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George Bryce and Anglo-Canadian Identity, 1880s to 1910s.

Historical and other literary works reveal particular connotations of the cultural identity of the period in which they were written. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Britishness was central to Anglo-Canadian identity and much of the writing produced during this period discloses evidence of an imperialist imagining of Canada, with the contemporary literature providing an indication of how Britishness was central to the understanding of Canadianness at that time. Through the works of some turn-of-the-century Canadian writers, we can attempt to construct an image of the 'imaginary' Canadians these middle-class cultural producers were describing.

This article explores Anglo.-Canadian cultural identity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries through an analysis of the writings of 'gentleman scholar' George Bryce. An analysis of a sample of his many books and various papers written between 1882 and 1911 can provide an understanding of how Bryce in particular, but also others like him, thought about Canadianness. This is an investigation of Bryce's understanding of Canada through what he chose to write about and how he chose to portray it, noting not only what he said about Canadianness but also what subject matter he chose and what this signifies about Canadianness at that time.

Bryce's writings are considered alongside some of his contemporaries, both to reveal the consistency of Britishness in the Anglo-Canadian identity in the period (however fragmented it may be), and to highlight the novelty of Bryce's predominantly underanalysed works, in particular his notion of 'unity in diversity' in which he was somewhat ahead of his time in his appreciation. While exploring Bryce's understanding of Canadian identity in the period, this article argues that his work and Bryce himself were part of the wider ideology of the Expansionist Movement of the later 1800s, as evidenced by his middle-class imperialist views of Canada and Canadian identity. George Bryce's work significantly contributed to the development of Western Canadian historiography, as well as to the mentality of the Expansionist Movement. His views of Canada and Canadian identity at the turn of the 20th century reflected that movement in portraying Canada as the 'Better Britain' and demonstrating how Manitoba in particular was emblematic of this when encouraging movement into the North West.

The term identity carries multiple meanings and uses. The use of identity here, speaking only of national cultural identity, is the idea of a social construction of "collective consciousness" that shares an "attachment to the nation" in question, with the criteria of the identity arguably always in flux. A group identity, such as a national identity, is a cohesive and malleable societal construct that is embraced by the collective group and in embracing it, they share a common culture and language. Identity formation is a process that indicates "an essential sameness" amongst the collective. As well, national identity can also be understood as the set of historical features that define a people, while nationalism can be understood as the realization of these features and the will to promote them. This description of national identity is applicable to how we can understand Canadian identity based on contemporary written accounts. We cannot know how all Canadians understood Canadian identity in any given period but we can understand how some understood it based on what they wrote. However, there is of course much to consider given the various influences, biases, and intentions of the authors; for instance, Bryce was a Presbyterian minister and a middle-class man, all of which considerably shaped his perceptions of and prescriptions for Canadian identity.

Historians who write about national imaginings are key players in the construction of national narratives and subsequently provide a foundation for the nation's identity. More recently, historians have taken seriously that nationalism and identity are constructs and accordingly examine the rise and shifting nature of national imaginings and myths. Within English Canadian historiography, those such as Adele Perry reject the idea that there is "one narrative line in Canadian history" to be uncovered and that there is no such thing as "totality and coherence" to be found in the history of the nation. As well, Ian McKay provides an argument for Canada being an ongoing project, not something that is finished and awaiting discovery. These arguments suggest a change in how Canada should be thought of historically and otherwise. This paper, engaging with these ideas, builds on those foundations--the histories of nationalisms, national imaginings, and myths. By examining the ideations of late 19th- and early 20th-century Canadian national imaginings in a selection of George Bryce's writings, this paper engages the work and ideas of these historians and contributes to the growing body of literature on Canadian national identities.


The Expansionist Movement began during the mid-1850s, when people began to move from the East, primarily from Ontario, into the North West--what would become Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Essentially, this was the practice of Canadian imperialist expansion into the western frontier. Initially, the West was idealised as being a hinterland, primarily for the extraction of resources for use in the East, predominantly in Ontario. This idea was predicated on, or certainly influenced by, the scientific discoveries of the Victorian period. These discoveries led to the realization that the West could be a viable location for expansion with increased harvesting of natural resources, through further development of agricultural production and mining in the region. The expansionists held the conviction that "the region would quickly be opened up to civilization" during the mid-19th century. However, the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) refused to develop the land, wanting to keep it a wilderness for the purposes of the fur trade.

When Canada acquired Rupert's Land from the HBC in 1869 there was the intention of expanding the Anglo-Canadian way of life into the Red River colony and the surrounding area. The Metis, and other earlier inhabitants of the region, were not consulted during the land transfer, as the expansionists felt it "unnecessary" to involve them during the annexation process. Consequently, the Red River inhabitants created a provisional government to fortify their positon in the area, as they feared "domination by English-speaking newcomers." Their leader, Louis Riel, sought to negotiate the Red River colony's joining Canada in confederation, which led to the Manitoba Act of 1870. The Act would allow for the protection of the linguistic and religious rights of the initial inhabitants, while also permitting Canadian forces to occupy the land to enforce Canadian authority in the region. With the transfer of Red River having taken place without "concern for the interests of the inhabitants of the North West," combined with the arrival of Canadian forces in the region, the Metis acted with resistance during this period. The expansionists saw the resistance as a futile movement of the "French half-breed population," as the Metis had been logistically ignored due to the expansionists' belief in the racial superiority of Anglo-Canadians and their association of the Metis with 'wilderness' and "Indian ancestry." However, the expansionists had viewed the "English half-breeds" differently, seeing them as having "established themselves within the society and economy" agriculturally, as opposed to the Metis who resisted developing along these lines. After the Red River resistance of 1870, a "new element in the expansionist campaign for progress and civilization" that was predicated on "British Protestantism" came to light and it was believed that this could further establish 'civilised' societal expansion into the North West. Those within the expansionist ideology had further ingrained the importance of the North West and the need to lay claim through development in the aftermath of the Red River resistance.

