THE SCOTCH-IRISH OF CANADA
By Rev. Stuart Acheson, M.A., Toronto, Canada
Taken from "The Scotch-Irish in America: Proceedings and Addresses of the Third Congress at Louisville, KY., May 14 to 17, 1891".
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:—There lies to the north of the great republic my fair Canada. She is even now great in her infancy; and for me to write the achievements of the Scotch-Irish race, or rather briefly to glance into the history and jot the doings of our race at certain epochs of her career as a nation, is certainly no uninviting task. I speak of Canada as being, in infancy, a nation, and yet no mother ever held in her loving arms a child of greater promise. The idea of a mother will at once call up our British connection, and if this great republic demands like Paul and asks, "What advantage has a Jew? and what profit is there in circumcision?" I give you Paul's answer, "Much every way." Our lot, in the providence of God, has been cast as forming an integral part of the British Empire. Her oracles are our oracles. Her genius of constitutional government is at work in Canada, and under her genius we are developing a stability and a freedom unequaled among the free nations of the earth.
Why should it not be so? The American nation has become great as her States have expanded and developed in greatness from Maine to Dakota, from Florida to California. The genius of the American people is seen in fusing these States into one strong, abiding, and self-governing nation.
So in like manner will Canada develop. Even suppose we set aside one-half of her territory, covered, as some say, with rock and ice and snow, there still remains 1,175,000 square miles of fertile soil. This area is as large as thirty-six of the principal States of this great republic. I merely state this, not to narrow down or depreciate the extent of the territory of the United States, but to show by comparison the possibilities of my country. Canada, as Lord Dufferin says, is a "coy maiden," and does no doubt cast a shy glance at her rich bachelor neighbor to the south. Canada is in the expectation of youth, buoyant and hardy, with plenty of ground to sport upon. Canada has no doubt of her future, and does not stagger at her difficulties or falter because of unbelief.
I would call him a promising son who is not crying, as some pessimists will tell you, like Moses in his ark of bulrushes, waiting for the Queen of Liberty on our southern frontier, with maids of honor, to come to his rescue. The fact is, the young lad lives and thrives very well, as will be seen from his bill of fare when I come to speak of his exports and imports under responsible government, secured to us by the tact and courage of the Scotch-Irish race. Coming fresh from the country, I can report the lad in good health, in good spirits, and in good humor with himself and all his neighbors. It is of Canada I am to speak, and especially of the Scotch-Irish race, that can advance its claim to recognition as forming no unimportant factor in the great work of laying the foundation and the coming on superstructure of this young nation's greatness. The Scotch-Irish race has done its full share in reclaiming the land from its primeval forests, and in turning the wilderness into a garden. In clearing and in counsel this race has done its part. When or wherever it was necessary to strike or speak, this race, true to its tradition, has not faltered, but has come to the front in her battles and in her halls of Legislature. In every thing that constitutes greatness Canada has her share. Her forests and fisheries, her mines and minerals, her rich soil and her sunny sky, her inland seas and her mighty rivers, her honest and thrifty sons, and her ruddy and charming daughters all combine to point to a greatness unrivaled among the rising nations of the earth. If our Scotch-Irish fathers did not find her fields as green, they found at least as great a variety of richness and fruitful-ness. If his heart was touched with visions of the beautiful Lakes of Killarney, he found them reproduced, only upon a grander scale, as he came up the St. Lawrence and gazed upon the enchanting beauty of the Thousand Islands. The great Irish poet himself makes some such comparison in the following lines:
There are miracles, which man,
Caged in the bounds of Europe's pigmy span,
Can scarcely dream of, which his eye must see,
To know how wonderful this world can be.
Both the honored names and heroic deeds of many must be set aside, and I shall have only space to treat of those who have come to the front at certain periods of the nation's history. These periods may be thus designated: 1. The period of selection. 2. The period of the Constitution. 3. The period of enterprise. Any one of these would afford material for a paper for this Society.
Let me at once begin with the period of selection.
