The Canadian Type

"Canada is a nation, and this is, I suppose, the first step toward having a national type. Now let us go and look for a Canadian."

Canada is a nation. It is true that a few of her public men feel impelled to deny this from time to time; but these denials are intended only as spurs to urge Canada to more emphatic nationhood. Canada has long ago made up her mind that she is a nation.

Now the only workable definition of a nation is that it is any body of people who have made up their minds to be a nation. They do not need to be of the same race, as witness the United States or Great Britain; they do not need to speak the same language, as witness Switzerland; they do not even need to live in the same country, as witness the Jews. They only need to have made up their minds about it. Canada has made up her mind and, despite legal hairsplitting as to whether she is a 'sovereign nation,' or what not, Canada is a nation.

Canada is also very certain that she is a successful nation and, in general, on the right path. Rusty reactionaries or Red revolutionaries may trouble other less happy lands; the constitution of Canada, or rather the various acts of Parliament which serve for a constitution, is as near perfection as may be; on the whole it is even a little better than that of her nearest neighbor. So Canada is a nation, and this is, I suppose, the first step toward having a national type. Now let us go and look for a Canadian.

Every real nation has a type, if it is only for the comfort of the foreigner and the benefit of the humorous press. The type is, indeed, often unrecognizable to the native, but it is there. It is a précis of the points in which the nation differs from its neighbors. It is often wild, it is usually unflattering, but it must have a foundation in fact.

John Bull, for instance, stands for something in the English character, and there are John Bulls in England. He does not stand for the whole character, but only for those little bits, easily recognizable, which make the Englishman different from the Frenchman or the Italian. He exhibits what his friends call 'determination' and his enemies 'pig-headed stupidity.' He is plainly a farmer, and, industrial though England now is, at the time the type was formed, the English gentleman was a farmer. To a large extent he still is.

There are 'Sandys' in Scotland, 'Heinrichs' in Germany, gentlemen with pointed moustaches and hair è la brosse in France; they are rare, no doubt, but they do exist and justify our caricaturists. But what is Johnny Canuck like?

For him the Canadian cartoonist has produced a singularly colorless type—a gentlemanly but resolute personage in riding-breeches, leggings, and scout hat. He appears to be an idealized farmer of the prairies, but has so little real character that he must be labeled 'Canada' on his hat-band. Compared with that virile personage, Uncle Sam, he is simply 'not there,' for no one ever needed a label on Uncle Sam. It is hard to see ourselves as others see us, and I am afraid that it will be a long time before the Canadian artist or the Canadian people produce anything better; but, if the Canadians do not, someone else will and the results may be less flattering.

Uncle Sam is, I believe, of home manufacture, and he is a credit to his creators. He must be as rare in the flesh as John Bull. His main characteristics, his height and rugged bony build, are possibly derived from Abraham Lincoln. To the student of races he is a Celt, and his type is still to be found in plenty in the more Celtic parts of Great Britain—in the north of England and in the lowlands of Scotland. He is the old historic Celt, to be distinguished from the wrongly called Celt of the Scottish Highlands and the west of Ireland. Possibly his type was once commoner in the United States than it is today; and I think that I have heard that he is the idealized New England farmer. In this case it is highly significant that he corresponds to John Bull, the English farmer. The English-speaking races live close to the soil; their types are country--dwellers even in an era of city- dwelling industrials. In Canada, too, the real type is a countryman.

Canada, however, has not publicly formed a type, for she is not yet conscious of one. You will hear of 'a fine type of Canadian manhood,' but this only means a good-looking, well-built boy (for Canada must of course be young), the kind of boy whom one might meet in any English-speaking land. Yet, to the sympathetic foreigner, Canadians do show distinctive traits: they are not Americans, they are certainly not English, and they are not a blend. I am told that to the American they appear slightly English, to the Briton they certainly appear slightly American; but they are distinct. The American or the Britisher in our midst is easily distinguished.

We lie culturally between the United States and England, and have, of course, a number of delocalized individuals who have, by accident or deliberately, adopted the traits of their neighbors. They may incline either to the American or to the English side, and are often impossible to place. But it is not from such that a national type can be formed; Canada merely happens to have more of them than most other countries. They are agreeable people, but nationally uninteresting.

The most serious difficulty in judging a national type is that we can see only what we are not accustomed to. We see differences, and so we judge a nation solely by the points in which it differs from our own. Its resemblances strike us as merely human, the common inheritance of all men. The Canadian must accordingly appear somewhat different to an American from what he appears to an Englishman. This national factor cannot possibly be avoided, and must be allowed for by the reader. So it is only fair to state, here that these remarks are the views of a Scotsman resident in Canada, who is proud to regard Canada as his adopted country.

Now, one of the first points which strike the newcomer is the conservatism of Canada. This applies to all Canadians, French and English; they are all—in the mass—conservative. Canadian politicians are divided into the two traditional parties of English politics, the Conservatives and the Liberals. By tradition the Conservatives are, as the name shows, the party of laissez-faire, the opponents of change, the 'go-slows.' The Liberals are the party of change, the 'go-quicks.' But, to anyone accustomed to the strong differences of principle which characterize European politics, both parties in Canada are conservative of the conservative. There is no party of change at all.

The Province of Nova Scotia, for instance, has had a 'Liberal' government for, I believe, thirty-six consecutive years. During those thirty-six years no very violent changes or reforms have been carried out—only the 'Conservative' party has got weaker and weaker. No reforming party has ever arisen, simply because nobody wants any change. The citizens go on voting Liberal because they are conservative.

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