However, the continued expansion into the North West met further resistance. The Metis felt Canada was not upholding the protection of their rights and in 1885, there was a rebellion in the North West led by Riel. The outcome would not be in favour of the Metis, with the prairies ultimately becoming dominated by Anglo-Canadians after the 'putting down' of the rebellion. This ensured the "peaceful development of the West in Confederation" along Anglo-Canadian lines with "loyalty to country overcoming] regional protest," in the purview of the expansionists. The North West rebellion of 1885 represented "to some extent the discontent of the West in the face of eastern domination," with the settlers in the West as more sympathetic to the Metis than during previous rebellions. Moreover, those in the East had become critical of expansion by the mid-1880s, as it was costly and burdensome. As well, the establishment of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873, originating largely from the myth of a violent North West, was a key component of that "peaceful development" and thus created the mythos of the NWMP putting an end to such believed violence and the establishing of law and order in the region. The NWMP are understood, in part, as the reason why Canada had never encountered the American "wild west" scenario, although British morality and rule of law play a role in that mythos as well, but the NWMP helped reinforce "in the Canadian mind the contrast with the United States."


For most English-speaking Canadians, Canada's national identity is 'pan-Canadian,' with the cultural identity not ceasing at linguistic borders. A pan-Canadian national identity is de facto the promotion of traditional English Canada, as the 'Canada First' movement was "explicitly premised on a conservative and imperialist conception of Canada as British, in both cultural and political loyalties." Canada is inherently culturally dependent on the British, as Britain was the "ultimate source" of Canadian identity until the mid-19th century. The issue of multiple identities often arises concerning Canada, and the occurrence of a pluralistic identity is something with which English-speaking Canadians "had no difficulty." Consequently, being "both British and Canadian" in essence was not considered problematic with earlier generations, as they saw the British connection as "part of their heritage and a key component of their national identity."

At its conception, Anglo-Canadian identity largely consisted of Britishness, which was dominant from the pre-Confederation era to well into the 20 (th) century. The late 19th- and early 20th-century literature indicates a primarily British imperialist imagining of Canada, although there are exceptions to this. Britishness is loosely defined but we can find roots in James Belich's concept of the "Better Britain." In making Canada part of the Empire, the British imported their culture, institutions, and people to Canada. This had a markedly lasting effect in terms of what would become Canada's primary cultural identity, with those who settled in Canada sharing in this wider transnational imperial culture. The version of Britishness that Canada, specifically English Canada, held as its cultural identity was adapted to the circumstances of Canada and North American life. Therefore, it was never a simple reproduction of Britishness, rather more of transplanting what those who came from Britain saw as the best parts of their homeland and reproducing them in the Canadian context, and thereby permitting a British-based identity for Anglo-Canada.

There was no one uniform expression of Britishness to be found in the Canadian context, as J. R. Miller reminds us, "the unity that confederation was to produce was a union at the political level, not cultural" and it was to be a "very Britannic mosaic." Canada was a "British" nation, though a "distinctive British nation with institutions and a cultural identity of its own." There was also the desire to curtail the "cultural dangers" of immigrants by assimilating the "foreigner" with indoctrination of the "values of British-Canadian civilization." The most effective means of achieving this was through the education of first- or second-generation immigrant children, with a uniform inculcation of "Canadianism."

Although Canada is known for its 'cultural mosaic' and its juxtaposition with the United States' 'melting pot,' it is evident that some western provinces endorsed the 'melting pot' concept during the early 20th century. This was most likely due to the higher levels of linguistic and cultural diversity on the prairies during the period. This is unsurprising, as it is difficult to properly comprehend the pervasiveness of Britishness in the more culturally diverse parts of Canada in the period without any sort of 'melting pot' mentality being present. W. L. Morton identified this process of assimilation, as well as the centrality of Manitoba to Canada stating, "Manitoba was a melting pot, a crucible of Canadian nationalism" and reasoning that the school system was the solution for inculcating Britishness and forming a common nationality within Canada. Thus, the Canadian identity was to be malleable, used to suit the various needs of those who adopted it while concurrently permitting a viable program of assimilative Canadianization.

During the period of westward expansion, the Anglo-Saxon population moving into the region feared losing their privileged dominance due to the imagined threats of cultural diversity, leading to the preference of the melting pot concept in the West as it could provide a means of assimilation to their preferred British sensibilities. Between 1870 and 1890, the demographics and geopolitics in Manitoba were "radically altered." The "large-scale influx" of Anglo-Ontarians during the period changed the region's ethnic composition "from a mixed-blood majority of Red River settlers with approximate parity in numbers between French and English, to the overwhelming dominance of the white, Anglo-Canadian newcomers." The decline in the Indigenous populations and their resistance to settlers, who had begun developing "nationalist perspectives" which described the West as an "empty space" and silenced Indigenous histories, meant the settlers could and would prevail. By the end of the 19th century, these newcomers would become the ruling group within the region, which put to rest the expansionists' concerns of any "serious threat to the liberal order in western Canada." However, the Anglo-Canadian expansionists "lacked the cultural traditions that could legitimise their political and economic power" and it was their writers and historians who "played a key role in constructing these traditions." George Bryce was one such writer and Lyle Dick describes Bryce's work as a "formal departure," a reinterpretation of the regional historical narrative. This reinterpretation provided Anglo-Canadians a means to firmly establish themselves in the region by way of historical narratives that focussed on a long-established Anglo-Saxon heritage in the region, by way of the Selkirk settlers, while also promulgating stereotypes of the Metis and other Indigenous inhabitants, placing them in the position of the 'other.'

