The Legacy of the Age of Sail

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The legacy of the Age of Sail in Canada can be described in the context of historiographical comments on what happens in the transformation of technological eras: comments on what emerges new, what is transformed, and what persists in the transformation. History cannot be altered to generate new starting conditions for an economy. The characteristics of the past remain embodied in the form they have given to the present. If the Age of Sail produced a set of different and disconnected colonies in what became Canada, that beginning shaped Canada in later periods.

In the Age of Sail feudalism was transformed into market capitalism, and the feudal political order was rejected in bourgeois revolutions that preceded the formation of democratic nation states. To the extent that these institutional transformations and disruptions did or did not occur in Canada, the legacy of the Age of Sail was distinctive in Canada.

The legacy of a technological era will vary from place to place. Its legacy in any particular place will be illuminated by comparison with its legacy in other places. In the Railway Epoch, Russia, the United States, and Canada emerged as transcontinental nation states. Railway Epoch forces made them alike. Insofar as they differed, they differed because of differences inherited immediately from the Age of Sail, and from other eras, mediated through the Age of Sail. By setting up a comparison with its sister transcontinental nation states, Canada's legacy from the Age of Sail can be placed in bold relief. If Russia and the United States are depicted as extreme opposing models of Age of Sail development, that is `ideal types' of Age of Sail development, the legacy of the Age of Sail in Canada can be characterized by the extent to which Canada shared the different, `ideal' characteristics of the other two transcontinental states.

What all this says, when put in a general way, is that the economic development of Canada can best be understood in the context of economic development in the Euro-American civilization of which it was a part.

The Transformation of Technological Eras

In the simplest of historical reconstructions new technologies give rise to new business activities and organizations. These, in turn, reshape the overall forms of governments. An example of such a reconstruction (one which is not followed in the interpretation given in the present account) would be the following. The sailing ship generated new commercial activities. New activities generated Mercantilist organizations and policies. These, in turn, produced sixteenth century nation states with their colonial empires expanding around the world. Then came the steam locomotive and the possibility of bulk transportation overland. This produced the limited liability corporation and national policies of protectionism; and these, in turn, shaped transcontinental nation states large enough and diverse enough to aspire to independent (autarchistic) industrialization. Finally, the internal combustion engine, the automobile and aircraft, produced multinational enterprise, and dissolved the boundaries of transcontinental nations. Pancontinentalization and globalization became the dominant tendencies in the formation of private institutions, and of national and supra-national policies in the recent past.

This reconstruction is too simple, for at least two reasons. First, the relationship between institutional structures and technologies may be the reverse of that suggested. Mercantilism, emerging from a broad base of technical and economic advances in other areas, may have made advances in navigation and global trade possible. If agricultural improvements, rather than commercial ventures, were the source of the surplus for investment during the transition from feudalism to capitalism, global navigation was an effect of Mercantilism, not a cause. Second, the reconstruction is too simple because the nature and consequences of the things drawn into newly forming social structures is ignored. Pre-existing and persisting characteristics and problems of particular economic and political institutions, and the nature of preexisting and persisting weaknesses with respect to geography and technology in different places, go undiscerned.

It is the second of these reasons that is of immediate concern, because it points to the vestiges of earlier eras as disintegrating forces in later technological eras.

Examples of differences in the foundations of the same era in different specific cases are easy to find. Transcontinentalization in Russia was achieved on horseback, a century and a half before it was achieved in the United States and Canada, and two centuries before it was achieved by railway in Russia itself. It was achieved on horseback in the United States, but the pony express in the United States was only a stop gap until a railway could be built. Transcontinentalization was achieved by canoe in Canada, and then lost, to be achieved a second time by steam locomotive. In Russia, transcontinentalization was accompanied by a deepening of feudalism. In the United States, it was accompanied by a deepening of capitalism. In Canada the mix of feudalism and capitalism defies simple summation. The Russian empire and the United States federation were products of preceding, aggressive, internal expansion. The Canadian federation, formed in the course of British defensive imperialism, received only opportunistic or reluctant internal support from the dependencies involved.

Examples of oversimplification in the periodization by which the simplistic technological reconstruction of history is structured are even easier to find. The Age of Sail ended about 1860, but the Canal Era, that is said to have succeeded the Age of Sail, began in 1770, and ended about 1850; and the Railway Epoch, succeeding both the Age of Sail and the Canal Era, began two generations before either had ended. It is not surprising, then, that types of economic organization growing logically out of each new configuration of technological constraints -- feudalism, mercantilism, industrial capitalism, and financial capitalism -- overlap in time and blend into one another. Depending on the focus of attention, it is equally reasonable to date the transformations associated with termination of the Age of Sail from 1776, 1820, or 1867.

