Sunday, April 09, 2006

A History of Canadian Wealth, 1914.

Gustavus Myers book on the history of wealth in Canada is an amazing work that is often overlooked. Published in the US in 1914 it was not published in Canada until 1972!

A landmark revisionist history of Canada, A History of Canadian Wealth remains as lively and startling as it was when first published.Reviews

It is the historical documentation of the shaping of Canada from a feudal regime that through rebellion, and by government largese allowed for the mercantilist creation of the modern Canadian state.
Early in the century, an American, Gustavus Myers, had written A History of Canadian Wealth (1914), describing the amassing of Canadian resources and wealth in the hands of a few wealthy individuals and families. Myers also showed how these wealthy Canadians were often the same people who governed the country. In nineteenth century Canada, the capitalist and the governing class were often the same people and, in these circumstances, there was little difficulty in identifying these as a ruling class.Canadian Social Theory

Canada has always been a state captialist regime, since its inception as a colony of both France and England. Myer's work documents Canada's transition from a fuedalist colony to a seignueral state to a mercantilist monopoly capitalist state in this amazing work. A work of course we were never taught in social studies or history classes. Ryerson and others refered to it but as a source document it has laid gathering dust on university bookshelves. Until now. It is available here, for your enjoyment and elucidation.

Myers thesis is about how the imperial powers of the Church State in Canada gained its wealth, capital by theft. Begining with aboriginal Canadians.

While such writings are starkly revealing of the wretched conditions in which Aboriginals were living, they tend to blame Aboriginal People themselves for their poverty and suffering, a tendency which serves only one purpose extremely well -- that of concealing the true reasons for the poverty. For a deeper understanding of the connection between Aboriginal poverty and the theft of their lands one needs to read only a few books, such as Gustavus Myers' History of Canadian Wealth (1914), or R.T. Naylor's Canada in the European Age (1987), or Neu and Therrien's Accounting for Genocide (2003). Some Facts Behind the Joshua Bernard Decision

Myers main point is that unlike the United States, the Capitalist rebellion of 1837-1839 did not result in a free market capitalist society, though it did smash the control of the fuedal mercantilist families. What it allowed for was a unique Canadian form of monopoly capitalism, one that relied still upon mercantilism supported by the state. In fact the creation of the Canadian state was neccasary for the furtherance of national mercantile interests, which are still in power today.

A long panel of corporate ownership data, stretching back to 1910, shows that the
Canadian corporate sector began the century with a predominance of large pyramidal corporate groups controlled by wealthy families or individuals, and relatively few widely held firms. By the middle of the century, widely held firms had become predominant. However, from the 1970s on, there has been a marked resurgence of pyramidal groups controlled by wealthy families and individuals, corresponding to a large decline in the prevalence of widely held firms. Improvements in the general institutional environment and high taxes on inherited income accompany the rise of widely held firms. A sharp abatement in taxes on large estates and a rise in the likely returns to political rent seeking accompany the resurgence of pyramidal groups.
The Rise and Fall of the Widely Held Firm in Canada

Also see my articles:

Origins of the Captialist State In Canada

Canada's State Capitalist Success

Plutocrats Rule

Crony Capitalism and Hamm

Whigs and Tory's

Voting for Capitalism On January 23

Corruption, nationalism and capitalism

Heres is an excerpt of Gustavus Myers work;




William Lyon Mackenzie (1795 - 1861) The insurrection, in 1837-1838, led by William Lyon Mackenzie in Ontario and by Papineau in Quebec, was intrinsically one of upspringing capitalist forces, but superficially its character was composite, blending a variety of factors and elements. It is not the purpose here to give any perfunctory chronological or personal narrative of that movement, but to present an outline of the vital economic causes and results.

Grievances of the Rebels

The proclamation issued by Mackenzie, as Chairman pro tem of the insurrectionary Provincial Government of the State of Upper Canada, began by denouncing the “ blighting influence of military despots, strangers from Europe ruling us, not according to laws of our own choice but by the capricious dictates of their arbitrary power.

“ They,” read on the proclamation, “ have taxed us at their pleasure, robbed our exchequer and carried off the proceeds to other lands — they have bribed and corrupted ministers of the Gospel with the wealth raised by our industry — they have, in place of religious liberty, given rectories and reserves to a foreign priesthood, with spiritual power dangerous to our peace, as a people — they have bestowed millions of our lands on a company of Europeans for a nominal consideration, and left them to fleece and impoverish our country — they have spurned our petitions, involved us in their wars, excited feelings of national and sectional animosity in counties, townships and neighborhoods, and ruled as Ireland has been ruled, to the advantage of persons in other lands and to the prostration of our energies as a people. . . .”

Then declaring the movement a separatist one, the proclamation enumerated the reforms sought. These included a legislature chosen by the people, free press, civil and religious liberty, free education and other changes not the least significant of which was that of “ freedom of trade — every man to be allowed to buy at the cheapest market and sell at the dearest.”1—the very quintessence of rising capitalism, the moving principle of which was abolition of monopoly and of all feudal restraints, and the assurance of unfettered access to all resources and markets and of unhindered competition.