The Anglo-Canadian elite were preoccupied with Britishness for political and economic reasons and their understanding of British culture was directly connected to their socio-economic position, and they desired to continue this way of life in the West. These expansionists hoped to ensure the development of the Canadian nation into the West "through reproducing and extending a liberal-capitalist politico-economic system among a newly settled population in the periphery." The Canadian national project was, and is, "at its core an imperial endeavour" and Canadian nationalists used Britishness in part "because they could refer to an extensive British empire to evidence their claims" of racial and cultural superiority. Thus, this British-based Anglo-Canadianism was a "nationalist discourse that allowed settlers to deal with dispossession by refusing to acknowledge the existence, historicity, or full humanity of those who stood as obstacles to their national project." Canada and its new western regions were "a trading partner for Britain" and provided additional areas for investment; thus, there was socio-economic reasoning "for choosing Britishness over, or in addition to, some other identity" to further entrench this partnership. However, the Anglo settlers were not recreating Britain but creating a "better Britain" without the "social ills" and problems associated with previous settlements and homeland Britain; therefore, a pliable identity was necessary in order to fit those who had not descended from the British Isles. Those heading west sought to "recreate as much as possible the habits and styles of living they had known in the East" and there was the hope "that a loyal and intelligent elite would further stabilize and civilize the frontier," with immigration to western Canada advertised as a way to keep the same "mode of life" that they had always known.

Kurt Korneski has examined the Anglo-Canadian identity at the turn of the 20th century in the context of Winnipeg and argues from the Confederation era to the mid-20th century "a large number of men and women imagined themselves as "Britishers." This understanding of themselves as British was oriented around that fact that a "socially and culturally diverse population" could fashion an image of Britishness that "suit[ed] their own aims and interests" due to its malleability and this enabled the lasting nature of the identity. What Britishness meant to Canadians (or Wirmipeggers specifically) demonstrates that "the identity was pliable" and used to suit their particular situations and goals. Korneski argues that many people of non-British origin moved into Winnipeg during the period and subsequently "embraced a British identity" and they did this in part due to the belief that it would "afford them a better quality of life," as opposed to adhering to any other "foreign" identity. This demonstrates the more political and economic reasoning for adopting an external identity of Britishness. This is a clear indication of the utility of holding multiple identities, as well as the socio-cultural predominance of the British identity in Anglo-Canada at the time.

Paula Hastings has also argued a similar understanding of identity in Anglo-Canada during the period, stating "articulations of British identity in the late 19th-century British World varied widely and were often ambiguous, fluid, and contradictory. The Canadian context was no exception." Hastings examined the Anglo-Canadian identity through an analysis of a monthly periodical, the Anglo-Saxon, published from 1887 to 1900 in Ottawa, illustrating the ways in which some elite Anglo-Canadians saw themselves, their believed superiority of the "English race," and the necessitating of a British Canada. She contends that in the 1880s "many Protestant Canadians of British descent firmly believed that the survival of Canada would require a singularity of race, religion, and language among its people" and that this should be of the British variety. This of course was not the view of all Anglo-Canadians of the period but it appears to be a view held by some prominent members amongst of them.

A certain "spiritual essence" was the key to this ideation of Britishness and this permitted its flexible nature, retaining the essence of Britishness but remaining malleable enough to appeal to a wide variety of individuals allowing the "pervasiveness of the identity" to be readily adopted. Therefore, it was not a question of "whether they were British;" rather, it was "how to define Britishness" and what that meant for them. Korneski points to "popular agency" as being "at the centre" of identity formation, as well as being indicative of whether an identity would be successful in "particular collective imaginings." If the basis for an identity of Canadianness was Britishness, as Korneski puts it, "then the dispossession that was inherent in Canadian nation building became natural and inevitable."

During the late 19th century, the city of Winnipeg can be understood as a borderland between the western frontier and the industrialized East. Moving into the West "seemingly provided an opportunity to remedy some of the defects that had become a part of older civilisations," like that of Eastern Canada and Great Britain, applying the hopeful notion of the "Better Britain" into the North West. These Canadian imperialists were part of the "British World" and thereby heavily influenced by British notions of imperial expansion and domestication. Those sharing in the Expansionist Movement ideology imagined the West "as an empty space on which various frontier myths could be projected." However, this erasure of "aboriginality from the prairies was not evidence of ignorance of the presence of such peoples," as Indigenous peoples were seen as part of the "background," a part of nature that the colonizers and expansionists could use as a blank canvas.

Following passage of the Manitoba Act, Canada sought to populate and settle the West, with the "right kind" of people, primarily white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. This process was quite literally the expansion of Central Canada (Ontario) into the western frontier, which would markedly change the demographic and cultural order of the region. In order to attract settlement into the West, it needed to be described and promoted as something desirable, particularly because it was previously understood to be uninhabitable. George Bryce and others glorified the West in their writings and Bryce in particular made note of how Manitoba reflected the best potential of Canada. This line of thought was promoted extensively throughout the Expansionist Movement in the late 19th century and it had a lasting effect in the region, with Bryce and many others in the period often writing about the West, promoting it as a desirable, enviable place to settle. Thereby it can be argued that Bryce's work can be understood as a part of this Expansionist Movement ideology, even if only indirectly as an influencer.


The writing produced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries discloses evidence of an imperialist imagining of Canada. Literature from the period provides an indication of how some middle-class cultural producers understood Anglo-Canadianness during the era, highlighting a cultural identity that was predominantly British. Many writing at the turn of the 20th century focussed on the concept of assimilation, or more specifically Canadianization, for the attainment of a cohesive national identity and the importance of this process. How to foster national unity across a disparate land and peoples was on the minds of many, and education as a means of assimilation seemed to be the answer for most. In addition to Bryce, some of his contemporaries, namely Ralph Connor (Rev. Charles Gordon), George Fisher Chipman, and Stephen Leacock, provide evidence for contemporary beliefs of what it meant to be Canadian and what made a 'good' Canadian. Connor and Leacock in particular held wide readerships, with Connor described as someone who "captured the imagination of his countrymen." In his novels, Connor regularly promoted ideas akin to the Expansionist Movement ideology of the period, such as advocating for the centrality of the West in Canada and that western Canadians were the best Canadians. George Wrong, a contemporary professional historian, expressed his views regarding the assimilation of immigrants as Canada needing to do "her share of Britain's burden," to civilize people in order to "bridge the chasm between the two sections of mankind," clearly demonstrating similarly held views in the era.

