag of the Mi’kmaq Grand National Council flying here and there, although apparently it is only supposed to be hung vertically. According to Flags of the World, the white represents the purity of creation, the red cross the four cardinal directions, the sun the forces of the day, and the moon the forces of the night. (I guess the five-pointed star denotes the sun here.)
We spotted another Mi’kmaq flag outside Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. In addition to the flag of Canada and all the provincial and territorial flags, the so-called Mi’kmaq National flag flies. It’s not as well designed as the National Council flag, but it’s certainly symbolic. Flags of the World states that the three colours, white, red, and blue, signify the three divine persons, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, and the cross signifies Christ. The letters “NMAT” on the right stand for “Nin Alasotmoinoi Mento Tooe,” which can be translated as “I am a Catholic; you, devil, get out.” The letters on the left read “MIGMAG” (an alternate spelling of Mi’kmaq) “SA” (interlaced – a reference to St. Anne), and “LNOG” (meaning “the people”).
I am a huge fan of the of the fleurdelisé flag of Quebec, easily Canada’s most attractive provincial flag. The odd thing is that the flags in the photo are the wrong dimensions: the official ratio is 2:3, but these ones were made 1:2, the same as the national flag of Canada. For shame! Where’s their independent spirit?!
The City of Quebec has a cool flag too, which was granted in 1988 by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
Montreal has a good flag. They added the golden pine tree in the middle a couple of years ago.
Finally, to round out the post: a cross of St. George flag flying from Signal Hill, a lookout tower guarding St. John’s harbour. I liked this: I read it as a reference to both Henry VII of England and John Cabot of Genoa, who sailed for Henry and who rediscovered Newfoundland in 1497. (Both England and Genoa used the cross of St. George.)
From the National Post:
A century after the Treaty of Versailles, its anniversary passes largely unobserved
The treaty that formally ended the First World War was widely seen as a failure, but to forget about it is to risk romanticizing the war
One hundred Junes ago, the world had a go at ensuring peace for Europe. Heads of state convened in a palace in the suburbs of Paris and tried to resolve 51 months of war. One of the products of the meeting, the Treaty of Versailles, is now treated as a failure.
“I think that Versailles is tinged almost forever with this kind of air of disillusionment and sorrow that all that suffering didn’t lead to something more conclusive and inspiring,” says Ian McKay, director of the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University. “So maybe that’s why we’re not celebrating the anniversary.”
June 28 marks the centennial of the signing of the treaty, the document that formally ended the First World War. It was a product of the Paris Peace Conference, which also created the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations. The treaty focused on Germany, to which it assigned new borders and — most controversially — blame for the war.
Other centenaries of the Great War have attracted great ceremony. For the Armistice in November 2018 and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined other world leaders in France.
The prime minister is not marking the anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles; his office says Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will post about it on social media. The lack of celebration could be explained by the treaty’s failures. It is criticized for being too harsh on Germany and contributing to its aggression in the 1930s and ’40s. The treaty also did not prevent wars in the Balkans, Turkey and Eastern Ukraine. Still, some historians urge people to remember the treaty not so much to learn from it as to prevent them from romanticizing the war’s legacy.
“What Versailles really did was humiliate Germany,” says McKay. “I really appreciate people who want to say, ‘Okay, thank goodness our boys died for something heroic and noble, and the world is a better place as a result of it.’ I would really love to believe that, but when you look soberly at the history of the 20th century, maybe 90 million deaths caused as a direct application of warfare, it’s hard for me to draw that optimistic conclusion.”
Tragic or not, the Treaty deserves to be remembered.
Normally the Canadian media never misses an opportunity to play up the Canadian angle, and I’m surprised that this article did not mention Canada’s participation at the Paris Peace Conference. From Wikipedia’s entry on Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden:
Convinced that Canada had become a nation on the battlefields of Europe, Borden demanded that it have a separate seat at the Paris Peace Conference. This was initially opposed not only by Britain but also by the United States, who perceived such a delegation as an extra British vote. Borden responded by pointing out that since Canada had lost a far larger proportion of its men compared to the U.S. in the war (although not more in absolute numbers), Canada at least had the right to the representation of a “minor” power. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George eventually relented, and convinced the reluctant Americans to accept the presence of separate Canadian, Indian, Australian, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South African delegations. Despite this, Borden boycotted the opening ceremony, protesting at the precedence given to the prime minister of the much smaller Newfoundland over him.