Dr. Robert Nelson In Lower Canada the proclamation issued by Dr. Robert Nelson, president of the insurrectionary party, declared for repudiation of all allegiance to Great Britain and provided for 17 different reforms.

Among these were : A Republican form of government ; all citizens to enjoy the same rights, and Indians were to be no longer disqualified civilly ; dissolution between Church and State ; abolition of feudal or seignorial tenure of land “as if such a tenure had never existed in Canada” ; imprisonment for debt no longer to exist except in such cases as should be specified by Act thereafter ; sentence of death no longer to be passed or executed except in cases of murder.

Other reforms called for were freedom of the press, trial by jury, general and public education, elective franchise and the like. Another provision of the proclamation declared that “all Crown lands, also such as are called Clergy Reserves, and such as are nominally in possession of a certain company of landholders in England, called the ‘British American Land Company,’ are of right the property of the State of Lower Canada,” except such parts as were bought by persons and held in good faith.2

Capital to Have a Free Hand

One of the main pleas of the insurrectionists was that capital should have a free hand, especially in the line of development of resources, the establishment of manufactories and of modern systems of navigation and transportation. They pointed to the astounding development of transportation, trade and manufacture in the United States, and asked pointedly why it was that Canada should be so backward ? Answering themselves, they replied it was because of the surviving feudalistic conditions which, variously in both Quebec and Ontario placed monopolies of trade and of land in the hands of the Church, seigneurs, officials and companies (largely absentee), and because of the feudalistic laws incompatible with the requirements of an age, the spirit of which was individual enterprise and full personal freedom of trade.3

Lord Durham In his elaborate report, Lord Durham enumerated some of the grievances. By an Act passed in 1837, he wrote, difficulties were thrown in the way of the employment of capital in banking, and that the banking laws tended to preserve the monopoly held by the few chartered banks in Canada.4 No man had a right to vote at elections until he paid the whole of the purchase money for public or Clergy land, and as it generally took a period of from four to ten years, he had to wait long before he could vote.5 There were complaints of great impediments to industrial progress.6

Old laws prohibiting the importation of particular articles except from England — laws which originally had been passed to protect the privilege of monopoly in Canada — still prevailed, although the English monopoly had been removed ; the result was that almost all of those particular articles used in Ontario were smuggled across the frontier.7

But interwoven with this general character of the insurrectionary movement were a diversity of other factors which ; although extraneously religious or sentimental, were in reality largely of a distinct economic nature.

Other Causes of the Uprising.

Irritated at the refusal of the Church of England clergy to recognize them as an established Church, the Scotch Presbyterians gave much support to Mackenzie ; this anger at the Church of England clergy was based not upon the mere refusal of a formal recognition, but because of the absence, of such recognition, which manifestly would have been a prima facie admission that the Presbyterians had an equal right in the allotment of the Clergy Reserves.

The middle and the working classes complained that the district assessment law was expressly devised to tax them and favor the rich ; that the rich not only did not pay their due proportion of the taxes but actually paid less than did those in “ middling circumstances.”8 There was a close monopoly of the professions which turned many of the professional newcomers in favor of the insurrection. A British surgeon, licensed in England, could not practice without the consent of the Ontario Board of Examiners. An attorney coming from elsewhere, had to submit to an apprenticeship of five years before he was allowed to practice. Barristers, too, hailing from other parts complained of the discriminations put upon them by Ontario laws.9

During the course of the insurrection, the clergy of the favored denominations, professing to speak in the name of God, made the strongest efforts to break down the movement, exhorting the people that they must yield submissively to constituted authority.

At a dinner given on July 25, 1837, to 140 of the Roman Catholic clergy, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Montreal was reported to have said that the clergy “ were to represent to their parishioners that it is never permitted to revolt against lawful authority, nor to transgress the laws of the land ; that they are not to absolve in the confessional any indication of the opinion either that a man may revolt against the Government under which he has the happiness to live, or that it is permitted to break the laws of the country.”10 So ran on this admonishing address.

These were, to be sure, traditionally hierarchic instructions, but they were a curious product considering that when feudalism was in its last stages a little later, and capitalism rising triumphantly, the Roman Catholic Church and clergy were among the original native investors in capitalist enterprises. With the various reforms demanded, including the abolition of the death sentence for all except capital crimes, the clergy evinced no sympathy.

The insurrection was put down, but it produced many changes, some immediate, others gradual. Imprisonment for any debt under £10 was not abolished until 1849, and other reforms were slowly enacted.

Emigration of Peasants and Workers from Canada

One of the immediate results of the insurrection was the great increase of emigration from Canada to the United States, beginning principally after the insurrections of 1837 and 1838. This emigration included both agricultural population as well as that of the workers of the cities ; and the exodus increased year after year.

The lumber market was vastly overstocked ; thirteen millions more feet of lumber were produced in 1846 than the market demand justified.11 Large fortunes had been made in the lumber trade, and the activity had continued on the supposition that further great quantities would be required in the construction of railroads abroad and at home.

