USNA: The United States of North America
Foreword by Will Ferguson
“Living next door to the United States,” Pierre Trudeau famously observed, “is like sleeping next to an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” Canadians have long learned to sleep with one eye open. Indeed, it is one of the great myths of history that Canada’s divergent destiny in North America was one charted peaceably. Far from it. Canada was founded on conquest. From the exile of the Acadians, scattered as far afield as Louisiana (where they are known now as ‘Cajuns), to the Fall of New France and the Native uprisings led by Pontiac, it is a story soaked in bloodshed. It is also worth remembering that the American Revolution was, above all, a civil war, one that split the continent down the middle along lines of loyalty. One of the first acts of the newly minted United States of America was to invade the northern colonies. “To the inhabitants of Canada,” George Washington’s army proclaimed, “Come, unite with us in an indissoluble Union!” The Americans were rebuffed, and the invasion of Canada was turned back in a howling snow storm at the very gates of Quebec City. The Americans would try again in 1812, with yet another bombastic proclamation, this one issued by an invading general who warned Canadians “The United States offers you Peace, Liberty, and Security. Your choice lies between these and War, Slavery, and Destruction. Choose then, but choose wisely . . .” But once again, the Canadian colonies stood firm. The American invasion was thwarted by ragtag Canadian militias and disciplined British troops, who counterattacked with a raid on Washington D.C that set both the capital—and the White House—ablaze.
From Canada’s failed republican rebellions in 1837 to the Fenian raids launched by Irish radicals thirty years later—covertly supported by American interests—to the Aroostook Cold War in northern New Brunswick and the “Pig War” on San Juan Island south of Victoria, B.C. (wherein the two sides almost went to war over a single slain swine), the Canada-U.S. border has long been an arena of competing claims and looming threats. These conflicts were fuelled by an American belief in “Manifest Destiny,” a doctrine that claimed the entire continent for the United States. It was the threat of an imminent American invasion that was one of the driving forces behind Confederation, after all. There was safety in numbers, as the union of British North America demonstrated. Canada’s central defense plans were predicated on an assumed invasion from the United States well into the 1920s.
And in USNA, David Longworth, Harry Kalensky and Allan Stanleigh envision a different outcome to this history. Dave Casey’s gritty illustrations, in turn, provide a vivid reimagining of manifest destiny, one in which the American Empire has solidified its grasp on the continent. It is a story in the tradition of Richard Rohmer’s novels Ultimatum and Exxoneration writ large on the canvas of a graphic novel. It is a story our forebears would find eerily familiar.
Co-author of ‘How to be a Canadian’ and Winner of the Pierre Berton Award for History from Canada’s National History Society