In the later 19th century, when Anglo-Canadians had become the western region's "ruling group," they needed to "establish cultural traditions to justify their assumption of dominance in the region." For this, they relied in part on the historians to reinterpret the history of the region. As mentioned, this reinterpretation included negatively portraying the Metis to "justify the dispossession of this western Native group's lands by the newcomers," while also using their work to "promote the ideological position of their own ethnic group." Bryce and others pushed the romanticism of the earlier Anglo-Saxon settlers in the region, adopting the "Selkirk settlers as imagined ancestors," and constructed a narrative of "prairie Anglo-Canadian society" as an "Anglo-Canadian romance," creating the historical justification of Anglo-Canadian dominance. The rewriting of history to "reflect the ideological imperatives" of the Anglo-Canadians, meant that the "master narrative of progress was apparent in the Anglo-Canadian erasure of Metis traditions" and the historical writing during the period supported this with the literature portraying Canada as rescuing the western frontier through its acquisition. In addition, travel writers during the early expansionist period, such as Bryce, helped to change the view of the North West, highlighting the potential for development in the region. Those writers who moved, and advocated moving, into the west, such as Chipman, Gordon, and Bryce, were products of their socioeconomic system of liberal-capitalism and they represent this elite class and those desires, with "many middle-class Winnipeggers agreed that Canada was what Bryce dubbed a 'Brito-Canadian' nation."

Ralph Connor's novel The Foreigner, A Tale of Saskatchewan describes the nature of Canadianness during the early 20th century. Connor constructs a definition of what it is to be Canadian, which he describes with the traits of being a good, moral, hardworking Englishman. This understanding was largely focussed on Anglo-conformity and throughout the novel Connor describes the process of Canadianization whereby the protagonist, a "foreigner" of Ukrainian heritage, acquires a level of Canadianness and eventually possesses the traits of a true Canadian. This acquisition of Canadianness occurred by identifying with the noble, upstanding Anglo-Canadian men on a homestead in Saskatchewan, whom Connor described as the embodiment of a true Canadian man: strong, hardworking, noble, moral, an overall admirable individual. In the end, although still ostensibly a "foreigner," we see him accepted as a proper and well-respected man, resembling what it is to be Canadian. The Foreigner serves as a framework for Canadians, and those who wish to be Canadians, by providing a definition of Canadianness and the moral framework that Canadians should embody; this moral framework encompassed the notion of "muscular Christianity," or "manly morality," which was in keeping with Connor's role as a Presbyterian missionary.

What Connor portrays in this novel is an example of the assimilative tendency of early Anglo-Canadian society. Language was a key example, whereby English was the language spoken by those who were considered to be proper Canadians (surely troubling for French Canadians), which was important for the socio-economic fabric of the liberal-capitalist society. Thus upon learning English, foreigners would be more highly valued and seen as having attained a level of Canadianness. Connor sought a "common Canadian type" and as Korneski elucidates, according to Connor, those moving into the "vacant" western Canada could be "molded and shaped into a fixed 'Canadian type'," and for Connor, public schooling would ensure this and provide the adequate assimilation of "foreigners."

George Fisher Chipman's writings provide additional evidence for Anglo-Canadian conformity while focussing on Winnipeg during the early 20th century. Chipman described Winnipeg as culturally diverse due to the influx of immigrants heading west, both passing through and settling in the city. He acknowledged the assimilation process present in Winnipeg, as in the rest of Canada, while addressing the process's imperfections, which caused "defects" in the "new Canadians." In particular, Chipman highlights potential problems of assimilating immigrants from Eastern Europe claiming, "modern ideas when led by mediaeval customs and traditions develop too rapidly in the wrong direction." He felt that these more difficult-to-assimilate groups required formal education to "Canadianize" them into good and proper Canadians and recognized schooling and the missionary work of the churches as "the best yet undertaken to perform the assimilative work," a prominent theme throughout Connor's novels. Essentially, according to Chipman and Connor, Canadians took it upon themselves to assimilate foreigners, as they believed neither level of government provided much in the way of direct assistance in this 'necessary' process.

Moreover, Canada's immigration levels at the turn of the 20th century were problematic for those concerned with national unity, as increasing levels of immigrants were coming from areas outside the British Isles. In 1911, Stephen Leacock addressed this concern stating, "There [were] limits to absorption. You cannot make a nation by holding a basket at the hopper of an immigration chute." Leacock was speaking to the concern that such a diverse populace spread over such a vast land would lead to a ruptured nation:
We have to fear that there will grow up among us two peoples, the
Eastern and the Western: the one a country framed in a historic
setting, built of two races, remembering the past, with an economic
structure and with maritime and trade relations of its own; the other a
country of whose inhabitants vast masses stand in no hereditary
relation to the history of Canada, whose division from the American
republic is only the imaginary frontier of the geographer, whose
people, with all the forceful aspiration and eager daring of a new
country, will lack, perhaps, that restraining influence exercised by
the existence of a common history.


George Bryce was not only a Presbyterian missionary and founder of Manitoba College; he was also a prolific author and historian. Being a missionary at the turn of the 20th century, he was conceivably in step with the doctrines of social gospel and reform that permeated the era and the geopolitical region that he inhabited, primarily Winnipeg, Manitoba. In his writings, Bryce often "reported the habits and practices of some Manitobans" and promoted how he considered the Canadian nation to be a "British American nation." His description of Canada as British was "far from unusual," as it is mirrored in the works of his aforementioned contemporaries Connor, Chipman, and Leacock, among others. Where Bryce's work differs in this regard is its habitually direct insistence that Canada was superior to Britain and although others were often keen to promote Canada, direct criticism of Britain is not as readily found. His work departs from the mere promotion of an idealized Britishness, instead focussing on the greatness of the British nation of Canada. Bryce's writings not only tell us about how he understood Canada and what it was to be Canadian, but they also provide an understanding of how many thought of the Canadian identity at the turn of the 20th century.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada was expanding as well as moving away from Britain both objectively and metaphorically. With that said, Bryce often acknowledged that with its many connections to Britain, Canada was bound to "the old land." Despite the strong connection through history and tradition, Bryce did not shy away from addressing Britain's faults in the period compared to the new nation of Canada and the improvements Canada had made on what it inherited from Britain. However, the affection for Britain remained a strong sentiment, describing the view of Canadians visiting Britain with the quote: "with deep feeling 'with all thy faults, I love thee still'." Bryce claimed that Canadians "in heart and soul are loyal to the British Crown," illustrating for him the crux of the "real Imperialism" evident in Canada and that "our land is British to the core and British in sympathy and outlook."

