Robert Mackenzie.

America. A history

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1713 A.D. A hundred years after the first French settlement on the Acadian peninsula, there came to a close, in the reign of Queen Anne, the desolating war against Louis XIV., which King William had deemed essential to the welfare of Europe. England, as was her practice at such seasons, had possessed herself of Acadie. Hitherto she had been accustomed to restore Acadie at the close of each war. Now she determined to retain it; and exhausted France submitted, by the treaty of Utrecht, to the loss. Acadie became Nova Scotia; Port Royal became Annapolis, in honour of the English Queen. Cape Breton, an island adjoining Acadie on the north, was suffered to remain a French possession; and here France hastened, at vast expense, to build and fortify Louisburg, for the protection of her American trade. Thirty years later, the English besieged and took Louisburg. France strove hard, but vainly, to regain a fortress the loss of which shook her hold of all her American possessions. A great fleet sailed from France to achieve this conquest. But evil fortune attended it from the outset. The English captured some of the ships; tempest wrecked or scattered the others. Fresh efforts invited new disasters; the attempt to repossess Louisburg was closed by the destruction or capture of an entire French fleet. But France had fought more successfully in India, and when the terms of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle came to be adjusted, she received back Louisburg in exchange for Madras. 1748 A.D. It remained in her possession for ten years more, and then passed finally away from her, along with all the rest of her American territory.

The first care of England, when Nova Scotia became decisively hers, was to provide herself with a fortified harbour and naval station adequate to the wants of her extended dominion. Her ships in large numbers frequented those Western waters, intent upon the protection of her own interests and the overthrow of the interests of France. Some well-defended and easily-accessible position was required, where fleets could rendezvous, where ships could refit, from which the possessions of France in the north and of Spain in the south could be menaced. A site was chosen on the eastern shore of the island, where a magnificent natural harbour opens to the sea. Here, on a lofty slope, arose the town of Halifax, the great centre of British naval influence on the American coast. 1749 A.D. Four thousand adventurers arrived from England, tempted by liberal offers of land. During the months of one brief summer, houses were built, and defences were erected against unfriendly neighbours. The forest trees of that lovely hill-side disappeared, and in their place arose a busy English town.

The Indians of Nova Scotia did not look with approval upon the occupation of their territory by the English. They lurked in the woods around Halifax, or they stole silently along by night in their light canoes, and as they found fitting opportunity they plundered and slew.

Once they burst upon the sleeping crews of two vessels lying in the harbour, murdering some, and carrying away others to be sold to the French at Louisburg. England held the Frenchmen of the province responsible for these outrages. The Acadians were a simple, light-hearted people, living contentedly in the rude comfort which the harvest of sea and of land yielded to them. But they did not at once assent to the revolution which handed them over to a foreign power, and they refused to swear allegiance to the English King. The Governor dealt very sternly with these reluctant subjects. 1755 A.D. He gathered up as many as he could find, and having crowded them on board his ships, he scattered them among the southern English colonies. He burned their houses, he confiscated their goods. Nearly one-half of the Acadians were thus sent forcibly away from homes which were rightfully their own. Of the others, some escaped into the woods, and finally into Canada. Many perished under this cruel treatment, and nearly all fell from comparative ease and comfort into extreme wretchedness.

For some years Nova Scotia was without any semblance of representative government, contenting herself with the mild despotism of the Governor. At length, when this arrangement ceased to give satisfaction, an Assembly chosen by the people met in Halifax. Henceforth Nova Scotia enjoyed the privilege of self-government, and her political history runs for the most part parallel with that of Canada. 1758 A.D. She had the same prolonged conflict with the Governor in regard to control of the revenue, the same grievance of a despotic family compact, the same determination that the advisers of the Governor should be responsible to the Assembly. The population was mixed and inharmonious. There were Germans and Dutchmen; there were some remnants of the Acadians who had been permitted to return; there were American loyalists fleeing before triumphant republicanism; there were the English who founded Halifax. Soon, however, the preponderance of the English element was decisive, and Nova Scotia was spared those envenomed dissensions which difference of race originated in the Canadian provinces. At the close of her separate existence Nova Scotia did not embrace with entire cordiality the project of confederation. A strong minority opposed union. But wiser counsels in the end prevailed, and this province, although not without hesitation, cast in her lot with the others.

