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Laurier in England Laurier in France The South African War The elections of 1900 The conference of 1902 The Alaskan boundary

In 1837 a young girl of eighteen had come to the British throne. Many had wished her well, but few had dreamed that, as the best beloved of British sovereigns, she would prove an essential factor in a great imperial movement which was to mark the close of her reign. The extraordinary length of that reign, her homely virtues, and her statesmanlike prudence had made her Queen indeed in all her vast domains and the one common, personal rallying-point for all her people. The year 1897 marked the sixtieth anniversary of her reign, her Diamond Jubilee, which the whole Empire now planned to celebrate in fitting fashion.

The prime minister sailed for England early in June, accompanied by Madame Laurier. It was his first voyage across the Atlantic. It can be imagined with what interest he looked forward to seeing both the land from which he had imbibed his political ideals and the land from which his ancestors had come to New France more than two centuries before. But his interest and his mission were more than personal. He had great tasks to perform. The most immediate purpose was to secure the denunciation or revision of the Belgian and German treaties. He was to sit in the third Colonial Conference which had been summoned for the occasion and in which all the self-governing colonies were to be represented. There it would be his mission to interpret to his colleagues from overseas the new imperial and national ideals which were taking shape in Canada. To the general public he desired to make better known the vast opportunities Canada had to offer both for the venturing settler and for the trader who stayed at home. Perhaps less purposed, but, as it proved, no less successful, was a desire to bring together more closely the land of his allegiance and the land of his ancestry.

From the landing in Liverpool in June until the sailing from Londonderry in August, the Canadian prime minister passed through a ceaseless whirl of engagements, official conferences and gorgeous state ceremonies, public dinners and country-house week-ends. He made many notable speeches; but, more than any words, his dignified bearing and courtly address, the subtle note of distinction that marked his least phrase or gesture with the striking proof which he gave, as the French-Canadian ruler of the greatest of the colonies, of the wisdom, the imperial secret, which Britain alone of nations had learned made him beyond question the lion of the hour. The world, and not least Britain herself, realized with wonder, in the pageant of the Jubilee ceremonies, how great and how united the Empire was; and, at this moment, when all eyes were focussed upon London, the prime minister of Canada seemed to embody the new spirit and the new relationship. The press rang with Canada’s praises. ’For the first time in my experience,’ declared a shrewd American observer, ’England and the English are regarding the Dominion with affectionate enthusiasm.’ When the tumult and the shouting died and the Captains and the Kings departed, Sir Wilfrid Laurier had a proud accounting to give his people.

The Belgian and German treaties, so long a stumbling-block in the path of closer imperial trade relations, were at last denounced. The definite, concrete offer of the Canadian preference proved effective, for it was given freely, in no huckstering spirit, with no demand for any equivalent or that Britain should reverse her whole fiscal system for the benefit of a small fraction of her trade.

The Colonial Conference was an important incident of the Jubilee year. Mr Chamberlain, the new colonial secretary, made the chief address and laid before the members the proposals for discussion. He suggested the desirability of setting up an Imperial Council, with more than advisory power, and bound ‘to develop into something still greater.’ But, as only the prime ministers of New Zealand and Tasmania gave any sympathy, the suggestion was not pressed. He spoke in laudatory terms of the contribution of the Australasian colonies towards the British navy, and invited the other colonies to make similar offers. As to trade relations, the colonial ministers decided to consider whether they could follow Canada’s example of a free preference. No definite step by Great Britain towards zollverein or protection and preference was suggested. Fruitful discussion took place on Asiatic immigration, the Pacific cable, and imperial penny postage. All these discussions, though without immediate results, served to outline the problems which were to face the Colonial Conference in the future after the Boer War had given a new turn and a new insistence to these problems. It was not until then, and not until Australia spoke with one voice rather than with six, that the Colonial Conference was to come into its own as an established body for inter-imperial discussion.

Outside the Conference there was much discussion of imperial relations. It was for the most part vague and rhetorical, but it showed clearly the new-born interest which was stirring wide circles in the United Kingdom. As yet Imperial Federation was the only scheme for closer union which had been at all clearly formulated, and, though it had been discredited by the failure of its advocates to find and agree upon any feasible plan, its phraseology still held the field. Sir Wilfrid himself sometimes expressed his vision in its formulas. In a striking passage in his first speech at Liverpool he pictured Macaulay’s New Zealander coming not to gaze upon the ruins of St Paul’s but to knock for admission upon the doors of Westminster. Yet even these earlier speeches forecast the newer conception of the Empire as a partnership of equal states. ‘A colony,’ he described Canada, ’yet a nation words never before in the history of the world associated together.’ Making a dramatic contrast between the rebellion and discontent which marked the beginning of the Queen’s reign in Canada, and the willing and unquestioned allegiance which marked it now, he showed that the secret lay in the ever-wider freedom and self-government which had been claimed and granted.