This is not to say that simple, technologically based reconstructions do not point to important elements in the forces of history. It is just that the forces of history include a variety of elements. The roots of epochal disintegration are to be found equally in the legacy of technologies past, the force of technologies present, and the pull of technologies yet to come. They are to be found, too, in the geographical and cultural context in which the effects of technological change take form; because geography and values have roots that are independent of technology and institutions.

Feudalism, Capitalism, Revolution and Nationalism

In one simple account of the rise of the modern nation state in France, feudalism and monarchy give way to capitalism and democracy in the course of a `bourgeois revolution'. In this account the strength of modern nations is tied to the energy of an internal convulsion bringing the feudal order of economic and political activity to an end.

By not questioning the general validity of this account, it is possible to use it to `predict' the specific weaknesses of integrating forces in the transcontinental nations that took shape in the Railway Epoch.

Bourgeois revolutions were supposed to have established the economic institutions that facilitated the Industrial Revolution of the Canal Era. They were supposed to have liberated the strident capitalism of the Railway Epoch. They were supposed to have formed the democratic nation state. It follows that, in any particular case in which a bourgeois revolution did not occur, forces integrating Canal Era and Railway Epoch phenomena were attenuated.

The United States, Russia and Canada shared certain similar surface experiences related to the demise of feudalism. In the United States, the vestiges of feudalism were formally abolished by State legislatures in the decade following the Revolutionary War. In Canada, the absence of any mention of quit rents in the Constitutional Act of 1891 was a critical turning point for the English speaking colonies; and formal abolition of the seigneurial system in francophone Canada came in 1854. In the 1860s, Russia enacted land reforms that were to have abolished feudalism. So, in some sense, feudalism ended in the United States, Canada, and Russia between 1776 and 1866. In all three, it ended before Railroad Epoch transcontinentalization. The relationship in time can be strengthened if slavery in the United States can be associated with serf status, if attenuated British feudalism in English speaking Canada can be overlooked, and if the first year of land reforms in Russia can be taken as definitive. Feudalism, so loosely defined, ended, and the era of liberal capitalism, also loosely defined, began in all three nations between 1854 and 1861.

No statement of the experience of the three transcontinental-economies-to-be, with respect to the bourgeois revolution reconstruction of the end of feudalism, can go farther than this in emphasizing similarities. There were dissimilarities.

The United States did abolish feudalism following a revolution, but its experience was very different from that of France, from which the bourgeois revolution reconstruction was drawn. The American Revolution was as much a civil war as a revolution. Some of the rights established in the mother country were asserted, not abolished. United States feudalism was an extension of attenuated British feudalism, in which old order relationships already had been replaced by a form of capitalism. Even before the Revolution, individual property rights had been engorged, and the state had been significantly democratized; that is, constitutionally restricted to a perceived minimally necessary national economic policy. The Revolution was important in moving the capital from London to Washington, as well as in establishing new institutions.

The Russian Revolution, in its turn, was different from both the French and the American. From the beginning the Russian Empire was integrated by force. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, feudalism in Russia transmogrified into a kind of undemocratic, state supported capitalism. Force remained the integrating agent. When the Russian Revolution came it eliminated what capitalism there was, and expanded national economic policy into comprehensive central planning, with force still the integrating agent.

The Canadian case was different yet again. Despite the commutation of seigneurial obligations in francophone Canada East, feudalism, as such, was never formally and comprehensively abolished in all of British North America. The seigneurial system was commuted into the attenuated, but formally extant, British feudalism of the old province of Upper Canada. In some matters, what had not been formally done away with was still in force. In particular, the monarch's right of eminent domain continued to be exercised by responsible governments. This right, termed `The Management and Sale of Public Lands' was given to the provinces. In consequence, control of certain important matters with respect to national economic policy was not in the hands of individuals, as in the United States, nor in the hands of the central government, as in Russia; but in the hands of provincial governments. In Canada, vestiges of feudalism, a legacy left by the absence of a bourgeois revolution in its Age of Sail, obstructed the integrated economic policy that the bourgeois revolution reconstruction attributes to capitalist nation states . In the early years of the federation, a comprehensive national policy was executed in the Prairie provinces, but only by reserving for `the purposes of the Dominion' `the Management and Sale of Public Lands' in those provinces.