When revisiting the Confederation era debates, Bryce pronounced that many within the Canadas saw Confederation as an undesirable "political necessity." Regardless of the genesis of Confederation, Bryce argued that this new North American nation was "British and loving [of] Britain," that Canada was the "Northern Empire" of Great Britain. During the inaugural address at Manitoba College in 1898, Bryce spoke of the "new Canadianism" evident in the nation, describing how a "simple colony can become a nation, not by revolution but by evolution" as Canada had done and explained that the "rising Canadian culture is an evidence of this true spirit." Several years earlier Bryce, in a letter to a Quebec Reverend, stressed that Canada needed to focus more on teaching its own history and discussed his desire to establish a committee representing each of the provinces "to consider the matter of a text-book on Canadian history." Bryce further explained that he had been "engaged for some time in preparing a school history of Canada," titled A Dominion History of Canada, and asked if the Reverend would accept such a text for the curriculum that he oversaw. Educating the nation of its own history was of great importance for Bryce, who saw such an education as necessary for the continuation and evolution of a strong cohesive nation.

Bryce observed that Canada was "advancing rapidly" in the early 1900s, in both "material and intellectual respects." He recurrently spoke of the many developments, especially those related to the abundance of natural resources present in Canada, particularly in the West and North West, and praised its beauty. Canada's fortuitous environmental and geological disposition put agriculture at the forefront of Canadian progress for Bryce, who argued that agriculture was Canada's "true destiny." Bryce insisted that Canada easily outranked Britain in this regard and believed that Canada should adopt the best agricultural practices available, as they would be more effective on the Canadian Prairies than in Britain.

Throughout his work, Bryce often addressed the social problems of western Canada, predominantly immigration, settlement, and unity. Despite a small population in the West, it was still prominent in parliamentary discussion, due to the problems of immigration and the fact that much of the land in the West remained unsettled. Bryce saw Manitoba and the West in general as the future of Canada and the epitome of the nation. With quotations such as, "Manitoba and its great city, Winnipeg, are the meeting place of the East and West, the pivotal point of the Dominion. The national life of Canada beats here with a steadier beat and a more normal pulse than it does in any other part of Canada," it appears as though Bryce adopted the ideology of the Expansionist Movement, which he himself embodied, having been born and educated in Ontario and moving to Manitoba in 1871.

Bryce's work indicates a contrast or distinction between Canadianness and Britishness, while never denying that to be Canadian is to be a British subject and in more than just name. In this period, Canada was still quite attached to Britain and its British heritage and Bryce speaks of the "little bits of British Imperialism still remaining" in Canada. Canadians were connected to Britain institutionally, but in other equally fixed ways as well. As Bryce effectively illustrates, "the traveler, on crossing the line at Emerson as he enters Manitoba from Minnesota, is reminded not only by the appearance of the Union Jack that he is again on British soil, but by many other things as well. The dress of the people is more English, [as are] their manners and custom, and speech." Bryce argued this attachment to Britain, the maintaining of a "thoroughly British" people, would prevent the United States from taking over the Canadian nation, culturally and otherwise. In Bryce's mind, Canadians had taken the best from the height of Britishness and created a 'British Utopia' that was safe from the old Britain, which had begun to fall in the view of some Canadians.

Regarding this, Bryce was considerably influenced by his contemporary Frank L. Hunt and his work on the Red River settlement. Both authors describe this colony as an "English Utopia." Hunt's "Britain's One Utopia" heavily romanticized the view of the early Red River settlement (Selkirk Colony) along with its "Indian" populations of the period, and this work was particularly influential for Bryce's, The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists. Hunt described the Red River settlement as "the one Utopia of Britain," with a people who lived in a "primal freedom," where "locks for doors were unknown," and "lawyers were none." The colonists were portrayed as "borrowing] from the Indians" their tradition of "practical communism," which effectively "knit" the community together. Hunt described the colonial settlement in its early days as an "idyl simple and pure nomadic pastoral" existence, which incorporated "Indian traits [in its] national prosaic life."

In addition to the Red River colony, throughout his work Bryce appears quite fond of the English-owned-and-operated Hudson's Bay Company, claiming that the HBC helped to foster the "civilizing" process in the North West and that the Canadiens, as represented in the much criticized North West Trading Company, were by comparison violent and dishonourable men. In addition to the HBC, the Selkirk colony and its settlers played a considerable role in the "continuance of British ideas in the country." Bryce declared British subjects were above all others, with Anglo-Canadians of course included in this. While he separates Canadians from Britons, he indicated their continuity with an overarching British identity. It is no surprise then that he considered the British-based companies, settlements, and peoples, as being superior to the earlier 'Canadian' equivalents.

As Dick argues, the heroes for Bryce were the Anglo-Saxon race. Throughout Bryce's work, the "imaginary ancestors" of the Anglo-Saxons, the Selkirk settlers, were portrayed as the "unproblematic heroes," while the "North West Company and the Metis were the villains," typically described as "lawless, violent, unstable, and irresponsible--in short, as embodying the attributes considered antithetical to the new Anglo-Canadian business civilisation" and the "new capitalist order" in the region. Bryce gave significant focus to Lord Selkirk, the Scottish colonist who founded the Red River colony in 1811, feeling as though Selkirk has not been given enough credit or respect in the historical literature. He questioned, "why will men attribute sordid, impure, interested motives, when pure patriotism or noble philanthropy are simple explanations, lying ready to hand," when describing the character and virtue of his beloved Lord Selkirk. Bryce was quite sympathetic of Selkirk, despite Canadians' having previously vilified his character, and sought to reinterpret his portrayal while reorganizing the East-centred historical literature. Throughout his work, Bryce appears more favourable to these colonists themselves compared to his view of England; regularly portraying these men as the best of the British, the real, good and noble men such as Lord Selkirk, while describing England relatively undesirably. His work depicts the hardships of explorers and colonists, while ignoring that the indigenous populations lived in these harsh conditions but did not garner the same commendable qualities attributed to the explorers and colonists for doing so.

