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Immigration, 1860

Manitoba Pageant, Autumn 1964, Volume 10, 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.

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From The Nor'Wester, 14 April 1860:

Ever since the discovery of this vast continent by Columbus, it has been the favorite refuge for the superfluous populations of the Eastern World. The stream of emigration, like the general march of civilization, has been westward, westward, westward. First, the countrymen of Cortez and Pizarro take possession of Central and South America, and then the northern portion is peopled by the vigorous Anglo-Saxon race. It is not very long since Upper Canada was an uninhabited forest, and now it is covered with flourishing towns and cities, and can boast a population of nearly two millions. Since the United States attained their independence, the tide of emigration from the old country has swollen their population to an astonishing extent. Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota have emerged from primeval solitude, as it were in a day; and already we seem to hear the hum and buzz of civilized life along our southern frontier. Is this general movement to be arrested at the imaginary line which separates us from Canada, on the one hand, and the United States, on the other? or is it to proceed naturally and steadily in its course until it has swept across the whole continent? The latter is unquestionably the correct view, and is the conclusion to which anybody would come who has watched the general advance of emigration as above indicated, and who believes that this country is on the eve of becoming a separate and independent colony of the British Crown.

There are two standpoints from which to regard these prospective changes; there is, on the one hand, the welfare of the present inhabitants of Red River to be considered, and, on the other, that of the expected immigrants. As to the former, it is to be observed that, as a general rule, the first immigrants into a new country are not of the most desirable class. They are of the loose, floating population of over-crowded cities who are too often characterized by recklessness and insubordination. This is particularly true when emigration to any district begins suddenly and is on a large scale - as was the case with California, and as now the case with British Columbia. We must expect, then, to share the fate of all new countries, in having among our first immigrants many whose habits render them undesirable companions. The people of Red River, in whatever else they may have been behind other communities, have ever been exemplary in their conduct, law-abiding, peaceful, honest, and we would regret to see these good moral characteristics brought to a lower level, in order to suit the tastes and inclinations of the class of immigrants referred to. There is another point which we must notice, and which is contained in the common saying, - "The peace and happiness of the Settlement are at an end!" We hear this from many besides the thoughtless and superficial; and, in a certain sense, the assertion is not without foundation. Hitherto, the manners and customs of the people have been of the most primitive character. Doors were never bolted at night, as everybody trusted everybody else. If a man paid a debt of £20, he never dreamt of asking for a receipt, lest he should insult the recipient by seeming to insinuate distrust; and if another lent his neighbour £10 he did so without witness, note, or any other security whatever for may be their proprietary rights in the soil, there is no question that all private rights acquired through them will be respected under any subsequent governmental arrangement. The Company have ever been lenient towards land purchasers, requiring only a small proportion to be paid down, leaving the rest to be paid gradually as the purchaser could afford. Crops can be raised the very first year, as there is no timber to be cleared away. The country's well watered and has magnificent pasture grounds; and, although wood is rather scarce, there is enough for present use. The climate is severe, the snow being two or three feet deep for four months in the year; but it is proverbially healthy. There are churches and schools belonging to the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic bodies respectively. Prices of pro-visions and clothing are high, it is true; but with a steamboat now running on the Red River, better facilities are afforded for the importation of dry goods and groceries; and, as we have said, crops of wheat can be raised the first year. Last, but not least, is the assurance we can give to the stranger intending to cast in his lot amongst us, that here he will meet with a quiet, hospitable, and moral people, ready to extend to him the hand of kindness and friendship.

Page revised: 18 July 2009

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