Nova Scotia has an area equal to rather more than one-half that of Scotland, with a population of four hundred thousand persons; and as nearly all of these are natives of the province, it does not appear that many strangers have recently sought homes upon her soil. The country is beautifully diversified with valley and with hill, and bright with river and with lake. Much of the land is abundantly fertile, and a careful and intelligent system of cultivation is practised. Near the sea-board are vast treasures of coal and iron, of copper and tin. No equal length of coast in any part of the world has been more abundantly supplied with convenient harbours. In a distance of one hundred miles there are no fewer than twelve harbours capable of receiving the largest vessels in the British navy. The salmon rivers of Acadie are second only to those of Scotland. The ocean-fishings are so productive that Nova Scotia exports products of the sea to the annual value of one million sterling.

New Brunswick is the latest born of the American settlements. For many years after the conquest her fertile soil lay almost uncultivated, and her population was nothing more than a few hundred fishermen. It was at the close of the American War of Independence that the era of progress in New Brunswick began. Across the frontier, in the New England States, were many persons who had fought in the British ranks, to perpetuate a system of government which their neighbours had agreed to reject as tyrannical and injurious. These men were now regarded with aversion, as traitors to the great cause. Finding life intolerable amid surroundings so uncongenial, they shook from their feet the dust of the revolted provinces, and moved northwards with their families in quest of lands which were still ruled by monarchy. Five thousand came in one year. They came so hastily, and with so little provision for their own wants, that they must have perished, but for the timely aid of the Government. 1785 A.D. But their presence added largely to the importance of New Brunswick, which was now dissociated from Nova Scotia, and erected into a separate province. At this time, when she attained the dignity of an administration specially her own, her population was only six thousand, scattered over an area nearly equal to that of Scotland. But her soil was fertile; she abounded in coal and in timber; her fisheries were inexhaustibly productive. Her progress was not unworthy of the advantages with which Nature had endowed her. In twenty years her inhabitants had doubled. In half a century the struggling six thousand had increased to one hundred and fifty thousand. To-day the population of New Brunswick exceeds three hundred thousand. This rate of increase, although the numbers dealt with are not large, is greatly higher than that of the United States themselves. In the treaty by which England recognized the independence of her thirteen colonies, the boundary of New Brunswick and of Maine was fixed carelessly and unskilfully. It was defined to be, on the extreme east, a certain river St. Croix. Westward from the source of that river it was a line drawn thence to the highlands, dividing the waters which flow to the Atlantic from those which flow to the St. Lawrence. The records even of diplomacy would be searched in vain for an agreement more fertile in misunderstanding. The negotiators were absolutely ignorant of the country whose limits they were appointed to fix. Especially were they unaware that the devout Frenchmen who first settled there were accustomed to set up numerous crosses along the coast, and that the name La Croix was in consequence given to many rivers. In a few years it was found that the contracting powers differed as to the identity of the river St. Croix. The Americans applied the name to one stream, the British to another. That portion of the controversy was settled in favour of Britain. But a more serious difficulty now rose to view. The powers differed as to the locality of the “highlands” designated by the treaty, and a “disputed territory” of twelve thousand square miles lay between the competing boundary-lines. For sixty years angry debate raged over this territory, and the strife at one period came to the perilous verge of actual war. The people of New Brunswick exercised the privilege of felling timber on the disputed territory. 1839 A.D. The Governor of Maine sent an armed force to expel the intruders, and called out ten thousand militiamen to assert the rights of America. The Governor of New Brunswick replied by sending two regiments, with a competent artillery. Nova Scotia voted money and troops. But the time had passed when it was possible for England and America to fight in so light a quarrel as this. Lord Ashburton was sent out by England; Daniel Webster, on the part of America, was appointed to meet him. 1842 A.D. The dispute was easily settled by assigning seven thousand square miles to America and five thousand to New Brunswick.

Newfoundland was the earliest of the British settlements on the northern shores of America, and it was also, down to a late period, the most imperfectly known. Even from the time of its discovery by Cabot the value of its fisheries was perceived. English fishing-vessels followed their calling on the Newfoundland coast during the reign of Henry VIII., and the trade then begun was never interrupted. England had always asserted proprietary rights over the island; but she did not at first attempt to enforce exclusive possession of its shores, and the ships of all European nations were at liberty to fish without obstruction. But the vast importance of those fisheries became more and more apparent. It was not merely or chiefly the liberal gain which the traffic yielded. Of yet greater account was the circumstance that the fisheries were a nursery in which was trained a race of hardy and enterprising sailors, capable of upholding the honour of the English flag. A century after Cabot’s voyage, the sovereignty of Newfoundland and the exclusive right to fish on its shores were claimed for England; and the claim was enforced by the confiscation of certain foreign ships, which were peacefully returning home, laden with the gains of a successful season.