Not only did Borden’s persistence allow him to represent Canada in Paris as a nation, it also ensured that each of the dominions could sign the Treaty of Versailles in its own right, and receive a separate membership in the League of Nations. During the conference Borden tried to act as an intermediary between the United States and other members of the British Empire delegation, particularly Australia and New Zealand over the issue of Mandates. Borden also discussed with Lloyd George, the possibility of Canada taking over the administration of Belize and the West Indies, but no agreement was reached.
At Borden’s insistence, the treaty was ratified by the Canadian Parliament.
Someone ought to compose a list of every claimed Viking site in North America, with a rating: definite (1), as yet undetermined (2), and definitely false (3). The latest one, from Archaeology World (hat tip: David Winter):
Discovery of Viking site in Canada could rewrite history
An iron working hearthstone was discovered on Newfoundland, hundreds of miles from the only noted Viking location to date.
Another thousand-year-old Viking colony might have been found on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. The finding of the old Viking location on the Canadian coast could drastically change the story of the exploration of North America by the Europeans prior to Christopher Columbus.
The excavation of the stone, once used in iron working, on Newfoundland took place a hundred miles south of the only known Viking site located in North America.
This proposes that Vikings may have traveled much farther into the continent than previously thought.
A team of archaeologists have been unearthing the newly-found location at Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula on the most western part of the island.
Others referenced on this blog:
L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland (1)
Miramichi-Chaleur Bay, New Brunswick (2)
Baffin Island, Nunavut (2)
Cambridge, Massachusetts (3)
Memphis, Tennessee (3)
Alexandria, Minnesota (3)
Newport, Rhode Island (3)
Friday at noon, Profs. Judith Irvine, Peter Bromstad, Graham Johnson, and Jonathan Good, the four Canadians by birth on the Reinhardt faculty, talked about their homeland at the International Coffee Hour. My own contribution went something like this:
When you go to Canada, you’ll find that it’s just like the United States, but different enough to be disconcerting – like the characters in the Simpsons having only four digits. Someone once said that Canada sits in the uncanny valley. It looks and feels the same as the US, but there will be a bunch of little differences. For example, in Ontario at any rate, you’ll notice a plethora of British place-names, and the Union Jack on the provincial flag. But you’ll also see French everywhere. There will be no billboards along the freeway, or those corporate logos atop tall poles at highway interchanges. You’ll be excited to see that the speed limit is 100, and gas only 1.53, before you realize that the first number designates kilometres per hour, and the second the cost per litre. When you go in to pay for your gas you’ll be curious about the coloured, polymer notes, the dollar and two dollar coins, and the lack of pennies. You also might want to try some of the exotic candy bars or, if you smoke, a pack of “Players” or “DuMaurier.” The locals will have a slightly different accent and use the occasional Canadianism, like “hydro,” “chesterfield,” or “grade two.” And so on.
But really, you’d experience much the same thing if you went to Texas. The money and units of measurement might be the same, but you’d hear a different accent, see Spanish all over the place, and see regional brands that you might not find in your own state. In other words, if Texas is just a state, then how does Canada presume to be its own country? Why did this place, which is by rights just another American region, escape being annexed?
To answer that question you have to look to history, of course. And when you do you realize there are a couple of pretty big differences between Canada and the United States that are not immediately apparent. In the eighteenth century, as you are probably aware, there were two rival European colonial empires in North America: the British and the French. As a result of the Seven Years’ War, the British annexed French Canada, and for a brief while pretty much all of eastern North America was under British suzerainty. But that war sowed the seeds of the American revolution, as the British colonists did not want to help pay for it, and were offended by how solicitous the British government was of the French colonists, who were allowed to keep their religion and their civil law, and of the Indians, who were protected from settlement by the Proclamation line of 1763.
Anger at these things, plus some inept moves by the British government, eventually led to the American Revolution, which the colonists won by 1783. But not everyone in the colonies supported the Revolution, as Canadians are fond of pointing out – some people even refer to the Revolution as America’s First Civil War. Certainly the French Canadians, invited to join the American Revolution, refused, preferring instead to take their chances with British rule. And up to a third of the English colonists actively opposed the Revolution, on the principle that independence was not the only solution to any colonial grievances (and suspecting that it was all a project of the cool kids, who stood to benefit the most from it). What to do with these types? Well, you expel them, of course, and the period immediately after 1783 saw a great exodus of Loyalists from the American colonies. Some went to the Caribbean, others back to Great Britain, but the vast majority of them went to the other British colony in North America, i.e. Quebec! The British kindly split Quebec in two, giving “Upper Canada” to the Loyalists, and reserving “Lower Canada” for the French. These two colonies were reunited in 1841, and then granted independence in 1867.
