The Institute: The Canadian Element in the Future of America

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The Institute: The Canadian Element in the Future of America
Rev. G. W. Hodgson
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THE INSTITUTE: THE CANADIAN ELEMENT IN THE FUTURE OF AMERICA. Lecture by Rev. G. W. Hodgson. Last evening the Mechanics’ Institute was crowded at twenty minutes before the opening hour. It was the occasion of the opening lecture of the season to be delivered the Rev. G. W. Hodgson, of Charlottetown, P. E. I., subject the Canadian Element in the future of America. Several of the directors and Gen. Warner, U. S. Consul, occupied seats on the platform. Mr. Hodgson was introduced by Mr. I. Allen Jack, President of the Institute, who prefaced his introduction with a few interesting remarks. On being introduced, the lecturer said he found his subject was more pretentious than his audience had expected, for its title was rather heavier than his theme. Entering directly on his subject, he gave an idea of what constitutes a nation. It is not merely buying and selling, eating and drinking, for man lives not on or even for bread alone. High intellectual training should be the object of the people of a nation. There are problems to solve and the question arises how do we share in solving the political and social problems that are of such deep concern to America, who have a free, broad field to work in, and such as the old country does not afford. We have work to do if we expect to attain position, and to gain this, thought must be enlisted. To see the course pointed out for us we must look at the past history of the country. What is the difference between our past history and our future prospects? This is to be determined by history. China had done wonders but in a very slow way, and the nation that stands still is like the nation that breaks in its own past. This France had done by its great Revolution. Coming to the critical periods in American history, he pointed out the difference between the opposing and contending parties. One opposing party succeeds with the down fall of the other, while one contending party may succeed contemporaneously with the other. Each may represent a principle which will not interfere with the other. He then glanced at the history of Canada from the time of its first settlement by the French. The French Government had transplanted with the emigrants they sent over the centralized system of their Government. They were a thrifty and chivalrous people, but their government was more than paternal; it was of the grandmotherly type. They left home fully equipped with everything they needed, and were well provided with food, clothing, etc. They were told how and where to settle and were ever looking back to the mother country for assistance. They were not left to themselves; they were watched; the seed for their ground was given them; they were told with whom they might or might not trade; where and to whom to sell, and were placed under many other restrictions. The French had trouble about their liquor laws, as we have now. Liquor was forbidden to the Indian and the sale of it to him was punishable by death. This law was broken by the refusal of the subordinate officials to carry out sentence upon a woman who was convicted of the offence. The settlers could not arrange difficulties between themselves; they were compelled to refer to the home Government. Emigrants, however, poured into the country, and honors were conferred upon the men who raised the largest families. Soon it came to the point whether French ideas or English principles and traditions were to predominate in Canada. One colony was growing and advancing on the Atlantic and another on the St. Lawrence. Each was contending for supremacy. They soon met as contending forces. Then followed the battle on the Heights of Abraham, which was to decide whether this country would be an English or a French colony. The English came out victorious. The United Empire Loyalists who settled in Canada were not fanatics, but men of sound sense, of large, broad minds, and saw many sides to a question. They had a strong and loving faith in hope and would not sell everything for one principle. It is said that they were official hangers-on, but those who would make such a remark only discovered their ignorance. Look at what they sacrificed. They left home, wealth, friends, and property and took their lives in their own hands, suffered winter’s frosts and cold and pushed out into an unknown, desolate land for the purpose of retaining their loyalty to their mother country. Could they be called mere office seekers? No, office seekers are not made of that kind of stuff. They were strong, brave, and as true men as those they left behind them. They saw that England was going to be a great Empire and growing everywhere. Australia was then hardly thought of and the Indian Empire was but in its infancy, and when England lost the United States, she was only beginning to expand. So the United Empire Loyalists saw that the old country seemed rather hard, harsh and even unjust toward the colonies, but the Loyalists felt that she would soon return to herself, and now they or their descendants trust her as much as did their ancestors. Had they not made great progress? Let us look at this country 20 or 30 years ago. Can we compare in progress with our neighbours pro rata to our respective populations? We certainly can. It is not long ago since it was a week’s journey from P. E. Island to Nova Scotia, and if we can keep abreast with our neighbors, what will be our future? He then went on to consider what the relations between the two countries are now in comparison to what they were before Confederation. Before the union of the Provinces every store in Canada had American labels on its flour, stone, or farmers’ implements. Now it was only close by in Pictou, N. S, the other day, he saw bales and boxes with the imprint of the St. John manufacturer upon them. These are little matters but they speak loudly. The Dominion is only 13 or 14 years old, and yet burning difficulties, the Nova Scotia and North-West questions and New Brunswick Educational questions had been settled within itself. This showed that the political machinery is good and strong. What is there worth having without encountering some difficulties to obtain it? The measure of difficulty overcome is the measure of the individual’s worth. The lecturer then went on to consider the political and social differences between Canada and the United States. Canadians’ first thought is to maintain the hereditary principle of government, which gives the highest and noblest feeling to a nation. He preferred the ruler of the country to depend upon mere accident of birth than upon the thousand accidents of the ballot box. This is a difference that he hoped Canadians would never lose sight of. In the last 40 years the United States have had one change of party – from Democratic to Republican, and a rebellion followed the change, and when later Tilden was defeated a like revolt almost occurred. A non-elective judiciary is another difference, though in some States of the Union Judges are not elected. Then the painful subject of divorce comes to notice, which was quite too prevalent in the United States and much less so in Canada. The speaker would not advocate everything English; he would pattern after our neighbours in everything that is good. But we were a different people socially and politically. In closing, he referred to the danger of provincialism. In the United States there is an intense national feeling, yet in many parts the people have their peculiar distinctions. We are told that Quebec is absolutely out of the question of union because the language of its people differ from Canadians in general. Look at Wales and the absurdity of the idea is at once apparent. We need have no fear in cultivating a true local provincialism if we live for a higher union. The habitant of Quebec will never forget, nor should he the history of his birth and the chivalry of the past. The Nova Scotians must always be considered the aristocratic part of the Dominion, New Brunswick is considered the Yankee portion. In the course of his remarks, he paid a warm tribute to Judge Wilmot, and the late Judge, which was loudly cheered. Humble P. E. Island is not without its attractions and individuality. All should go on hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder and in one voice, for on the Plains of Abraham was this country purchased with the blood of noble and courageous men. Their voices come to us and tell us that we have yet much to do and bid us press on in faith and trust and righteousness. The lecturer wound up his discourse in a burst of eloquence, urging his hearers to listen to those voices of the past and to make Canada a country that they may not be ashamed of, sitting down amid loud applause.