"There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may." So in treating on this period of selection there need be no attempt to inquire into the reason of the legislation that eventually led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is well known that on the floor of the British Parliament Edmund Burke poured out, hot from his lips, strong remonstrances against the measures of the British Government that led to the Declaration of Independence. The danger of the country called forth one of England's greatest statesmen, Lord Chatham, from his retirement. Coming from his dying bed, bandaged and wrapped in black velvet, even to the crutch on which he leaned, he makes an appeal in behalf of the colonies about to secede, and pays the following deserved tribute to the qualities displayed in the first American Congress. Said Lord Chatham: "When your lordships look at the papers transmitted us from America, when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause and wish to make it your own. For myself I must declare and avow that in all my reading and observation (I have read Thucydides and have studied and admired the master statesmen of the world), that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal." But the counsel of Burke and Chatham did not prevail. No reason or eloquence could turn aside or avert the unhappy and certainly uncalled for measures of the administration of Lord North and his colleagues, which resulted in the independence of the colonies and in the formation of the great American Republic.
We have heard with pride the heroic deeds of valor recounted of the Scotch-Irish race in this struggle for freedom and independence. Whether in Congress at Philadelphia, in Parliament at Westminster, under every flag, in every land, and in every Church, the Scotch-Irish race has stood up to its conviction and planted itself upon the side of freedom and constitutional government.
It is my province now to glance at this period of selection. Should the people of Canada, then numbering a few hundred thousand all told, still adhere to their British connection, or cast in their lot with the republic? It does not appear at this time that Canada felt the defects of the adverse administration of Lord North, and hence we account for the reason that led, in this period of selection, to the front a rare specimen of the Scotch-Irish race to contend for his liberty to live and die under the British flag.
When the heroic Wolfe climbed the heights of Abraham and took Quebec, there were two young men in his army, captains we are told, who were designed afterward to meet again and do battle, but on different sides, under the guns of the same old fort. The one was Richard Montgomery, the other Guy Carleton. Richard Montgomery led in the charge under Wolfe, that placed the British flag on the heights of this Gibraltar of America, while Guy Carleton was left in charge of the island of Orleans with the Second Battalion of Royal Americans and some marines. This man of Scotch-Irish race proved at once to be the founder and savior of Canada.
Guy Carleton was born at Strabane, in the county of Tyrone, in the year that Marlborough died. The renown of Marlborough was long after his death a common topic. Blenheim and Ramillies were as familiar in men's mouths as Alma, Inkerman, and Balaklava were a few years ago. As the young Carleton plied his rod in the Mourne a wish rose within him which was to shape all his after life, which was to lead him to honor and usefulness, which was to connect his name with Canada and this continent forever: he longed for a soldier's career. He served in many fields on the Continent, until we find him in 1759, under Wolfe at the conquest of Quebec.
Nicholas Flood Davin, the Canadian historian, says of this conquest: "It was the victory of the Brito-Hibernian troops which made the United States possible, and when the citizens of the republic look back to the dawn of her career of wealth and freedom and greatness, they will see clear, even through the mists of centuries, the romantic figure of the lover soldier falling at the moment his charge broke the lines of Montcalm, and near him Irishmen whose names are only less illustrious than their English commander's." The English historian, Green, supports this view. He says: "The fall of Montcalm in the moment of his defeat completed the victory, and the submission of Canada put an end to the dream of a French Empire in America. In breaking through the line with which France had striven to check the westward advance of the English colonists, Pitt had unconsciously changed the history of the world. His support of Frederick and Prussia was to lead in our own day to the erection of a united Germany. His conquest of Canada, by removing the enemy whose dread knit the colonists of the mother country, and by flinging open to their energies, in the days to come, the boundless plains of the West, laid the foundation of the United States." On the 10th of February, 1763, was signed the Treaty of Paris, by the fourth clause of which France ceded to England Canada with all its dependencies, George III. granting the inhabitants the "liberty of the Catholic religion." In a speech of M. Papineau to the electors of Montreal, in 1820, he refers with pride and satisfaction to this exchange. He says: "The oppressed peasant exchanged the vigorous vassalage of French feudalism for the security and freedom of British citizenship. To the reign of violence succeeded the reign of law." At the time of the conquest the French population is estimated at 60,000; they now number in all Canada about 1,200,000.