Tough times blamed on National Policy

Winnipeg’s main street in 1894. Tough times were blamed on the high costs of John A. Macdonald’s National Policy, but with a plethora of bachelors, men were said to be excited about the prospect of boatloads of buxom young English women. Glenbow Archives NA-118-24.

Free trade 1840-1894

A correspondent for the Regina Standard, December 7, 1893, interviews Winnipeggers to report on conditions and life in that city. He finds business depressed; almost unanimous opposition to high import duties imposed by John A. Macdonald’s National Policy; a plethora of bachelors, said to be a cause of the country’s ills; and the promise of a dawning millennium with plans to bring in boatloads of buxom young English women.

Low prices for wheat, high prices caused by the National Policy for everything farmers must buy, and heavy debts owed to mortgage holders and farm implement dealers were blamed for the bad times. Worst of these was the National Policy, “the great, infernal, monstrous wolf that has constantly stood at the farmer’s door demanding his percent in tones that were sure to be heard.”

One member of the Winnipeg wheat exchange predicted wheat prices would soon start to rise because speculators were counting on continued low prices. “It may not be a rule advisable to follow always,” said the wheat buyer, “but when you find speculators all talking one way, the other way is generally a pretty safe way.” Meanwhile, “In many of the farming communities the farmer’s wheat is sold to settle mortgage claims and the money largely goes out of the country;” more is paid to settle the claims of farm implement dealers; and country merchants who have been generous in extending credit to farmers who are in difficulty.

A young farm hand claimed that real cause of the trouble was too many despondent bachelor farmers who “were not farming in a way profitable to themselves or the country.” He claimed “That there are not girls enough in any community to get up a dance and that the bachelors always send and get a gallon of whisky when they want a good time;” they “don’t keep their shacks tidy;” and the country is so full of bachelors “that it is almost impossible for a farm hand to get a job unless he can cook and wash dishes.” But help is in sight. The Winnipeg Free Press, December 1, reported plans to bring in “large numbers of buxom young women” from England. “Is the millennium about to dawn?”

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 037

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