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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 4:29 PM
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Controversial Idea: The US as (Anglo-)Canada's Mother Country?

I have been thinking about how the US's influence on Canada (and especially Anglo-Canada) is often brought up and is the focus of heated debate. (At least for some of us on here.)

Perhaps one of the reasons for the constant haranguing over this is that it's being framed in the wrong way?

I mean, the way it's usually approached is that the US and Canada are supposed to be entities that are relatively foreign to each other, a kind of ying vs. yang opposition. Canada exists precisely because it didn't want to be like the US. And yet paradoxically it has become extremely similar to the US over time, and the evolution suggests growing integration, in a three steps forward, one step back kind of way.

But what if we think of the US as Canada's Mother Country? Or at least as a country that plays the Mother Country role for Canada? (The latter point being a concession to the fact that we may not have come into this relationship in the way that these things normally happen.)

Then the fascination with and mimicking of goings-on in the US, be they cultural, political, societal, etc. suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Even if on an institutional level, Canada certainly has British as opposed to American foundations - though the US's foundations are also British. They're just more distant than ours.

But even our institutions have slowly evolved and continue to evolve subtly towards more American norms in many cases. Just look at how our constitutional framework has become more American-style with a codified document and a Supreme Court that rules on the constitutionality of laws and such. As opposed to the UK’s unwritten constitutional conventions and parliamentary supremacy?

It's almost like a case of mistaken identity, driven by the maintaining of the monarchical ties to the UK.

I realize that I am asking people to think way outside the box, which has always given us the impression that there were pretty much two dual, parallel "vectors" (those arrow diagram thingies) that shot out from the UK with each one landing distinctly into what are today Canada and the U.S.

That's actually not how the history played out.

When you think about it, except for Newfoundland, British "stuff" and people initially arrived in this part of the world mostly from the south, not from the east. Even the monarchy was something that the U.S. had, that they jettisoned, and that was transported to Canada so that it could live on on North American soil.

Early British settlement and military incursions into what was then primarily French controlled territory mostly came from the south as well, prior to and during the milestone events which were the Treaty of Paris (1763) and the American Declaration of Independence (1776).

The Loyalists, who were eventually outnumbered by people coming directly from the British Isles, and later from all over the world, nonetheless laid almost all of the groundwork and set the tone for the Anglo-Canadian society that would eventually spread from that Atlantic to the Pacific.

The more I think of it, the more it seems clear that "No U.S., no (Anglo-)Canada".

Without the presence of the U.S. to the south, the British presence was limited to some fur trade activity in the far north with no permanent settlement, and a tiny population in Newfoundland of maybe 5,0000-10,000, half of which was seasonal.

In addition to the northward migration of the Loyalists that implanted the roots of Anglo-Canadian society, the U.S. was also the launching pad for all of the British attacks and offensives that the led to their eventual conquest of all of France's possessions in this part of the world. Without the populated and developed (for the era) U.S. - or what was to become the U.S. - as a staging area to organize the attacks, gather supplies, resources and men, it's unclear that the "Conquest" would have been possible.

Take the British colonies to the south (the future USA) out of the equation and what is today Canada might probably still be French in some way. Similar to how most of Latin America is "Spanish".

Again, it's not a standard "Mother Country" evolution, though in a way the founders of what was to become Anglo-Canada did "break away" from the fledgling United States. They refused to a part of it and moved to largely unoccupied land that was still part of Britain's North American colonial empire but had not joined the movement led by George Washington.

I know that one of the counter-arguments when it comes to culture will be that it's actually a two-way relationship and that we "share" this stuff with the US, but the "traffic" and "gaze" figuratively speaking is overwhelmingly in one direction. Americans overwhelmingly don't think they "share" Hollywood with us. Hollywood is theirs and if we're good enough to make it there is a place for us there just like there is for Brits, Aussies or Croatians.

And all of the talk of Canada's influence in the US (which does exist) does not contradict the Mother Country theory. It's very common for the "colonies" (for lack of a better term) to contribute to the culture of the Mother Country.

As I asked before: how could Anglo-Canada have come into existence if the 13 Colonies/United States did not provide a whole host of historical figures, people, events, etc. to the tableau?
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 4:53 PM
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It's not true that only Newfoundland was mostly settled from the British Isles. Nova Scotia and PEI were as well. This is quite well documented; the settler ships in the 1700's mostly came directly from the British Isles. All of the original Halifax and Lunenburg settlers were from Europe for example, and in areas like Pictou the first settlers came from Scotland.

When the American Revolution happened, New Brunswick was created to give Loyalists their own colony. Nova Scotia had already been settled for almost 2 centuries at that point and the British colony was about 70 years old (1713).

Another problem with this type of reasoning is that there wasn't much of a cultural distinction between the US and UK in the late 1700's. There wasn't really a distinct American culture for English Canada to be spawned from. Plenty of American revolutionaries were themselves born in Britain.

