I’m drinking an IPA or an India Pale Ale in honour of our late queen: the woman who did so much to make Canada the country it is today. Why drink an IPA for Victoria though? Well, because I like this kind of beer and in fact I’m still upset at Labatt for stopping production of their IPA back in the 90s. Thankfully I have other choices now.
But India Pale Ale has connections to Queen Victoria just as she has connections to Canada and it’s those connections I want to highlight once again because I think it’s important that we know about our history and these connections.
Progressives don’t like history, I mean sure if you’re talking about Trudeau or Kennedy then history is great and Woodstock was just groovy man but history beyond that…meh, they don’t care.
So back to my beer.
India Pale Ale didn’t originate in Queen Victoria’s time, it is believed to have started a bit before that but it became highly popular during the early part of her reign and stay that way until after she had passed on.
The legend it that IPAs were brewed with more hops and with a higher alcohol level to survive the trip to India from Britain. That’s probably not true but it’s a great story.
Anyway, IPA came to Canada due to trading and it became popular here, in fact it was the top beer for Labatt for about a century. There was a lot of trading going on back in Queen Victoria’s time just as there is now. There’s another fallacy that the left would have you believe, global trade is a new thing that is out to destroy workers. No, it’s been with us for centuries and is a big part of the reason we’re here.
But enough about beer and trade, I’m supposed to be talking about Queen Victoria. Well I should say that I want to talk about Queen Victoria because I’m sure if I asked the gate keepers of our society they would tell me that I shouldn’t talk about her and that we shouldn’t mark this day.
I’m sure they’d rather call it the May 24 or the May long weekend. Part of the argument you hear is, let’s not upset Quebec or new Canadians. I say let’s upset them, if they don’t like democracy and responsible government then too bad.
Queen Victoria brought responsible government to Canada and eventually she agreed to confederation.
Victoria was a young woman when she got to the throne, just 18 years old when she became Queen in June 1837.
Yet within six months of becoming Queen of the massive British Empire she was dealing with revolts in two colonies – Lower Canada on November 6th and Upper Canada on December 7th.
In Lower Canada the rebellion was led not by a Francophone as you would likely have been led to believe but by an Anglo. Robert Nelson and his brother Wolfred along with Edmund O’Callaghan were partners with Louis-Joseph Papnineau.
It was Robert Nelson though who was named president of the Republic that these Quebecers planned once they overthrew the colonial government.
Of course it didn’t happen and neither did the rebellion a month later in Upper Canada last. William Lyon Mackenzie and his men were scattered quickly and Mackenzie claimed to have established a Republic of Canada on an island in the Niagara River just upstream from the falls until the authorities shooed him away and he fled into the US.
While the Rebellions failed Queen Victoria didn’t. She could have decided that as a young Queen smashing the rebellion and then making an example of the leaders was the best course of action. She didn’t.
Instead Queen Victoria asked if the grievances of the colonists in Canada had any merit and sent John George Lambton or Lord Durham to look into things.
He recommended responsible government, a legislature that had real power one that the cabinet of the day had to answer to. Nova Scotia got there first in January 1848 and became the first British colony to achieve responsible government. New Brunswick came a few months later and then it was time for Upper and Lower Canada.
Things could have gone very differently.
Queen Victoria could have decided not to look into the troubles: instead she sent Lord Durham. After sending him she could have ignored him. She didn’t.
Less than 20 years later she was signing off on confederation for an independent Canada.
Canada as a country owes a great deal to Queen Victoria.
Consider where the other countries of the world were at the time.
France, after terrorizing each other and killing all kinds of people in their revolution in the 1790s, they set up a republic which last from 1792 to 1804. Then they had their little Empire with their little man Napoleon. Then they restored their monarchy in 1815 then by 1848 had a couple more revolutions including one in 1848 the year Canada made a peaceful transition to responsible government.
There were also revolutions in several German states in 1848 and Germany itself wasn`t even a unified country yet. Neither was Italy.
In fact, go around the world and you’d be hard pressed to find a people that had as much liberty as Canadians did during the time of Queen Victoria.
Our politicians knew they had it good back then, they knew they had liberty unlike most of the world. And they debated that. You can read about that in this book right here. The back and forth for the most part was about what would best protect the liberty Canadians enjoyed – staying distinct colonies of Britain under British control or forming a new country that would take that liberty and continue to protect it under a new system.
None argued they didn’t have any.
Remember, our history didn’t start in 1967, it didn’t start in 1867, it started well before that, well before Queen Victoria even.
But today is her day, today is the day we remember her and remember her fondly and proudly we should.
So raise a glass if you have one to Queen Victoria.
And that’s the Byline.