Nova Brittiana, or, British North America, Its Extent and Future

Acadian History.
The early history of Nova Scotia, from its discovery to its eventual final cession to the British at the treaty of Versailles, is a chequered and eventful one; but our time will not permit our tracing in detail the stirring history of Acadia. The early history of those discoveries which led to the settlement of British America may however be glanced at. To arrive at a tolerably correct outline of the result of those eventful discoveries, it will be well to consider, that, since Southern Oregon and Upper California have been absorbed into the United States, the continent of North America may be divided into four great sections, viz.:
The Russian Territory on the North-west,
The British Dominions on the North,
The United States in the centre,
And on the South, Mexico and Central America uniting with South America. “The most remarkable features of both North and South America are the rivers and the mountains, the former for their size and number, and the latter for their size and position, running in an unbroken chain from the northern to the southern extremity, having on the east side an immense breadth of country open to the rivers, four of which, the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Amazon, and La Plata, are amongst the largest in the world, and but a narrow strip to the west, wider in the northern than the southern continent.”

Such is the vast continent developed by the flood-tide of discovery, which, at the end of the 15th century, bore Columbus to the New World. In 1492, Columbus discovered, in the month of October, one of the Bahama Island; and afterwards the Continent. The success of the Spanish, stimulated the enterprise of the British, and in May, 1497, in the reign of Henry VII., John Cabot and his son Sebastian sailed from Bristol in the hope of finding a western passage to India. While pursuing a westerly course, in the hope of reaching the China seas, they saw land on the 24th of June. This they called Prima Vista, and it is believed to have been a part of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. As Galvanus says that this land was in latitude 45°, it is extremely probable that the expedition, in coasting, had entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence. During this part of their voyage they discovered an Island which they called St. John, now Prince Edward’s Island. They then steered south to Florida. England therefore claimed America by discovery and possession. The French next visited the continent. In 1518 and 1525, parties coasted along the shores from Newfoundland to Florida. In 1534, Jacques Cartier landed at Bay Chaleurs, and took possession in the name of the King of France. In 1579, an attempt was made by the British, under a charter from Queen Elizabeth, to colonize the Western World. The French followed them in 1598, under De La Boche; but the early attempts were very calamitous, and the hold obtained upon the country was slight. In 1621, James I. granted all the country now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Newfoundland, to Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling; and in 1628, Charles I. added another grant, including Canada and the chief part of the United States. An order of Baronets was created, each of whom were to receive 16,000 acres of land, and who were to take seizin on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh—Nova Scotia being included in the county of that name. In 1629, Britain took possession of Cape Breton, and held all this part of America; but attaching little importance to it, Charles I., by the treaty of St. Germains, in 1632, resigned to Louis XIII his right to New France. The progress of settlement went on. Cromwell reconquered Nova Scotia, for the third time, in 1654; but in 1667 Charles II. relinquished Acadia to France. Time went on, and, in 1710, New England conquered Nova Scotia, at an expense of £23,000,by an expedition which sailed from Boston. The treaty of Utrecht finally, in 1713, ensued, and all Acadia or Nova Scotia was ceded to Great Britain, and it has since so remained. New Brunswick was then included within its limits. In the war of 1745, Cape Breton was conquered by the Provincial troops. It was restored to France in 1749; but it again, in 1758, became the property of Britain. In 1759, the settlement proper of Nova Scotia may be said to have commenced. The subjugation of Prince Edward’s Island took place in 1761. I pass by, as more familiar to my hearers, the early history, colonization, and settlement of Canada; merely remarking, that by the treaty of Versailles, at Paris in 1763, France resigned all her claims in North America to Britain.

Such, then, is a compressed outline of the leading events in the earlier European history of this portion of British North America; and it is now time to glance at the position of Nova Scotia and the other Provinces, which were once so undervalued, that on Champlain’s return to France he found the minds of people divided with regard even to Canada, some thinking it not worth possessing.

The Province of Nova Scotia now includes Cape Breton, from which it is severed by the Straits of Canso. Nova Scotia proper, says Andrews, is a long peninsula nearly wedge-shaped, connected at its eastern and broadest extremity with the continent of America by an isthmus only 15 miles wide. This narrow slip of land separates the waters of the Bay of Fundy from those of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The peninsula, 2S0 miles in length, fronts the Atlantic ocean.

