As this book is published, Canada is celebrating her fiftieth birthday. The thoughts of all of us travel back along the line of those fifty years since Confederation swept away all divisions and made the people of what is now Canada one in name, that they might become one in purpose, ideal, and spirit. We see our country served by a succession of great men. Their greatness consisted in trying to weld Canada into this oneness and in trying to develop our illimitable resources. For this fifty years and for the fifty before it, Canada had no war to engage her attention until, in 1914, she joined with Great Britain in the Great War that the world might be “made safe for democracy.”
While we look with pride at the progress our country has made during this time of peace, we may well go further back and see some of the ultimate contributory factors. And as we do this we shall see that in those troublous days as in the calmer that succeeded them, the history of Canada gathers itself round two or three men. One of these is Major-General Sir Isaac Brock.
Brock is called “The hero of Upper Canada.” That he undoubtedly was, but he was more. He was the hero of Canada, for while his efforts both as soldier and statesman were peculiarly for one province, their effect was felt by Canadians of later days from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Indeed it is not too much to say that Brock’s part in the War of 1812-14 made fast and sure what is now the Dominion of Canada for the British Empire. This makes him at once the primal hero of Canada. We have our other heroes. The names of Frontenac, Wolfe, Montcalm, Carleton, and others stand out from Canada’s “storied page” and deservedly so, but not one of them served our country in a way eventually so signal as did Brock. Wolfe conquered the French; Carleton defended Canada against invasion in 1776; but their work had not the crucial quality of Brock’s.
He was certainly a man of action, and his biography is fittingly the first title in a series of Canadian Men of Action. The older nations of the world have their great ones. France has its Joan of Arc, Italy its Garibaldi, Russia its Peter, and Britain its Arthur and its Alfred. In ten short years in Canada, Brock accomplished much, for while he lost his life but four months after war was declared, it was his action and, after, his spirit which animated the defence of his adopted country against invasion. In considering him and the noble part he played we may well contrast this man of action with another, who drew his sword three years ago not that he might help to establish peace, but for his own selfish end of vainglory. Brock, like thousands of Canadians to-day, fought for honor and that his country might be free. The spirit of Brock animates Canada to-day, and “the brave live on.”