It could be `predicted', given these precedents, that, when the forces of the Railroad Epoch had exhausted themselves, the United States would remain integrated to the extent that integration was in the interests of effectively articulate individuals; Russia would remain integrated to the extent that central authority could enforce it; and Canada would remain integrated to the extent that the provinces would allow it.

The United States came into existence in a revolution that rejected the vestiges of feudalism, and rejected an Imperial policy that was little more than the national policy of the mother country. The American Revolution was a continuation of the Glorious Revolution of seventeenth century England. It expressed democratic, national aspirations.

Russia came into existence in a process that deepened feudalism, and depended on the continuity of imperial control. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics came into existence in a revolution that replaced the vestiges of feudalism with the most powerful state in history to that time. The Russian Revolution was an instrument of ancient Russian imperialism. It expressed the national aspirations of a dictatorial clique.

Canada, made up of bits and pieces of the old French and English empires, was populated, to a significant degree, by those whose political culture predated, and those who opposed, the revolutions in France and the United States. Canada had no revolution of its own. The Canadian Rebellions of 1837 were similar to the Pennsylvania Whisky Rebellion of 1794, a protest of partially established democratic forces against particular policies and privileges. The Canadian rebels, English-speaking and francophone, sought marginal adjustment, not fundamental change. In Upper Canada, settlers reacted violently to a number of government revenue instruments that worked against their interests. They wanted a different balance of power, not a total reconstruction of society. As a class conflict, theirs was a rebellion of agricultural against bourgeois mercantile interests, not of bourgeois against feudal agricultural interests. In Lower Canada, similar discontents were mixed with the protests of a subordinated cultural group. Among other demands, the {\itl Patriots\/} in Lower Canada wanted enforcement, rather than abolition, of the seigneurial system.

The Age of Sail in Canada entailed no bourgeois revolution. Its legacy included no national, as opposed to regional, aspirations. It was conducive to a weak, if not disfunctional, national government.

Russia at the End of the Age of Sail: an Ideal Type

Prior to the Age of Sail, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Mongol empire of Genghis Khan controlled central Asia and eastern Europe to the Baltic and the Black Seas. Without moral or philosophical justification, but with a well developed system of post horse communications, the Mongols conquered and ruled, using the administrative skills and the moral and religious cohesion of the conquered. Despite a high level of delegation by the imperial power, sedition and rebellion were forestalled by transferring administrative cohorts from one part of the empire to another. This ensured a social hiatus between delegated low level rulers and those they ruled. The empire was efficient and, in a certain sense, tolerant. Nonetheless, its sole basis was brute force. This Mongolian imperial system, in part overthrown, and in part inherited, served the Russians as they expanded eastward in the Age of Sail.

In 1480, at the beginning of that 40 year period in which the Portuguese and Spanish circumnavigated the world, the Russians freed the Grand Duchy of Moscow from `the Tartar Yoke'. In 1502, six years after Columbus' discovered America, the last of the `Golden Horde' collapsed, and Russia was able to extend its influence over the territories left ungoverned.

The Russians advanced east, absorbing the lands of more primitive peoples. Beginning at the head waters of rivers flowing south and north, they expanded from the Grand Duchy of Moscow outward in all directions to coasts on the Barents, the Baltic, the Black and the Caspian Seas, and on the Pacific Ocean.

Between 1600 and 1700, the Russian Empire under went a `Time of Troubles', suffering the loss of White Russia (the Ukraine) to a Polish Empire that dominated the Baltic, and coping with famine, and with numerous peasant uprisings occasioned by famine. These peasant rebellions, occasioned by famine, were caused fundamentally by the increasing feudal exactions of an entrenching nobility that benefited from imperial expansion. The Russian Empire was built on a problematic deepening of feudal institutions.

Russia's conquest of Siberia, in the seventeenth century, was a combined military and commercial venture headed by the outstanding `industrial' family of the Urals, the Stroganovs. Having set a feudal work force to iron mining and smelting on the west side of the Urals, individual `industrialists' expanded their influence over the height of land to the east. They dispatched cohorts of 50 to 500 Cossacks, with rifles and swords, to support expansion of trade in furs and minerals, particularly gold and silver. When serious resistance was encountered, the Czar was called upon to pacify rebellious regions with regular troops and colonizing peasants.