From London Sir Wilfrid passed to Paris. It was before the days of the entente cordiale. In Egypt, in Soudan, in Siam, in Newfoundland, the interests of Britain and those of France were clashing, and there was much talk of age-long rivalry and inevitable war. The reports which had reached Paris of the strong expressions, uttered by a son of New France, of attachment and loyalty to the Empire and the Queen had made still more bitter the memories of the ‘few acres of snow’ lost in 1763. There was much wonder as to what Laurier would say on French soil. His message there was the same. The French Canadians, he said, had not forgotten the France of their ancestors: they cherished its memories and its glories. ’In passing through this city, beautiful above all cities, I have noted upon many a public building the proud device that the armies of the Republic carried through Europe Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Very well: all that there is of worth in that device, we possess to-day in Canada. We have liberty absolute, complete, liberty for our religion, our language, for all the institutions which our ancestors brought from France and which we regard as a sacred heritage.... If, on becoming subjects of the British Crown, we have been able to keep our ancient rights and even acquire new ones, upon the other hand we have undertaken obligations which, descended as we are from a chivalrous race, we recognize in full and hold ourselves in honour bound to proclaim. May I be permitted to make a personal reference? I am told that here in France there are people surprised at the attachment that I feel for the Crown of England and which I do not conceal. Here that is called loyalisme. (For my part, may I say in passing, I do not like that newly coined expression, loyalisme: I much prefer to keep to the good old French word loyauté.) And certainly, if there is one thing that the story of France has taught me to regard as an attribute of the French race, it is loyalty, it is the heart’s memory. I recall, gentlemen, those fine lines which Victor Hugo applied to himself, as explaining the inspiration of his life:

Fidèle au double sang qu’ont verse dans ma veine,
Mon pere vieux soldat, ma mere vendéenne.

That double fidelity to ideas and aspirations, quite distinct, is our glory in Canada. We are faithful to the great nation which gave us life, and we are faithful to the great nation which has given us liberty!’

A little later to a brilliant gathering he uttered a prophetic wish: ’It may be that here in France the memories of the ancient struggles between France and England have lost nothing of their bitterness, but as for us, Canadians of whatever origin, the days we hold glorious are the days when the colours of France and of England, the tricolor and the cross of St George, waved together in triumph on the banks of Alma, on the heights of Inkerman, on the ramparts of Sebastopol. Times change; other alliances are made, but may it be permitted to a son of France who is at the same time a British subject, to salute those glorious days with a regret which will perhaps find an echo in every generous mind on either side the Channel.’ Long cheering followed these words. Echo, indeed, they have found in these later days of new battlefields, of a nobler cause and of bravery no less than of old.

At last this close-pressed summer was over, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier returned to a country that for a brief time knew no party. Every Canadian felt that his country stood higher than before in the world’s regard, and the welcome given to the prime minister on his return fittingly marked that nation-wide feeling. Canada’s hour at last was come.

In 1899 the outbreak of the war with the Boer republics gave occasion for a new step in Canada’s national and imperial development. By instituting the British preference Canada had made a distinct advance towards closer union along the line of trade. Now, by sharing for the first time in an imperial war overseas, the Dominion made an equally momentous advance along the line of closer union for defence.

The conflict in South Africa had been brewing for years. Over and above the racial antagonism between Boer and Briton there was the strife unavoidable between a primitive, pastoral people and a cosmopolitan, gold-seeking host. The Transvaal burgher feared that, if the newcomers were admitted freely to the franchise, he and all things that he cherished would be swamped. The Outlander was equally determined to have the dominant voice in the country in which he was rapidly gaining the majority. And what with corruption rife in the little oligarchy that surrounded Paul Kruger at Pretoria; what with the Anglo-German-Jewish mining magnates of Johannesburg in control of a subsidized press; what with Rhodes and Jameson dreaming of a solid British South Africa and fanatical Doppers dreaming of the day when the last rooinek would be shipped from Table Bay, and with the Kaiser in a telegraphing mood there was no lack of tinder for a conflagration. Even so, the war might have been averted, for there were signs of growth among the Boers of a more reasonable party under Joubert and Botha. But, whatever might have been, Paul Kruger’s obstinacy and Joseph Chamberlain’s firmness collided; and when, on October 9, 1899, Kruger issued his ultimatum, demanding that Great Britain should withdraw her troops from the Transvaal frontier and submit the dispute to arbitration, the die was cast.

