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Oct-07-2012 23:00printcomments

A Bi-polar History of Canada The 18th Century: The Age of Reason (at least in Europe)

Canada has no colonial history -Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Early  Colonial history of Canada
Courtesy: Library Archives Canada

(DAYTONA BEACH, FL) -         The 18th Century history of Canada is divided into three brief periods of peace, following three treaties – the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 and the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Except for the Treaties, it was pretty well a continuous war, whenever the English and French weren't resting or doing wars in Europe. There were also treaties with the Indians, but nobody but the Indians took them seriously. With one exception, which we'll get to later, just to keep you reading. (Yes, the Indians actually won one.)


        Historians have noted that most Canadian treaties have funny names, but not nearly as weird as the names of some of the wars: “The War of the Spanish Succession,” “The War of the Austrian Succession,” and even “Father Le Loutre's War.” I mean, c'mon. Why not a little Canadian content, such as “The War of Green Gables,” or perhaps “The War of Downtown Sudbury?”

        It is true, though, that the Treaties were Good Things. The Treaty of Utrecht, while not benefiting Utrecht, gave all of the Maritimes, Newfoundland and all the territory drained by the Iroquois, to the British. That was a pretty good beginning for the British, who had started late as usual.

        Following this, Lord Baltimore (who never set foot in Maryland as far as I know, and wouldn't have known an Oriole from a screech owl) tried unsuccessfully to persuade settlers to settle in Newfoundland. It isn't clear why. People, particularly lords, did that sort of thing in those days. This was, however, the origin of the “Newfie Joke,” similar to the Polish Joke. (Example: How many settlers did Lord Baltimore settle in Corner Brook? Answer: Four. One in each corner.)

         On the other hand, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 gave Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island BACK to the French, leaving the British, after half a century of war, to start from scratch, owning only Newfoundland and a bunch of land that had already been drained by the Iroquois.

        But a year later the British founded Halifax to make up for it. And it worked. Within five years, they were expelling the French by the boatload, who sailed to New Orleans to escape persecution. Some persecution - they lived in the French Quarter, hung out on Bourbon Street and did Creole cooking. The Indians and the Mexicans retained the other three quarters, at least temporarily. With the development of the Latin Quarter, the Creole Quarter and the and the Quadroon Quarter, the Big Easy was divided into seven quarters.

        But it was a warmer climate for the Acadians, they had bourbon and branch water, good food and Dixieland jazz. Meanwhile, the English, stuck back in Halifax, where the climate was similar to England's, had no liquor to speak of except a daily tot of rum, and English cooking. Historians disagree as to who were the losers.

        But not for long. Next came the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Early historians thought the name suggested that Lincoln had something to do with it, but that was actually a much later Civil War down south. British General Wolfe whipped French General Montcalm, but they were both killed, so it was pretty much a draw.

        The French by this time were getting accustomed to doing treaties, so they signed The Treaty of Paris in 1763, giving all of New France (which included downtown Montreal and the Maritimes) holus-bolus to the English, for something like the third time. After a while, they kind of lost track of who owned what. Newfoundland remained uninhabited, because the Beothuk nation had already been exterminated by all those European fishermen, and so had the salmon.

        As a sidebar, the Quebec Act guaranteed religious freedom for all Roman Catholics. Now there's a switch. This was followed by the American Revolution, but there was no connection between the two.

        Meanwhile, out west two years later, Captain James Cook anchored in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. This was before there was any ferry service, so Cook didn't bother going over to the city of Vancouver. But a lowly midshipman on Cook's ship was a kid called George – wait for it - Vancouver. This is supposed to sound dramatic, because about 20 years later, now a Captain, Vancouver returned to name the area between Kits Beach and North Burnaby after himself.*

        George Vancouver gets all the credit for B.C. Compared to Alexander Mackenzie, who merely canoe'ed for four thousand miles across the whole country and didn't even have a city named after himself. Perhaps that was because he didn't come close to any cities, paddling up and down all those rivers. Except for Tuktoyaktuk at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, which was frozen over ten months of the year anyway. At least he could console himself that George didn't discover any Vancouver River.

        That about does it for WESTERN Canadian history in the 18th Century. Not that great. This might well be the origin of the traditional western Canadian inferiority complex, derived nowadays from freight rates and the Grey Cup Game, Canada's Super Bowl.

         In 1724, the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet tribes raided Halifax for no apparent reason except that they had been deprived of their land. The subsequent treaty is unique in Canadian history, marking a significant shift in British foreign policy in Canada: it admitted that in certain rare instances, the Indians might even be right. The precedent was established that any English dominion over Nova Scotia including all those Cajun's abandoned farms, would have to be negotiated with the region's indigenous inhabitants.