Seventeenth century Russian deepening of feudalism entailed expansion of serf manufacturing. This was a system in which industrial labour was provided as part of the peasant's obligation to their lord. Its roots, in part, grew out of a prefeudal system of communal agriculture in which peasants lived together and worked their fields in common. Such communal `villages', if they fell under the domain of a noble, could be required to yield as labourers a portion of their populations, rather than a portion of the time of individual serfs.

The high period of serf manufacturing, in the eighteenth century, was contemporary with definitive separation of agriculture from manufacturing in Russia, and the concomitant end of subsistence tilling of the soil. Given the nature of the labour force and the mode of its payment -- the right to live off the produce of the lord's lands and the labour of the lord's peasant serfs -- manufacturing was undertaken with highly supervised, low skill, labour intensive techniques. It was usually an activity of a very large estate, financed partly by the resources of a land owning merchant, and partly by the state, that is, by the Czar. The Czar's involvement was a consequence of massive needs for uniforms, arms and other supplies for military operations, and an outgrowth of Imperial mercantilist aspirations.

Eighteenth century Russia was shaped by Emperors Peter and Catherine, both called `the Great' (1682--1721, and 1762--1796). They had much in common. Both were influenced by French Mercantilism and, especially Catherine, by the French Enlightenment. Both attempted to modernize Russia by copying the policies and polite behavior of the French. Their efforts were not without results. Nobles were Europeanized, peasants enserfed, and neighbouring countries conquered. The Russian empire was extended to include formerly Swedish territory on the eastern end of the Baltic. Poland and the Ukraine were absorbed, and Turkey was relieved of the Crimea and most of the Balkans. Russia thereby gained passage into the Atlantic Ocean, by way of the Baltic Sea; and into the Mediterranean, by way of the Black Sea.

Peter built a canal to connect the Volga to the Baltic, and erected a new capital, St. Petersburg, at its western end. He imported European engineers and workers to help set up some 200 factories. Under his inspiration, and that of Catherine, Russia's external trade came under the control of English merchants who purchased furs, lumber, and, especially, iron. With the aid of foreign experts, the iron mines and smelters of the Urals were expanded until, by 1800, Russia had become the largest producer and exporter of iron in Europe. Other important, newly developed manufactures were small arms, cannon, sails, linen, woolens, cottons, glass, leather products, silks, mirrors, wall paper and chinaware.

Despite their attachment to things modern and European, both Peter and Catherine deepened feudalism's hold on Russia. Both were enthroned with the aid of the military. Peter had been given real soldiers and forts as a boy. They were his toys. When his reign was threatened, his `toy' army ensured his continuance on the throne. Peter's continued reliance on his toys turned them into the nucleus of Russia's first permanent army. An army of full time mercenaries was most unfeudal, but in Russia it supported feudalism by suppressing, for example, some 40 major peasant uprisings, between 1762 and 1772. The flavour of Peter's reign can best be captured by noting that he established a number of technical schools and founded the Russian Academy of Science (posthumously), while reducing thousands of free peasants to serf status. He tortured his own son to death. Catherine wrote poetry in French, corresponded with the great figures of the Enlightenment, and handed thousands of `state peasants' into personal bondage to her favourites.

Following the repression of a major peasant uprising in 1773--1774, Catherine issued a manifesto offering freedom, monopoly rights, and/or financial support to anyone setting up a factory. The structure of Russian feudalism was such that there were serfs who controlled factories and were able to take advantage of this opportunity. Mostly, however, Catherine helped land owning nobles to expand into industrial pursuits. In 1785 (when feudalism was being formally abolished in the United States), Catherine issued her Charter of the Nobility, entrenching the powers of the land owning class for another three quarters of a century.

Digression: the West Coast Fur Trade

In 1741, during the interregnum between Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, Vitus Bering explored the North American mainland. Expansion of Russia's fur trade followed close behind. The first permanent, North American Russian trading post was set up on Kodiak Island in 1783.

Aware of Russia's advance, Spain countered with a preemptive trade expansion north. When British and New England traders arrived, increasing the threat to their claims, the Spanish built fortifications on Vancouver Island.