Last edited by someone123; Oct 15, 2019 at 5:04 PM.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:11 PM
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It's not true that only Newfoundland was mostly settled from the British Isles. Nova Scotia and PEI were as well. This is quite well documented; the settler ships in the 1700's mostly came directly from the British Isles. All of the original Halifax and Lunenburg settlers were from Europe for example, and in areas like Pictou the first settlers came from Scotland.

When the American Revolution happened, New Brunswick was created to give Loyalists their own colony. Nova Scotia had already been settled for almost 2 centuries at that point and the British colony was about 70 years old (1713).
.
Both PEI and NS were part of French Acadia and the launching pad from which these parts of Acadia were conquered and made British was nonetheless the "13 Colonies". That's kinda my point.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:13 PM
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Another problem with this type of reasoning is that there wasn't much of a cultural distinction between the US and UK in the late 1700's. There wasn't really a distinct American culture for English Canada to be spawned from. Plenty of American revolutionaries were themselves born in Britain.
This is also kinda my point. British Canada was a child spawned by the 13 Colonies.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:19 PM
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This is also kinda my point. British Canada was a child spawned by the 13 Colonies.
Depending on how you count, Nova Scotia was either the 0th colony, 4th colony, or 11th colony. The 13 colonies weren't the oldest British colonies, they were the ones that participated in the revolution.

Nova Scotia already had an elected assembly by the time of the American Revolution and voted not to participate.
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  #6  
Old Posted Oct 16, 2019, 3:25 AM
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Depending on how you count, Nova Scotia was either the 0th colony, 4th colony, or 11th colony. The 13 colonies weren't the oldest British colonies, they were the ones that participated in the revolution.

Nova Scotia already had an elected assembly by the time of the American Revolution and voted not to participate.
True, like all the peripheral colonies (Quebec, Bermuda, Georgia) Nova Scotia was not really on the radar screen of the revolutionary hotheads and, as a less economically mature colony, didn't really have an established hierarchy of men of independent wealth and independent minds who might have been inclined to spearhead a political rebellion. There was also the massive British military presence at Halifax to disincentivize any revolutionaries. On top of that, because the Great Awakening had a very powerful hold on Nova Scotia at the time, religious fervour (rather than the revolutionary kind) consumed the minds of many of its residents, who readily fell under the spell of the great evangelist Henry Alline and his New Light movement.

But other than that there was nothing special about the "13 colonies". They were just the ones that heeded the call. There could have been more or less of them.
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Old Posted Oct 16, 2019, 3:52 AM
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True, like all the peripheral colonies (Quebec, Bermuda, Georgia) Nova Scotia was not really on the radar screen of the revolutionary hotheads and, as a less economically mature colony, didn't really have an established hierarchy of men of independent wealth and independent minds who might have been inclined to spearhead a political rebellion. There was also the massive British military presence at Halifax to disincentivize any revolutionaries. On top of that, because the Great Awakening had a very powerful hold on Nova Scotia at the time, religious fervour (rather than the revolutionary kind) consumed the minds of many of its residents, who readily fell under the spell of the great evangelist Henry Alline and his New Light movement.
The US colonies were also a lot more homogenous. Massachusetts had an old established settler population and a few British newcomers. Nova Scotia was roughly equal parts British newcomers, foreign Protestants, New England Planters, Acadians, and natives. All of the wealthy and powerful would have been connected to the British colonial system and navy. Almost everybody lived in a seaside town that would have been easy for British ships to attack.

There was an attempt at getting the revolution started in Nova Scotia; Jonathan Eddy attacked Fort Cumberland near the present-day NS/NB border with around 400 militiamen. They dispersed when a British ship arrived. Later on in the war a lot of the military activity decamped from New York to Halifax and at that point there was no way that Nova Scotia could have participated. It was probably 25% British soldiers in total at times.

I think it is easy to get carried away hand waving about how the character of different groups shaped culture hundreds of years later but I do think it made a difference that Canada was so cosmopolitan early on. In 1800, there would have been more demographic variety in Halifax or Quebec City than Boston.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:05 PM
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Outside of Toronto throughout most of central and southwestern Ontario the same could be said just like Atlantic Canada. The U.S could never be our Mother Country as it's always been our sibling from birth. It ran away from home where as we kept a close ties.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:16 PM
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This gives some information on 18th century print culture in Quebec City and Halifax, which we still have lots of records of:

https://earlycanadianhistory.ca/2015...nting-britain/

You can read a quote from somebody in Nova Scotia complaining of the insularity of American media back in 1789.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:24 PM
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Hard pass on the thread title. For so many reasons. List to follow. ;-)
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  #11  
Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:28 PM
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This *is* meant to be controversial.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:34 PM
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Hardly a new idea. It's valid (or was) wrt Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, Or valid(ish) in that the Loyalists were as much British colonials as "Americans". Whether it accounts for anything today, I'd have my doubts, but I guess that's the bit that might be "controversial".
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:39 PM
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I think Mother Country is not necessarily the correct term. Perhaps 'foster parent' who we've drifted closer to over time is the appropriate term for our relationship with the United States.

