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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter XIX

Reflections—Conditions of success—Social environment— The lonely life—Minimizing temptation—The Liquor Laws— Local option—Native sports—The domination of commerce— Belated literature and art—Canadian writers—Historians, poets, and novelists—Religious zeal—Commercial expansion— Insular sentiment — Cosmopolitan practice — Transatlantic steam service—Returning through the St. Lawrence—The closed and opened book—Changed times and manners — Reading the riddle—Canadian Boat Song—Symbols in the western sky—The last glimpse of the Golden West.

IT is impossible to travel 10,000 miles through Canada and study its great natural resources, mark the civil and commercial development that has taken place, without arriving at definite conclusions.

The mental crystallization of such observations and reflections has been reserved for my closing words.

Canada offers exceptional opportunities to young men and women of intelligence and industrious habits. It is no place for the indolent, impatient or physically weak. The goal of success is practically certain, but the road to it is often rough, and it is possible to faint by the way. Labour is so scarce that there is no difficulty in obtaining work and good wages, but for precisely the same reason a quid pro quo must be rendered in the shape of strenuous toil. The life is open and healthy and, given a good constitution, it cannot fail to be interesting.

In farming in the Western Provinces food and housing are included, and as the opportunities for spending are few, savings rapidly accumulate. On the other hand there is the loneliness of the prairie and the sense of detachment from the social environment. Some have been unable to bear this, and have been known to run away from it. It may be advisable to seek an opening nearer one of the centres of population, where money-making is equally certain, but the pace is slower. Leading men in Parliament and connected with labour bureaus share this opinion. But near large towns and cities there are inducements to spending which in themselves are temptations unknown in more remote districts. Progress is consequently retarded, and there may be a very good reason for going further afield. It all comes back to the question of the character and temperament of the man. Whatever be the locality, town or prairie, it is idle to be attracted to Canada for the “soft jobs” it offers. There are none. A man will reap the highest reward of his industry, but industry it must be, and of the highest order. He who goes for the purpose of gambling in mines or land may find a short cut to fortune—or ruin. It is after all a gamble, and there is no knowing which thimble the pea is under.

Some of the temptations that beset life at home are to a large extent removed from the path of the Canadian settler. The drinking habits are less prevalent than in European cities. Tea and coffee largely take the place of alcoholic beverages. Dining restaurants are in no cases licensed for the sale of intoxicants. The public-house as an institution is unknown. The only place where drink can be publicly obtained is in the saloons connected with hotels, which must justify their existence by providing a definite amount of sleeping accommodation.

The principle of local option in regard to the saloon system further indicates the condition of public feeling on the liquor traffic. It was introduced by Senator Scott in the form of a Temperance Act and allowed electors in any county to decide by vote whether the sale of intoxicant liquors would be permitted within their respective districts. The Act has checked the growth of saloons generally, and in places has led to their complete prohibition. In the province of Manitoba the people pronounced in favour of total prohibition, although an attempt to procure the same principle in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec was defeated by an overwhelming majority.

These provisions by no means make drinking impossible, but it is an undoubted check on the habit.

The law in regard to drunkenness itself is strict. It is an indictable offence to be in a state of intoxication. The fact, apart from violence or disorderly conduct, leads to arrest, imprisonment, or a heavy fine. All public-houses are closed on election days and Sundays, when trading, sports, and games are also prohibited.

The northern climate of Canada is too cold on the whole to give scope for all the sport so general in Australia and the Mother Country. The Canadians have, however, excelled in sculling, the practice of which may be seen carried on on all the great rivers adjacent to large towns. Their national game is lacrosse, said to be of Indian origin. The long winters enable them to indulge in all the exhilarating snow sports—skiing, tobogganing and sleighing—in all of which the Canadian is a past master. The ice carnivals at Montreal are universally famous.

The many opportunities which the Golden West affords have a tendency to monopolize the energies of the inhabitants to the exclusion of other interests of civilized life. In the eager desire to grow rich the aesthetic side generally suffers. Even in the great cities the commercial spirit dominates everything. Canada has yet to produce its great masters in art and literature. One might have expected a French Canadian literature, but its growth was checked at the outset by the discouragement of the Roman Catholic Church, which prohibited the perusal, not only of modern Parisian works, but even many French classics. Surveillance has been even exercised over the catalogues of the booksellers, and a strict censorship imposed.