For the Russians, approaching from the North, the problem was adequate supplies, particularly food supplies. They planned an agricultural colony at the mouth of the Columbia River, but never carried out the plan. For the Spanish, the problem was the tenuous nature of their political control, even over undisputed territory. In 1822, Mexico fought its way to independence from Spain, but Mexico, too, found itself incapable of withstanding the economic and military advance of the United States. Eventually the Russians accepted an arrangement in which New England's ships provisioned Russian operations, and transported Russian furs to China. Britain and the United States established agriculturally based settlements, first at Fort Ross, then at Astoria on the Columbia, and, after 1846, on Vancouver Island. Coastal trade increased, and the importance of the Russian presence declined even further. When the supply of sea otters was eventually exhausted, there was nothing left to attract the Russians. They pulled back to Alaska before the California gold rush began its northward migration.

In 1821, when its expansion down the West Coast was at its apex, Russia claimed sovereignty over the American mainland south to the 51st parallel. At the close of the United States Civil War in 1866, when Britain used Confederation in Canada to consolidate its claims on the west coast, Russia turned from mercantilism to industrialism, concluded that the costs of maintaining its claims in America outweighed the benefits, and sold them to the United States.

New England at the End of the Age of Sail: an Ideal Type

On the eve of its Revolution, when Russian had been a land based transcontinental empire for almost a century, New England, in comparison, was still a set of agriculturally adequeate but also seafaring mercantile colonies huddled on the east coast of North America. It extended northward from Spanish Florida to the recently conquered French colony on the St. Lawrence River. It contributed to England's wealth, but it also prospered on its own, and it did not fit comfortably into the British Empire.

Markets for much of the output of the northern (New England) colonies were not to be found in England. Before its industrial revolution, Britain did not want for grains and livestock. The British and French West Indies, however, specialized their agricultural efforts into sugar; and Newfoundland, being only a fishery, had no agriculture at all. When the northern colonies' fisheries developed off the coast and on George's Bank, and when their shipping, built with less costly materials, entered the coastal trade, doors to West Indies and Newfoundland trade opened to them. The Newfoundland trade was, in fact, a gaping hole in the Imperial mercantilist economic wall.

The middle colonies had good soil and a good climate. Subsistence farming, with the crops that had been grown by the aboriginals (corn, squash, watermelon) and imported stock, was not a problem for Europeans. In time, European crops and techniques yielded a surplus over subsistence. Apples and peaches did well in America. The region exported furs and lumber to England, and wheat and other agricultural produce to the West Indies and Newfoundland. Much of the middle colonies' surplus was marketed through New England.

The southern colonies developed in a different way. Maryland and Virginia, were endowed with a soil and climate unsuited to English wheat. Tobacco grew well, however, and settlement was undertaken just as the tobacco markets of England and Europe were opening up. Tobacco grew well, but it exhausted the soil in three or four crops. Newly cleared land would be put under tobacco, exhausted, then used for other, non-exported, crops. When the whole of a holding suited to tobacco was exhausted, new, frontier land had to be found. The easiest thing was to purchase land already cleared by small farmers; and many in frontier areas in Virginia, as elsewhere, spent their working lives clearing land, selling out, and moving further west.

Beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, but increasingly after 1700, African slaves were substituted for indentured labour on the plantations.

The Carolinas were different again. North Carolina was settled by migrating Virginians, mostly small holders, who cultivated tobacco and corn, because tobacco could be grown economically on small as well as large holdings. South Carolina's coast was given over to rice plantations wherever suitable. When, in 1740, to assist the textile industry in England, the Imperial government placed a bounty on production of indigo, Carolinean plantations turned their efforts in that direction.

The Revolutionary War, though temporarily terminating the staple trades in tobacco, indigo, rice, and furs, was supported in the southern colonies. Educated by their own migratory behavior, southern plantation owners had become deeply involved in frontier land speculation. Their long term interest in land values outweighed their short term interest in uninterrupted trade. Until the Seven Years War, profits associated with expansion of the agricultural frontier had been threatened by French occupation of lands along the Mississippi. They were threatened again, in 1774, when the Empire placed the Mississippi basin under the jurisdiction of Quebec. The South, not expecting a permanent interruption of its staple trades with Britain, supported the Revolution. All of this notwithstanding, there were loyalists, particularly among the large estate owners of Maryland and Virginia, whose lands were confiscated after the Revolution.

Economic advance in the English colonies, in the Age of Sail, was evident in the growth of their combined populations. In 1700, 225,000 souls. In 1750, 1,000,000 whites, and 250,000 blacks; that is, 1,250,000 souls, against 50,000 souls in New France. By the time of the Revolution: 2,750,000, against 70,000 in New France. The population of the colonies, in 1776, was one quarter that of England. Philadelphia was the second largest city in the Empire.

