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British Enterprise Beyond the Seas
Or The Planting of Our Colonies by J. H. Fyfe (1863)


“In the history of the world,” says Bancroft, “many pages are devoted to commemorate the men who have besieged cities, subdued provinces, or overthrown empires: in the eye of reason and of truth, a colony is a better offering than a victory.” In no field of enterprise have the courage, perseverance, and humanity of our countrymen been more conspicuously or honourably displayed than in thd planting and rearing of our colonies. It has been said that the Anglo-Saxon race has a peculiar aptitude for the work of colonization; and, certainly, the success with which it has accommodated itself to changes of climate, gained the confidence and attachment of the natives, and developed the resources of virgin lands, confirms the idea. The behaviour of our countrymen towards the aborigines of the various countries in which they have settled has not been free from cruelty and deceit; but, on the whole, we must admit that it redounds to their credit, especially when we reflect on the provocations which they received, and the liability to misconception on both sides. Our first attempts at colonization were accompanied by the most formidable difficulties and the most overwhelming disasters; but the brave and steadfast spirit of the “planters” did not quail before accumulated calamities. “The ice,” said one true-hearted Englishman struggling in a frail bark through a sea of crashing icebergs—“the ice is strong, but God is stronger.” Such was the mood in which the early settlers faced their work. Famine, pestilence, raging elements, treacherous savages, and jealous rivals were strong to harass and destroy; but the Lord their God, in whom they had in their rough wayward hearts an intensely earnest and practical faith, was stronger still to deliver them from evil, and to crown with success those enterprises which they had undertaken,—not from a mere lust of gold, but in no mean measure for the glory of His name and the advancement of His kingdom among the heathen. Nor did they trust in vain. There were few of the pioneers of that great plantation work who could not match Increase Mather’s “Catalogue of Remarkable Providences,” in the story of their own eventful lives.

This little volume is not a systematic history. It is merely a series of sketches, intended to illustrate British colonization in some of its social and romantic aspects. It does not trench on questions of politics or economy,—it avoids statistics. It does not treat of all of our colonies. It traces the career only of those which bear a sort of representative character, and only up to the point when the growing plantation subsides into a settled province. The events herein recorded are deeply interesting in themselves, and become still more so when they are connected with the prosperity of our empire and the spread of civilization and Christianity. They also possess another interest for the reflective reader. It has been remarked that it is a peculiarity of a great and conquering people, that they find themselves at the same time, though in different regions, in all the various stages through which societies must pass between their birth and their destruction. Thus, in Vancouver’s Island and Columbia the British people may be said to be in toothless infancy; in Australia, in early youth; in Canada, in all the vigour of manhood ; and in Great Britain, in robust middle age. A general survey of our colonial annals may thus be as useful as a course of universal history, and may serve to illustrate, in a striking manner, the causes of the stability or decay of commonwealths.

J. H. F.

Read this book in pdf format here

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