Canada Between 1867 and 1914

By | December 25, 2021

The further territorialdemographiceconomic and political development of Canada from the constitution of the Dominion to the world war (1867-1914). – The Canadian Dominion was barely, it can be said, constituted, which already manifested its aspirations towards the neighboring English possessions, securing in 1869, for only one and a half million dollars, the immense territories of the North-West, hitherto owned by a colonial company with sovereign powers, the Hudson’s Bay Company. This, founded two centuries earlier, in 1670, to exploit and colonize the North American territory from the northern frontiers of Canada to the polar circle, and given, by the very nature of the country assigned to it, to the lucrative trade in fur animals rather than to colonization, put an end to his successful career in that year, after having, albeit rudimentary, organized an immense area from one ocean to another, guarded by over 200 fortresses, with about 12. 000 white or mestizo adventurers, mostly of French origin, military and commercial agents of the company in relations with the Indian tribes, who then numbered a few hundred thousand individuals. The incipient development of actual agricultural colonization in the Red River valley, on the one hand; that of the territory of British Columbia on the other, especially following the discovery made in 1858 of gold deposits on the banks of the Fraser (a discovery that in a few weeks attracted 30,000 adventurers, who, despite the pains and unheard-of miseries of the early times, there they laid the foundations of a new colonial nucleus); finally, the political and economic pressure of Canada made the days of the “Honorable Company” (as it was called) numbered, whose last charter, expiring in 1859, was extended only with the aim of completing the negotiations for its dissolution. Detached from the territory of it, to erect it in the colony of the Crown (1858), British Columbia, and provided this with large municipal institutions, the Hudson’s Bay Company ceased to exist in 1870 as a colonial company with sovereign powers, not keeping for itself that the twentieth of the lands registered and alienated during the first 50 years thereafter. Its territories came to constitute the Hudson ceased to exist in 1870 as a colonial company with sovereign powers, keeping for itself only the twentieth of the land registered and alienated during the first 50 years that followed. Its territories came to constitute the Hudson ceased to exist in 1870 as a colonial company with sovereign powers, keeping for itself only the twentieth of the land registered and alienated during the first 50 years that followed. Its territories came to constitute the Far West of Canada, extending from one ocean to another, the great territorial reserve of the Dominion for the not long-term constitution of new populous provinces. For Canada 2011, please check

First, among these, was Manitoba, since July 1870. Region ignored and disdained, which at that time did not reach 12,000 residents, but would have had 250,000 residents at the end of the century and almost half a million in 1911, thanks to fertility proved to be extraordinary, of virgin soil and the marvelous grain production poured into European markets, Manitoba was a first revelation of the future reserved for Canada. In 1871, British Columbia and Vancouver Island joined the Dominion (the latter had been erected as a Crown colony only in 1849, although the British had set foot there since 1778) and in 1873 the ‘Prince Edward Island; in 1905, two more, that of Alberta and Saskatchewan. On an area thus valued at 9,659,400 square kilometers,

The territorial development of the colonized area was the natural consequence of the demographic development of the Dominion. The population of Canada, which in the mid-century. XIX did not yet reach two million residents, in 1871 it had more than 3 ½, in 1901 it already exceeded 5 and ten years later, in the 1911 census, it reached 7,204,838: of it, two million and a little more in the the French-Canadian province of Quebec, five million in the other English-speaking provinces of purely Anglo-Saxon lineage; and, as for religion, a scant three million Catholics, the rest of denominations vary, mostly Protestants. Remarkable, from a political if not demographic point of view, was the fact that the Canadian indigenous element, represented, at the time of the 1911 census, by about 111,000 Indians, far from disappearing, was increasing, thanks to the new policy adopted by Canada after the establishment of the Dominion: that is, a policy of conservation of indigenous tribes, through the greater extent of the territorial reserves dedicated to them, rather than of destruction as in the previous era. This more humane policy was, moreover, to reconnect with the traditions of Indian politics of the ancient French dominion of Lower Canada, a policy of the first centuries of colonization, to which we owe if today there is a Franco-Indian element which constitutes the best trait-d’union between Bianchi and Pellirosse.

The main spring of the demographic-territorial expansion of Canada, in the last half century, had been the grandiose movement of agricultural colonization, of which, for historical, economic and climatic-territorial reasons, it was the scene in the last decades of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century: movement by the country’s agricultural legislation promoted and favored in the best way. This federal land law of Canada (in addition to the federal land property, which it contemplated and constituted by the vacant lands of the Territories, there was in fact the provincial land property, consisting of inalienated lands, included within the boundaries of the individual provinces, and regulated by provincial laws) reproduced as a whole, improving it, that of the United States, already so favorable to colonization. Also established in Canada the principle that the land register preceded the alienation of land, this took place after the division of the territories into districts, of the districts into townships or suburbs (possibly in the form of squares of 36 square miles of area), of the townships into sections (of a square mile each, ie 640 acres) numbered consecutively from the first to 36 in, of the sections finally in section quarters (160 acres each); were reserved only sections 11 a and 29a of each township, by way of school endowment, and section 26 a of each township and 8 a of each fifth township, representing that twentieth of the cadastral land that the federal government had pledged to reserve for the former Hudson’s Bay Company to the space of 50 years.

