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Kingsfordand Whiggery in CanadianHistory J. K. McCONICA •r. rra•NC•-CANAD•AN mythos is oneof the best-known aspects of Canadian historical writing, andmost commentators, bothFrench and English, areagreed in tracing it backto Garneau's investigations in themiddle ofthenineteenth century. It isthestory ofaFrench colony which from thefirst was something more, "unpeuple engermination," destined to fightto preserve itsreligion andnationality firstagainst theIndians, thenagainst theEnglish, andaftertheConquest against theassimilators. The colony is fromthe firsta potential nation, a nation formed partlyintheprocess ofthisstruggle, butalways drawingatavistic strength from theFrench spirit? Thistradition isconceded tohavegiven French historians inCanada theunityofa school, whileat thesame timetending to confine their attention tothesurvival of/a raceattheexpense ofa conception of a national Canadian history, a subiect in whichmanyareprofessedly quiteuninterested. Concern withthislattersubiect seems to bemore exclusively theproperty of the English historians, whoin turnhave theirownpreconceptions. However, theyareless frequently regarded ashaving atradition ofinterpretation incommon, andcertainly there is noEnglish Garneau forthemto lookbackupon.At bestthereis a retired surveyor named William Kingsford. Writing in thelastdecade ofthenineteenth century, without Garneau's style orsense ofmission, helaboriously setdown thestory oftheyoung nation intenvolumes? •G. Lanet0t,Garneau,historien national(Montreal, 1946), 149. 2W. Kingsford, Historyof Canada(10 vols.,Toronto, 1887-98),hereafter citedas HC.Kingsford wasbornin London, England in 1819, wasa veteran of theDragoon Guards, andcame withhisregiment toCanada in 1837. Most ofhislifewasspent in various parts ofthecountry asa civilengineer, andin 1873hewasappointed governmentengineer in charge of thebarbours of theGreatLakesandthe St.Lawrence, a post fromwhichhewasdismissed in 1879by SirHectorLangevin, Minister of Public Works. Thisincident wasresponsible for hisfirstpublication, Mr. Kingsford andSir Hector Langevin (Toronto, 1882).Thereisa briefaccount of hislifein W. S.Wallace, 108 KINGSFORDAND CANADIAN HISTORY 109 Kingsford covered thesame fieldas(Darneau, andalthough (Darneau wasin hisfourtheditionwhileKingsford waswriting,Kingsford is stillin hisfirst.The competition fromsouth of the borderwastoo great,andno English Canadian curious abouthishistory waslikely toexchange thebrilliant frontier saga ofParkman fortheconscientious constitutionalism of Kingsford. Nevertheless, Kingsford is interesting andimportant. He isstilltheonlyEnglish historian tohavesetforth theCanadian story systematically andona comprehensive scale from thefirstsettlements toresponsible government, andhisworkhadthe meritof at leastestablishing thefacts.Asa standard handbook hiscontemporaries, it must have been invaluable. Moreover, inKingsford 's views there isimplicit awhole doctrine oi interpretation which might wellbesaid tohave created amythos ascomprehensive, if not ascelebrated, asthehistorical testament oi Fran9ois-Xavier/Darneau. Kingsford, in fact,provided theclassic formulation oftheimperial interpretation oi Canadian historywithin the framework of midVictorian liberalism. In hisworktherearenotions oi primary importance inCanadian historical writing atthebeginning oithecentury, andwhilethereisnoreason to suppose thattheirprevalence isdue exclusively totheinfluence oiKingsford, hisisthework which welded them intoa coherent unity. Topass fromKingsford totheMakers Car• series, thechief monument ofthis period ofhistorical writing, isreally tosee Kingsford's work elaborated andwritlarge. ButKingsford 's ideas areeven more persistent thanthat,andit ispossible to argue thatsubsequent approaches to Canadian history by English writers have never entirely escaped from hisdecorated whiggery. Atthe beginning ofKingsford's industrious work there isaprophetic andsignificant quotation from Livy;promising tobe"mincl/ul oi the exploits oi theforemost people of theworld,"he declared thatif his reputation should remain in obscurity hewould, withLivy,findhis consolation in theexcellence andeminence oi those whostand in the wayofhisname being known. Theextract indicates hisconception thehistory hewas towrite, andKingsford has found hisobscurity, if he still awaits his consolation. Hisfirst four volumes deal withthebackground tohismain topte, the"history of British rulein Canada since itsconquest fromthe French, "s and the background is the French r•gime itself. For Kin.•sford , it seems to bear aboutthe samerelationto later eventsasme ß ed.,TheDictionanj o]:Canadian Biography (2 vols., Toronto, 1945),I, 324,in which it is tersely observed of hishistory thatwhileit is "notwithout defects, it wasa remarkable achievement fora septuagenarian, and inmany ways has notbeen superseded ." aHC, I, 1. 11o TI-IE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Roman occupation of Britainto Angevin government, buthistreatment isnone theless thorough, withinthisparticular concept. Fundamentally , it is simply a chronicle of warsandexplorations, strongly Protestant andEnglish intone, gathered together todemonstrate what anemancipation British rulemust have been. Theterminal dates ofhisbooks givethecharacter ofthenarrative: thedeathof Champlain; thecreation of theRoyalprovince in 1668; the expedition of Lasalleto the Mississippi in 1682;the historyof Hudson BaytotheTreatyof Utrecht;andthehistoryof Acadiafrom the Treatyof Ryswick to the Spanish war of 1789.Theseare the categories ofanimperial history, andindeed oneofthecharacteristics of Kingsford's workis a determination throughout, at whateverexpense of space andcoherence, to keepthe readerabreast of contemporary events in Western Europeandtherestof NorthAmerica. Withinthe grandscheme of worldevents, thenarrative proceeds with wars,explorations, andfromtimeto time,administrative difficulties andquarrels. Thereisnocoherent viewof policies, although theonlyrealglimpse of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 108-120
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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