Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than by spending the morning leafing through Wikipedia and Niall Ferguson's Empire for a refresher course on Canadian history? In 2009, there's really no excuse to remain ignorant on this, or any other subject. Unfortunately, as impressed as I am by Wikipedia's performance on Canadian history, I am even more impressed (or would it be unimpressed?) by the length and breadth of their article on light saber combat. With one hand the open-source encyclopedia giveth, with the other it taketh away.

As my American friends are quick to point out, Canadian history is not nearly as sexy as the tale of the brave and plucky 13 colonies, casting off their colonial shackles and demanding independence in a hail of musket fire. Instead of Paul Revere and Fort Ticonderoga, we had the British North America Act (passed 142 years ago today, un-coincidentally) and the Statute of Westminster. No wonder Canadian kids have trouble paying attention in history class.

But I wonder, is this so terrible? Americans are quite proud of their founding myths, but is it possible that the American Revolutionary War was unjust? That is to say, is their a valid case to be made for the Loyalist perspective in Colonial New England? This is an important question for Canadians to address, because the primary difference between Canadian and American history is that the Loyalist perspective won out here.

The intrepid scholar with time on their hands should take a look at one of the leading Loyalist tracts of the era, History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. I can't claim to have given it more than a skim, but if you want to convince yourself that the American Patriot's were a bunch of crooks, and docile Canadians were the true heroes, Hutchinson is your man.

We can actually do even better than Hutchinson and his fellow 18th-century Loyalists, because we have two centuries of hindsight to sharpen our opinions on. In 1775 North America, you could either be a Loyalist or a Patriot. Whose case is strengthened by the events of the 19th and 20th centuries?

I think any modern-day Loyalists could make a strong case that a loyal America would have jettisoned slavery a generation earlier, and without the need for a civil war that killed over 1,000,000 Americans. Whatever the alleged tyrannies of the British colonial authority (and if you believe Hutchinson, they were negligible) I doubt it was worth 30 years of Slavery and 7-figures worth of casualties.

So let's hear it for Canada's polite, orderly, and wholly legal Declaration (more like a request) of Independence. Of course, by "Independence" I mean gradually declining degrees of dependence, vestigial elements of which still exist today. But I'll take the Queen on my $20 bill over a civil war any day.

Happy birthday Canada. To all her citizens: Spend a moment today reflecting on our peaceful, prosperous, and exceedingly polite nation. Raise a glass in honor of our founder, John A. MacDonald. Better yet, make him proud and raise a few glasses. It's your duty as a Patriot.