Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

about. A railroad from Ottawa to Fort Garry, passing north of Lake Superior, would not only form one single straight line in the direction of the Yellow Head Pass through the Rocky Mountains, but would pass entirely through British territory, and at a suitable distance from the frontier. Whether by the proposed lake-route, or by railroad, a communication with the Red River Settlement ought to be opened; a colony more neglected by the mother country (except in so far as establishing an episcopacy there) was never known in history, and it is a mere question of time, if left much longer in its present state of isolation, how soon it will constitute a part of the United States."

Further west, the prairie country and great plain of the Saskatchewan-the best access to which is shown to be in our own hands -extends from the Lake of the Woods to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, presenting one thousand miles of the easiest ground in the world for the construction of a railroad, and of the most admirably suited in point of climate and fertility for settlement. Unlike the arid American desert, inhabited by hostile Indians, the proposed line would pass here over one of the richest, most beautiful, and fertile regions in the world, containing more than sixty thousand square miles, or over forty millions of acres, clear and ready for the plough, lying directly between the Canadian dominion and British Columbia, and possessing every qualification for agricul

tural

purposes.

The Americans themselves admit, in their Reports to the New York Chamber of Commerce, that a line of communication, where prairies covered with luxurious grasses are mingled with stretches of woodland, and watered by numerous lakes and streams, would, if once opened, soon be fed by an agricultural population from one extremity to the other. "It will in all respects compare favourably with some of the most densely peopled portions of the continent of Europe. In other words, it is admirably adapted to become the seat of a numerous, hardy, and prosperous community. It has an area equal to eight or ten first class American States. Its great river-the Saskatchewan-carries a navigable waterline to the very base of the Rocky Mountains. It is not at all improbable that the valley of this river may yet offer the best route for a railroad to the Pacific." "Indeed, for settlement," adds Mr. Waddington, "there remains nothing of the kind to be compared with it, either in the United States or British North America."

Beyond this beautiful plain, the seat in future days of one of the most powerful of the United States, or of one of the most flourishing and hardy British colonies, as may at present be elected, we come to the .Rocky Mountains, which form the limit of British Columbia and to the hilly regions which compose the greater part of the interior of that colony. But here the diffi

culties to be surmounted are far more serious, and, compared with them, those around Lake Superior are as child's play. Mr. Waddington lays claim to having discovered, by a series of lengthened and expensive explorations, a practicable road through the Cascade or Coast Range which communicates by the valley of the Upper Fraser with the Yellow Head Pass, through the Rocky Mountains, in latitude 52 deg. 54 min. The difficulty of connecting the different passes to the south, and nearer the boundary line explored by Palliser, Hector, Blakiston, Sullivan, and others, with any good harbour on the Pacific, has hitherto rendered them of no use, and Mr. Waddington argues that the northern route by the Yellow Head Pass, and then over the Chilcoaten Plain to Bute Inlet, is the only feasible one for a railroad to the Pacific.

The objections to the southern passes lies in the arid nature of the country traversed by the South Saskatchewan, its proximity to the boundary line and the hostile disposition of the Indians. Next, in the much greater altitude of the passes, the sharpness of the grades and curves, and the greater amount of snow. Further, in the circuitous course the route would be obliged to follow through the western portion of the Rocky Mountains, after having crossed the main crest or water-shed; amounting to nearly two hundred and fifty miles of most expensive railroad. The Cascade Range presents the same difficulties in these southern latitudes, the greater part of the mountainous country thus traversed is utterly worthless; and lastly, the difficulties of access to the port of New Westminster render it totally unfit for the terminus of an overland railroad.

a

The points in favour of a more northerly route are, first, the now well-known fertility of the whole country drained by the North Saskatchewan, and commonly called the "Fertile Belt," peculiarity to which we had occasion long ago to call our readers' attention. Secondly, the greater navigability of the north branch, and the presence of coal on several points. Thirdly, the natural connexion of this line with the road by Jasper's House and the Yellow Head Pass. This latter pass presents a natural break through the Rocky Mountains; its greatest altitude is only three thousand seven hundred and sixty feet above the sea; the Indians cross over it in winter, nor does the snow render it impassable at any time. It further requires no tunnel. Fourthly, the ready and easy communication offered for two hundred and eighty miles by the Upper Fraser and its valley, through a comparatively open and fertile tract of country. Fifthly, the opening up of the gold mines in and around Cariboo, which at present can only be reached by three hundred and eighty miles of wearisome, mountainous, waggon road; so that only the very richest claims have been hitherto worked. Sixthly, the opening up of the Chilcoaten

Plain, the only one of any extent in British Columbia, and which contains millions of acres fit for settlement. Seventhly, the facilities offered by the Bute Inlet Valley, which presents a level break, eighty-four miles long, through the Cascade Range, the only known available opening for constructing a railroad to the salt water. Eighthly, the superiority of the harbour at the head of the inlet, its proximity to the coal mines at Nanaimo, and its easy and safe connexion with Victoria, Vancouver Island, and the

ocean.

It is thus conclusively shown, that the geographical difficulties which have been so much talked of through British America, either do not exist or can be avoided; so that there no longer remains a doubt as to the facility of constructing a railroad across the continent in almost a straight line from Ottawa to the Yellow Head Pass, and thence to the Pacific. Indeed, the general facilities for that purpose are as great through British territory as the difficulties on the American line, which we have noticed at length in a previous article, are considerable. Add to this, that the greater portion of the line is fitted for settlement, and that whilst San Francisco possesses no coal for railway or steam-boat purposes, the Saskatchewan Valley and Bute Inlet would be abundantly provided with this valuable mineral product.