Workmen of the cities of Quebec and Montreal, formerly engaged in lumbering, now left in considerable numbers for the United States ; there were few manufactories in Canada to employ this labor, and, perforce, they had to drift elsewhere. The same cause led to the exodus of laborers and raftsmen. Another class of emigrants from the Province of Quebec were young men “of good families” who could not afford to buy land at the prevailing high prices. These families were subject to the indignities of the caste system and to the “ exactions of the landed proprietors who impose even heavier conditions than the seigneurs. They hire themselves in the manufactories or on the farms of the United States.”

Still another division of migratory workers were the poor families settled on the seignories. These families were forced by debt to emigrate after having sold their lands and moveables, or after their paltry effects had been sold by officers of the law. Such workers, too, sought work on the farms or in the factories of the United States, “frequently at heavy, hard and bodily labor.”12

More than three-fourths of the Canadians in the United States belonged to the working class. There they were employed in mills, manufactories or as simple laborers, and were living “ in a state of degradation really humiliating to our country.” Dismayed at losing so many of their parishioners, the priests bitterly complained that many of the seigneurs had refused and still refused “ to encourage the establishment of profitable works and useful manufactures for the country, in order to retain exclusively without profit to themselves or the public, the numerous water powers owned by them, and for which they are offered reasonable prices.”13 The committee investigating the startling migration depended much upon the testimony of priests, who, it was critically pointed out in some quarters, had nothing to say of the exactions of the Church.

Yet another matter disquieting to the shippers was the fleeing of large numbers of seamen to the United States. Of 20,164 seamen at the port of Quebec in 1846, there were 3,549 desertions. The ship masters, studiously seeking to throw the blame upon anybody other than themselves, accused the taverns and tippling houses of luring the seamen, getting them drunk and robbing them. But between the exactions of crimp and shipping master, the seamen were effectively despoiled before any other agency plundered them ; if in debt, as they usually were, they were imprisoned ; if they deserted, the force of a special police hunted them down, and if they were detected, threw them into loathsome jails.14

At this time, it would appear from a legislative return, the seigneurs or the owners of seignories owned 7,496,000 acres of land in Lower Canada, and the Jesuits’ estates, not appropriated by the Government, covered 664,080 acres. In 1831 one in every 399 persons in Lower Canada was living upon alms ; in 1844, one in every 151 of the population was a recognized pauper subsisting upon alms. “ This shows a fearful increase in pauperism,” said the report. The number of illiterate children was astonishing.15

Despite the rebellion of 1837-1838 the Clergy Reserves were extremely safe from forfeiture or confiscation, and likewise the lands of the Canada Company and the British American Land Company.

But the contesting Protestant denominations gained their point. The legislature of Upper Canada in 1840 passed an Act distributing the lands among the various Protestant sects, but this Act was disallowed (or vetoed) ; and in the same year an Imperial Act decreed that the funds from the sale of the land were to be distributed in the proportion of 2 to 1 between the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians. As for the remainder of the Clergy Reserves to be sold, one-third of the proceeds were to go to the Episcopalians, one-sixth to the Presbyterians, and the remainder to be divided among the other denominations. Originally, it may be said, the Presbyterians had been excluded, but, contesting the case in the courts, had obtained a favorable decision in England.

Clergy Denounce Alienation of Their Land Reserves

This proposed arrangement by no means satisfied the large party intent upon obliterating the Clergy Reserves. This party comprised settlers and lumber and other capitalists.

When, in 1850, a Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Canada to alienate the vested interest held by the Clergy in the revenue from the sale of the reserves (although insuring them stipends), the prelates of the Episcopal Church raised a mighty protest, vociferously calling the measure an “ infidel ” one. In a circular to the Clergy, Archdeacon Stuart of Kingston, and the Archdeacon of York, denounced the move as one “ of direct spoliation of the Church,” and as “ flagrantly wicked and unjust.” The clergy were advised to get together impressive petitions, and were told, that if the Church members would “rise and speak in the might of their righteous cause . . . their voice would soon drown the cry of the evil-minded and ungodly faction which aims at her destruction.” The petition read that “ your petitioners would regard the success of such an attempt as a national sin of the deepest dye and a grievous moral degradation.” These petitions were to be forwarded to the Lord Bishop of Toronto before he left for England.16

On September 17 and October 18, 1852, Mr. Brown moved a motion in the Legislative Assembly that inasmuch as the Protestant Clergy had got by fraud or error 300,000 acres of land in Upper Canada, and 227,559 acres in Lower Canada — in all 527,559 acres — that measures should be taken to recover the funds paid for these particular lands.17 Whereupon, the Episcopal Bishops of Quebec, Toronto and Montreal successfully protested against this “ proposed confiscation.”18 In 1854 an Act was finally passed alienating from the Church all vested rights in the Reserves, but leaving the clergy certain stipends and allowances “ during their natural lives and incumbrances.”

Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
, , , , , ,

1 comment:

Simon Pole said...

Keep the books reviews coming Eugene. I just requested this one from the library in Vancouver (we have truly amazing public library).

I also signed out the Anarchist Anthology you recommended a while back.