The Island of Cape Breton is a singularly formed network of streams and lakes, and it is separated into two parts, with the exception of an isthmus but 767 yards wide, by the Bras d’Or Lake, an arm of the sea. The most remarkable feature in the peninsula of Nova Scotia is the numerous indentations along its coasts. Avast and uninterrupted body of water, impelled by the trade-wind from the coast of Africa to the American continent, forms a current along the coast till it strikes the Nova Scotian shore with great force, and rolls its tremendous tides, of 60 or 70 feet in height, up the Bay of Fundy, which bounds Nova Scotia on the north-west. The harbours of Nova Scotia on its Atlantic coast are unparalleled in the world Between Halifax and Cape Canso there are 12 ports capable of receiving ships of the line, and 14 others of sufficient depth for merchant men. The peninsula of Nova Scotia is supposed to contain 9,534,196 acres, and, including Cape Breton, 12,000,000. The country is undulating, and abounds with lakes. The scenery is picturesque. Nova Scotia is possessed, it is believed, of valuable mineral wealth, including large fields of coal. The development of these riches has however been checked by the fact, that in the year 1826 a charter was granted to the Duke of York, for the term of 60 years, of the mines and minerals of the Province. The lease was assigned to an English Company, which now holds it. The Province has recently come to an arrangement with this company, by which they are confined within certain limits. Still, in 1849,208,000 chaldrons were shipped to the States. The other minerals which are turned to economic uses, are iron, manganese, gypsum, &c.
The western and milder section of Nova Scotia is distinguished for its productiveness in fruits. “Wheat grows well in the eastern and in the central parts of Nova Scotia. In 1851, 297,157 bushels were raised, of which 186,497 were grown in Sydney, Pictou, Colchester, and Cumberland, a fact which shows the superiority of that section of the Province for the growth of wheat, —a peculiarity which extends along the whole north-eastern shore of New Brunswick to the boundary of Canada. Oats, hay, peas, beans, potatoes, turnips, &c. are raised in large quantities, and butter and cheese are made freely. The character of Nova Scotia for farm stock is good. My hearers may be surprised to learn that Nova Scotia exceeds 14 wheat-growing States and Territories of the Union in the growth of wheat and barley; and all the States and Territories in oats, buckwheat, potatoes, hay, butter. The trade of Nova Scotia is large. In 1850 its imports were 5 millions of dollars, and its exports 3 millions. In its general and fishing trade it employs a large marine, which must prove a fruitful nursery for seamen. In 1851 there were 3228 vessels entered inwards, 3265 outwards. In 1851 Nova Scotia had a fishing fleet of 812 vessels, manned by 3681 men, and the number of boats engaged was 5161. The total value of its fisheries for 1851 exceeded a million of dollars. The population of the Province was at last census, in that year, 276,117souls. There were in 1851, 1096 schools and 31,354 scholars. Nova Scotia has reclaimed by dykes 40,012 acres of land. Cape Breton too has a large trade, produces large quantities of fish, and there is mined besides a considerable amount of coal.

I now turn to New Brunswick, which abuts Canada. In 1784 it was erected into a Province distinct from Nova Scotia. Its length is 190 miles, its breadth 150. It lies nearly in the form of a rectangle, and is bounded on the south-east by the Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia, on the west by Maine, on the northwest by Canada and the Bay of Chaleurs, on the east by Northumberland Straits and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It contains 32,000 square miles or 22,000,000 of acres, and a population of210,000 inhabitants. It has a sea-coast of 400miles, with many harbours. Its staple trades are shipbuilding, the fisheries, and the timber trade. Its great agricultural capabilities are only now beginning to be known. The Commissioners appointed by the Imperial Government to survey the line for the proposed railway from Halifax to Quebec, thus speak of New Brunswick in their report, and their testimony is a weighty one :

“Of the climate, soil, and capabilities of New Brunswick it is impossible to speak too highly. There is not a country in the world so beautifully wooded and watered. An inspection of the map will show that there is scarcely a section of it without its streams, from the running brook up to the navigable river. Two thirds of its boundary are washed by the sea ; the remainder is embraced by the large rivers the St. John and the Restigouche. The beauty and richness of scenery of this latter river and its branches, are rarely surpassed by anything on this continent. ” The lakes of New Brunswick are numerous and most beautiful; its surface is undulating, hill and dale varying up to mountain and valley. It is everywhere, except a few peaks of the highest mountains, covered with dense forests of the finest growth. “The country can everywhere be penetrated by its streams. In some parts of the interior, a canoe, by a portage of three or four miles only, can float away either to the Bay of Chaleurs or the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or down to St. John and the Bay of Fundy. Its agricultural capabilities and climate are described by Bouehette, Martin, and other authors. The country is by them, and most deservedly so, highly praised. For any great plan of emigration, or colonization, there is not another British colony which presents such a favorable field as New Brunswick. On the surface is an abundant stock of the finest timber, which in the markets of England realizes large sums annually, and affords an unlimited supply to the settler. If the forests should ever become exhausted, there are the coal-fields beneath. The rivers, lakes, and sea-coast abound with fish.”

