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against the United States, but against the British representative who had delivered judgment against his own expressed conviction, once more "sacrificing Canadian interests on the altar of Anglo-American friendship.”
More success was reached in settling by arbitration the northeast Atlantic coast fisheries question and the dispute as to pelagic sealing in the Pacific. the outstanding achievement of the era of good neighborliness was the solution of the boundary-waters difficulty. The growing importance of many boundary waters not only for navigation and fisheries, but for irrigation and power, led to the establishment of a permanent joint high commission of three members from each country to determine all disputes as to use, obstruction, or diversion of border waters. The friendly relations between the two portions of this body, the common-sense procedure adopted, the unique permission granted private persons in either country to appear before the commission direct without their Government's interposition, the important, though as yet unused, provision for the service of the commission as a miniature Hague tribunal to decide any question whatever at issue between the two countries, were a lasting evidence of the statesmanship of Laurier and of the Canadian lawyer who was mainly responsible for working out the plan, Sir George Gibbons.
The chief remaining source of friction was the customs tariff. Each country had put up high barriers to keep out the products of the pauper labor of its neighbor. Now protectionist sentiment in the United States was declining, after the orgy of the McKinley and Dingley tariffs. Growing cities were demanding cheaper food, manufacturers who had reached the export stage cheaper materials, and newspapers cheaper paper. The tariff profiteer was one of the obvious victims of the muck-raker, then in his prime. On the other hand, protection sentiment was stronger in Canada than in the early nineties. Repeated rebuffs from the United States, the vested interests of manufacturers, the coming of wide prosperity, induced content with things as they were.
Then came the controversy over the retaliatory clauses of the Payne-Aldrich tariff, and as a sequel the endeavor of President Taft to secure a wider reciprocity agreement which would conciliate the growing freer trade sentiment in his country and make for friendlier relations on the whole continent.
The Laurier government staked its fortunes on the reciprocity agreement worked out in 1911 between Mr. Fielding and representatives of the State Department. Neither the prime minister nor any of his colleagues had doubted that this wide and generous measure of reciprocity, conforming as it did to the demands of both Canadian parties in the past, would be accepted gladly by the American people. They proved to have gaged opinion wrongly and went down to defeat. The issue was determined not in a referendum, but in a general election where many minor issues entered. The Government was burdened by the accumulated errors of fifteen years of office; the opposition desperate with the hunger of fifteen years' exclusion from the treasury bench. The manufacturers, railways, and financial interests threw their weight heavily against the pact, fearing the thin edge of the wedge of free trade and the danger of diverting East and West traffic from Canadian roads. The industrial cities outweighed or outshouted the country. In country districts many red herrings were drawn across the trail; in Quebec, where the Conservatives entered into what Laurier termed an "unholy alliance" with the Nationalists under Bourassa, Laurier was pictured to the habitant as a bad Catholic and a rampant imperialist; on the concession lines of Ontario a whispering campaign pictured him as a scheming anti-Protestant devotee. Everywhere the flag was waved, reciprocity pictured as a long step toward annexation, and unwise United States expressions of opinion to that effect given widest currency. To let well enough alone, and to get even with the United States for the repeated contemptuous rejections on its part of Canadian overtures for reciprocity in earlier years, were motives weighing heavily with many electors.
In the perspective of the years that have passed, that decision by the majority of the electors has not found approval. Many of the reductions in the duties on Canadian goods offered by the treaty were made later by the United States, applying of course to all countries, not to Canada alone, by the Underwood tariff; they proved of economic advantage to both peoples and did not bring the bogy of annexation a step nearer. The Conservative government itself was forced to move toward reciprocity in wheat and wheat products. Financial and industrial relations between the two peoples multiplied; Canadian railways continued to expand in American territory, United States investors bought Canadian bonds and manufacturers established branch plants, but without bringing any of the dire consequences foretold. Laurier waited patiently for the sober second thought of the people, and was justified by it long before the end came.
With foreign countries in other continents Canada came into increasingly close contact throughout these years. The threatened wave of Oriental immigration made it necessary to pass legislation or negotiate understandings with Asiatic governments in order to check the flow. With European powers the growth of commercial intercourse brought the need of appointing Canadian trade commissioners, consuls in all but name, and negotiating tariff and trade agreements. Increasingly Canada therein assumed a greater measure of control of her foreign affairs. In some instances the negotiations were carried on with the formal intervention of British diplomats, but in other cases conventions signed in Canada by the Canadian finance minister and Italian and Dutch consuls-general marked the steady advance toward full nationhood.
