Today is the official celebration in Canada of the birthday of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). As the eponym of an occasion that has degenerated into a colloquial "May 2-4" rendering, it is worth remembering something of why this one monarch's birthday is celebrated above all others in Canada. As the sovereign of the British Empire at its apogee, Queen Victoria remains to this day the emblem of its greatest achievements and its confidence in the virtue of its endowments to the world. This confidence was exhibited in Queen Victoria's assent to the British North America Act of 1867 that granted a great measure of independence to one of its mature colonies (the passage of which, it should be noted, was also a political strategy to counter threats of expansionism from some quarters in the United States of America at the time). The British Empire imparted to the new nation the requisites of lasting freedom and success as a nation — its parliamentary democracy and associated legislative, executive and judicial traditions, a strong independent mettle and a mercantile spirit, the English enlightenment values of liberalism, and, perhaps most importantly, a tradition of restraint in the exercise of power through deference to enduring and abiding institutions that Queen Victoria herself represented in person. These bequeathments served to sustain and strengthen the young nation until well after World War II, even as it went through the construction of the CPR, the introduction of the income tax, and conscription in the First World War. To this day, those values that have not yet been abandoned continue to at least check the declines of our fortunes, as evidenced by comparison with too many other democracies. So by all means, take the occasion of Victoria Day to enjoy yourself, but remember to raise a glass to the memory of the fine old lady.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Posted by MapMaster on Monday, May 22, 2006