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- Canada and the States - 10/71 -
been done. Such a project, in order to answer its purpose, requires something more than a practicable surface, or convenient mountain passes. Fine harbours on both Oceans, facilities for colonization on the route, and the authority of one single Power over the whole of the wild regions traversed, are all essential to success. As regards the United States, these conditions are wanting. While there are harbours enough on the Atlantic, though none equal to Halifax, there is no available harbour at all fit for the great Pacific trade, from Acapulco to our harbour of Esquimault, on Vancouver's Island, except San Francisco--and that is in the wrong place, and is, in many states of the wind, unsafe and inconvenient. The country north-west of the Missouri is found to be sterile, and at least one-third of the whole United States territory, and situated in this region, is now known as the 'Great American Desert.' Again, the conflicting interests of separate and sovereign States present an almost insuperable bar to agreement as to route, or as to future 'operations' or control. It is true that Mr. Seward, possibly as the exponent of the policy of the new President, promises to support _two_ Pacific Railways--one for the South, another for the North. But these promises are little better than political baits, and were they carried out into Acts of Congress, financial disturbance would delay, if not prevent, their final realization; and, even if realized, they would not serve the great wants of the East and the West, still less would they satisfy England and Europe. We, therefore, cannot look for the early execution of this gigantic work at the hands of the United States.
"Such a work, however, is too costly and too difficult for the grasp of unaided private enterprise. To accomplish it out of hand, the whole help of both the Local and Imperial Parliaments must be given. That help once offered, by guarantee or by grant, private enterprise would flock to the undertaking, and people would go to colonise on the broad tracts laid open to their industry."
My subsequent and semi-official inquiries induced me to modify many of the conclusions of the article quoted above. On the essential question of the pass in the Rocky Mountains, in British territory, most adapted by Nature for the passage of a road or a railway, all the evidence which I collected tended to show that the passage by the "Tete-jaune Cache," or "Yellow-head," Pass, was the best. The Canadian Pacific Company have adopted the "Kicking Horse" Pass, much to the southward of the "Yellow-head" Pass. Again, it became clear to me that the whole Rocky Mountain range was rather a series of high mountain peaks, standing on the summit of gradual slopes, rising almost imperceptibly from the plains and prairies on the eastern side, and dropping suddenly, in most cases, towards the sea-level on the western or Pacific side, than a great wall barring the country for hundreds of miles, as some had dreamed. Every inquiry from trappers, traders, Indian voyageurs, missionary priests of the Jesuits, and from all sorts and conditions of men and women, made difficulty after difficulty disappear. The great work began to appear to me comparatively easy of execution between Fort Garry, or the lower town of Selkirk and British Columbia; the cost less; and, owing to facilities of transport, especially in winter, the time of execution much shorter than had been previously assumed. In addition, an examination into the physical conditions of the various routes proposed through the United States, convinced me that here again the difficulties were less, and facilities for construction greater, than I and others had first imagined. In fact, I came rightly to the conclusion that the more southerly the United States route, and the more northerly the British route--while always, in the latter case, keeping within cultivable range--the better. Still, at this time there was much to find out. As respects real knowledge of the country to be traversed, the factors of the Hudson's Bay Company knew every fact worth divulging, but they were afraid to speak; while the Catholic missionaries, accustomed to travel on foot in their sacred cause over the most distant regions, possessed a mine of personal knowledge, never, so far as I could learn, closed to the Government of Canada or to any authorized inquirer.
