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The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists
Chapter 30 The Selkirk Centennial

How strange and wonderful is the web of destiny, which is being woven in our national, provincial and family life, which we poor mortals are simply the individual strands.

How marvellous it is to look into the seeds of time—yes, and these may be small as mustard seeds—which are the smallest of all seeds—and see the bursting of the husks, the peering out of the plumule, the feeding of the sprout, the struggle through the clods, the fight with frost and hail and broiling sun, and canker worm and blight, the growth of the strengthening stem, and then the leaf and blossoms and fruit! We say it has survived, it becomes a great tree under whose leaves and under whose branches the fowls of Heaven find shelter. How passing strange it was to see the seed-thought rise in the mind of Lord Selkirk, that suffering humanity transplanted to another environment might grow out of poverty, into happiness and content. See his sorrow as he meets with undeserved opposition from rival traders, from slanderous agents, from bitter articles in the press, from Government officials and even police officers who strive to break up his immigrant parties. Recall the troubles of the Nelson Encampment as they reach him in letters and reports. Think of the misery of knowing thousands of miles away that his Colonists were starving, were being imprisoned, banished, seduced from their allegiance, and in one notable case that men of honor, education and standing to the number of twenty, were massacred, while he, in St. Mary's Isle, in Montreal, or in Fort William, fretted his soul because he could not reach them with deliverance.

Marble Bust of Earl of Selkirk 
By Chantrey, obtained by author from St. Mary's Isle, Lord Selkirk's seat.

The world looked coldly on and said, "A visionary Scottish nobleman! a dreamer a hundred years before his time! Is it worth while?" while he himself saw a dream of sunshine when he visited his Colonists on Red River, when he made allocations for their separate homes for them, when he pledged his honor and estate that the settlers might in time be independent, and when he made religious provision for both his Protestant and Catholic settlers, yet think of the unexampled ferocity with which he was attacked upon his return to Upper Canada, in law suits, and illegal processes, so that his estates became heavily encumbered, so that he went to France to pine away and die. The world failed to see any glamour in him, and carelessly said, what does it profit? Folly has its reward.

Yet the answer. Here is Manitoba to-day, it is the fruitage of all that bitter sowing time. Next year Manitoba will be in the fortieth year of its history. Its people have seen pain, strife and defeat, they have gone through excitement and anxiety and patient waiting, and at times have almost given up the strife. But the province and its great city, Winnipeg, are the meeting place of the East and West, the pivotal point of the Dominion. The national life of Canada throbs here with a steadier beat and a more normal pulse than it does in any other part of Canada, its dominating Canadian spirit is so hearty and so sprightly, that, it is taking possession of the scores of different nations coming to us and they feel that we are their friends and brothers. This, while it may not be the noisy and blatant type of loyalty is a practical patriotism which is making a united, sane and abiding type of national character.

Again we answer: Three years from now will be the hundredth year since the landing on the banks of Red River of the first band ofSelkirk Colonists. It was as we have seen a struggle of an extraordinarily bitter type. To us it seems that no other American Colony ever had such a continuous distressing and terrific struggle for existence as had these Scottish Settlers, but we say it was worth while, judging by the loss to Canada of the northern portions of the tier of states of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington, which a line from Fond du Lac (Duluth) to the mouth of the Columbia would have given to us, and which should have been ours. We say that had it not been for the Selkirk Colonists we would have stood to lose our Canadian West. It was a settlement nearly a hundred years ago of families of men and women, and children that gave us the firm claim to what is now the three great provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Was it not worth while? Was it not worth ten, yes, worth a hundred times more suffering and discouragement than even the first settlers of Red River endured to preserve our British connection which the Hudson's Bay Company, loyal as it was, with its Union Jack floating on every fort, could not have preserved to us any more than it did in Oregon and Washington. It was the Red River Settlement that held it for us.

We are beginning to see to-day that Canada could not have become a great and powerful sister nation in the Empire had the West not been saved to her. The line of possible settlement has been moving steadily northward in Canada since the days when the French King showed his contempt for it by calling it "a few arpents of snow." The St. Lawrence route was regarded as a doubtful line for steamships, Rupert's Land was called a Siberia, but all this is changing with our Transcontinental and Hudson's Bay railways in prospect. In territory, resources, and influence the opening up of the West is making Canada complete. And, if so, we owe it to Lord Selkirk and to Selkirk Settlers, who stood true to their flag and nationality. Very willingly will we observe the Selkirk Centennial in 1912. "Many a time and oft" it looked in their case to be one long, continued and alarming drama, but on the 30th day of August, the day of their landing on the banks of the Red River, shall we recite the epic of Lord Selkirk's Colonists, and it will be of the temper of Browning's couplet:

God's in His Heaven,All's right with the world.

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