The severity of the climate has been greatly exaggerated. The amount of snow is certainly a serious obstacle to the running of trains in winter; but, as a general rule, the snow in Canada is easily removed by the snow-ploughs, which are used both there and in the Eastern States, and the trains run regularly all winter, with the exception of an occasional snow storm. It is a remarkable fact, however, that as we get farther into the interior, the thickness of snow continues to diminish with the decrease of atmospheric moisture, till, on the plain of the Saskatchewan, it does not pack over fourteen inches thick in winter, and then evaporates quickly, whilst in the maritime provinces east of Quebec, it lies sometimes from four to five feet deep. Even in Yellow Head Pass, it barely attains from two to three feet. In British Columbia, the mean temperature is much higher than on the western coast in the same parallels. Hence, in Victoria, snow rarely falls, the arbutus grows to the size of a tree, and the climate. closely resembles that of Nantes or La Rochelle in France,

As to the general fitness of the country for settlement, that is well established with regard to the clayey level which extends for seven hundred and fifteen miles from Ottawa to Nipigon river at the head of Lake Superior. Between the Nipigon and Winipeg rivers, the cultivable areas are more limited, but where they do occur they are most precious. Further west, the beauty of the "Fertile Belt," which stretches in a north-westerly direction for

one thousand miles, is now generally recognised, and is becoming world-renowned. It has been truly named a "Paradise of Fertility," and its climate is even more suitable to the emigrant from Northern Europe, than that south of the Missouri, where summer droughts are common, and these alternate with excessive winter colds and snows.

In British Columbia there exists, as we have seen, a large tract of fine country along the Upper Fraser; and further west, the proposed line traverses the great central plain of the colony-a garden of itself-full of agricultural and pastoral wealth, and containing over twenty millions of acres, two-thirds of which are fit for cultivation. When we compare this succession of fertile lands with the sterile regions of the American desert, though traversed by the Central Pacific Railroad in one of its narrowest and least arid portions, and the facilities of the British line over the American in an engineering point of view, we may feel ashamed to think that we have made so little use of the superior advantages at our disposal, and that the Americans, under far greater obstacles, have got so far ahead of us.

In summer time, when the navigation of the St. Lawrence is open, the distance by rail from Montreal to Bute Inlet, would be over three hundred miles less than from New York to San Francisco. But in winter, when passengers and goods would have to be unshipped at Halifax, the distance would be over four hundred miles in favour of New York. Mr. Waddington is inclined to favour Shippegan as a winter port on the Atlantic, which would reduce the difference to a little over two hundred miles. It is, he says, one of the finest harbours in the world, and only twentyseven miles further off from Liverpool.

The harbour at Bute Inlet is open all the year round, and, according to Professor Maury, "the trade winds place Vancouver Island on the wayside of the road from China and Japan to San Francisco so completely, that a vessel trading under canvas to the latter place, would take the same route as if she were bound for Vancouver Island." This circumstance attests to the superior advantages of a railroad across British North America, which, besides the advantages of possessing the nearest port to the East on the Pacific, would have its terminus on the Atlantic in summer at an equal distance from Liverpool with New York, and five hundred and fifty miles nearer in winter.

This is so perfectly well known to the Americans, that they are, with their accustomed energy and activity, preparing the construction of a North Pacific Railroad. This line is to run from Lake Superior along the Upper Missouri to Puget Sound, a distance of one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five miles, and the total length across the continent from New York viâ

Chicago and St. Paul, will be three thousand one hundred and twenty-four miles, or two hundred and thirty-seven less than by the Central Pacific. Unless a counterline be laid through British territory, this road will furnish the only outlet to the Red River Settlement and Saskatchewan territory, and thus prepare the way for their separation from the Confederation of British North America and from the mother country.

With respect to the difficulties of constructing a railroad through an unsettled country, such do not deter the Americans. They have learnt from experience that settlement and the institutions of civilisation not only follow, but it may be said actually accompany the construction of a railroad. This is a point we have before dwelt upon as inaugurating a new era in the history of railway enterprise. Such would undoubtedly be the case in British America, the moment the fertility and beautiful character of the country which it will traverse is generally known.

It has been said that Canada itself is not yet fully occupied, wherefore, then, should people push into regions far beyond? But the fact is notorious that all the good lands in Canada, within reach of the present communications, have been taken up; so that those left in the market are comparatively worthless, and those in private hands are too dear. Emigrants are every day pushing on in consequence from Canada towards the back states of the union. Great Britain has an area equal to eight or ten of these American States, adapted for settlement, but closed against emigration simply for want of a road. Yet has this very territory been gifted by nature with water communications of the very first order, which will not only become invaluable at a future day for colonial intercommunication and transporting the farming produce of the settlers; but, pending the construction of a railroad, would only require a few connecting links to make them available, so as to offer an easy mode of conveyance during seven to eight months in the year across the whole continent, and that at a moderate cost. Let the Americans, says Mr. Waddington, get possession of that magnificent river (the Saskatchewan), and, as on the Fraser in 1858, which till then had been declared to be unnavigable, the steam-whistle would soon be heard along its banks, from the confines of Lake Winipeg to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

The rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, which have preserved this most remarkable region of lakes, rivers, and prairie land, waiting for lowing herds, pleasant homesteads, and a thriving and contented population, for a hunting ground, have alone been the cause of its exclusion from the rest of the world, and of its being tabooed from emigration. Whether the company will cede the territory or not for compensation, whether Canada will find the money without mulcting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »