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Horse and Train, by Alex Colville
glazed tempera
Gift of Dominion Foundries and Steel Limited 
Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Roy Campbell, (2 October 1901 – 22 April 1957) was an Anglo-African poet and satirist. (Wikipedia)

 Against a regiment I oppose a brain and a dark horse against an armoured train.

When artist Alexander Colville heard this poem, he was inspired to paint his “Horse and Train.”

There is truth to Roy Campbell’s lines.  The dark horse built the train or humans built the train, which makes humans, represented by a dark horse, more powerful than the train, which makes them: iron men.

However, it is not the train that was difficult to build, it was the railway.  The train existed, but only Colville’s dark horse could build the railway and the dark horse, to a large extent, consisted of Chinese immigrants who worked for a dollar a day to build a railway through several ranges of mountains.


A Mari usque ad Mare

We cannot dismiss the territorial imperative that led to the view of a Dominion of Canada that would stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, but the dream of a country that went from sea to sea was also very compelling.  The moment this dream entered the imagination of the Fathers of Confederation, it played a powerful role:

It appears the phrase A Mari usque ad Mare was first used by George Monro Grant, C.M.G. (22 December 1835 – 10 May 1902) a  “Canadian church minister, writer, and political activist” from Stellarton, Nova Scotia, who would later serve as principal of Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario for 25 years, from 1877 until 1902.  Reverend Grant was very much in favour of Confederation, and although his book entitled Ocean to Ocean (1873) was published after Confederation, the Reverend Grant helped shape public opinion in Nova Scotia.


Moreover, intrusions by Fenians in New Brunswick also shaped public opinion.  The Fenians had attacked New Brunswick and were attempting to cross the 49th parallel nearly all the way to the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, the amalgamation, in 1866, of the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia.  In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy Étienne Hughes McGee, PC, (April 13, 1825 – April 7, 1868) would be assassinated.  He died at the age of 42.  The population wanted protection.

Furthermore the threat of annexation by the United States, despite the Oregon Treaty of 1846, was not a figment of the people’s imagination.  According to Wikipedia:

[w]hen American Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated the Alaska Purchase in 1867, it was part of his plan to incorporate the entire northwest Pacific Coast, chiefly for the long-term commercial advantages to the United States in terms of Pacific trade. Seward believed that the people in British Columbia wanted annexation and that Britain would accept this in exchange for the “Alabama claims”. (Wikipedia: History of British Columbia)

Consequently, within three years of the Charlottetown Conference, held from September 1 and September 9 September 1864, Confederation was achieved and it included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.  In 1870, Louis Riel had negotiated the entry of Manitoba into Confederation and on 20 July 1871, the afore-mentioned amalgamated Colonies of Vancouver Island and British  Columbia joined the Dominion of Canada.

However, they joined the Dominion of Canada on the condition that a railway be built that would stretch from sea to sea, but nevertheless entered early.  Queen Victoria had also acted promptly.  She was given the task of choosing a capital for the future Dominion of Canada in December 1857 and did so very quickly.  She chose Ottawa.

I would like to tell of the story of the railway today, but there is no room left.   So we will have a part 2 to the Iron Horse.  Confederation preceded the building of the railway.  Moreover, Confederation was negotiated.  As for the Dominion of Canada, it had a capital before it was a country.

Moreover, Canada did not have a Wild West.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived at its the various destinations at about the same time as the settlers, if not earlier.  The Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) was founded 1873.  They became the Royal Canadian Mountain Police in 1920 when there was a merger of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police with the Dominion Police (founded 1868).

A Video: please click on the title to hear and see the video.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police tribute 

A Mari usque ad Mare (“From Sea to Sea”), Canada’s motto (devise), was derived from Psalm 72:8, which reads in Latin “Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terræ,” and in the King James version, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”  (Wikipedia: A Mari usque ad Mare)

 Related Blog: From Coast to Coast: the Fenian Raids

© Micheline Walker
24 May 2012