The British have always been the Mother Country - one might be inclined to forget that today, but in the past Anglo-Canadians defined ourselves in the sense of being a British subject. The United States may have fostered our development as an independent country, but it didn't originate it.

The British didn't want to defend us anymore, but didn't want to lose face either in North America. The solution: create a Dominion offspring that could care for itself. All the loyalty of British subjects without any of the costs of upkeep.

But, like parents and children who no longer live together, we've both gone on our own ways rather independently. The British Empire dissipated and they drifted into the EU orbit and we drifted towards our brethren to the south. Such is the power of geography and economics.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 5:58 PM
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But, like parents and children who no longer live together, we've both gone on our own ways rather independently. The British Empire dissipated and they drifted into the EU orbit and we drifted towards our brethren to the south. Such is the power of geography and economics.
It seems like Canada used to be very Commonwealth oriented at one point and this has been weakening in recent decades. I would not be surprised if Queen Elizabeth was the biggest celebrity in Canada in the 1950's.

I wonder how much European integration had an impact on this. In some ways the UK maintains a special relationship with Canada but in other areas where it follows EU rules, Canada is treated like any other country.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:05 PM
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It seems like Canada used to be very Commonwealth oriented at one point and this has been weakening in recent decades. I would not be surprised if Queen Elizabeth was the biggest celebrity in Canada in the 1950's.

I wonder how much European integration had an impact on this. In some ways the UK maintains a special relationship with Canada but in other areas where it follows EU rules, Canada is treated like any other country.
You can see the change in our definition of conservatism.

Someone like John Diefenbaker would be aghast at the modern Canadian Conservative Party.

Definitely the formation of the EU cause the British to move closer to them - not being a part of that huge economic bloc would leave them cold on the outside, economically speaking.

Trying to keep trade going with the remnants of a former Empire spanning a globe whose members had stronger ties with regional partners would be a fool's errand. That's not how logistic networks operate in the late-20th and early 21st centuries.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:07 PM
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Definitely the formation of the EU cause the British to move closer to them - not being a part of that huge economic bloc would leave them cold on the outside, economically speaking.

Trying to keep trade going with the remnants of a former Empire spanning a globe whose members had stronger ties with regional partners would be a fool's errand. That's not how logistic networks operate in the late-20th and early 21st centuries.
Well, I guess we'll see how the opposite view to that one works out for the Brits over the next little while!
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:48 PM
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You can see the change in our definition of conservatism.

Someone like John Diefenbaker would be aghast at the modern Canadian Conservative Party.
The "old" Conservative tradition in Canada, represented pre-2003 by the Progressive Conservative Party, was very much a manifestation of the British conservative tradition. Even the term "Tory" is inherited from Britain.

By contrast, the Reform Party, and the heart & soul of the post-2003 Conservative Party, is a manifestation of the American conservative tradition.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:44 PM
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In some ways the UK maintains a special relationship with Canada but in other areas where it follows EU rules, Canada is treated like any other country.
Without there being even a whit of animus, I'd say there isn't much left of that special relationship outside of a few select corridors of power in London.

Beyond that, out there on the ground, the special relationship that's top of mind for everyone is with the U.S.

And if the Brits think of their best Commonwealth buddy, that's Australia.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:14 PM
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I'm not really sure this is the best view. While Anglo-Canada nowadays is very US-oriented, earlier on, Anglo-Canada was much more UK-oriented.

Anglo-Canadians don't talk about their history much so most don't know this, but if you talk to some of the oldest people (like people born pre-1930) about this, they'll tell you that back in the day we used to be way more into British stuff. We talked about British news way more than American news, consumed British media more, etc.

Just dig through the archives of any English-language newspaper of record in Canada. Before about 1960 or so, events in the UK made headlines a lot more often than events in the USA.

It's hard to see now, but there really was a time when Anglo-Canada was "British", in every sense of the word.
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Old Posted Oct 15, 2019, 6:29 PM
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If you look at the history of Ontario, the "old stock" Anglo-Canadian population arrived in the province in two distinct waves. The first wave was people of British ancestry arriving from the United States. Not just the Loyalist refugees, but quite a few economic migrants came from the United States to Ontario in the early 19th century. During the War of 1812, something like 80% of Ontarians were either USA-born or had USA-born parents. This is part of the reason why Jefferson thought Ontario would be so easy for the US to invade and annex.

This wave of American immigration largely ended after the 1820s, when the US began its first westward expansions.

However, in the mid to late 19th century there was a big uptick in economic immigration to Ontario from the United Kingdom and that was the main form of immigration to Ontario after 1830. By 1900, those of "direct" British ancestry probably surpassed those of British-via-the-USA ancestry.

There is a fascinating divide in Eastern Ontario that receives very little attention, to the point where very few know about it. That initial wave of "American" immigration largely skipped the Ottawa Valley; only the part of Eastern Ontario adjacent to Lake Ontario & the St. Lawrence saw any meaningful development before 1830. So the Ottawa region was essentially "founded" by the later wave of direct-British immigrants.
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