Economic development in the colonies was evident in the Imperial restraints imposed on colonial trade after the fall of New France. With France out of America, and the internal political turbulence of the seventeenth century behind it, England moved toward stricter enforcement of its mercantile regulations. England also moved to protect property owners from novel monetary measures enacted by colonial legislatures. This, too, was indicative of the economic development of the colonies.

Rapid advance in the colonies caused a constant drain of specie to England for purchases related to investment. In order to compensate, because specie was also needed for internal colonial trade, some of the northern colonies paid for services, typically military services against the French and the natives, by issuing paper currency. It was a way to collect revenue without taxation, while increasing the volume of currency. Paper issues did not restrain the export of specie, however, and, perhaps, even facilitated it. In consequence, colonial legislatures frequently failed to redeem their notes. On receiving complaints from those who held such paper, the Imperial government forbade its issue. This prohibition, applying to New England after 1750, was extended to all of the colonies, including Canada, in 1764.

Some of the newly enforced regulations were of a common, mercantilist variety. By 1760, fully one third of the tonnage of ships under the British flag were being built in the colonies. There was, then, a fair demand for metal parts in colonial ship building. There was, in addition, a fair demand for metal implements on the part of settlers. Deposits of ore and the necessary skills were available in the colonies. In 1750, the British Parliament prohibited the construction of slitting or rolling mills, and the forging of steel plate in the colonies. Those activities were to be the business of industry in England.

The most potentially restrictive of imperial economic policies were embodied in the Navigation Acts, passed largely between 1649 and 1693, but added to and amended thereafter. The purpose of these laws was to confine production and trade in the British colonies to the Empire. They ensured the security of British investors, facilitated collection of revenue, promoted the economic and political independence of Britain with respect to other European nations, and supported whatever growth in the colonies fitted into the imperial scheme of things. They routed extra-imperial colonial trade through England, whenever England's interests were thereby served, and ensured that such trade was carried in ships flying the English flag. The Acts tended to reduce the colonies to the status of producers of staples required in Britain, and to make manufacturing, especially of woolen goods and iron ware, the exclusive field of enterprise in England itself.

The northern and middle colonies did not fit easily into such regulations. Their citizens frequently evaded them; so much so that it was not the actual burden of the laws that was the occasion of Revolution in 1776. In 1763, with the close of the Seven Years War, Britain emerged from a century of continual conflict with France. The economic cost had been high, and an attempt was made to make the American colonies, the security of which had been gained by the conflict, pay what was perceived to be their fair share. To this end the Sugar Act put a tax on molasses imported into New England. The Stamp Act, imposing a kind of tariff on other imports, added to the burden. Both were the subject of much complaint, and much effort at evasion. Both were adjusted down. In 1773 a relatively light tariff was imposed on tea, mostly to assert the right of the Imperial government to tax the colonies. The real issue was not the burden of the taxes, but who would control economic policy.

The Revolution terminated England's mercantilist regulations and taxes in its original American colonies. Thereafter the colonies, as an independent federation of states, regulated and taxed themselves. There were still costs of government to be met, and there was still an economic policy; but these things could no longer be dismissed as the impositions of external interests.

The American Revolution was more than a simple transfer of control over national policy from London to Washington. It was also the rebellion of a capitalistic frontier against vestigially feudal interests. The owners of large estates who failed to support the Revolution had their lands confiscated, broken up ,and sold to small holders. Other vestiges of feudalism, quit-rents, and the laws of entail and primogeniture, were abolished in almost all States, by 1786. Many of those who were opposed to this sort of capitalistic republicanization of economic and political life either returned to England, or migrated north to Nova Scotia and Quebec, where the Empire was still in control.

At the end of the Age of Sail, in 1781, when the United States was still a strip of settlement along the Atlantic coast, Russia had been a transcontinental country for almost a century. When Catherine the Great issued her Charter of the Nobility, in 1785, the newly constituted United States was preparing its Bill of Rights. When feudalism was deepening into serf manufacturing in Russia, the United States advanced into unalloyed capitalistic, commercial and industrial enterprise. The Age of Sail in Russia, was really the age of the horse. The Russian Empire was land based. The rise of New England was, itself, a product of the maritime expansion in the Age of Sail. Strictly speaking, the United States had a legacy from the Age of Sail, Russia did not.