In his work, Bryce routinely placed a particular emphasis on the role of the Scots in shaping the Empire, describing them as the leading imperialist figures, the upstanding men who expanded the Empire, and often used Lord Selkirk and his settlement colony to exemplify this. Bryce highlights how the Scots had great influence in the development of Canadian society, through the establishment of churches, as authors, as legal officials, prominent in commerce, and even the first explorers and traders as founders of the HBC, appearing to suggest that the Scottish were perhaps the best of the British. He even describes the Scottish "peasantry" as an "industrious, intelligent, and independent" people and that the Scottish woman was "her husband's equal." Bryce saw western Canada as welcoming of the Scottish for their strong, reliable character. While the Scottish had previously settled in the East, they were moving West, and with its climate, religious sensibilities, and social conditions, in Bryce's opinion and in the Expansionist Movement's ideological position, the Scottish should be "especially attracted" to western Canada.

While peopled with "steadfast British Canadians" from coast to coast during the turn of the 20th century, Canada was busy focussing on its domestic affairs and its own colonization and assimilation of the "Indian" and immigrant populations. Bryce speaks at length about the 'improvements' (or lack thereof) of several "Indian" bands he encountered on his travels across the country, describing the quality of life on the reserves and how much progress had been made in "civilizing" the Indigenous populations. In addition to the advances made in Canadianizing the "Indians," Bryce takes great pride in Canada's other achievements, like the Canada Pacific Railway, which was described as impressive, even by American standards.

In the period that Bryce and his contemporaries were writing, such middle-class capitalists no longer believed the "Indians" to be a threat to Canadian sovereignty, expansion, and development; thus, these writers readily romanticized them. This romanticized view of the "Indians" in Bryce's work often meant lengthy descriptions of various "Indian" bands, their domestic life, physical appearance, and social organization, while incorporating his own analysis of these aspects, such as his remarks on the "organization of an Indian tribe [as being] one of the things perplexing to the white man." In contrast to some other turn-of-the-century writers, Bryce often appeared more forgiving toward "Indian" and immigrant groups, though always in terms of indicating how these groups could be effectively made into 'proper Canadians' as opposed to designating them as unassimilable. Bryce acknowledges the unfavourable ways that "Indians" have been portrayed by earlier historians; though he does not readily disagree with them, he instead highlights their more favourable qualities. He further explains, "that we whites can hardly appreciate" what the "Indian" has given up in "sett[ing] down to the restraints of a reserve." It is in this that Bryce believes that the Indian "is not hopeless," claiming that the Indian will "accomplish his civilization" and points to the various ways in which this is evidenced.

For Bryce, proper instruction was necessary for the "education and Christianization of the Indian," including encouraging the "Indian" populations to settle in one area, instructing them in agricultural, as well as religious, practices. He explains that the schooling of young "Indians" would be the most effective means of doing this, as he believed "the real hope of the Indian is in the education of the young." Bryce addresses the claim that the Canadian government wanted to "turn the Indians of the prairies into farmers" and advocates that the domesticating practices of gardening and farming were in fact "civilizing process[es]" that would effectively make good Canadians out of the "Indians" as "the Indian was failing to utilize and develop the country" on their own. Bryce insisted "Christian whites" were to improve the "Indians" by Christianizing them and though the process of civilizing them was slow due to the "Indians'" reluctance to come into contact with the "white teacher or missionary," Bryce reminded Canadians that "since we have taken the red man's country we should remember our obligations to him" and they should accept "Indians" as Canadians.

The theme of Canadian unity recurs throughout Bryce's works and he understood "the unity of the people to be essential" for the national spirit of Canada to thrive. Regarding this, Bryce addresses what he sees as the two avowed "problems which cannot be avoided" concerning the unity of the nation: 'inassimilable' foreigners and the "great influx of Americans." Some immigrants, particularly those from Eastern Europe such as the Doukobors and Galicians, were often seen as 'not the stuff' of Canada. Many contemporaries believed that such groups were incapable of becoming 'good' Canadians or "intelligent and useful Canadians," but Bryce highlights the virtuous qualities of such immigrant populations in an attempt to debunk what he saw as socio-cultural myths. As well, Bryce saw the Americans who came to Canada as being respectful of Canadian laws and customs in direct contradiction to what many at the time feared, illustrating a further attempt by Bryce to discredit the supposed 'unavoidable problems' surrounding Canadian unity.

Further concerning Canadian unity, Bryce declared the thinking of Canadianness as better than Englishness, or vice versa, as 'foolishness' and that looking down on one another was not the way toward unity. What Bryce desired and believed Canadians desired was a "united and homogeneous people," though this did not mean for everyone to be the same as Bryce touts the 'unity in diversity' approach that would become prominent decades later in the 1960s. Seemingly, ahead of his time, Bryce declared that in Canada, "we would have unity in our diversity, and diversity and freedom in our unity" and the way to 'accomplish' this was through proper schooling and education. Bryce believed that "unity with diversity is surely the true watchword for Canada." However, the 'unity in diversity' that Bryce speaks of is far more homogeneous than the later 20th-century ideations of 'unity in diversity.' Bryce's notion of the concept was a more qualified unity, through a process of assimilation of foreigners and indigenous populations through thoroughly comprehensive education.