In Canada the principle of free granting of land to the farmer was also widely applied: constituting the federal law of the homestead of June 14, 1872, an improved reproduction of the American one of ten years earlier, the basis of the Canadian colonization of the century. XIX (see what was previously said about colonization).

And the small property, in fact, whose development the law of the homestead has so much promoted, can be considered the soul of Canadian colonization, in the second half of the century. XIX. From Great Britain, from Ireland, from the United States itself, in the last years of the century and in the early years of the next, we see emigrants, especially farmers, with the small capital necessary for the installation in the homestead (no less than 500 dollars, according to the technicians), and to devote himself to the cultivation of wheat in particular, which made Canada, at the end of the nineteenth century, the granary of the British Empire.

However, this did not mean that, even in Canada, under the influence of purely economic causes, the legislator did not establish, alongside that small and medium property, so freely promoted and made possible by the extraordinary fertility of the soil as well as by the kind of crops (cereals), large landed property. While in fact in the western territories this made its appearance with the capitalist invasion of the soil, inaugurated by the land speculations of 1882-83 in particular, and fueled by the high profits of industrialized agriculture (not rare in it, already with 1885, dividends of 8% on the capital employed); in the older and more populated eastern provinces, it began to supplant here and there, still during the nineteenth century, the small and medium property,

On the basis of this admirable agricultural colonization, Canada becomes, with the century. XIX, a large labor market, now capable of attracting copious immigration, made up of the most varied ethnic and social elements, and presenting problems not unlike those of other countries of great immigration. In twelve years, 1897-1909, 1,366,650 immigrants entered Canada, of which 540,621 from the United Kingdom and 425,412 from the United States; in the fiscal year 1910-11 (10 April – 31 March), immigration numbered 311,084 individuals, a figure almost corresponding to the entire emigration of the decade 1881-91; in 1911-12, of 354,237; in 1912-13, of 402,432

The inferior quality of the new immigration, European and American, in which the element inclined more to gather in the big cities of the east than to clear and work the fields of the Canadian west was widely represented, indeed imposed on Canada, starting from 1908, of the restrictive measures on emigration, intended to reject those who did not have a minimum of means at their disposal.

But far greater concerns than “undesirable” white immigration, aroused also in Canada, as in other new countries, Asian immigration, Indian immigration and, to a much greater degree, yellow immigration (especially the Japanese one, supported by a strong state of origin), in the west of the Dominion, in British Columbia in particular, mainly targeted. In 1907, Vancouver already had 7,000 Japanese, and as many Chinese out of a total population of 50,000 souls; and the bloody struggles there and elsewhere between the two races induced Canada to adopt effective restrictive measures in 1908, against the yellow in general, and against Japanese immigration itself, but made the necessary friendly agreements with the not negligible Empire of the Rising Sun.

The copious immigration of men and capital from the old continent and the new world itself, to the seductive invitation of the enormous expanse of arable land from the Gulf of San Lorenzo to the Pacific coast, was not limited only to populating Canadian soil with farmers; but, as a logical backlash, it was not long in giving rise to the new industrial activity in the major population centers as an inevitable economic-social complement. Nor did the mining industry alone develop in the last decades, as the subsoil was revealing new riches to emigrants (mineral production, including copper, gold, silver, nickel, coal, etc., already in 1911 rose to almost 100 Millions of dollars); but also the manufacturing industry, which was found in the oldest and most populated provinces of east the natural sites of first development. In 1911, according to the census of that year, this industry was already represented by over 19,000 factories (including over 17,000 in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), with a capital of about one billion and a quarter of dollars, half a million people employed, and a production worth about 1166 million dollars. And much more needs to be added to complete the picture. A system of fluvial and lake communications of over 2700 miles of waterways, from the Great Lakes inland to the Atlantic; 25,000 miles of railways (in 1911), of which 2906 represented by the great transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway, from Montreal to Vancouver, connected with subsidized shipping lines across the Pacific, so as to make the full trip Montreal-Yokohama; cities of nearly half a million residents, such as Montreal, of nearly 400,000 such as Toronto, of over 100,000 such as Winnipeg and Vancouver, not to mention the smaller ones; an admirable school system, which in 1911 had over 23,000 schools attended by more than one million and a third of schoolchildren, with a total cost of over 32 million dollars; a trade movement with foreign countries represented in the financial year 1912-13 by an export (cereals, meat, wool, butter, livestock, etc.) of over 393 million dollars and an import (metallurgical products, coal, textiles, fruit, chemicals, etc.) of more than 692; a federal budget finally presenting (financial year 1912-13) a

