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Apr 19 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, April 19, 1902

The Census Figures

The census figures that have been issued in regard to the origin of the people of Canada show that almost one-third are of French descent, the exact number being 1,649,352. Many people will be surprised to learn that there are 309,741 persons of German descent in Canada, two-thirds of them being in the Province of Ontario. Of the persons of British origin, 1,263,575 are English, 989,858 Irish and 798,986 Scotch. These figures must be taken with a good deal of reserve. There are a great many people in Canada who do not know their origin, and at best their statements in regard to that matter can only be regarded as guesses. Of course, where people speak a different language, as is the case of the French and some of the Germans in Canada, the question of origin is readily decided, although in some cases if we trace their origin to the father, people who are now classed as French will be found to be descended from Scotchmen, Englishmen, or Irishmen. A man of another race settling among a people of different origin and marrying among them leaves nothing but his name to recall the difference of the stock from which he sprung. In the Province of Quebec there are many French families bearing Scotch names. The same is true of several Acadian families. The Melansons, who are very numerous in New Brunswick, and who are Acadians, are descended from a Scotchman named Mollison, who was a member of Sir William Alexander's colony at Port Royal in 1632. The Acadian Vincents and Martins are also believed to be Scotch origin. The Acadian Quessys are descended from an Irishman named Casey. And the Acadian family of Pitre can trace their origin to an English blacksmith named Peters, who was in the employment of Sir Thomas Temple, and who continued to reside in Acadia after Temple had been compelled to restore that country to France under the terms of the treaty of Breda.

Race Origins

Even when we get back to England, Scotland or Ireland, the question of race is a very perplexing one. Tennyson, in his welcome to the Princess Alexandria, said: "Saxon and Norman and Dane are we." He might have added several other strains, for certainly there is a good deal of the Celtic cement among the British people. The common theory is that the Celtic British were exterminated by the Saxons in the fifth and succeeding centuries, or driven into Wales, but modern research tends to cast a great deal of doubt upon this theory. The people of Cornwall and Devonshire are undoubtedly Celtic, just as much so as the people of Wales. No one looking at an English crowd can fail to recognize traces of the Celt in the complexions and features of many of the people. The same is true to a still greater extent in Scotland, where the Celts predominance in the south-western counties, especially in Wigtownshire and in territory to the westward north of the River Clyde, including all the islands. The Anglo-Saxon element predominated on the eastern side of Scotland from the Solway north, to and beyond Aberdeen, while north of that again and in the northern islands, especially in Shetland, the Scandinavian element prevails. All the British races, however, are becoming very much mixed, and the process is going on continually. In Ireland there are many families, which have lived long in that country which are of English and Scotch origin, yet these people will be properly classed as Irish in the census returns.

Bogus 'Trees'

These facts show the difficulty of tracing the origin of any family. Many of the English aristocracy have pedigrees constructed for them tracing their origin to some cut-throat soldier who came over with William the Conqueror. Mr. Freeman, the historian of the Norman Conquest, and the greatest authority on that subject, many years ago published an article ridiculing these genealogies, and proving that most of them had no foundation in truth. Of course so long as it is the fashion for people to believe in the superiority of the Normans, the individuals who claim to be aristocrats will seek to trace their descent from them. I had an amusing experience of that sort of folly not many years ago when talking to a lady whose father was born in Cornwall. She claimed to be of Norman descent, and in proof of that cited the fact that she was dark both in complexion and in hair. She was very much astonished when I informed her that most of the Normans were red-headed. She was as decided a specimen of the British Celt as could be found in Canada, yet she had lived all her life under the singular delusion that she was of Norman origin.

Effect of Norman Invasion Modern research shows that the effect of the Norman invasion on the British race was much less than was believed formerly. What effect would the coming of fifty or sixty thousand Normans to England have among a population numbering more than a million? No matter what historical theorists may say to the contrary, the basis of the British race is Saxon with a considerable admixture of Celtic. In the course of two centuries the Normans had sunk into the mass of the people so as to be undistinguishable from their neighbours of Saxon origin, just as a lump of sugar melts away in a bowl of water. Whatever was left of the Norman nobility four centuries after the Norman Conquest was ruined in the Wars of The Roses.

