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Editorial from The Nor'Wester

Manitoba Pageant, September 1959, Volume 5, Number 1

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first newspaper established on the Canadian Prairies. In 1859 two young men, William Coldwell and William Buckingham both of whom had been working on newspapers in Toronto, recognized that there was a. place for a newspaper in the far-off Red River Settlement. Coldwell and Buckingham assembled their equipment in St. Paul and there they bought three Red River carts and oxen to take them, their press and their type on the long journey of four hundred and sixty miles to Fort Garry where on December 28, 1859 the first issue of the Nor'Wester appeared.

William Coldwell

James Ross,
Editor of the Nor'Wester

To celebrate this event the Historic Sites Advisory Board of Manitoba will place a marker near the spot where the first office of the Nor'Wester stood and a commemoration dinner will be held in Winnipeg to pay tribute to the two pioneer newspapermen of Western Canada. Manitoba Pageant, to take note of this anniversary, reprints below the first editorial of The Nor'Wester.


Editorial from The Nor'Wester

Prefaces are almost out of fashion. And in ordinary circumstances a newspaper goes forth to meet its friends without the formality of a labored introduction. The book tells its own story, the newspaper must be judged on its own merits, aside from mere profession.

The circumstances which surround The Nor'Wester are, however, to a large extent exceptional. As the first newspaper established in this Territory, it is bound, perhaps, by a regard to courtesy, if not to interest, to set before the community to which more especially it addresses itself, the purposes it has in view — the plan it has laid down to act upon, and the principles by which it will be guided in its career.

We came here "strangers in a strange land." Not as enemies, intent upon spying out its nakedness — not as adventurers, indifferent to all considerations save those of self — not as partisans, resolved to further the ends of party or of faction at whatever cost to the peace of the country. We came with a view of making this place our home. We came persuaded that the time has arrived when this fertile and magnificent country, thrown open to the people of all lands, needs an exponent of its opinion, its feeling, its varied and yet common interests, through the medium of the Press. And The Nor'Wester shall afford evidence of the genuineness of our movement. Today we scatter its broadcast amongst those who, though personally strangers, are already friends—who, forgetting those differences which in most other countries are the sources of jealousy, mistrust, and contention—the differences of position, origin, religion, and language — have cordially united in their good wishes for our success.

For ourselves we can honestly say that no exertions we can make shall be wanting to render The Nor'Wester worthy of its mission, and not unworthy of the generous confidence with which we have been greeted. To please everybody in everything is, indeed, a task which the wisest heads would shrink from undertaking; and in this respect we cannot expect to be more fortunate than the Press elsewhere. Some wants we cannot hope to meet — some tastes we cannot hope to gratify—some feelings we cannot hope to please. We cannot for example, raise The Nor'Wester by one effort to the level of the Press of large cities, in relation to intelligence, or diverse and attractive talent. To the extent of our opportunities, The Nor'Wester shall be made to meet the general requirements of the locality, as a vehicle of news, and a channel for the utterance of timely yet moderate opinion.

We shall not precipitate political controversy. The time has not arrived when the community amongst whom we live should be called upon to "take sides" and with bitter words to wage war on what are elsewhere called party questions. In the march of events such a time will come. Other communities experience it as one of the penalt.es of popular government; and this, mayhap, will in the end be not more fortunate. In the interim, partisanship with all its vehemence, would be signally out of place. The vast district in whose behalf The Nor'Wester hopes to speak, requires not angry partisanship, but steady, solid, peaceful progress — not strife pertaining to party objects and party leaders, but the cultivation of a friendly spirit, aiming at the development of local resources and the promotion of a rational and therefore enduring prosperity. We want settlers rather than political mischief-makers; a thorough understanding of local resources and local wants, rather than an exciting struggle to stratify individual ambition, or gain the fleeting honors of political triumph.

Of course, the Red River country will have its politics — has them now, in fact. But we contend that at present these pertain to material development, not to theoretical argument, still less to retrosaective quarrels. The not distant action of the Imperial Government coupled with the policy which the Canadian Legislature may indicate at its next session, will necessarily throw upon us the duty of dealing more specifically with matters to which we thus generally refer. We prefer to await that action before plunging into political discussion. And, come when it may, we shall meet the altered aspect of the case with a single eye to the rights and interests of the people; ignoring party preferences as they exist in Canada or England and as far as possible divesting ourselves of prejudice and antipathy, whether relating to individuals or corporations.

Marking out this as our course, we trust to render The Nor'Wester acceptable to the community in general. Nourishing no pique, we shall not suffer our sheet to become the vehicle of abuse or misrepresentation on any subject whatsoever. Having no interest apart from that of our neighbors, we shall not be tempted to render our common interests subordinate to personal or limited considerations, whensoever they proceed.

We start with a goodly array of non-resident subscribers. To their wants we shall not fail to address ourselves, so far as we can do so without injustice to the friends around us. Both in Canada and Minnesota, we found a lively desire for information touching all that concerns this region; and this desire we shall do our best to meet. By thus conveying to distant places an accurate knowledge of the people, the trading and agricultural resources, and other matters peculiar to the great North-West, we hope to be enabled to aid the material and moral advancement of what may be properly termed the incipient colony of Red River.

Note: The story of The Nor'Wester has been told by Aileen Garland in Manitoba Pageant, January, 1958.

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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