         That treaty was invoked as recently as 1999, according to astonished civil rights activists, but I'm not sure what good it did them. The British never did give Halifax back. 

        The funniest of all war-names was Father Le Loutre's War, which started in 1749 and lasted for about six years. It was between the British (with a few volunteers from Boston helping out) and the Mi'kmaq, led by a priest named Father Le Loutre. Like most priests, war wasn't exactly his thing, but he was the only one who could spell Mi'kmaq, (even in Latin) so they let him be the leader.

         The British were led by Charles Lawrence. They called him Lawrence of Acadia, because he liked to wear a flowing white robe over his uniform. He had nothing whatever to do with the sainted River of the same name. He tried to unite the Arabs living in Nova Scotia, but failed, since the only Arabs at the time were two brothers in Truro who went broke trying to develop a camel dealership.

         Father Le Loutre's War was all about the English trying to set up Protestant towns in Nova Scotia, and you can imagine how that went over with Father Le Loutre. The natives didn't really care one way or the other, but the pay was better on the French side. The Protestants in Nova Scotia were mostly Presbyterians (New Scotland, remember?), so they had a reputation of being cheapskates. The Mi'kmaq were also mad at the British for a double-cross following the Dummer's War 20 years earlier. Don't even ask. Nobody remembers for sure who Dummer was, although Father Le Loutre thought it was a corruption of Dumas, and as for the Mi'kmaq, Dummer was their favorite name for Lawrence of Acadia.

       The Mi'kmaq, of course, lost the war, winding things up at the famous Battle of St. Beausejour. After the Protestants took over Nova Scotia officially, the town of Beausejour was moved west to Manitoba.

       I should really say something about the United Empire Loyalists, but you know the old controversy – heroes in Canada, bums in Boston. Something like the Toronto Maple Leafs. The first major immigration of UEL's into Canada followed the American Revolution. Some say the reason was that the Canadian dollar was at a premium at the time. On the other side, some Yankees said they couldn't stand that stupid English spelling, such as “aluminium” and “cheque.”

       In the years up to 1783 about 40,000 loyalists fled north into Canada, a figure that would not be matched later until the advent of the war in Vietnam. The majority (among them 1000 freed slaves) went to Nova Scotia, so that it became necessary to create New Brunswick to take up the slack. About 10,000 chose to settle in Quebec. Some historians believe that the latter were mostly disillusioned Cajuns from New Orleans, who had tired of hurricanes and above-ground cemeteries.
        After the 18th Century, Canada continued to be a peaceful nation until 1914 when a Serbian nutcase picked off an Austrian Archduke and enraged most normally peace-loving Canadians.


* Joe Granville, the famous market analyst from Kansas City, disagrees, laying claim to the discovery of the western city by his ancestors. He says they named the city Granville, and then dubbed the main drag, Granville Street, Vancouver Street instead, as a concession to Captain George. This claim is dismissed by most Canadian historians, very few of whom live in Missouri.


Questions for Study and Consideration:

1. Who was Lawrence of Acadia?

2. What do you know about Fort Beausejour?

3. Who said: “The 18th Century belongs to Canada?”

(a) General Montcalm;

(b) Pierre Berton;

(c)Uncle Tom;

(d) John Diefenbaker

4. When was Toronto discovered?

5. Is Lord Baltimore famous? What for?

6. Discuss Dummer's War? (I don't either)

7. Write a brief essay on Father Le Loutre.

8. Why is Canada called a peaceful nation? Limit your answer to 200 words.

9. Who was Alexander Mackenzie? Why wasn't Tuktoyaktuk named after him?

10. Historically, what good was New Brunswick? (Be brief)



Bill Annett grew up a writing brat; his father, Ross Annett, at a time when Scott Fitzgerald and P.G. Wodehouse were regular contributors, wrote the longest series of short stories in the Saturday Evening Post's history, with the sole exception of the unsinkable Tugboat Annie.

At 18, Bill's first short story was included in the anthology “Canadian Short Stories.” Alarmed, his father enrolled Bill in law school in Manitoba to ensure his going straight. For a time, it worked, although Bill did an arabesque into an English major, followed, logically, by corporation finance, investment banking and business administration at NYU and the Wharton School. He added G.I. education in the Army's CID at Fort Dix, New Jersey during the Korean altercation.

He also contributed to The American Banker and Venture in New York, INC. in Boston, the International Mining Journal in London, Hong Kong Business, Financial Times and Financial Post in Toronto.

Bill has written six books, including a page-turner on mutual funds, a send-up on the securities industry, three corporate histories and a novel, the latter no doubt inspired by his current occupation in Daytona Beach as a law-abiding beach comber.

You can write to Bill Annett at this address:


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