What of Canada? She had never before taken part in war beyond the American continent. Yet no sooner was the ultimatum launched than offers of service from individuals and military units began to pour into Ottawa, and press and public to demand that a Canadian contingent should be sent. It was a startling change from the day when Sir John Macdonald had declined to take any step towards equipping a Canadian contingent for the Soudan. It was not because Canada was deeply convinced that in the Boer War Britain’s cause was more just than in the Egyptian War. The vast majority, indeed, believed that the cause was just, that Britain was fighting to free a population suffering under intolerable tyranny. When neutral opinion the world over condemned Britain’s policy, Mr Balfour urged in its defence that the colonies believed in its justice. True; not because, in Canada, at least, there was at the outset any real knowledge of the tangled issue, but simply because of the reputation which British statesmen had acquired in the past for probity and fairness. Nor was it that Canada believed the Empire’s existence to be at stake. Many a time leaders of both parties had spoken fervently of coming to Britain’s aid if ever she should be in serious straits. But few, if any, in Canada believed this to be such an occasion. In the phrase of a fervent Canadian imperialist, it seemed as if a hundred-ton hammer was being used to crush a hazel-nut. Faith in the greatness of Britain’s naval and military might was strong, and, even more than in Britain, public opinion in Canada anticipated a ‘promenade to Pretoria,’ and was only afraid that the fighting would be all over before our men arrived. It was just another of Britain’s ‘little wars.’

The real source of the demand that Canada should now take a part lay in the new-born imperial and national consciousness. The crisis served to precipitate the emotions and opinions which had been vaguely floating in the Canadian mind. The Jubilee festivities and the British preference had increased imperial sentiment; and, with returning prosperity and rapid growth, national pride was getting the better of colonial dependence. A curious element in this pride was the sense of rivalry with the United States, which had just won more or less glory in a little war with Spain. All these sentiments, fanned by vigorous newspaper appeal, led to the wish to do something tangible to show that the day of passive loyalty was over and the day of responsible partnership had begun.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was faced with a difficult problem. He had not expected war. ‘I had hoped to the last,’ he said later, ’that there would be no war ... that the Uitlanders would get their rights from Mr Kruger’s Government, not by the use of force but simply by the means of reason applied to the case.’ Now he was suddenly called upon to decide one of the most momentous issues that had ever confronted the Canadian people. He had to decide it in the midst of a rising tide of popular enthusiasm in the English-speaking provinces. Equally he had to take into account the lukewarmness or hostility of Quebec. The majority of French Canadians stood where their English-speaking fellow-citizens had stood ten or twenty years before. They were passively loyal, content to be a protected colony. The instinctive sympathies of many would be for the Boer minority rather than for the English Outlanders in the Transvaal. We may read the prime minister’s thoughts on this aspect of the problem from his own words, addressed to an audience in Toronto:

Blood is thicker than water, and the issue may not appeal to my fellow-countrymen of French origin as it appealed to you.... Still we are British subjects, and claim the rights of British subjects, and we assume all the responsibilities this entails. There are men foolish enough, there are men unpatriotic enough, to blame us and to say that I should have rushed on and taken no precautions to guide public opinion in my own province. That is not my way of governing the country. I told you a moment ago that I would not swim with the current, that I would endeavour to guide the current, and on this occasion I tried to do so.

Moreover, parliament was not in session, and British precedent required the consent of parliament for waging war.

In an interview given on the 3rd of October, a week before the war broke out, Sir Wilfrid denied a report that the Government had already decided to send a contingent, and stated that it could not do so without parliament’s consent. On the same day a dispatch was received from Mr Chamberlain expressing thanks for individual offers of service, and stating that four units of one hundred and twenty-five men each would gladly be accepted, to be equipped and sent to Africa at their own or Canada’s cost, and thereafter to be maintained by the Imperial Government. Ten days later, three days after the declaration of war, the Government at Ottawa issued an order-in-council providing for a contingent of one thousand men.

The decision once made, the Government lost no time in equipping and dispatching the contingent. On the 30th of October the troops sailed from Quebec. A week later the Government offered a second contingent. Already it was becoming clear that there would be no ’Christmas dinner in Pretoria.’ Mafeking, Kimberley, and Ladysmith were besieged, and the British were retiring in Natal. Six weeks passed before the British Government accepted. This time the Canadian authorities decided to send a regiment of Mounted Rifles and three batteries of artillery. Later a battalion of infantry was raised to garrison Halifax and thus release the Leinster regiment for the front, while Lord Strathcona provided the funds to send the Strathcona Horse. In the last year of the war five regiments of Mounted Rifles and a Constabulary Force, which saw active service, were recruited. All told, over seven thousand Canadians went to South Africa.

