About the Author

James Laxer

James Laxer, a professor of political science at York University in Toronto, has a wealth of experience analyzing American society. His best-selling book, Stalking the Elephant: My Discovery of America was described by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Boston Globe David Shribman as "a book by a Canadian that can change the United States." The book was by published by the New Press in New York under the title Discovering America: Travels in the Land of Guns, God and Corporate Gurus. One of Canada’s leading political thinkers, Laxer is frequently consulted for commentary of current national and global issues by the media. He lives in Toronto.

Books by this Author
A House Divided

A House Divided

Watching America's Descent into Civil Conflict
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Beyond the Bubble

Beyond the Bubble

Imagining a New Canadian Economy
edition:Paperback
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Decline of the Superpowers

Winners and Losers in Today's Global Economy
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Democracy

Democracy

A Groundwork Guide
by James Laxer
series edited by Jane Springer
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
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Empire

Empire

A Groundwork Guide
by James Laxer
series edited by Jane Springer
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
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Inventing Europe

The Rise Of A New World Power
edition:Hardcover
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Mission of Folly

Mission of Folly

Canada and Afghanistan
edition:Paperback
tagged : peace
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Oil and Gas

Ottawa, the Provinces and the Petroleum Industry
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Perils of Empire

Perils of Empire

America And Its Imperial Predecessors
edition:Hardcover
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Red Diaper Baby

Red Diaper Baby

A Boyhood in the Age of McCarthyism
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Staking Claims to a Continent

Staking Claims to a Continent

John A. Macdonald, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and the Making of North America
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Tecumseh

Tecumseh

illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
by James Laxer
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Tecumseh and Brock

Tecumseh and Brock

The War of 1812
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The Acadians

The Acadians

In Search of a Homeland
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

Introduction
Acadie in Question

It was the last day for the Acadians at Grand Pré, the last day for them to live normal lives in the community they had built over the past century. On the morrow the soldiers would arrive on British ships. Their commander had received instructions from Charles Lawrence, the acting governor of Nova Scotia, to forcibly remove the inhabitants, burn their houses, churches and mills and lay waste their fields. It was late September 1755 and much of the crop had not yet been harvested. But on the eve of the coming of the ships, the people of Grand Pré had no reason to fear the onset of winter. Over the generations, Acadians had learned the hard lessons of life in a new land whose winters were much more difficult than those in the region of France around La Rochelle from which many of the first settlers had come. Their homes were built for warmth, with wooden walls that were filled in with stone to provide insulation.

On their fertile marshland fields, close to the sea, the farmers of Grand Pré raised ample crops and livestock. To their diet, they added game and fish and wild berries. They were a largely self-sufficient people, although they conducted vigorous trade with New Englanders that provided them with goods they couldn’t produce themselves.

Once the crops were off the lands, the Acadians could turn their minds to other things during the coming cold months. Most weddings in Grand Pré were celebrated between late October and February, the period when the demands of harvesting and planting were in abeyance. This was a time as well for preserving food, and making furniture, tools and toys for the children. It was a time for celebration and enjoyment. And it was just around the corner.

Grand Pré was the largest of the settlements around the shores of the Baie Française (Bay of Fundy), the homeland of a new and distinctive people. The original settlers had left France for Acadie for a variety of reasons. Ambitious ones had come with the hope of making it in the fur trade or the fishery. Others came in search of adventure in a new age that offered Europeans the means to ­emigrate. Some sought escape from the strictures of French society, and others wanted to be freed from the vicious religious wars that devastated La Rochelle and other parts of France in the early seventeenth century.

Like other Acadian settlements, Grand Pré was made up of numerous small hamlets, where the members of extended families lived close to one another. The Acadians had branched off from the society of their original French homeland and had developed a way of life that set them apart from the French of France, as well as from the French Canadians who lived along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The Acadians of Grand Pré had developed close ties with the Mi’kmaq of the region and there was a considerable amount of intermarriage between the two peoples. In Grand Pré and other settlements, Acadian children, Mi’kmaq children and children of mixed race all played together.