Canadian history has received careful treatment at the hands of Abbe Casgrain, who has written a history of Montcalm and Levis. Dr. Kingsford’s ten volumes on Canada are a comprehensive work, but lacking the lighter touch which characterizes Francis Parkman, who has dealt with the subject of the North American Indians and the early pioneers. Sir John G. Bourinct has treated the constitutional history of Canada with impartial fidelity. The editor of “The British Weekly,” in one of those vivid literary sketches of which he is the greatest modern master, unearths in an article on “The High Destiny of Canada” names almost forgotten in the literary world—Abel Log, Charles Greatrex, T. C. Haliburton—who wrote under the nom de plume of Sam Slick—and Joseph Howe.

Goldwin Smith is a well-known writer on Canada. The magic spell in his work is infectious and is its most enduring phase.

Of poets, whilst as yet there is no nightingale, there is many a sweet songster, such as Bliss Carman, Charles G. W. Roberts, and Wilfred Campbell. Dr. Drummond has touched the most humane chord in his description of the habitant—in cabin and canoe, by forest and stream, the life of the settler is sung.


The novel has found a champion in Sir Gilbert Parker, who, Canadian born, has made London his home. On historical basis he weaves cunning plots shot with charming romance.

With him may be associated names less familiar but distinctively contributory to the deepening and broadening literary source, such as Miss Dougall and Mrs. Coates.

The novel with a purpose has found its chief advocate in Ralph Connor (Rev. C. W. Gordon). The canon of the Rocky Mountains, the setting of the lumber camp, the lode gold streak in the miner’s rough nature are his themes, and skilful has been the handling, as of one who has his vision of the coming of the Divine Kingdom and prepares for it a way amongst the increasing inroads into the Golden West.

Canada is moving towards the realization of all the institutions that make for a people’s stability and worth. Her religious zeal is marked in commodious churches, and the catholicity of her mission in a movement towards union. Already Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists have cast an overwhelming vote in favour of the formation of the “ United Church of Canada.” Like her streams near their source, that have travelled separately and independently, they seek a new power and strength by merging in one, and sweeping onward toward a common goal.

The trend of her commercial interests is in the same direction; walls of partition are being levelled which are opening to them the markets of the world. In blood and loyalty Canada is insular, and is likely to remain so; in trade and commerce she is cosmopolitan. She grasps the hands that stretch across the Atlantic on the east and the Pacific on the west, and so links the world.

I returned by the Canadian Northern transatlantic steamer, sailing in the “Royal George” which with its companion the “Royal Edward” is distinguished for quick passages. The vessels sail to and from Bristol instead of Liverpool, which is the port of the Canadian Pacific line. The “Royal George” averages 20 knots. The commander? Captain James Harrison, served his apprenticeship on the full-rigged ship “Abcona,” famous for smart passages. He was master of the old “Valkyrie III,” which in 1895 competed for the American Cup. The captain of the “Royal George” has had a distinguished career in life-saving. Whilst master of the “Volturna” he rescued a crew of 28. In 1887 he commanded the lifeboat of the Allen liner “Manitoban” and rescued 32 from the “Montague” steamer. Sixty Frenchmen were saved by him. For these and other acts of bravery he has received awards from the United States and Newfoundland Governments.

As we sailed down the St. Lawrence from Montreal, memories of the delightful trip were revived. Months had passed by and it only seemed like yesterday since the river lapped the sides of the “Empress of Ireland.” The great continent was then a book about to open its pages. Although too huge a volume to become familiar even to the life student, pages here and there had been mastered, and pictures had left behind their indelible impress. The shores of the St. Lawrence, the scenes of explorers and trappers, of Iroquois and Hurons, on repassing had a new significance. Across the waters came the cry of the loon, the lost soul of Indian legend, and once more recalled the trapper in his birch canoe silently gliding amongst the rapids of the French River.

The outskirts of the forest were still dusk and mysterious, but the riddle has been read, the impenetrable wild has been mastered and the cleared land, with smiling orchards and lowing kine, declared the victory of patience and industry. Near the banks where once the dusky figure of the red Indian stealthily moved, a boat appeared, and the rhythmic stroke of oars marked a new era of comradeship. Amongst the rugged cliffs, where once the fierce war-cry found answering echoes, rise and fall in melodiousness the notes of Moore’s Canadian Boat Song—

“Faintly as tolls the evening chime,
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time.
Soon as the woods on shore look dim,
We’ll sing at St. Anne’s our parting hymn.
Row, brothers row, the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near and the daylight’s past! ”

As the day hastens to its close, the western sky is once more lit up with wonderful tints. The sun dips behind the river, but its trailing garments sweep the azure floor of Heaven. The red of the maple, the purple of the mystic mountains, gold and silver threads of the mine, seem to be woven into the fabric and proudly displayed as samples gathered from the broad path over which the great luminary daily travels.

A long last look, the curtains of night close in, and the Golden West fades out of sight.

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