The course of the war was followed with intense interest in Canada. Alike in the anxious days of December, the black week of Stormberg, Magersfontein, and Tugela, and in the joyful reaction of the relief of Kimberley and Ladysmith and Mafeking and the victory of Paardeberg, Canadians felt themselves a part of the moving scene. Perhaps the part taken by their own small force was seen out of perspective; but with all due discount for the patriotic exaggeration of Canadian newspaper correspondents and for the generosity of Lord Roberts’s high-flown praise, the people of Canada believed that they had good reason to feel more than proud of their representatives on the veldts of Africa. After Zand River and Doornkop, Paardeberg and Mafeking, it was plain that the Canadian soldier could hold his own on the field of battle. In the words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, replying to an attack made by Mr Bourassa:

When we heard that our volunteers had justified fully the confidence placed in them, that they had charged like veterans, that their conduct was heroic and had won for them the encomiums of the Commander-in-Chief and the unstinted admiration of their comrades, who had faced death upon a hundred battlefields in all parts of the world, is there a man whose bosom did not swell with pride, the noblest of all pride, that pride of pure patriotism, the pride of the consciousness of our rising strength, the pride of the consciousness that on that day it had been revealed to the world that a new power had arisen in the west? Nor is that all. The work of union and harmony between the chief races of this country is not yet complete.... But there is no bond of union so strong as the bond created by common dangers faced in common. To-day there are men in South Africa representing the two branches of the Canadian family, fighting side by side for the honour of Canada. Already some of them have fallen, giving to the country the last full measure of devotion. Their remains have been laid in the same grave, there to lie to the end of time in that last fraternal embrace. Can we not hope, I ask my honourable friend himself [Mr Bourassa], that in that grave shall be buried the last vestiges of our former antagonism? If such shall be the result, if we can indulge that hope, if we can believe that in that grave shall be buried our contentions, the sending of the contingent will be the greatest service ever rendered Canada since Confederation.

Meanwhile another war, much less honourable than that on the plains of Africa, was being waged against the Government on the hustings of Canada. The general elections of 1900 gave countless opportunities for the unscrupulous and reckless appeals to racial prejudice and for the charges of disloyalty which have unfortunately marked so many Canadian political contests. Sir Wilfrid Laurier had to face the attacks of extremists in both Quebec and Ontario. In Ontario he was denounced for hesitating to send the first contingent, and particularly for retaining in his Cabinet Mr Tarte, who was reported to have made anti-imperial speeches in Paris. Blissfully unaware that before the next general election they would be lauding the same Tarte to the skies, the chiefs of the Opposition made their war-cry for Ontario, ‘Shall Tarte rule?’ Concurrently in Quebec the prime minister was denounced for sending the contingent at all, both by Conservatives and by one of the ablest of his former followers, Henri Bourassa, who had broken with his leader on this issue and on other more personal grounds. Even the veteran leader of the Opposition, Sir Charles Tupper, played a double rôle. ’Sir Wilfrid Laurier is too English for me,’ he declared in Quebec, and inveighed against the prime minister, whom he characterized as an advocate of imperialism. But at Toronto, some time later, he strove to explain away these words and to convince his hearers that Sir Wilfrid was ‘not half British enough.’

Nevertheless, when polling day came in November, the Government was sustained by an enlarged majority. In Ontario it lost fourteen seats, but it gained in the maritime provinces, while Quebec still further increased its overwhelming contingent of Liberals in the House of Commons. The country as a whole evidently approved the Government’s policy in the war, and was not unmindful of the long-sought prosperity which was coming under a vigorous administration at Ottawa.

Sir Charles Tupper, now over eighty, but still aggressive and full of enthusiasm, decided to give up the leadership of the Conservative party. He was succeeded by a fellow Nova Scotian, Mr Robert Laird Borden of Halifax. The new leader had been only four years in parliament, but his ability and straightforwardness had won instant recognition. Few changes had occurred in the ranks of the ’Ministry of all the Talents’ of 1896. Sir Oliver Mowat and Sir Henri Joly de Lotbiniere had retired to lieutenant-governorships, and their places had been taken respectively by Mr David Mills and Mr M. E. Bernier. The permanence of this Ministry was in strong contrast to the incessant changes which had marked the last Liberal Cabinet, that of 1873-78.

The questions of imperial relationship raised by the Boer War lent especial interest to the Colonial Conference of 1902. Again the formal occasion for inviting the representatives of the Dominions to Great Britain was a royal ceremony. Good Queen Victoria had died in 1901, and the coronation of Edward the Seventh was to take place in June. The sudden illness of the king postponed the festivities, but the meetings of the Conference went on as arranged.

The United Kingdom was represented by Mr Chamberlain, Lord Selborne, and Mr Brodrick. Sir Edmund Barton and Sir John Forrest represented Australia, now a single Commonwealth. To speak for the smaller colonies appeared their respective prime ministers Mr Richard Seddon for New Zealand, Sir Gordon Sprigg for Cape Colony, Sir Albert Hime for Natal, and Sir Robert Bond for Newfoundland. Sir Wilfrid Laurier represented Canada. He was accompanied by Mr Fielding, Sir Frederick Borden, Sir William Mulock, and Mr Paterson. The sessions were more formal than on previous occasions. Only the prime ministers of the Dominions spoke, except when questions arose affecting the special department of one of the other ministers. The earlier conferences had been in a sense preparatory, and the issues raised had not been pressed. Now the dramatic pressure of events and the masterful eagerness of Mr Chamberlain alike gave to the meetings a much more serious aspect.