Canada at the End of the Age of Sail: a Comparison

In 1820, when the transcontinental character of Russia was long established, and the `manifest destiny' of the United States to be transcontinental was beyond doubt, Canada was a bag of disassociated colonies, united only by membership in the British Empire. All were located in the northern half of North America, but they had nothing like the sense of identity, the objective integrity, and the aggressive expansionism of Russia and the United States.

The relative size of populations is an indication of the comparative nature of the three transcontinental-economies-to-be. In 1800: the United States, 5,300,000; Russia, 36,000,000 ; Canada, 370,000. In 1820: the United States, 9,600,000; Russia, 50,000,000; Canada, 780,000.

[In 1800, in Canada: Lower Canada, 216,000; Upper Canada, 49,000; in the Maritimes, 79,000; Newfoundland, 23,000. In 1820, in Canada: Lower Canada, 400,000; Upper Canada, 128,000; in the Maritimes, 200,000; Newfoundland, 48,000. In the Maritimes, in 1820: Nova Scotia, 110,000; New Brunswick, 69,000; Prince Edward Island, 20,000.]

The economy of British North America in 1800 was not integrated. The timber trade, which would provide a type of integration over the nineteenth century, was not yet. The transcontinental fur trade was rapidly fading in importance, and would soon abandon the St. Lawrence for Hudson Bay. It would become a divisive, rather than an integrating factor. Francophone Lower Canada was migrating out of what urban centers it had had, and retiring to its economically relatively independent seigneuries. It was not clear what would become of Upper Canada. With the fur trade operating out of Hudson's Bay, the West Coast lost contact with the St. Lawrence region. In any case, British population on the West Coast was very small. It was only in 1790 that Britain asserted any rights against Spain in Nootka Sound; and then it was in relation to Asian, not North American trade. Newfoundland was oriented to Europe and the West Indies, primarily. Its connection with the Canadas was virtually non existent. It was, however, becoming increasingly dependent on the Maritimes as Nova Scotia replaced New England in the bank fishery. The principal connection between the Maritimes and Upper Canada was a flow of Loyalists who rejected Nova Scotia as a place of settlement.

There was nothing at all that could be called the economic policy of British North America. There was, however, a British Imperial policy for British North America.

With the Empire's acceptance of defeat in its old colonies, in 1783, British Imperial policy changed, dividing into two systems: `domestic' or `Old Imperialism', and `tropical' or `New Imperialism'. Both were shaped by the experience of Britain in New England. New Imperialism was characterized by an insistence that colonies remain formally under British authority. Old Imperialism retained the idea that some form of representative government should be allowed, but it intended that the mistakes of the New England colonies should not be repeated. New Imperialism applied to India, in particular, and to the Middle East. These were now the focus of the Empire's attention. Old Imperialism, a legacy of the Age of Sail, applied to British North America, where an almost reluctant holding operation was the order of the day.

Fifty years later the Empire would abandon political for economic imperialism. By the end of the century, it would revert to political imperialism, blending the Old and the New Imperialism into yet another `New Imperialism'. But, in 1800--1820 those adjustments were still very much in the future, and British Imperial policy in North America was in relative disarray.

The old, domestic imperialism of the post-Revolutionary War period had a number of implications for British North America, not all of which were consistent with one another, or even possible. For example, Canada was to be kept out of the United States and defended. Still, Britain's industrial revolution was under way, and her economic ties with the United States were important for that process. In 1792, the United States was the largest single market for British exports. War with the United States was costly; so, when expedient, Britain was willing to concede to United States' demands at the expense of British North America. The Empire's defense of Canada was qualified. Similarly, British North America was to remain under the old mercantile system, but the kind of revolution that had occurred in the old colonies was to be prevented by reinforcing `the aristocratic principle' in colonial life. That is, democracy and republicanism, which had prevailed in the old colonies, which prevailed in the French Revolution, and which threatened British rule in Ireland, would be thwarted in British North America by the establishment of a class of large land owners, particularly in Upper Canada, but also in the Maritimes. The compatibility of mercantilism and aristocracy was to be ensured by the development of colonial agricultural exports of the sort that characterized the old southern colonies. Conditions in Upper Canada, however, were not conducive to a plantation cultured staple export.

Imperial policy in North America was a makeshift reaction that was quickly overcome by the real forces of history.