Prior to the deportation, the word Acadie referred to a territory that was repeatedly fought over by the empires of France and England. (While some believe the name Acadie derives from the Greek Arcadia, which symbolized an ideal land, others think it comes from an aboriginal word, perhaps the Mi’kmaq word Cadie, or the Maliseet word Quoddy. Both words connote a piece of cherished land. )

While the precise boundaries of Acadie were often in dispute, its broad shape was clear. Acadie included the territories of the present-day provinces of Nova Scotia (including Cape Breton Island), New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Lured by the warm summer weather into believing that all would be well, the French established their first settlement in what was to become Acadie in 1604 on the Île St. Croix, a small piece of land in the present-day state of Maine, located right next to the border of New Brunswick. The first winter was tragically disillusioning–over half of the men in the tiny settlement perished. The following year, the French expedition abandoned the island and moved across the Baie Française to the territory of present-day Nova Scotia, establishing the outpost of Port Royal.

Acadie has always been a tough territory on the northern edge of the temperate lands of North America, never an Arcadia, and vastly unlike the France from which the Acadians came. The new people developed their uniqueness in a morose and lonely setting, a land of dark green forests with only marginally decent agricultural prospects. Peninsular Nova Scotia, the homeland of most Acadians before the deportation, is a tough, unyielding, spiny territory that remains almost impassable in places, even in our time.

For the Acadians, the highway of hope, life, culture, song and freedom has always been the sea. The sea linked tiny settlements with one another, and the sea brought a good life for the Acadians, who soon grew into a people who mastered the fishery, the commerce of the region, and unlocked the way to farm the marshy lands next to salt water. But if the sea brought prosperity and communication, it was also the highway of war for those who often descended on Acadian communities to pillage and burn, and in the end to destroy their settlements and force them into exile.

The territory of Acadie was on the front lines of the clashes between the French and the English. In 1710, the bulk of Acadie was seized for the last time by the British. Under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the British gained control of the territories of present-day New Brunswick and peninsular Nova Scotia, leaving only Cape Breton (Île Royale) and Prince Edward Island (Île St. Jean) in the hands of the French. For forty-five years, the Acadians lived uneasily under a British administration in a territory that the English called Nova Scotia. Repeatedly, they were pressured to swear an oath of allegiance to British rule. For the most part, the Acadians were willing to swear such an oath, but only if it included a caveat that they would not be required to take up arms against the French and the native Mi’kmaq in a future conflict.

A new struggle was playing out between the two empires, influenced crucially by the rising power of Massachusetts, with its appetite for Acadian farmland and for mastery over the fishery in Acadian waters. Against this backdrop, the relationship between the Acadians and the British administration in Halifax came to a crisis point. In the summer of 1755, Nova Scotia’s acting governor summoned the representatives of the Acadians and demanded that they take another oath of allegiance to the regime, an oath that, this time, would be unconditional. When they refused, the Acadian representatives were arrested and imprisoned.

The expulsion commenced. About seven thousand men, women and children were herded on board British ships and from there they were transported to the Thirteen Colonies to the south. As the Acadians set out on their voyage of despair, many of them to die in shipwrecks and of disease, their homes, churches and mills were put to the torch.

The authorities who dispatched the ships and the soldiers were determined to remove the Acadians from their homeland and scatter them so they would cease to exist as a people. The goal was precisely to destroy the Acadians – not by killing them, although thousands were to die in the process, but by robbing them of their collective sense of themselves.

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The Border

The Border

Canada, the US and Dispatches From the 49th Parallel
edition:Paperback
tagged : americas
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Excerpt

Preface

I set out to write The Border in an age that has now passed -- the less fearful time prior to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001. I first conceived the book in the sunset days of the longest bull market in history, when the “new” tech-based economy still seemed to hold the promise that we would all become rich. For those who didn’t like the way the spoils and the power were being divvied up, there were demonstrations against globalization, the World Trade Organization, the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, the IMF and the World Bank to attend in places like Seattle, Washington, DC, Quebec City or Genoa.