English imperialists were intensely interested and intensely hopeful. ‘I cannot conceal from myself,’ declared Mr Chamberlain in his opening address, ’that very great anticipations have been formed as to the results which may accrue from our meeting.’ The enthusiasm of Canadian and Australian and New Zealander for the cause of the mother country in the war had led many to believe that the time was ripe for a great stride toward the centralization of the Empire. The policy of autonomy as the basis of union was attacked as obsolete. According to the new imperialism, the control of the Empire should be centralized, should be vested in the British Government, or in an Imperial Council or parliament sitting at London, in which numbers and the overwhelming force of environment and social pressure would give Great Britain unquestioned dominance. Mr Chamberlain himself shared these hopes and these limitations. He was, indeed, more popular in the colonies than any other British statesman, because he had recognized more fully than any other their strength and the value of their support. Yet he, too, laboured under the delusion that Australia and Canada were simply England beyond the seas. He not only looked at imperial questions from the point of view of one who was an Englishman first and last, but expected to find Australians and Canadians doing the same.

These expectations were destined to be rudely shattered. The new imperialism did not give scope for the aspirations of the Dominions. Its apostles had failed to recognize that if the war had stimulated imperial sentiment in the Dominions it had also stimulated national consciousness. The spectacular entry upon the world’s stage involved in sending troops half-way across the globe, the bravery and the steadfastness the troops had displayed, had sent a thrill of pride through every Dominion. The achievement of federation in Australia and the new-found prosperity of Canada gave added impetus to the national feeling. And, as a cross-current, opposed alike to the rising nationalism and to any kind of imperialism, there was still the old colonialism, the survival of ways of thought bred of the days when Englishmen regarded the colonies as ‘our possessions’ and colonials acquiesced. These three currents, colonialism, nationalism, and imperialism, ran strong in Australian and Canadian life, and none of them could be disregarded. A free imperialism, consonant with and allied to national ambitions, the Dominions would have, had indeed already, but the idea of Mr Chamberlain and his followers, which contravened both the new nationalism and the old colonialism, could not prevail.

As before, the chief subjects dealt with by the Conference fell into three fields political relations, commercial relations, and defence.

In opening the Conference Mr Chamberlain declared that the problem of future political relations had been simplified by the federation of the Australian colonies and the coming closer union of South Africa. The next step would be the federation of the Empire, which he believed was within the limits of possibility. This might come by sending colonial representatives to the existing House of Commons at Westminster, but perhaps a more practical proposal would be the creation of a real Council of the Empire, which in the first instance might be merely advisory but in time would have executive and perhaps legislative powers. Elsewhere Mr Chamberlain had made more clear the extent of the power which he hoped this central council would in time acquire: he had defined it as ’a new government with large powers of taxation and legislation over countries separated by thousands of miles.’

The appeal met with little response. The prime ministers seemed in no haste to abandon the policy by which they had already acquired powers so many and so wide. No resolution was moved in the direction Mr Chamberlain urged. Instead, a step was taken towards making the Conference itself a more organic body by providing that it should meet at intervals not exceeding four years. The vital difference between the Conference and the Imperial Council which Mr Chamberlain desired, was that the Council when full-fledged should be an independent government exercising direct control over all parts of the Empire, and with a dominating representation from the United Kingdom; whereas the Conference was simply a meeting of governments in which all the countries met on an equal footing, with no power to bind any Dominion or to influence its action otherwise than by interchange of information and opinion.

As to defence, a determined attempt was made to induce the colonies to contribute to the support of the British army and navy. Mr Chamberlain submitted a memorandum showing that the United Kingdom spent annually for military and naval purposes 29s 3d per head while Canada spent 2s, New Zealand 3s 4d, and Australia 4s and urged that it was inconsistent with the dignity of nationhood that the Dominions should thus leave the mother country to bear the whole or almost the whole cost of defence. He trusted that no demands would be made which would appear excessive, and that something would be done to recognize effectually the obligation of all to contribute to the common weal. Lord Selborne for the Admiralty followed by urging contributions of money as well as of men to the navy. And Mr Brodrick for the War Office proposed that one-fourth of the existing colonial militias should be specially trained and earmarked for service overseas in case of war.

These suggestions met with a limited measure of success. Cape Colony agreed to grant L50,000 a year and Natal L35,000 to the maintenance of the navy, while Australia and New Zealand increased their grants for the maintenance of the Australasian squadron respectively to L200,000 and L60,000 a year. Canada declined to make any grant or promise of the kind desired. Her representatives stated that their objections arose, not so much from the expense involved, as from a belief that acceptance of the proposals would entail an important departure from the principles of colonial self-government, which had proved so great a factor in the promotion of imperial unity. They recognized, however, the need of making provision for defence in proportion to the increasing wealth and population of the country. They were prepared, in the development of their own militia system, to take upon Canada the services formerly borne by the Imperial Government, and would consider the possibility of organizing a naval reserve on the coasts.