But it was mainly on imperial relations that Laurier set his mark. During his years of office Canada was passing through an important transition time. The principle of self-government which had been developed by Canada's leaders two generations before, and slowly applied to one area after another of national concern, now received its most significant extension. Wilfrid Laurier
might truly have declared that he found Canada a colony and left her a nation.
For many a year there had been wide dispute as to the ultimate political destiny of Canada. Laurier himself had fluctuated in opinion. At one stage he considered independence inevitable. Later, he dallied for a brief space with the dream of imperial federation. with the passing of time and the teaching of office he came to the conclusion that for the present at least Canada's destiny did not lie along either path. He believed it possible to work out a policy which would reconcile national and imperial sentiment for the present, and keep the way open for whatever conclusion might seem desirable in the future. More than any other man he developed and put into force the conception of the British Empire as no longer an empire, but a loose league of free and equal states, united under a common king. He was of course a practical politician, a responsible head of a government, not an apostle of any creed, and therefore so far an opportunist that he never formulated sweeping doctrines, or tried to anticipate situations; he simply met each concrete issue as it arose.
This conception involved in the first place asserting Canadian control and Canadian responsibility in all external affairs, and in the second place developing machinery for intercourse between the various parts of the Britannic League, on the basis of conference between his Majesty's several and independent governments. As has been noted, Canada gradually took
more and more the determination of her foreign policy in matters of tariff, immigration, and trade relations. Particularly in the case of the United States, though halting short of the logical step of sending a Canadian minister or high commissioner to Washington, control came steadily in fact and in form to Canada's own Government. The issues of peace and war and of defense gave greater difficulty, and when Laurier left office the question of Canada's position in this field had by no means been fully faced or solved. Imperial sentiment dominated in Canada's participation in the Boer War, but her achievements in
South Africa stimulated national sentiment more than imperial. The land forces of the dominion came fully under Canadian control. Naval defense, involving greater outlay and more difficult questions of jurisdiction, was not faced until the imminence of war with Germany in 1909 compelled attention. Laurier was averse to seeing Canada drawn into "the vortex of European militarism," but when some measure of naval preparation appeared inevitable, he insisted that it should take national lines. Unfortunately, the agreement reached by all Canadian parties in 1909 to adhere to the policy of a Canadian controlled navy was disrupted by the attempt of the Conservative opposition to appeal at the same time to the ultraimperialists in Ontario, who preferred to make a contribution to a British navy and to the Nationalists in Quebec who repudiated any responsibility whatever for external wars. Time has indisputably proved Laurier right, and few to-day would question that so far as any naval defense for Canada is required, it must take the form of a Canadian navy, not a contribution of ships or men to an imperial force.
In the colonial conferences held at intervals in London, known after 1907 as imperial conferences, an instrument was developed for consultation between the several governments of the empire. In these conferences each government met on an equality not for executive action, but for discussion and report. Incessant endeavors were made by imperialists to convert them into organs of centralized authority. All the influences of press propaganda and aristocratic social pressure were brought to bear, but in vain. Joseph Chamberlain fought hard to make over the British Empire in the image of the German, but in Laurier he met à man of equal force and greater vision. Australian orators and Round Table devotees urged varying plans of imperial centralization, but Laurier's straight and simple "No" blocked the path. Projects for imperial parliaments, for imperial councils, for
centralized control of naval forces, for expeditionary land forces to be put at the disposal of the British War Office, all came to naught. In time the great majority of the members of the conference came to agree with Laurier's stand. Louis Boths particularly found in him a sure friend and a safe guide. When the testing of the empire came in the Great War, it was found to be strong, from Australia to South Africa, so far as it was founded on the freedom and equality Laurier had championed, and weak from Ireland to Egypt, where it had failed to find this sure foundation. The professional imperialists who had shouted for centralization were proved wrong, and the man they had so often attacked justified by the event.
When Wilfrid Laurier gave up the seals of office after fifteen years of power, he had no reason to fear the accounting. Mistakes of policy had been made, here through careless optimism, there through lack of sufficient faith. The Government had not maintained in power all the principles and ideals it had developed in opposition. Men of doubtful integrity had more than once made their way into the inner councils of the party. Yet these sins of omission and commission were far from offsetting the great achievements of his régime. Canada had been given honest and progressive administration. The tone and temper of the debates of Parliament had been greatly raised by the dignity and tolerance of its leader. The country had developed an economic unity and a widespread prosperity hitherto unknown. It had taken its place among the nations of the world. With the great republic to the South, unceasingly friendly relations had been maintained. A new conception of empire, as a League of Nations, which was to prove a forerunner of the wider League, had been developed. In having at the helm of state in difficult and decisive times a captain so farseeing, prudent, and courageous as Wilfrid Laurier, Canada had been rarely fortunate.
(To be concluded)