The Empire's first act in British North America was to politically decentralize what was already economically fractionated. The `most material and essential part' of the Canada Constitutional Act was the separation of Upper from Lower Canada. The institutional, linguistic, and, in general, cultural differences between the `old Canadians' (francophones) and the Loyalists demanded it. The Loyalists, themselves, demanded it. Even in the Maritimes, where there was no deep cultural division, the Loyalists demanded political separation. Whatever the Empire had intended for its remnant in North America, practical considerations led it to divide Quebec into Lower and Upper Canada; and Nova Scotia into Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and, for some years, Cape Breton.

At the end of the Age of Sail, at the turn of the nineteenth century, Canada was a string of economically and politically separate colonies, a disjointed and policy-futureless remnant of the first British Empire. Under the seigneurial regime, with the help of the fur trade, New France had experienced something like the deepening feudalism and rapid territorial expansion that characterized Russia in its sail-less Age of Sail. After the Conquest (strictly, after the Quebec Act), only feudal agriculture survived. The Maritimes was an extension of New England, until the Revolution. After the Revolution, in the company of Upper Canada, it became something like what New England would have been without the Revolution, and without the agricultural staple exports of the southern colonies. Nothing in British North America indicated a transcontinental future for a federated Canada within seventy years.

When W.A. Mackintosh asked why the roots of the Canadian economy, though planted at the same time as those of the United States economy, had supported a slower rate of growth, he found an answer in the absence of a staple export in the Canadian case. This, despite the apparent importance of the fur trade in New France and the fishery in Newfoundland. By `a staple export' Mackintosh meant something more than a single, primary product export associated with the government controlled staple markets of the Empire. The old British colonies were supported by exports of tobacco, rice and indigo; that is, by more labour intensive, cultivated commodities. The old French colonies, were supported by exports of fish and furs. Fish and furs, were not staples, or, at least, not effective staple exports, in Mackintosh's view. Not until the export of wheat from the Canadian Prairies in the late nineteenth century, was an effective staple export found. Cultivated, export-oriented, single crop staples, according to Mackintosh, were growth generating, exports. The fur and fish exports of New France and Newfoundland were `gathered', common property resource commodities. They were less labour and more land intensive in their production processes. Prairie wheat was like Virginia's tobacco, except that the institutional structure of wheat farming was that of the full-blown individualistic capitalism that grew up with the Revolution in the old colonies. The institutional structure of Virginia's tobacco, in the seventeenth century, was that of attenuated English feudalism. Both the wheat economy of the Canadian West and the tobacco economy of Virginia were staple export based economies in Mackintosh's view, because, in both, success in the trade generated a demand for labour, and led to further investment in the trade, which created an even greater demand for labour. Agricultural staple exports generated increasingly rapid economic growth.

In this view, there were a number of different kinds of economies in North America. There were non-export-oriented, agriculturally based colonial economies: the capitalistic, small farm, multiple crop economy of New England, and the feudal, multiple crop, non-commercially oriented economy of New France. These economies could be expected to have substantially different growth paths with respect to one another. In addition, there were the gathered staple export economies of Newfoundland and the fur trade regions of New France, and the cultivated, single crop, staple exporting economies of the southern English colonies. These had different growth paths from one another and from the non-export-oriented agricultural economies.

At the end of the Age of Sail, taking that to be the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the politically disassociated British North American colonies were also economically disassociated by the variety of their economic activities. Newfoundland and the Maritimes were common property based staple exporting economies, in the main, with reliance on the fishery less pronounced in the Maritimes, where there were agricultural possibilities. Francophone Canada was locked into sixteenth century French feudal agriculture. Upper Canada, with its associated metropolitan center, Montreal, was becoming a replica of the New England model as it adapted itself to conditions similar to western New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The fur trade lost its importance in Montreal, and migrated to the northwest, to become the defining economic activity of that region. The West Coast was coming into existence with its attention on common property staple exports to the Orient.

These different economies, all vestiges of the Age of Sail, had different growth paths. Their differences were accentuated in the following age by the uneven effects of the industrial revolution of the Canal Era. When they were loosely joined together by the effects of Railroad Epoch transcontinentalization, they were not homogenized. Their internal political differences, and their indifference to one another were overcome by the interests of the Empire to which they all belonged. When the Railway Epoch passed and the British Empire disintegrated, the Age of Sail distinctiveness of the regional economies of Canada survived as an important disintegrating factor in the nation state of which they were the constituent parts.


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