Mr Brodrick’s proposal to have a special body of troops earmarked for imperial service was endorsed by the small states, New Zealand, the Cape, and Natal, but strongly rejected by the nation-states, Australia and Canada. The latter countries were of the opinion ’that the best course to pursue was to endeavour to raise the standard of training for the general body of their forces, leaving it to the colony, when the need arose, to determine how and to what extent it should render assistance.... To establish a special force, set apart for general imperial service, and practically under the absolute control of the Imperial Government, was objectionable in principle, as derogating from the powers of self-government enjoyed by them, and would be calculated to impede the general improvement in training and organization of their defence forces.’

Thus, so far as the Dominions had awakened to the need of greater outlay for defence, they desired to make that outlay as they made all other expenditure, under the direction and control of their own Governments. It may be asked, Why then did not Canada, in the succeeding decade, make better progress along this line? The reasons were many. One was the engrossment in the tremendous task of opening up and subduing vast continental wildernesses, a task more costly than outside opinion often realized, a task which rose to such proportions that the per capita burden of taxation on the Canadian became decidedly greater than that borne by the Englishman for navy, army, social reform, and all other expenditure. Then, too, there was the old colonialism, the habits of thought acquired under different conditions, which, by force of momentum, persisted after these conditions had passed away. Though Canada had ceased to be a ‘possession’ and was emerging into nationhood, she awoke but slowly to the idea of taking up her own burden of defence. There was the lack of any pressing danger. The British navy was still unchallenged in its supremacy. Canada had only one near neighbour; and with that neighbour war was fast becoming unthinkable. In fact, the United States was regarded by some as being as much a protection in case of German or Japanese attack as a menace in itself, though doubtless most Canadians, if put to the test, would have refused to accept such patronizing protection as that afforded by the Monroe Doctrine; the day had not yet come, however, when the similar refusal of the South American states to be taken under any eagle’s wing, however benevolent, was to lead to the transformation of that relationship into a self-respecting quasi-alliance of pan-American republics. There was the view strongly advanced by Sir Charles Tupper and others, that if Canada were independent the United Kingdom would require not a ship the less to protect its world-wide trade. True; and few Canadians saw the equal truth that in such a case Canada would require many a ship the more. And if it seemed probable, or even as certain as reasoning from the experience of others could make it, that an independent Canada would have been involved in wars of her own, it was also certain, as an actual fact, that through her connection with Britain she had been involved in wars that were not her own. All such ideas and forces not only ran counter to Mr Chamberlain’s new imperialism, but set a stumbling-block in the path of any rapid progress in defence upon national lines. The unwillingness of the British authorities to sanction Dominion fleets equally blocked progress along the most promising path.

As to commercial relations, Mr Chamberlain stated that his ideal was ‘free trade within the Empire,’ presumably with a common customs tariff against all foreign countries. This proposal met with no support. None of the colonies was prepared to open its markets to the manufacturers of the United Kingdom. For the present, protection was their universal policy. It was recommended, however, that those colonies which had not done so should follow Canada’s example in giving a preference to British goods, and that the United Kingdom should in turn grant a preference to the colonies by exemption from or reduction of duties then or thereafter imposed. Mr Chamberlain belittled the value of the preference already given by Canada. The Canadian ministers had no difficulty in showing the unfairness of his conclusion. The preference, which had been increased to thirty-three and a third per cent, and made to apply specifically to Great Britain and to such other parts of the Empire as would reciprocate, had not only arrested the previous steady decline in imports from Great Britain, but had led to a substantial growth in these imports. Canada would agree, however, to go further, and grant some increased preference if Britain would reciprocate. These proposals for reciprocal preference turned upon the fact that, as a war revenue measure, the British Government had recently imposed a duty of a shilling a quarter upon wheat. A few months later the tax was abolished, and reciprocal preference again became merely an academic topic.

Canada, still leading the way in the matter of commercial relations, secured the passing of a resolution favouring cheap postage rates on newspapers and periodicals between different parts of the Empire. Already in 1898, Canada had lowered the rates on letters to any part of the Empire from five to two cents per half-ounce, and her example had been widely followed.

