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An Abridged History of Canada
History of Canadian Literature By G. Mercer Adam


The great waterways of Canada—the St. Lawrence and those inland seas from which it is fed—played an important part in the discovery and subsequent opening up of the Continent. In the early days, it was the profits of the Fur-trade, and not colonization and settlement, that drew the trapper and voyageur, and that wonderful race of hardy Canadian woodsmen, the coureurs de bois, into the vast inland solitudes of North America. First in the field, and with access to the heart of the continent both by the St. Lawrence and by the Mississippi, it is remarkable that France ever lost her hold upon the territory, and that Anglo-Saxon, and not French, is the civilization of the New World. But with all the advantages in geographical position, aided by their genius for exploration, a fatal defect in the colonial system of France, and paralysis at Versailles at the crucial moment when the prize was being contended for, lost a new empire for the Latin race, and threw the vast region into the hands of Britain and her English-speaking colonists. When the Cross of St. George supplanted the White Lilies at Quebec, the flag of France was flying at the Sault Ste. Marie and Michillimackinac, and her fur traders had penetrated far across the plains. Had another fate befallen on the St. Lawrence, France might yet have been signally worsted in the Ohio Valley, and, by a concerted descent from Hudson's Bay, driven back either upon Quebec, or forced down the Mississippi to Louisiana and the sea. But another issue was decreed, and with the fall of Quebec there fell also the trading-posts of France in the heart of the continent.

French exploration in the Far West dates back to 1738, when Sieur de la Verandrye and his adventurous sons first opened up the vast fertile plains which extend from the Red River to the Rocky Mountains. For some account of La Verandrye and his journeyings the reader is referred to M. Suite's articles in the tenth volume of La Revue Canadienne. Verandrye himself left no published account of his explorations. Fifty years later came Sir Alexander Mackenzie, a partner in the Great North-West Fur Company of Montreal, the discoverer of the Mackenzie River, and the lirst white man known to make his way across the Rockies to the Pacific. His work, which gives a most interesting account of the Canadian fur trade, contains the narrative of two "Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Lawrence, through the Continent to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793," and was published in London in 1802. Contemporary with Verandrye, Joseph La France, a French half-breed, made an " Exploration of the Countries adjoining Hudson's Bay," an account of which, by Arthur Dobbs, was published in London in 1744. Near the close of the century, there also appeared the narrative of three voyages in the same region by Samuel Hearne, a Hudson Bay Co. officer, who, after conquering many difficulties, found a passage by the Coppermine River to the Arctic Ocean. Hearne's work, entitled "Journey from Prince of Wales Fort (Hudson's Bay) to the Coppermine River," was published in London in 1795. Another important book on the early fur trade is that of Alexander Henry, whose narrative furnishes Parkman with the thrilling account, in his "Conspiracy of Pontiac," of the Ojibway massacre of the English garrison at Michillimackinac just after the Conquest. The reader will find considerable reference made to Henry, La France, Hearne, and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, with a chapter on Lord Selkirk's ill-fated colony on the Red River, in " The North-West : its History and its Troubles," by the present writer (Toronto, 1885). Fuller narratives of the history of the Selkirk Colony will be found in the work of Prof. Bryce, of Winnipeg, on " Manitoba: its Infancy, Growth, and Present Condition," published in London in 1882; in Messrs. Gunn and Tuttle's "History of Manitoba"; and, particularly, in a graphically written work by Alexander Ross, a Scotch fur trader, who was at one time an employe of Astor in his fur mart on the Columbia River, and later on became a settler in the Selkirk Colony. His work, which was published in London in 1856, is entitled "The Red River Settlement: its Rise, Progress, and Present State, with an account of the Native Races." Not without interest, also, is the "Overland Journey" (London, 1843) of Sir George Simpson, for forty years resident governor of the Hudson Bay Co.

With the cession to Britain, in 1869, of the Hudson Bay Co's rights in the North-West Territories, and their transfer to Canada, the literature of the modern era of travel and description on the rich plains of the North-West commences. Prior to the actual surrender of the Hudson Bay region, a few important narratives of exploration appeared, the chief of which are Capt. Palliser's "Exploration Report;" Prof. Hind's "Reel River Exploring Expedition," and that on the "Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan;" Paul Kane's "Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America," and Milton and Cheadle's "North-West Passage by Land." Since the acquirement of the territory, it has been the field of extensive travel by English writers, from Capt. W. F. Butler, in his "Great Lone Land," etc., down to Mr. W. Fraser Rae's "Columbia and Canada," and Mr. Stuart Cumberland's "Queen's Highway from Ocean to Ocean." With these works, however, we cannot here deal, though Canadian history is particularly concerned with two of them, in connection with Riel's Red River Rebellion. We refer to Capt. Huyshe's "Narrative" of Wolseley's Red River Expedition, and a cleverly written work by Mr. Charles Marshall, entitled "The Canadian Dominion" (London, 1871), which well hits off the whilom hero and dictator of Fort Garry.

The native books on the North-West which belong to the Confederation era begin with " A Sketch of the NorthWest of America," by Mgr. Tache, Bishop of St. Boniface (Fort Garry), translated by Capt. R. D. Cameron (Montreal, 1870), and with the Rev. Principal Grant's eloquent work, "Ocean to Ocean." The latter is a diary of the Pacific Railway surveying expedition across the continent, undertaken*for the Government, in 1870, by Mr. Sandford Fleming, C.E. Dr. Grant's delightful book, though the record of comparatively an old story now, is still ^worthy of notice, and will well repay the modern reader's perusal. Prof. Macoun's " Manitoba and the North-West" (Guelph, 1882) is perhaps the most important work for the reader who seeks information with regard to the resources of the region, its physical features, and general history. Mr. J. C. Hamilton's "ThePrairie Province" (Toronto, 1871) is an instructive account of a journey "from Lake Ontario to Lake Winnipeg," with a sketch of the productions and resources of the Red River Valley. Begg's " Creation of Manitoba" has the merit of being written by an intelligent resident of the Province and a shrewd observer. "England and Canada," by Sandford Fleming, C.M.G., the learned Chancellor of Queen's University, is also an interesting narrative of travel "from Old to New Westminster." " Canada on the Pacific," by Charles Hor-etzky, C.E. (Montreal, 1874), is worthy of notice for its thoughtful review of the resources, with a pleasing description of the beauties, of British Columbia. Mrs. Spragge's charming little volume, " From Ontario to the Pacific by the C. P. R." will also well repay even an oft-repeated perusal. The same remark applies to " Mountain and Prairie," a journey from Victoria to Winnipeg via the Peace River Pass, by the Rev. D. M. Gordon (Montreal, 1880). We must not here forget the important work on " The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West" (Toronto, 1880), by the Hon. Alex. Morris, P.C., formerly Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba. Nor must we omit mention of Mr. Charles R. Tuttle's "Our North Land" (Toronto, 1885), the narrative of a Government expedition to Hudson's Bay in 1884, for the purpose of testing the practicability of a speedy route from England to the North-West, via Hudson's Straits and Bay. There remains but to mention the three published narratives of the Riel Rebellion on the Saskatchewan, in 1885, one by the present writer, another, a compilation, by the late Rev. C. P. Mulvany, M.A, and a third by Major Boulton, the gallant leader of Boulton's Scouts,'and an intelligent and enthusiastic eye-witness.

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