About the middle of the seventeenth century there were upon the island three hundred and fifty families, scattered in fifteen or sixteen petty settlements. By this time the persons who resorted to the fisheries had become sensitively alive to the preservation of the trade, and looked with disfavour upon the increase of a permanent population. They were able to obtain from the reckless Government of Charles II. an order that the settlers should depart from the island; and the barbarous edict was enforced by burning down the houses and wasting the fields of the inhabitants.

It was not England alone to which the fisheries of Newfoundland were of value. France was equally in earnest in her desire to gain control of the coveted territory. 1696 A.D. She had one or two small settlements, and she had been able by one happy stroke to gain possession of the whole island. The triumph, however, was not enduring, for England speedily reclaimed all that she had lost. 1713 A.D. By the treaty of Utrecht, when Louis XIV. was reduced by the victorious arms of Marlborough to the last extremity of exhaustion, France ceded to England all her claims upon Newfoundland; preserving still, however, her right to participate in the fisheries.

Down almost to the close of last century Newfoundland was without any proper government or administration of justice. England would not recognize the island as a colony, but persisted in regarding it as a mere fishery. The substitute for government was probably the rudest device which has ever been adopted by any civilized country. 1690 A.D. The master of the fishing-vessel which arrived first on the coast was the “Admiral” for the season, charged with the duty of maintaining order among the crews of the other ships, governing the island from the deck of his vessel. The great industry of Newfoundland – her fisheries – was always prosperous, and yielded large gains to the mother-country. But her infant settlements struggled up to strength and importance in the face of many discouragements, which were negligently or wilfully inflicted.

The area of Newfoundland is equal to two-thirds that of England and Wales, and her population is one hundred and fifty thousand. For three hundred and fifty years after Cabot’s discovery the interior of the island had never been explored by Europeans, and was wholly unknown, excepting to a few Indian hunters. Only so recently as 1822 an adventurous traveller accomplished for the first time a journey across the island. The enterprise was attended with much difficulty and some danger. The country was found to be rugged and broken. Innumerable lakes and marshes opposed the traveller’s progress, and imposed tedious deviations from his course. The journey occupied two months, during which the traveller and his Indian companions were obliged to subsist by the chase. No traces of cultivation were discovered, and no inhabitants. The natives of Newfoundland were the only race of American savages who persistently refused to enter into relations with the white men. They maintained to the end a hostile attitude, and were shot down and finally exterminated as opportunity offered.

Newfoundland has on her western coast, and along the valleys through which her rivers flow, some tracts of rich land on which grain might be grown. She has, too, much good pasturage; and although her winters are long and severe, her brief summer has heat enough to ripen many varieties of fruit and vegetables. She has coal, iron, and limestone. Her savage inhabitants fed on the flesh of deer, which wandered in vast herds in the woods; and they clothed themselves in the rich furs of bears, wolves, beavers, and other wild creatures. The first settlers found the noble Newfoundland dog living in a very debased condition – hunting in packs, and manifesting tendencies not superior to those of the wolf. But his higher nature made him amenable to civilizing influences, and he quickly rose to be the trusted companion and friend of man.


The boundary-line which marks the southern limit of British territory divides the continent into two not very unequal portions. On one side stretches out the vast area covered by the United States – the home of fifty million people – the seat of the manifold industries which their energy has called into existence. On the other side there lies a yet wider expanse of territory, whose development is still in the future. Northward and westward of the original line of settlement in the valley of the St. Lawrence the possessions of Great Britain are nearly equal in extent to the whole of Europe. Towards the Atlantic vast pine-forests cover the ground. Towards the Pacific are great mountain-ranges, rich with mineral treasures, destined to yield wealth to the men of future generations. The central portion of the continent is a vast expanse of rich farm-land, where the slightest efforts of the husbandman yield lavish increase.2020
  “It was here that Canada, emerging from her woods and forests, first gazed upon her rolling prairies and unexplored North-West, and learned, as by an unexpected revelation, that her historical territories of the Canadas – her eastern sea-boards of New Brunswick, Labrador, and Nova Scotia; her Lawrentian lakes and valleys, corn-lands and pastures – though themselves more extensive than half-a-dozen European kingdoms, were but the vestibules and ante-chambers to that till then undreamt-of Dominion, whose illimitable dimensions alike confound the arithmetic of the surveyor and the verification of the explorer. It was hence that, counting her past achievements as but the preface and prelude to her future exertions and expanding destinies, she took a fresh departure, received the afflatus of a more imperial inspiration, and felt herself no longer a mere settler along the banks of a single river, but the owner of half a continent; and, in the magnitude of her possession, in the wealth of her resources, in the sinews of her material might, the peer of any power on the earth.” —Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada. Speech in the City Hall, Winnipeg, September 1877.