Such is the sister Province of New Brunswick; and though I am assured, on undoubted personal authority, that a large extent of her very best agricultural territory reaching onwards to Canada is still a primeval forest, still her position in regard to her trade relations is no insignificant one, as will appear from the following statements. The total imports of New Brunswick in 1851 were $4,852,440, and the exports $3,780,105. There were 3058 ships entered inwards, and 2981 outwards. The fisheries of New Brunswick are valuable, and those in the Bay of Fundy in 1850 realized $263,500. The timber floated down the St. John is very large; the quantity was estimated in 1852 at $1,945,000. There is room in New Brunswick for a large population. In 1855 there were only 6,000,000 acres of land granted, and of these but 700,000 were under cultivation. 11,000,000 acres of land continued ungranted. As to agricultural capabilities, New Brunswick—strange as the tale may seem exceeds in wheat 14 wheat-growing States of the Union, and in barley 24 out of 30; in oats, buckwheat, and potatoes, 30 States and Territories; and in butter and hay, all the States. In the growth of potatoes, hay, and oats, Munro asserts that no State in the Union can compete with New Brunswick, whether as regards weight, quality, or quantity. The average produce per Imperial acre of wheat is 19 bushels, of barley 28, oats 34, and of potatoes 226, and turnips 456; outstripping New York, Ohio, and Canada West in these. The value of the agricultural products of New Brunswick, exclusive of farm-stock, was estimated in 1854 at £2,000,000. There were in 1851,798 schools, attended by 18,892 children, and in 1853, 24,127. Professor Johnston estimated that the agricultural resources alone of New Brunswick would enable it to sustain a population of 5 millions. The climate is similar to our own. The coal-field of New Brunswick is very extensive: its area has been estimated by Gesner at 10,000 square miles. The earlier history of New Brunswick is embraced in that of Nova Scotia, and need not here be particularly referred to. “With regard to the position of the Acadian Provinces, and their relations towards the other portions of British America, and the community of interest which is arising, I avail myself of the judicious statements of Principal Dawson of McGill College, Montreal, in a lecture delivered before the Natural History Society of Montreal, on the Acadian Provinces:

“Their progress in population and wealth is slow, in comparison with that of Western America, though equal to the average of that of the American Union, and more rapid than that of the older States. Their agriculture is rapidly improving, manufacturing and mining enterprises are extending themselves, and railways are being built to connect them with the more inland parts of the continent. Like Great Britain, they possess important minerals in which the neighbouring parts of the continent are deficient, and enjoy the utmost facilities for commercial pursuits. Ultimately, therefore, they must have with the United States, Canada, and the fur countries, the same commercial relations that Britain maintains with western, central, and northern Europe. Above all, they form the great natural oceanic termination of the great valley of the St. Lawrence; and although its commerce has hitherto, by the skill and industry of its neighbours, been drawn across the natural barrier which Providence has placed between it and the sea-ports of the United States, it must ultimately take its natural channel; and then not only will the cities on the St. Lawrence be united by the strongest common interests, but they will be bound to Acadia by ties more close than any merely political union. The great thoroughfares to the rich lands and noble scenery of the West, and thence to the sea-breezes and salt-water of the Atlantic, and to the great seats of industry and art in the old world, will pass along the St. Lawrence, and through the Lower Provinces. The surplus agricultural produce of Canada will find its nearest consumers among the miners, shipwrights, mariners, and fishermen of Acadia; and they will send back the treasures of their mines and of their sea. This ultimate fusion of all the populations extending along this great river, valley, and estuary, and the establishment throughout its course of one of the principal streams of American commerce, seems in the nature of things inevitable; and there is already a large field for the profitable employment of laborers and capital in accelerating this desirable result.”

