Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bourrie on the Treaty and Proclamation

Ottawa-based historian and journalist Mark Bourrie has a much appreciated commentary in today's National Post on the anniversary of the Treaty of Paris and the Royal Proclamation.  At last! 

Bourrie draws on tropes that will be familiar to those interested in the period : the Seven Years' War as the very first World War; the Royal Proclamation as a Magna Carta of indigenous rights.  He makes the case that here was the defining moment in Quebec history and that the Seven Years' War was the war that made Canada, drawing in the process a comparison of human cost with the much-touted-as-of-late War of 1812 : fewer soldiers and civilians died during the latter conflict than during the former.  Evoking Voltaire's ubiquitous "few acres of snow", but also the less well known remark by an anonymous Longon pamphleteer asking "what does a few hats signify compared to that luxury, sugar?", he does a good job of explaining to the general public why it was in France's best interest to relinquish Canada for Guadeloupe.  His ironic suggestion that if the French had "sent out more geologists and fewer fur traders" they might have found the great gold, silver and copper fields of northern Ontario is not super helpful, though : let's not forget the technological limitations of the era, or the fact that, pace Bourrie, the French did undertake considerable prospecting.  It's not for lack of trying that they did not find mineral riches.

Finally, Bourrie confirms that the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Museum of Civilization will not be doing anything to mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, but that the CMC will this fall be exhibiting a copy of the Royal Proclamation "for a few weeks".  Better than nothing, I suppose...


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