The prevalence of the British element over the others, in the Canadian colonization after the conquest of England, and the clear awareness of this greater Anglo-Saxon purity of Canada in contrast with the United States, a melting pot of the most diverse races; the progressive attenuation, for the historical reasons seen, of the ethnic and political antagonism between the French element of Lower Canada and the English of the rest of the Dominion, and the substitution in the former of the profound anti-English sentiment, which even took on the color of irredentism, of a new political spirit, made at the same time of Canadian local loyalty and attachment to the culture, language, ancient French nationality, under the multiple suggestion of a life and an economic environment of its own; the English spirit fueled by the extraordinary development of the lower, middle and above all high school, and of culture, both of the Anglican type in most of the Dominion; the recent industrialization of the eastern provinces and the consequent tendency of the Dominion to emancipate itself from the economic tax paid abroad, especially to the United States, for industrial products; all this had already developed in Canada, from the constitution of the Dominion to the world war, a Canadian national conscience, which, while on the one hand was erasing all residues of moral and political dependence on England, on the other constituted the most formidable bulwark against any political, ethnic, economic attempt to absorb Canada by the United States of America.

Indeed, since they had emancipated themselves from England until the twentieth century, they had never ceased to consider that country as a kind of unredeemed American land, destined one day or another, or by spontaneous movement of people (colonization of the Far West in recent decades, it was due in no small part to the emigration of the United States) or by force of arms or by ineluctable economic attraction, to enrich with new stars that American flag, which, already in 1867, suffocated you the coastal expansion of Canada stretched its threatening shadow over Alaska, ceded by Russia, to the northwest of it. Nor was there lacking even official or unofficial evidence of this American tendency of absorption, from the country’s first constitution (that of 1777), to the 1857 Congressional motion, deploring the conduct followed by the British government in confederating Canadian provinces, to the vain attempt even of negotiations for an eventual English abandonment of Canada in 1870; as there was no lack of handheld tests of

This was typically seen in the economic field where, even more evident than in the territorial and political field, were shown the American tendency to absorb Canada and the converse reaction of Canada, threatened by the double danger of an American industrial invasion on the one hand, on the other hand, the day in which, after the country passed to the United States, it was no longer the arbiter of its own customs policy. With the expiration of the 1854 trade treaty between the United States and Canada in 1866, the American government refused any new agreement, applying very high tariffs (48% on average) to Canadian products; while Canada, without resorting to reprisals, hit American imports by its average tariff of 24.86%. Later adopted by the United States the dual tariff system, the minimum favor and the maximum applicable to countries that did not have special treaties with them or that favored other nations to their detriment, Canada managed to obtain, despite previous threats, the benefit of the minimum tariff, continuing in its commercial policy of national independence but of respect for the American market (by far the most important for it after England), which was based, between the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, on a triple tariff, namely the rigidly protectionist general tariff (the tariff of 1897); the differential in favor of the United Kingdom and most of the English colonies (in July 1900, the reduction was brought to 33.3% of the general tariff); the intermediate one finally between the two, to apply to countries granting exchange for Canadian products. An attempt in 1910 to apply a special preferential treatment to Canada and the United States in their commercial relations, based on free trade for semi-finished products and a sharp reduction in tariffs for over 500 items, not only failed but dragged along with itself in the fall the Canadian government that had negotiated it. Defined by Balfour, in the House of Commons, “a great imperial disaster” (for it, in fact, a hundred American articles would have benefited upon entry into Canada from rates lower than those accorded to British products!) And hailed imprudently to the American Congress as a little less than “a second Louisiana purchase” (the purchase of Louisiana in 1803 had virtually doubled the surface of the Union at a stroke), the secretly prepared trade agreement was wrecked in the most sensational way. Against it, indeed, the industries of the eastern provinces rose up on the one hand, further threatened by American competition, and even more the large railway companies afraid of the diversion of trade (from north to south, rather than from west to east) which would follow. the new tariff by damaging the railways built in view of cross traffic in particular; on the other, Canadian national sentiment, cruelly offended not so much by the anti-imperial character of the proposed agreement as by the American interpretation of it, which is more political than economic.

The Liberal Party, which had succeeded in power, in 1896, to the Conservative party, which had held it almost continuously from the constitution of the Dominion until then (for about half a century Canada had been ruled, barring brief interruptions, by only two prime ministers, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier), saw his ranks deserted, and in the general elections of 1911, made precisely on the platform of the trade agreement with the United States, its great leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier (Canada’s grand old Man, as it was called by followers and adversaries), which had been in power since 1896, was defeated. Despite the large majority retained by the liberals in the Senate, power returned after 15 years to the Conservative party,, Mr. Robert Borden, summed up the thought in terms of commercial policy in the words: “Canada is determined to remain the master of its own customs regime”.

Canada Between 1867 and 1914