For the much cry there was little wool. Neither in trade nor in political relations had Mr Chamberlain’s proposals received any encouragement, and in defence matters only small and precarious advance had been made towards centralization. Mr Chamberlain did not conceal his disappointment. In Sir Wilfrid Laurier he had met a man of equally strong purposes and beliefs, equally adroit in argument, and much better informed than himself in the lessons of the Empire’s past and in the public opinion overseas on questions of the day. He was plainly inclined to attribute the policy of the Canadian prime minister to his French descent. Divining this, Sir Wilfrid suggested that he should invite the other Canadian ministers to a private conference. Mr Chamberlain accepted the suggestion with alacrity; a dinner was arranged; and hours of discussion followed. To his surprise Mr Chamberlain soon found that the four responsible Canadian ministers of the Crown, all of British stock, two of Nova Scotia and two of Ontario, took precisely the same stand that their French-Canadian leader had maintained. They were as loyal to the king as any son of England, and were all determined to retain Canada’s connection with the Empire. But, as Canadians first, they believed, as did Mr Chamberlain himself, that the Empire, like charity, began at home. The outcome was that the colonial secretary perceived the hopelessness of endeavour along the lines of political or military centralization, and henceforth concentrated upon commerce. The Chamberlain policy of imperial preferential trade, which eventually took shape as a campaign for protection, was a direct result of the Conference of 1902.

It is not without interest to note that the policy of the Canadian prime minister as to political and defence relations was not once called in question by the leader of the Opposition when parliament next met. Sir Wilfrid Laurier had faithfully voiced the prevailing will of the people of Canada, whether they willed aright or erringly.

We must now turn to see what relations existed during these years between Canada and the neighbouring land which Canadians knew so well. In 1896, when the Liberal Government took office, there still remained the disputes which had long made difficult friendly intercourse with this neighbour; and as yet there seemed few grounds for hope that they could be discussed in an amicable temper. In the same year the Republicans came again to power, and presently their new tariff out-M’Kinleyed the M’Kinley Act of 1890, raising the duties, which the Democrats had lowered, to a higher level than formerly. Little had yet occurred to change the provincial bumptiousness of the American attitude towards other nations though there had been a reaction in the country from President Cleveland’s fulminations of 1895 on the Venezuelan question or to arouse towards Great Britain or Canada the deeper feelings of friendship which common tongue and common blood should have inspired. Moreover, the special difficulty that faces all negotiations with the United States, the division of power between President and Congress, remained in full intensity, for President M’Kinley made the scrupulous observance of the constitutional limits of his authority the first article in his political creed. In Canada a still rankling antagonism bred of the Venezuelan episode made the situation all the worse. Yet the many issues outstanding between the two countries made negotiation imperative.

A Joint High Commission was appointed, which opened its sessions at Quebec in August 1898. Lord Herschell, representing the United Kingdom, acted as chairman. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Richard Cartwright, Sir Louis Davies, and John Charlton represented Canada. Sir James Winter sat for Newfoundland and Senator Fairbanks, Senator Gray, Congressman Dingley, General Foster, Mr Kasson, and Mr Coolidge for the United States. The Commission sat at Quebec until October and adjourned to meet at Washington in November. There it continued its sessions and approached a solution of most of the difficulties. It seemed possible to give permanence to the existing unstable arrangements for shipping goods through in bond, to abolish the unneighbourly alien labour laws, to provide that Canadian sealers should give up their rights in Bering Sea for a money payment, and to arrange for a measure of reciprocity in natural products and in a limited list of manufactures. But the question of the Alaskan boundary proved insoluble, and the Commission broke up in February 1899.

Step by step the long and often uncertain border between Canada and the United States proper had been defined and accepted. Only the boundary between Canada and Alaska remained in dispute. There was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of certain words in the treaty of 1825 which defined, or purported to define, the boundary between British and Russian America on the Pacific. That treaty gave Russia a panhandle strip of coast half-way down what is now British Columbia; and, when the United States bought Alaska in 1867, the purchase of course included this strip of coast. As British Columbia grew, the disadvantage of this barrier became seriously felt, and repeated attempts were made to have the boundary defined and, if possible, a port awarded to Canada. The discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1896 made this all the more urgent. The treaty of 1825 provided that north of Portland Channel the boundary should follow the summit of the mountains parallel to the coast, and where these mountains proved to be more than ten marine leagues from the coast, the line was to be drawn parallel to the windings of the coast at ten leagues’ distance. Canada contended for an interpretation of this wording which would give her a harbour at the head of one of the fiords which ran far inland, while the United States, following the usual international doctrine that a disadvantage to your neighbour must be an advantage to yourself, insisted that its spite fence should be as high and as gateless as possible.

The main point of difference between the two countries was as to the way of settling the dispute. The United States proposed a commission of three representatives from each side. Given a desire for fair dealing, such a commission is perhaps most satisfactory, at least for a permanent body, as the experience of the Waterways Commission has since shown. But for a temporary purpose, and in the spirit which then existed, the Canadian negotiators knew too well that such a board could reach a decision only by the weakening of one of the British members. They urged, therefore, that a board of three arbitrators should be appointed, one of them an international jurist of repute who should act as umpire. This was the course which the United States had insisted upon in the case of Venezuela, but what was sauce for the Venezuelan goose was not sauce for the Alaskan gander. The United States asserted that the Canadian case had been trumped up in view of the Klondike discoveries, and would not accept any medium of settlement which did not make it certain beforehand that, right or wrong, the claim of Canada would be rejected.

