Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


J. Castell Hokkins' Rejoinder to John S. Ewart



Mr. Hopkins' Rejoinder. THE EDITOR, The Statesman:


Sir, - In your last issue Mr. Ewart admits that he took a passage in my Story of the Dominion away from its context and applied it in an altogether different connection. So much for my correction. But, in his reply and with all the skill of an expert   controversialist, he brings together other references in the same volume to the subject of British treaties and makes me adhere, apparently, to that ungrateful school of anti-British thought in which he shares leadership with Mr. Bourassa. A real historian tells the truth, whether it harmonizes with his own views or not, and I am sure that Mr. Ewart will credit me with fairness in that respect; many historians, however, tell the truth only as their prejudiced or warped minds can see it - which is altogether another story. No writer can deal honestly with the great subjects involved in the history of Canada and its relation with the United States and Great Britain without making comments which, taken from their context, will distort the facts of history and twist his opinions into a I hopeless tangle.


The fact of the matter is that these relations have to be read and studied and regarded in the light of certain bases which my book made clear but to which Mr. Ewart does not refer: (1) That Great Britain in 1783 and 1812 was fighting for her existence and the liberties of Europe against a Militarist chief, beside whom Wilhelm II. was a figurehead, and a combination of nations which included the United States; (2) that the wilds of British America were as little known to her and of less real value to her in those days than was the wilderness of the North-West to Canada in the years prior to and surrounding its acquisition in 1869; (3) that the British people were not and never since have been an aggressive or warlike race and that with characteristic generosity their chief desire in 1783 and 1814 was to heal the breach with the United States and insure a prolonged period of peace and friendly interchange; (4) that in the succeeding century, and through all the incidents of United States aggressive action, there ran in the minds of British statesmen the knowledge that our tiny population spread along the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes or the sea-coast would be the first, last and greatest sufferers by war and that the sacrifice of unsettled wilds which were comparatively useless in those days to either Britain or the Colonies was better than a serious risk of war; (5) that in the Maine and Oregon boundary issues American bluff and a fraudulent map in one case, with erroneous statements in the other, won out over the honorable traditions of British statecraft - but that this was not a British crime.


Let me add that if it had not been for British diplomacy and statecraft and, above all, for the power of the British Navy, there would be no Dominion of Canada at this time, no provinces of British America to deal with or unite, no great Canadian nation of the future to stand beside the Motherland and appreciate her greatness of deed and policy as well as to understand the inevitable faults and mistakes of a century which Mr. Ewart regards with so powerful a magnifying glass.


Toronto, May 30.

Return to the Controversy between J. S. Ewart and J. Castell Hopkins on the role of Britain in Canada (1919)


Source: John S. EWART, Independence Papers. Reprints principally from the Canadian Nation and the Statesmen, Ottawa, 1921, 176p., pp. 45-47.



© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College