This is the fundamental fact of Canadian history. English Canada was founded by refugees from the American revolution who were happy to remain part of the British Empire. They ended up dominating Canada, which means that they reduced the French to a second-class status. This has given us Canada’s National Obsession: the issue of Language, and the Constitutional place of Quebec in Canadian confederation. (In America, the national obsession is race, but in Canada it is language.) The Loyalism of the early Anglophone settlers has had another long-term political effect. English Canada might not be as oriented to Britain as it once was, but those settlers simply trusted the government in a way that the American revolutionaries did not. As a consequence Canada has always been more “statist” than the United States. This has given us our prized national health care system… and an economy that is not as dynamic as America’s and a docile population that tends to do what it’s told. (Q: How do you get 42 Canadians out of a swimming pool? A: “OK, 42 Canadians, out of the swimming pool”)
Earlier on this blog I suggested that a slight change in the lyrics to “O Canada” might end up being Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most lasting legacy. I had forgotten about the legalization of cannabis use, which is likely to be of much greater importance. As of October of last year, the recreational consumption of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been legalized – not just decriminalized, but legalized. Thus an entire above-board industry has sprung up, which includes trade journals like TheGrowthOp.com (get it?). This journal, run by Postmedia, recently published a story of local historical significance, which I excerpt:
Did the South lose the Civil War because they were too high?
Union general Ulysses S. Grant famously fought the civil war in an alcoholic haze.
The North is believed to have won battles for the singular reason that, unlike the blockaded South, they could get their troops absolutely blasted on coffee.
The war also left an estimated 400,000 injured soldiers addicted to morphine. One of them, John Pemberton, would later try to kick smack by inventing a cocaine-laced tonic named Coca-Cola.
But amid the drifting musket smoke of the War Between the States, there is evidence that at least a few of the blue and the gray may have been high on cannabis.
The evidence is a series of 1860s American newspaper advertisements for “Hasheesh Candy.” “A pleasurable and harmless stimulant,” read one 1862 ad in Vanity Fair.
One particularly long-winded advertisement in the Good Samaritan and Daily Physician touted hasheesh candy as a cure-all beloved by both sides of the bloody conflict.
The company claimed they had received a letter from Ulysses Grant praising hasheesh candy as “of great value for the wounded and feeble.”
Grant’s Confederate rival, Robert E. Lee, even praised hash as a strategic advantage. “I wish it was in my power to place a Dollar Box of the HASHEESH CANDY in the pocket of every Confederate Soldier, because I am convinced that it speedily relieves Debility, Fatigue and Suffering,” he allegedly wrote.
There were no advertising standards councils in the 1860s, so these quotes should be accepted with a hefty dose of skepticism. For one thing, they appear in no official biographies of either Lee or Grant.
And, with a civil war to fight, it seems unlikely that either general had time to be sending fan mail to an obscure candy drug company.
But hasheesh candy was just one of a handful of patent medicines from the era boasting about the benefits of “extract of cannabis indica.” A product called James’ Extract of Cannabis Indica claimed to purify “all the fluids of the human system.”
Meanwhile, it’s entirely likely that some raw cannabis was getting into military ranks, particularly in the Confederacy. The South was the only side of the warring states that shared a border with Mexico, where “marihuana” was already being rolled into cigarettes.
A century later, cannabis would emerge as a much more influential factor in the Vietnam War. According to a 1971 U.S. Department of Defense report, more than half of the Vietnam-era U.S. military had used marijuana.
A major difference in the 1860s is that nobody would have seen cannabis as a bad thing. The United States of 1860s at the time had some incredibly suffocating social strictures by the standards of today. But when it came to drugs and privately owned weapons almost everything was fair game.
There’s a bit more at the link, although the headline is as stupidly sensational as the “Native Genocide caused the Little Ice Age!” story noted below. I doubt that some drugstore elixir had much effect on the outcome of the Civil War one way or the other. Still, it’s interesting to note just how far back the use of these drugs goes.
My Canadian contacts inform me that not much has changed in the country, which I suppose is understandable. A lot of people smoked pot when it wasn’t legal; now that it is they are simply continuing their habits. But since smoking anything in public is pretty much banned, non-users do not have to endure the smell of pot smoke as they walk down the street. And I should think that the vast majority of people who did not smoke pot before did so for other reasons than the drug’s lack of legality, and there has been no great stampede of people anxious to try it out.
I feel compelled to state that I am much more chary of marijuana than its fans are. No, it doesn’t make you violent like booze can, but it seems to me that smoking pot messes with your brain in a way that alcohol doesn’t. There’s the whole connection to schizophrenia thing, and the fact that the daily smokers I’ve known generally appear humorless and not very bright – like they’ve lost the spark of life. Don’t do it – or if you simply must, “please smoke responsibly.”