CHAPTER IV. LOWER CANADA.
The Grand Trunk Railway runs directly from Portland to Montreal, which latter town is, in fact, the capital of Canada, though it never has been so exclusively, and, as it seems, never is to be so as regards authority, government, and official name. In such matters, authority and government often say one thing while commerce says another; but commerce always has the best of it and wins the game, whatever government may decree. Albany, in this way, is the capital of the State of New York, as authorized by the State government; but New York has made herself the capital of America, and will remain so. So also Montreal has made herself the capital of Canada. The Grand Trunk Railway runs from Portland to Montreal; but there is a branch from Richmond, a township within the limits of Canada, to Quebec; so that travelers to Quebec, as we were, are not obliged to reach that place via Montreal.
Quebec is the present seat of Canadian government, its turn for that honor having come round some two years ago; but it is about to be deserted in favor of Ottawa, a town which is, in fact, still to be built on the river of that name. The public edifices are, however, in a state of forwardness; and if all goes well, the Governor, the two Councils, and the House of Representatives will be there before two years are over, whether there be any town to receive them or no. Who can think of Ottawa without bidding his brothers to row, and reminding them that the stream runs fast, that the rapids are near and the daylight past? I asked, as a matter of course, whether Quebec was much disgusted at the proposed change, and I was told that the feeling was not now very strong. Had it been determined to make Montreal the permanent seat of government, Quebec and Toronto would both have been up in arms.
I must confess that, in going from the States into Canada, an Englishman is struck by the feeling that he is going from a richer country into one that is poorer, and from a greater country into one that is less. An Englishman going from a foreign land into a land which is in one sense his own, of course finds much in the change to gratify him. He is able to speak as the master, instead of speaking as the visitor. His tongue becomes more free, and he is able to fall back to his national habits and national expressions. He no longer feels that he is admitted on sufferance, or that he must be careful to respect laws which he does not quite understand. This feeling was naturally strong in an Englishman in passing from the States into Canada at the time of my visit. English policy, at that moment, was violently abused by Americans, and was upheld as violently in Canada. But nevertheless, with all this, I could not enter Canada without seeing, and hearing, and feeling that there was less of enterprise around me there than in the States, less of general movement, and less of commercial success. To say why this is so would require a long and very difficult discussion, and one which I am not prepared to hold. It may be that a dependent country, let the feeling of dependence be ever so much modified by powers of self-governance, cannot hold its own against countries which are in all respects their own masters. Few, I believe, would now maintain that the Northern States of America would have risen in commerce as they have risen, had they still remained attached to England as colonies. If this be so, that privilege of self-rule which they have acquired has been the cause of their success. It does not follow as a consequence that the Canadas, fighting their battle alone in the world, could do as the States have done. Climate, or size, or geographical position might stand in their way. But I fear that it does follow, if not as a logical conclusion, at least as a natural result, that they never will do so well unless some day they shall so fight their battle. It may be argued that Canada has in fact the power of self-governance; that she rules herself and makes her own laws as England does; that the Sovereign of England has but a veto on those laws, and stands in regard to Canada exactly as she does in regard to England. This is so, I believe, by the letter of the Constitution, but is not so in reality, and cannot in truth be so in any colony even of Great Britain. In England the political power of the Crown is nothing. The Crown has no such power, and now-a-days makes no attempt at having any. But the political power of the Crown as it is felt in Canada is everything. The Crown has no such power in England, because it must change its ministers whenever called upon to do so by the House of Commons. But the Colonial Minister in Downing Street is the Crown's Prime Minister as regards the colonies, and he is changed not as any colonial House of Assembly may wish, but in accordance with the will of the British Commons. Both the houses in Canada - that, namely, of the Representatives, or Lower Houses and of the Legislative Council, or Upper House - are now elective, and are filled without direct influence from the Crown. The power of self-government is as thoroughly developed as perhaps may be possible in a colony. But, after all, it is a dependent form of government, and as such may perhaps not conduce to so thorough a development of the resources of the country as might be achieve under a ruling power of its own, to which the welfare of Canada itself would be the chief if not the only object.