Prior to my sailing to New York, _en route_ for Canada, to fulfil my mission for the Grand Trunk, in 1861, I had a long interview with the Duke of Newcastle, as Colonial Minister. He had seen, and we had often previously discussed, the questions raised in the article above quoted, and which he had carefully read. The interview took place on the 17th July, 1861. Every point connected with the British Provinces in America, as affected by the then declared warlike separation of the northern and southern portions of the United States, was carefully discussed. The Duke had the case at his fingers ends. His visit to America with the Prince of Wales, already alluded to more than once, had rendered him familiar with the Northern Continent, and its many interests, in a way which a personal study on the spot can alone bring about; and he declared his conviction that the impression made upon the mind of the Prince was so deep and grateful, that in anything great and out of the ordinary rut of our rule at home, he would always find an earnest advocate and helper in the Prince, to whom he said he "felt endeared with the affection of a father to a son." I called the Duke's special attention to the position and attitude of the Hudson's Bay authorities. How they were always crying down their territory as unfit for settlement; repelling all attempts from the other side to open up the land by roads, and use steamers on such grand rivers as, for instance, the Assiniboin and the Saskatchewan. He said Sir Frederick Rogers, the chief permanent official at the Colonial Office, whose wife's settlement was in Hudson's Bay shares, and who, in consequence, was expected to be well informed, had expressed to him grave doubts of the vast territory in question being ever settled, unless in small spots here and there. The Duke fully recognized, however, the difficulty I had put my finger upon. I never spent an hour with a man who more impressed me with his full knowledge of a great imperial question, and his earnest determination to carry it out successfully and speedily. The Intercolonial Railway, to connect Halifax on the Atlantic with the Grand Trunk Railway at Riviere du Loup, 106 miles below Quebec, he described as "the preliminary necessity." The completion of an iron-road, onwards to the Pacific, was, "to his mind, a grand conception." The union of all the provinces and territories into "one great British America," was the necessary, the logical, result of completing the Intercolonial Railway and laying broad foundations for the completion, as a condition of such union, of a railway to the Pacific. He authorized me to say; in Canada, that the Colonial Office would pay part of the cost of surveys; that these works must be carried out in the greatest interests of the nation, and that he would give his cordial help. This he did throughout.
In bidding me good-bye, and with the greatest kindness of manner, he added: "Well, my dear Watkin, go out and inquire. Master these questions, and, as soon as you return, come to me, and impart to me the information you have gained for me." Just as I was leaving, he added, "By the way, I have heard that the State of Maine wants to be annexed to our territory." I made no reply, but I doubted the correctness of the Duke's information. Still, with civil war just commencing, who could tell? "Sir," said old Gordon Bennett to me one day, while walking in his garden, beyond New York, "here everything is new, and nothing is settled." Failing health, brought on by grievous troubles, compelled the Duke to retire from office in the course of 1864, and on the 18th of October of that year he died; on the 18th October, 1865, he was followed by his friend, staunch and true, Lord Palmerston, who left his work and the world, with equal suddenness, on that day.
But from that 17th July, 1861, I regarded myself as the Duke's unofficial, unpaid, never-tiring agent in these great enterprises, and, undoubtedly, in these three years, ending by his retirement and death, the seeds were sown.
_Port Moody--Victoria--San Francisco to Chicago_.
At "Port Moody," and even at the new "Vancouver City," I felt some disappointment that the original idea of crossing amongst the islands to the north-east of Vancouver's Island, traversing that island, and making the Grand Pacific terminus at the fine harbour of Esquimalt, had not been realized. Halifax to Esquimalt was our old, well-worn plan. The "Tete Jaune" was our favoured pass. This plan, I believe, met the views both of Sir James Douglas and the Honorable Mr. Trutch. But I consoled myself with the reflection, that if we had not gained the best, we had secured the next best, grand scheme--a scheme which, as time goes on, will be extended and improved, as the original Pacific Railways of the United States have been.
The sea service between "Port Moody" and "Victoria," Vancouver's Island, is well performed; and Victoria itself is an English town, with better paved streets, better electric lighting, and better in many other ways that might be named, than many bigger American and English towns I know of. I spent four delightful days in and about it, including an experimental trip, through the kindness of Mr. Dunsmuir --the proprietor of the Wellington Collieries, a few miles north of Nanaimo--over the new railway from Victoria to Nanaimo, constructed, with Government aid, by himself and Mr. Crocker, of San Francisco. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Sir Mathew Begbie, the Chief Justice of British Columbia, to whose undaunted courage Vancouver's Island and British Columbia owed law and order in the dangerous and difficult times of the gold discoveries.
Upon the question of relative distances, engineering, and generally what I saw between Port Moody and Chicago, I again take advantage of Mr. Edward Wragge's excellent notes.
"_Table of Distances between Liverpool and China and Japan_, via _the Canadian Pacific Railway, through Canadian territory, and_ via _New York and San Francisco, through United States territory_:--
"ROUTE THROUGH CANADIAN TERRITORY.
"_Summer Route_ MILES.
Liverpool to Quebec, _via_ Belle Isle 2,661 Quebec to Montreal 172 Montreal to Port Moody 2,892 Port Moody to Vancouver 12 Vancouver to Victoria 78 Vancouver to Yokohama 4,334 Vancouver to Hongkong 5,936
"_Winter Route_ MILES.
Liverpool to Halifax 2,530 Halifax to Quebec 678 Other points as in summer.
Summer route, Liverpool to Yokohama 10,071 Winter route, " " 10,618
"ROUTE THROUGH UNITED STATES TERRITORY.
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