Rupert’s land
And then above us again is that vast expanse, claimed by the Hudson’s Bay adventurers, which will yet, and it may be soon, be inhabited by a large population, comprising as it does, 3,060,000 square miles. This great country cannot much longer remain unoccupied; and if we do not proceed to settle it, the Americans will appropriate it, as they did Oregon, and the Mormons are said to be threatening New Caledonia. Without entering into the question of the alleged vices in the charter by which that powerful company holds its possessions, and the mode of adjudicating thereon, there are certain practical measures which should be at once adopted. A means of communication by road and water, for summer and winter use? should be opened between Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement, and that forthwith; and that Settlement should, as of right belonging to it, be placed under the jurisdiction of Canada, with power to this Province to colonize the territory. This power should at once be given, and will doubtless be conceded on the application of Canada. This obtained, and a settlement of 7,000 souls added to our population as a centre of operations, steps can be taken for obtaining more accurate information as to the nature of the immense tract of territory, of which a large part once belonged to the 100 partners of Old France, and, though believed to be the property of Canada, is now held by the Hudson’s Bay Company. The great valley of the Saskatchewan should form the subject of immediate attention. Enough is known to satisfy us, that, though in the northerly portions of that territory commonly known as the Hudson’s Bay Territory a Siberian climate prevails, yet there is a vast region well adapted for becoming the residence of a large population. Once the Bed River Settlement is opened to our commerce, a wide field extends before our enterprise; and those who recollect or have otherwise become familiar with the struggles, 40 years ago, of even the settlers in Western Canada, and the painful, toilsome warfare with which they conquered that rising portion of the Province from the wilderness, will regard the task of colonization as a comparatively light one. The press has for some time been teeming with articles on the subject of this Territory, and has done good service thereby, and, though there is not opportunity here to enter upon

The knell of arbitrary rule has been rung. The day has gone by for the perpetuation of monopolies. The Baronets of Nova Scotia would fare but ill in our times, unless moral worth accompanied their rank. Provinces are not so lightly shared and parcelled as they once were. As for our own Province, self-government has been conceded to us, and the largest measure of political liberty is enjoyed by our people. We are left to carve out our own destiny ; and I shrewdly suspect that few among us will regard with much admiration that ancient and venerable parchment, which, under the sign-manual of Charles II., by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, recites that he, ” being desirous to promote all endeavours tending to the public good of our people, have of our especial grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion given, granted, ratified, and confirmed unto our entirely beloved cousin Prince Rupert, the Duke of Albemarle, et al., by the name of the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson’s Bay, the sole trade and commerce of all those seas, streights, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks, and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall lie, within the entrance of the streights commonly called Hudson’s Streights; together with all the lands and territories upon the countries, coasts, and confines of the seas, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks, and sounds aforesaid, that are not already actually possessed by the subjects of any other Christian Prince or State, with the fishing of all sorts of fish, whales, sturgeons, and all other royal fishes in the seas, bays, islets, and rivers within the premises, and the fish therein taken, together with the royalty of the sea upon the coasts within the limits aforesaid, and all mines royal, as well discovered as not discovered, of gold, silver, gems, and precious stones, to be found or discovered within the territories aforesaid.’ And what think you is the price which this charter provides shall be paid for this munificent, this princely gift, —of, as the Hudson’s Bay Company view it, half a continent, —for this comprehensive donation of everything, but the sky, which overhangs Prince Rupert’s Land.

Ah, here it is, and very onerous and burdensome this same company of adventurers must have found their vassalage to be: “yielding and paying,” saith this grave title-deed, with which the onward rush of settlement is attempted to be stayed, somewhat, it must be confessed, after the fashion of the celebrated Mrs. Partington, when mop in hand she valiantly endeavoured to sweep out the incursion of the angry Atlantic, — “yielding and paying to us, our heirs and successors, for the same, two elks and two black beavers” —not yearly, mark you, but magnanimously— “whensoever and as often as we, our heirs and successors, shall happen to enter into the said countries, territories, and region hereby granted”; and then, by all sorts of right lawyerly phrases, not only “the whole, entire, and only trade and traffic and use and privilege of trading is granted, but also the whole trade to and with all the natives and people inhabiting, or which shall inhabit, within the territories, lands, and coasts aforesaid”; and all sorts of pains and penalties are threatened against all those who do visit, haunt, frequent, or trade, traffic or adventure into the said countries; and all such shall, saith the Royal Charles, “incur our Royal indignation, and the forfeiture and loss of the goods and merchandize so brought.” But time does not permit the dwelling longer on this relic of antiquity. It will suffice to express my confident belief, that Canada has only to express in firm but respectful tones her demands as to that vast territory, and these will be cheerfully acceded to by Britain. Those demands should be ripely considered, and so matured as to evince, not a mere grasping thirst of territorial aggrandizement, but a large-spirited and comprehensive appreciation of the requirements of the country, and a proper sense of the responsibilities to be assumed in regard to the well-being of the native and other inhabitants, and the due development of the resources of the territory. In such a spirit our statesmen will I trust be found acting. The position of our Province too is to be weighed. To a large portion of the Territory we have an indubitable legal claim; to another portion the Crown of Britain would be entitled: but all that is adapted for settlement should be placed under the jurisdiction of representative government, and any further extension of the rights of the Company to trade in the more northerly regions should be subjected to the approval or control of Colonial authorities. The subject is not without its difficulties; but, I doubt not, these can all be satisfactorily overcome; and the interests of the whole Empire imperiously demand their prompt and satisfactory adjustment.

