An Army of Sikhs for Canada in 1867?

WSO would like to wish everyone a very happy Canada Day!

As we celebrate Canada Day today, we remember the over 100 years of history Sikhs have here in this country.  Although the first recorded arrival of a Sikh in Canada is that of Major Kesar Singh in 1897, most of us would be surprised to know that Canada's first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald in 1867 wrote:

"War will come someday between England and the United States and India can do us yeoman's service by sending an army of Sikhs … across the Pacific to San Francisco and holding that beautiful and immortal city with the surrounding California — as security for Montreal and Canada.

As we've noted before, it's ironic that today in 2012  it is in Montreal that Sikh children are being told that they cannot play soccer with their turbans. 

Sikhs have a come a long way in Canada but situations like the one in Montreal show that there is still work to be done.

The full text of the Sir John A. Macdonald's 1867 letter is below (the reference to Sikhs is near the end):

48 Dover Street
April 9/1867

My Dear Mr. Maine,

By this time you must almost have forgotten our pleasant meeting at Oxford in June ’65 when the University made you a D.C.I. on your own merits, and conferred the same degree on Canada in my person. I then promised you a copy of the Code of Lower Canada.

Altho[ugh] the Comissioners completed it some time ago it was only at our last session that Parl’t made it law. I now send you the Code as it was enacted. You are aware that the Code Napoleon [was] never obtained in Lower Canada as the Conquest by Wolfe preceded the Revolution. There was a complete solution of continuity between old & young France & the latter continued to be governed by the “Coutume de Paris” amended from time to time by ordinances & arrest of the French Kings – and also after the Conquest by ordinances of the kings of England & since 1791 by statutes of the Provincial Legislature. All these laws are Codified now. I am not much of a Civilian myself and cannot judge but I am told the work is well done. The Commissioners I know to be able men and they had the advantage of following not only the Code Napoleon but always the Code for Louisiana. They had besides the benefit of knowing well the Commercial law of England and all that it gained or stole from the Civil law.

I shall send the volumes to the India office & I hope it will reach you safely. As I know that I have afflicted you with or inflicted upon you the necessity for acknowledgement of the receipt of my parcel may I (if it can be done without inconvenience) ask you to draw upon your patience so far as to inform me what course of preliminary study would be most profitable for a young Barrister going to India. I have a Cousin – a Clever young fellow by the way, who has taken his courses at Oxford now heading for the Bar & he has a fancy for India. He wants to get on to the Barristers most in request in India.

If you will add to the kindness by - giving me your opinion as to the best place to open office, you will much oblige me. He is not particular – Calcutta or Madras or Rampur are all the same to him.

Pray pardon my troubling you in this matter.

I have been in England since November & have at last succeeded. I sail in four days for Canada with the act uniting all British America in my pocket. A brilliant future would certainly await us were it not for those wretched Yankees who hunger & thirst for Naboth’s field – War will come someday between England & the United States and India can do us Yeoman’s service by sending an army of Sikhs – Ghoorkas, Belooches etc.etc. across the Pacific to San Francisco and holding that beautiful & immortal City with the surrounding California – as security for Montreal & Canada.

Bless You
My dear Mr. Maine

Yours very faithfully
John A Macdonald 

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