The deadlock in this issue proved hopeless, and the Commission’s labours ended without definite result upon any point for the time. Yet the months of conference had done good in giving the statesmen of each country a better idea of the views and problems of the other, and had contributed not a little to the final solution or the final forgetting that the problems existed. Later, during Mr, now Lord, Bryce’s term of office as ambassador at Washington, most of the provisional arrangements agreed upon were taken up and embodied in separate agreements, accepted by both countries. When the new era of neighbourliness dawned, a few years later, some of the difficulties which had long loomed large and boding ceased to have any more importance than the yard or two of land once in dispute between farmers who have since realized the folly of line-fence lawsuits.

After the adjournment of the Joint High Commission in 1899 the two countries agreed upon a temporary Alaskan boundary-line for purposes of administration, and it was not until early in 1903 that a treaty for the settlement of the dispute was arranged between Great Britain and the United States and accepted by Canada.

By this treaty the American proposal of a commission of three members from each side was adopted. The Canadian Government agreed to this plan with the greatest reluctance, urging to the last that arbitration with an outside umpire was preferable. Seemingly, however, fairness was secured by a clause in the treaty which provided that the members should be ’impartial jurists of repute, who shall consider judicially the questions submitted to them, and each of whom shall first subscribe an oath that he will impartially consider the arguments and evidence submitted to the tribunal and will decide thereupon according to his true judgment.’ Further, the United States now agreed to abandon its former position, that in any case territory then settled by Americans should not be given up. That the United States risked nothing by withdrawing this safeguard became clear when the American commissioners were named Elihu Root, a member of President Roosevelt’s Cabinet, which had declined to make any concession, Senator Lodge, who had only a few months before declared the Canadian contention a manufactured and baseless claim, and Senator Turner from Washington, the state which was eager to retain a monopoly of the Klondike trade. Undoubtedly these were able men, but not impartial jurists. In the words of an American newspaper, ’the chances of convincing them of the rightfulness of Canada’s claim are about the same as the prospect of a thaw in Hades.’

The Dominion Government at once protested against these appointments. The British Government expressed surprise, but held that it would be useless to protest, and suggested that it was best to follow this example and appoint British representatives of a similar type. Canada, however, declined the suggestion, and carried out her part honourably by nominating as arbitrators, to sit with the lord chief justice of England, Lord Alverstone, Mr Justice Armour of the Canadian Supreme Court, and Sir Louis Jette, formerly a judge of the Superior Court of Quebec. Later, on the death of Mr Justice Armour, Mr (now Sir Allen) Aylesworth, K.C., was appointed in his place.

The case was admirably presented by both sides, and all the evidence clearly marshalled. Late in October the decision of the tribunal was announced. A majority, consisting of Lord Alverstone and the three American members, had decided substantially in favour of the United States. Sir Louis Jette and Mr Aylesworth declined to sign the award, and declared it in part a ‘grotesque travesty of justice.’

In Canada the decision met with a storm of disapproval which was much misunderstood abroad, in Great Britain and still more in the United States. It was not the petulant outburst of a disappointed litigant. Canada would have acquiesced without murmur if satisfied that her claims had been disproved on judicial grounds. But of this essential point she was not satisfied, and the feeling ran that once more Canadian interests had been sacrificed on the altar of American friendship. The deep underlying anti-American prejudice now ran counter to pro-British sentiment, rather than, as usual, in the same direction. Had Mr Aylesworth, on his return, given a lead, a formidable movement for separation from Great Britain would undoubtedly have resulted. But while repeating strongly, in a speech before the Toronto Canadian Club, his criticism of the award, and making it clear that the trouble lay in Lord Alverstone’s idea that somehow he was intended to act as umpire between Canada and the United States, Mr Aylesworth concluded by urging the value to Canada of British connection; and the sober second thought of the country echoed his eloquent exhortation. While Canada had shown unmistakably at the Colonial Conference that the Chamberlain imperialists would have to reckon with the strong and rising tide of national feeling, she showed now that, strong as was this tide, it was destined to find scope and outlet within the bounds of the Empire. Now imperial sentiment, now national aspirations, might be uppermost, but consciously or unconsciously the great mass of Canadians held to an idea that embraced and reconciled both, the conception of the Empire as a free but indissoluble league of equal nation-states.

When the terms of the treaty were first announced Mr Borden declared that it should have been made subject to ratification by the Canadian parliament. After the award Sir Wilfrid Laurier went further, contending that the lesson was that Canada should have independent treaty-making power. ‘It is important,’ he said, ’that we should ask the British parliament for more extensive powers, so that if ever we have to deal with matters of a similar nature again, we shall deal with them in our own way, in our own fashion, according to the best light we have.’ The demand was not pressed. The change desired, at least in respect to the United States, did come in fact a few years later, though, as usual in British countries, much of the old forms remained.