According to the work of some prominent middle-class cultural producers at the turn of the 20th century, the cultural identity of Anglo-Canada was primarily British in construction, with enough of a Canadian flair to be rightfully described as "Brito-Canadian," as Bryce had done. George Bryce's writings effectively portray the turn-of-the-century Anglo-Canadian identity as quasi-British; yet his work offers much more. Analysis of Bryce's work shows Anglo-Canadian identity in the same vein of archetypical Britishness that was idealized for the colonies of the British Empire by the imperialistically minded, while also essentially Canadian in character with Canada being the new and 'Better Britain.' Generally, Bryce's work is far from the exception; he is not alone in this understanding of Anglo-Canadian identity, as many of his contemporaries also understood Canada in this way. Whether giving an accurate portrayal of the Anglo-Canadian identity of the era, or merely describing their own middle-class imperially-minded desires for Canada's cultural identity, one can discern that at least some prominent individuals in Canada (if not most Anglo-Canadians) saw their cultural group identity in this "-Canadian" fashion.

The novelty of Bryce's work lies in his often sympathetic, though paternalistic, views of the so-called "Indians" and "undesirable" immigrant groups, reflecting a departure from the typical narrative. Bryce often appears more forgiving toward these marginalized groups compared to other writers of the era, though always showing how these groups could effectively become 'proper Canadians,' as opposed to designating them as unassimilable, as others had generally done. As well, a divergence can be seen in the progressive conviction of 'unity in diversity,' even if this unity was predicated on a paternalist practice of cultural assimilation. Moreover, Bryce's writings are arguably a part of the wider imperialist mentality of the Expansionist Movement. His views of Canada and Anglo-Canadian identity in the late 19th century reflect the movement's ideology, where Canada was the 'Better Britain' and Manitoba in particular was emblematic of this with his writings habitually advocating for movement into the North West.


Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the "Fort Garry Lectures" Graduate Student History Conference at the University of Manitoba and the University of Ottawa Department of English Tenth Graduate Student Conference "Nationalisms in Literature." Many thanks to Joel Madore, Kurt Korneski, Chad Gaffield, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments.

(1.) Bryan Palmer, Canada's 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009, pp. 7-8. Also see Rodgers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, "Beyond Identitiy," Theory and Society vol. 29 (2000): pp. 1-47; Philip Gleason, "Identifying Identity: A Semantic History," The journal of American History vol. 69, no. 4 (March 1983): pp. 910-931; and Charles Taylor, "The Politics of Recognition," in Multiculturalism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

(2.) Adele Perry, "Nation, Empire and the Writing of History in Canada in English," in Contesting Clio's Craft: New Directions and Debates in Canadian History, edited by Chris Dummitt, London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2009, pp. 123-129; Ian McKay, "The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History," Canadian Historical Review vol. 81, no. 4 (2000): pp. 617-651.

(3.) See Doug Owram, Promise of Eden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980 and Carl Berger, 77K Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.

(4.) Suzanne Elizabeth Zeller, Inventing Canada: Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a Transcontinental Nation, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.

(5.) Owram, pp. 51-52.

(6.) Ibid., p. 84.

(7.) W. L. Morton, Manitoba: A History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967, pp. 119-120.

(8.) Morton, pp. 118-142; and Owram, p. 50.

(9.) Owram, p. 80.

(10.) Ibid., pp. 84-86.

(11.) Ibid., pp. 98-100.

(12.) Morton, p. 226; and Owram, p. 176.

(13.) Owram, pp. 177-179.

(14.) Ibid., pp. 139-141.

(15.) Will Kymlicka, Finding out Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 158-161.

(16.) A. G. Hopkins, "Rethinking Decolonization," Past and Present vol. 200, no. 1 (August 2008), pp. 215-221.

(17.) Phillip Buckner, Canada and the End of Empire, Phillip Buckner, ed. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005, pp. 3-13.

(18.) Phillip Resnick, The European Roots of Canadian Identity, (Peterborough: Broadview Press Limited, 2005), p. 15; James Belich, Paradise Reforged: a History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.

(19.) Stuart Ward, "The 'New Nationalism' in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand: Civic Culture in the Wake of the British World," in Britishness Abroad: Transnational Movements and Imperial Cultures, edited by Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw, and Stuart Macintyre, Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2007. Also see Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis, eds., Canada and the British World: Culture, Migration, and Identity, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006, pp. 1-9; Kurt Korneski, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race: Winnipeg and the British World, 1880s-1910s," Journal of Canadian Studies vol. 41, no. 2 (2007): pp. 161-184.

(20.) J. R. Miller, "Unity/Diversity: The Canadian Experience," Dalhousie Review vol. 55, no. 1 (1975), p. 65.

(21.) Buckner and Francis, Canada and the British World, p. 1.

(22.) Miller, "Unity/Diversity," pp. 64 and 72-75.

(23.) Howard Palmer, "Canada: Multicultural or Bicultural?" Canadian Ethnic Studies vol. 3, no. 1 (1971), p. 113.

(24.) Morton, pp. 245-250. Also see Kurt Korneski, Race, Nation, and Ideology in Winnipeg, 1880s-1920s, Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015, p. 207.

(25.) Lyle Dick, "The Seven Oaks Incident and the Constructions of a Historical Tradition, 1816 to 1970." journal of the Canadian Historical Association vol. 2, no. 1 (1991), pp. 101-102; and Kurt Korneski, "Reform and Empire: The Case of Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1870s-1910s." Urban History Review vol. 37, no. 1 (2008), p. 55.

(26.) Dick, pp. 102 and 113; Owram, p. 203; George Bryce, The old settlers of Red River, a paper before the Society on the evening of 26th November 1885 (Winnipeg 1885), p. 6; and George Bryce, "Intrusive Ethnological Types in Rupert's Land," Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Section 2 (1903): p. 412.

(27.) Korneski, "Reform and Empire," p. 57; and Korneski, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," p. 165.

(28.) Ibid., "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," pp. 171-174.

(29.) Ibid., "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," pp. 165-166.

(30.) Korneski, "Reform and Empire," p. 55; and Korneski, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," pp. 167-171.

(31.) Owram, pp. 142-143.

(32.) Kornkesi, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," pp. 162-168.

(33.) Paula Hastings, '"Our Glorious Anglo-Saxon Race Shall Ever Fill Earth's Highest Place': The Anglo- Saxon and the Construction of Identity in Late-Nineteenth-Century Canada," in Canada and the British World: Culture, Migration, and Identity, Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis, eds., Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006, p. 92.

(34.) Korneski, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," pp. 169-173.