…the Maritime Provinces alone comprise 86,000 square miles, and, as we may safely assume, are capable of sustaining a population nearly as great as England, —their natural productions and resources being very similar in kind and amount. They are as large as Holland, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, and Switzerland, all put together. New Brunswick alone is as large as the Kingdom of we find that we can endorse the views of the Hon. Joseph Howe, when he ex-claimed in the Nova Scotian House of Assembly.

“Beneath, around, and behind us, stretching away from the Atlantic to the Pacific, are 4,000,000 square miles of territory. All Europe with its family of nations contains but 3,708,000, or 292,000 miles less. The United States includes 3,300,572 square miles, or 769,128 less than British America.
Sir, I often smile when I hear some vain-glorious Republican exclaiming, ‘ No pent-up Utica contracts our powers : The whole unbounded continent is ours forgetting that the largest portion does not belong to him at all, but to us the men of the North, whose descendants will control its destinies forever.
The whole globe contains but 37,000,000 square miles. We North Americans under the British flag have one ninth of the whole, and this ought to give us ample room and verge enough for the accommodation and support of a countless population.”

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, too, are each extending their iron arms to meet the Canadian chain of railway. A line of railway is in progress, under the control of Nova Scotia, designed to extend from Halifax to the New Brunswick frontier, and thence New Brunswick purposes to continue it to St. John, the commercial capital of New Brunswick, a distance of 255 miles from the Atlantic terminus at Halifax. The American interests, ever awake, are labouring to connect this line with Portland and Maine; but a branch is intended to connect the “European and North American Railway” with Miramichi, distant from Riviere du Loup but 200 miles. As the result, then, of these efforts in the Lower Provinces and in Canada, I look for the eventual extension of a main Provincial artery, reaching from Lake Huron to the Atlantic at Halifax ; part of it constructed, it maybe, as an inter-provincial route.

Nations, like individuals, have their peculiar characteristics. The British people, so firmly combined and yet so singularly distinct, present in proud pre-eminence a high toned national character, a fit model for our imitation. Inheriting, as we do, all the characteristics of the British people, combining therewith the chivalrous feeling and the impulsiveness of France, and fusing other nationalities which mingle here with these, into one, as I trust, harmonious whole, —rendered the more vigorous by our northern position, and enterprising by our situation in this vast country which owns us as its masters, —the British American people have duties and responsibilities of no light character imposed upon them by Providence. Enjoying self-government in political matters, —bringing home, through the municipal system, the art of government, and “consequent respect for it, to the whole people, —let a high ensample of national character be kept steadily in view, and let every effort be directed by our statesmen and by our whole people to its formation. A wide-spread dissemination of a sound education, —a steady maintenance of civil and religious liberty, and of freedom of speech and thought, in the possession and enjoyment of all classes of the community,—a becoming national respect and reverence for the behests of the Great Ruler of events and the teachings of his Word, —truthfulness and a high-toned commercial honour, -unswerving and unfaltering rectitude as a people, in the strict observance of all the liabilities of the Province towards its creditors, and in all its relations towards all connected with it, —a becoming respect for the powers that be, and a large and liberal appreciation of the plain and evident responsibilities of our position,—should be pre-eminent characteristics of the British American people; and so acting, they will not fail to win the respect, as they will command the notice, of the world.

“Nova Brittiana, or, British North America, Its Extent and Future”, Morris, Alexander, A.M. Mercantile Association of Montreal. 1858.