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Deja Vu

November 6, 2012

Northern Hospitality


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2012: As yet another hotly contested presidential election draws to a close, certain liberals in the United States are renewing their promises to move to Canada should Mitt Romney’s campaign succeed. Flight to the north often draws eye-rolls from those across the American political spectrum, but what do citizens of Canada think of a potential American invasion? They are, true to stereotypes about the affable nature of Canadians, friendly to the idea. The New York Times heads to the border:

Many Canadians would welcome the influx of disenchanted Obama supporters. “In Canada we’re happy to provide a safe haven for next-door neighbors in the middle of a marital dispute,” said Douglas Coupland, the writer and artist. “And if anyone trips while crossing the border, we’re happy to set their broken bones for free.”

The sentiment is echoed in business circles. “The more the better is my view,” added Robert Prichard, chairman of the Bank of Montreal.

Yet some Canadian progressives think it would be ultimately self-defeating, for their cause and for the continent, for like-minded Americans to decamp north. “My plea would be for American liberals and progressives to fight the good fight at home,” said Bob Rae, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party of Canada.

1789: Residents of the American colonies who opposed the Revolution and wanted to remain faithful to the British crown found themselves in a tight spot as the new nation established itself as separate from Great Britain. Canada, still part of the British empire, welcomed these Loyalists with open arms, and residents of New Brunswick continue to trace their lineage back to these early rejectors of the American republic. A decree made on behalf of the Crown offered those who wished to emigrate to Canada a series of enticing benefits:

Those Loyalists who have adhered to the unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their children and their descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. alluding to their great principle the unity of the Empire.

And it is also Ordered, that the said Land Boards may, in every such Case, provide not only for the Sons of those Loyalists, as they arrive to Full Age, but for their Daughters also, of that Age, or on their marriage, assigning to each a Lot of Two Hundred Acres, more or less, provided nevertheless that they respectively comply with the general Regulations and that it shall satisfactorily appear, the there has been no Default in the due Cultivation and Improvements of the Lands already assigned to the Head of the Family, of which they are Members.

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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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