The New England of Old

I have just been reading for the first time a book entitled 'The New Puritan,' which describes the condition of New England more than two hundred years ago. It was written by one of the descendants of Robert Pike, who was almost the only man in the Massachusetts colony who had courage enough to oppose the tyrannical conduct of the rulers of the colony in that day, and who set his face firmly against the murders that were committed under forms of law in the hanging and burning of so-called witches. American writers have surrounded the New England Puritans with a halo of holiness and represented them as men whose conduct was worthy of admiration. But no modern man who makes a close study of their doings with an unbiased mind can come to any other conclusion than that they were, rancorous, tyrannical, narrow-minded, unjust in their dealings with their neighbours, and, in many cases, positively dishonest. Fortunately for history, a new class of writers is springing up which will do justice to the Puritans and represent them in their true colours, and then the halo will be removed from their brows. These people left England because they claimed that they were persecuted for their opinions, and in the New World they persecuted others with far more vigour and cruelty than had been exercised towards them. They drove from the colony some of the best and wisest among them because they differed from the clergy with respect to some point of theology, which no man in these days would regard as of the slightest importance. They rejoiced over the murder by the Indians of Mrs. Hutchinson, whom they had driven out of the colony because she had theological views of her own. The pious Roger Williams could find no resting place among those bigots, but was driven by them into the wilderness to found a new colony, the Providence Plantation. So bitter were they against him that they refused him permission to pass through Boston when he was on his way to England.

The Witchcraft Craze

But the most shameful episode in the history of New England Puritanism was the Salem witchcraft craze. The blood of the innocent people who were murdered at that time can never be wiped away from the escutcheon of New England. To show the extent of the madness that has prevailed I quote a few sentences from this "New Puritan," written by an American, and a descendant of Robert Pike: "In the wide sweep which the prosecutors took, high and low were alike implicated, till at length no on felt secure from attacks, which were almost sure to be succeeded by swift and sudden destruction. No one dared breast the storm, for such resistance was deemed evidence of complicity with the imps and witches, who with all the powers of hell at their back were aiming at the overthrow of God's kingdom on earth. This offence was so great that the prosecutors did not hesitate to seize upon the highest and best people, some of whom, under the diabolical influences of the time, were peremptorily taken to gaol, and thence hurried to execution." Such was the state of this Puritan colony two hundred years ago. The evidence on which these alleged witched were convicted was of the most absurd character, and apparently made up of a mixture of lies and delusions. Probably some of the people who gave evidence believed what they stated, but in most cases the testimony appears to have been manufactured for the occasion. Among those charged with witchcraft was a woman named Mary Bradbury, 75 years old, and the wife of one of the most prominent and honourable citizens of the town of Salsbury. She was a woman of exceptionally high standing in Christian life and character. She had been married, and lived in Salsbury for more than fifty-five years, and yet this woman was tried as a witch in the year 1682, was condemned on testimony of the most frivolous character, and was sentenced to be hanged with four other women equally as innocent as herself.

Crown Lands In New Brunswick

The people of all the provinces of Canada are beginning to appreciate the value of their Crown lands more highly than they did a few years ago. This subject was brought up very prominently in the Legislature of New Brunswick during the last session. When the route of the Intercolonial Railway was settled, and that road was carried round by the most circuitous route possible, the people of the St. John River valley demanded another railway from Fredericton to the Quebec line on the Madawaska River, and the province gave this company a grant of 10,000 acres of land per mile. Altogether the New Brunswick Railway Company received 1,600,000 acres of the best timber lands of the province, and never built a railway to Riviere du Loup at all, but stopped at Edmundston, eighty miles from Riviere du Loup. The missing link was completed by another company, but the line from Quebec to St. John by way of Edmundston has never been used as a through line, because in the meantime the Short Line through Maine, now operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway, had been built. It was well said by Attorney-General Pugsley, in referring to this matter, that it would have paid the province better to have given the New Brunswick company $20,000 a mile to build the railway rather than to have parted with so enormous an area of valuable timber land. The New Brunswick company now enjoys very large revenue, more than $60,000 a year, from these lands, which were so improvidently given away.

Two Liberal Giants

Not only has the province suffered from the loss of revenue from these timber lands, but actual settlement has been obstructed, and now the Government of New Brunswick is seeking to buy back some of the land for settlement purposes which it gave away thirty years ago. This ought to be an impressive warning to all legislatures and governments against alienating the public domain except to actual settlers. All the provinces of Eastern Canada depend on their Crown lands for revenue, and they are all interested in having settlement lands available for new-comers. If the Government of New Brunswick possessed the lands which it gave away to the New Brunswick company to promote a through-line that was never completed, its revenue would be increased by at least $60,000 a year. And the population of some of its counties would be fifty per cent greater than at present. The era from 1870 to the year 1900 may be called the railway building era of Canada and we are not likely to see during the present century any such anxiety to build new lines of railway as has been manifested during the past thirty years. Almost every portion of the older provinces at least is not provided with railway facilities, and governments, both Provincial and Dominion, for the future will be less anxious to subsidize lines which speculators may urge upon their attention.


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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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