Travelling across the continent to places where social issues play themselves out simply to watch people is a favourite activity of mine. My goal was to journey along the Canada -- U.S. border to observe communities on both sides, to consider the history of the border and to reflect on the Canadian-American relationship. Even in those halcyon times, it was clear that Canada was headed for a reckoning in its relationship with the United States. Free trade had taken Canada too far into an economic union with the U.S. for those who had won the free trade fight not to want to take the next steps toward full economic integration and possible political union.

One day early on in the project I drove down to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the picturesque old town located across the Niagara River from New York State, to think about the book. I sprawled on the grass in a big park that slopes to the shore of Lake Ontario. The cold waves were rolling ashore. As I sat in the bright, late May sun at midday, across the water I saw the skyline of Toronto -- the CN Tower a little off to the left and the big banks all in a clump. There was Canada’s biggest city, visible from U.S. territory. Off to my right, less than a kilometre away on the far side of the Niagara River, was Fort Niagara, the fort at Youngstown, New York. Niagara-on-the-Lake is only a few kilometres from Queenston Heights, where Sir Isaac Brock and his British and Canadian troops defeated American attackers in 1813.

The frontier, in question that day in 1813, has stood for over two centuries since the American Revolution. What does the border signify, I wanted to know. Is it merely a dividing line drawn by contending forces long ago that no longer matters? Or is it the boundary of a nation, with its own values and outlook, that can endure next door to a superpower?

Over a period of eighteen months, I travelled along the border, from Campobello, New Brunswick, in the east to Vancouver Island in the west. And I took a cruise ship north from Vancouver to the Alaska Panhandle for a look at the most mysterious of Canada’s frontiers with the United States, the one that held the key to the riches of the Klondike. I went by car, train, bus, ferry, cruise ship and air to the seven provinces that have land borders with the U.S. and to twelve of the thirteen states that border on Canada -- leaving only Idaho for another day.

Inevitably, my approach to the book changed after September 11. In the end I was afforded a unique perspective on the border before and after a date when the world changed. For North America, September 11 brought on a twin crisis, that of the role of the United States in the world, and that of Canada’s relationship with the United States. The Border addresses that twin crisis.

Introduction
We are near the Alberta -- Saskatchewan border en route to Saskatoon when I retire to my railway-car roomette and climb into the narrow bed. I push up the window shade and turn out the light. As I lie on my side and look out, the sky fills the picture from the top of my window to very near the bottom, where the shadows of trees erupt from the flat surface of the prairie. The sky is so luminous that the stubble of the prairie appears like the edge of a grainy film.

Feeling fine but saddled with a mild ear infection, and therefore unable to fly home from Edmonton to Toronto, I’m taking the train, something I haven’t done for many years.

The stars in the window are an indecipherable jumble to me. I regret that I haven’t studied the constellations so I can read the great hieroglyphic in the sky.

I drift off to sleep and awaken a while later. I look out the window again and this time see a hieroglyph I can read. The seven stars of the Big Dipper fill the frame. And looking up from the last star of the cup of the Dipper, I find the North Star. Now I can read the sky. We are heading due east.

Much later still, I wake up again and look out. The Dipper is on its side now -- its handle down toward the prairie and the cup high above, its last star pointing back to the North Star, which lies in the left of the frame. We have turned to the south.

At the corner of the frame, a glow is beginning to light the sky. The hard prairie is elemental, like the surface of an unknown planet, as the light that is stealing across it casts its darkness into stark relief. The Dipper and the pole star are fading as the light spills outward from the corner of the frame. The harsh surface of the planet is about to explode in light.

The stars in my window, some I can read and others I cannot, are a metaphor for my country. For all that humans have done here for thousands of years, Canada remains vast and inscrutable. Its largest cities and its arable land lie on the edge of one of the world’s great land masses, a half continent that is as alien to human concerns as any terrain on the planet. There are now more than 30 million of us living mostly in the southern extremity of this immense land. The land itself remains the first and last fact of Canadian existence.

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The Liberal Idea of Canada

Pierre Trudeau and the Question of Canada's Survival
edition:Paperback
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The Undeclared War

The Undeclared War

Class Conflict In The Age Of Cyber Capitalism
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Travels Through the Golden State

Travels Through the Golden State

A California Diary
edition:eBook
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