(35.) Owram, pp. 97 and 144.

(36.) Korneski, Race, Nation, and Ideology, pp. 2-3 and 52. Also see Berger, The Sense of Power.

(37.) Owram, pp. 125-148.

(38.) Jonathan F. Vance, A History of Canadian Culture, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 194-197; J. Lee Thompson and John H. Thompson, "Ralph Connor and the Canadian Identity," Queen's Quarterly vol. 79. no. 2 (1972), pp. 160-166.

(39.) George Wrong, "Canadian Nationalism and the Imperial Tie," Proceedings of the American Political Science Association vol. 6 no. 6 (1909), p. 107; George Wrong, "The Growth of Nationalism in the British Empire," The American Historical Review vol. 22 no. 1 (1916), p. 54.

(40.) Dick, pp. 91-93 and 112-113.

(41.) Owram, pp. 64-65; Korneski, "Reform and Empire," p. 51; Korneski "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," p. 162; George Bryce, The Canadianization of Western Canada, Ottawa: The Royal Society of Canada, 1910, xvi.

(42.) Ralph Connor, The Foreigner: A Tale of Saskatchewan, Hodder & Soughton, 1909, pp. 132 and 253.

(43.) Thompson and Thompson, pp. 163-165; and Morton, p. 318.

(44.) Connor, p. 48.

(45.) Korneski, Race, Nation, and Ideology, p. 60; Thompson and Thompson, p. 167; and Connor, pp. 23-41.

(46.) George Fisher Chipman, "Winnipeg: The Melting Pot," The Canadian Magazine vol. 33, no. 5 (September 1909), pp. 409-416; Chipman, "The Refining Process," The Canadian Magazine vol. 33, no. 6 (October 1909), pp.548-554.

(47.) Chipman, "Winnipeg: The Melting Pot," pp. 410-413.

(48.) Chipman, "The Refining Process," pp. 548-551.

(49.) Stephen Leacock, "Canada and the Immigration Problem," National Review vol. 57 (April 1911), p. 318.

(50.) Leacock, p. 326.

(51.) Owram, p. 145. Also see Catherine Logan Macdonald, George Bryce: Manitoba Scientist, Churchman and Historian, 1844-1931, MA Thesis (University of Manitoba, 1983).

(52.) Korneski, "Britishness, Canadianness, Class, and Race," p. 162.

(53.) George Bryce, Great Britain as Seen by Canadian Eyes, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1896, pp. 2-7.

(54.) George Bryce, A Short History of the Canadian People, London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company Limited, 1914, pp. 505 and 566-569.

(55.) George Bryce, "A New Nation or "The first Quarter-Century of the Dominion"," Address Delivered before the Manitoba College Literary Society, November 3rd, 1893, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1893, pp. 1-2.

(56.) George Bryce, "The New Canadianism," Inaugural Address Delivered in Convocation Hall, Manitoba College Winnipeg, November 11th, 1898, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1898, pp. 8-9.

(57.) George Bryce, "Letter to Rev. Abbe Garreau (Montreal) August 17, 1891," Winnipeg, 1891. [Source?]

(58.) George Bryce, Canadian Loyalty, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1902, p. 5.

(59.) George Bryce, Holiday Rambles Between Winnipeg and Victoria, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1888, pp. 13-22.

(60.) Bryce, "A New Nation or 'The first Quarter-Century of the Dominion'," p. 4.

(61.) Bryce, Great Britain as Seen by Canadian Eyes, pp. 3-6.

(62.) George Bryce, "Problems of Greater Canada," Address Delivered before the Manitoba College Literary Society, October 25th, 1895, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1895, pp. 1-2.

(63.) George Bryce, The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists, Toronto: The Musson Book Company Limited, 1909, p. 317. Also see Owram, Promise of Eden, p. 145.

(64.) Bryce, Holiday Rambles, p. 45.

(65.) George Bryce, Manitoba: Its Infancy, Growth and Present Condition, London: Samson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1882, pp. 358-363.

(66.) Bryce, The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists, pp. 239-243.

(67.) Frank Larned Hunt, "Britain's One Utopia," Manitoba Historical Society, Winnipeg: The Manitoba Free Press, 1902, pp. 2-11.

(68.) Bryce, Manitoba, pp. 6-7 and 95.

(69.) Bryce, Manitoba, pp. 263 and 358.

(70.) Dick, pp. 103-104 and 112; and George Bryce, A History of Manitoba, Its Resources and People, Toronto: The Canada History Company, 1906, p. 306.

(71.) Bryce, Manitoba, pp. vi, 10-11, 150, and 270-280.

(72.) George Bryce, The Scotsman in Canada, Toronto: The Musson Book Company Limited, 1911, pp. 423-430.

(73.) Bryce, The Canadianization of Western Canada, lvii; Bryce, Manitoba, p. 139.

(74.) Bryce, Holiday Rambles, pp. 9 and 46.

(75.) Korneski, "Reform and Empire," p. 55.

(76.) Bryce, A Short History of the Canadian People, p. 67; and Bryce, The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists.

(77.) Bryce, Manitoba, p. 167; Bryce, Holiday Rambles, p. 65; and Bryce, A Short History of the Canadian People, pp. 445-446.

(78.) Bryce, Manitoba, pp. 138-139; Bryce, Holiday Rambles, pp. 51-57; and George Bryce, "Our Indians," Address Delivered Before the Y.M.C.A. of Winnipeg, December 1st 1884, Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1884, pp. 1-5.

(79.) Bryce, "The New Canadianism," p. 9.

(80.) Bryce, The Canadianization of Western Canada, pp. liii-lvi.

(81.) Bryce, "Problems of Greater Canada," p. 4-6; and Bryce, The Canadianization of Western Canada, p. xlviii.

by Shannon Conway

History Department, University of Ottawa

Shannon Conway is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa working under the supervision of Dr. Chad Gaffield. Her dissertation is focussed on the relationship between constructions of 'official' Canadian and Newfoundland identities since 1949. She completed her MA in History at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2014 and is currently residing in Ottawa.
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