Great navigable rivers, which take their origin in the Rocky Mountains, traverse the continent, and wait, silent and unused, to bear the traffic which coming years must bring. The Saskatchewan, after a course of thirteen hundred miles, and the Red River, whose sources are very near those of the Mississippi, after flowing nearly seven hundred miles, pour their ample floods into Lake Winnipeg – a vast sheet of water, covering an area equal to one-third that of Scotland. The Nelson River carries the waters of Lake Winnipeg into Hudson Bay by a course of three hundred miles, which could easily be rendered navigable for ships of large burden.

Lake Winnipeg is in the latitude of England; but the genial influences of the Gulf Stream do not visit those stern coasts, whose temperature is largely governed by the ice-cold currents of the Arctic Ocean. The climate is severe, the winter is long. During five or six months of the year the country lies under a covering of snow; river and lake are fast bound by frost; the thermometer occasionally sinks to fifty degrees below zero. This stern dominion does not pass gradually away; it ceases almost suddenly. The snow disappears as if by magic; the streams resume their interrupted flow; trees clothe themselves with foliage; the plains are gay with grass and flower. At one stride comes the summer, with its fierce heat, with its intolerable opulence of insect life, with its swift growth and ripening of wild fruits, and of the seeds which the sower has scattered over the fertile soil.

At the coming of Europeans into America this magnificent region was possessed by numerous tribes of Indians, who gained their food and clothing almost wholly by the chase. In course of years the white man found that the Indian would sell, for trivial payment, rich furs which were eagerly desired in Europe. The Indian came to understand that he could exchange his easily obtained furs for the musket which the strangers brought and taught him to use, for the beads with which he loved to ornament himself, for the seductive liquors which quickly asserted a destructive mastery over his savage nature. Out of these experiences there arose trading relations between the Indians of the North-West and the adventurous Europeans who from time to time made their way into those mysterious regions. A sagacious Frenchman perceived the advantage which was to be gained by an organized and systematic prosecution of this lucrative commerce. 1668 A.D. He proposed the enterprise to his countrymen, but it failed to command their support. The baffled projector made his way to England, and obtained access to Prince Rupert, to whom he unfolded his scheme. A quarter of a century had passed since the fierce charges of Rupert’s cavalry swept down the troops of the Parliament at Naseby and Newark, since he himself had been chased from Marston Moor by the stern Ironsides of Cromwell. The prince was now a sedate man of fifty. The vehemence of his youth had mellowed itself down to a love of commercial adventure. He lent a willing ear to the ingenious Frenchman. His influence with the public procured the formation of a company, whose paid-up capital was ?10,500. His influence with his cousin, King Charles, sufficed to obtain a charter. 1670 A.D. The liberal monarch bestowed half a continent upon these speculators, on no more burdensome terms than that they should pay two elks and two black beavers to the sovereign whensoever he visited their territory. “The Governor and Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson Bay” were endowed by this liberal monarch with “all countries which lie within the entrance of Hudson’s Straits, in whatever latitude they may be, so far as not possessed by other Christian States.” Thus largely privileged, the adventurers entered upon a career of unusual success. In a few years they paid a dividend at the rate of fifty per cent.; a little later they trebled their capital out of profits, and paid to shareholders twenty-five per cent. upon the increased amount; still later the capital was once more trebled from the same source, without diminution of the rate of dividend.

The fur trade was one of the most lucrative of which merchants had any experience. The savages who overthrew the Roman empire had introduced to Southern Europe the beautiful furs of the north. Henceforth the article was in urgent demand. Great ladies sought eagerly, for purposes of ornament, such furs as those with which the northern savage clothed himself and his children – sought eagerly, but often unsuccessfully, for demand outstripped supply. It was certain that Europe would purchase at liberal prices all the furs which the adventurers were able to bring.

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