National Geographic : 1947 Nov
Exploring Ottawa 11 tons; the smallest, eight inches, weighs only 10 pounds. In his little room high in the tower the carillonneur is at work on his complicated keyboard, which manipulates the 53 bells as easily as the chords of a piano (page 584). By the beauty of architecture, by the power of music, and by the memory of great deeds, the Peace Tower is set apart from the business of government, the wrangles of politics, and the evils of the world. Parliament Hill a Noble Site Emerging from the front door, you survey the rounded expanse of Parliament Hill. It is a natural and a noble site for a capital, this grassy bluff rising sheer beside the Ottawa River, and it has long been a landmark on the travel trails of the continent (pages 568-9). Half a mile away the Indians, on their voy ages from the interior to the lower St. Law rence Valley, used to portage around the Chaudiere Falls. Here Champlain paused on his first voyage inland while his guides threw tobacco into the whirlpool to propitiate the gods who lived in the foaming waters. In the summer of 1815 the Earl of Dal housie, later Governor of Canada, stood on the river bank and, looking at the bluff on the other side, remarked to a friend: "Do not be surprised if some day you should see on yonder eminence the seat of the government of the two Canadas." The two Canadas (now Quebec and Ontario) pursued their separate courses for a long time after that, and the bluff on the river bank re mained uninhabited and unknown. But the vast forests of the Ottawa River basin had been discovered, and presently rafts of logs were hurtling over the Chaudiere. A village sprang up farther along the stream around a little sawmill, and up and down the valley roamed the wild French-Canadian lumberjacks and rivermen. In 1827 Col. John By arrived with a de tachment of British engineers and started to build a canal from the river to Lake Ontario, so that, if Canada had to fight another war with the United States, the War of 1812 being still a vivid memory, it would be possible for gunboats and military supplies to get from Montreal to Lake Ontario without passing close to American territory. Colonel By's canal remains, a picturesque route for canoes and motorboats, but his name no longer attaches to the river village which once bore it (Plate XV). Old Bytown be came Ottawa in the middle of the last century. The selection of the Earl of Dalhousie's "eminence" as the seat of Canadian govern- ment was almost accidental. After the Rebel lion of 1837, which finally produced respon sible government in Canada, riots broke out in the Canadian capital of Montreal. Lord Elgin, the Governor-General, was stoned and spattered with rotten eggs and the Parliament buildings burned. Obviously, Montreal was no place for a permanent capital. Already the Government had shifted to and from Niagara-on-the-Lake, York (Toronto), Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec, satisfying the claims of each of the main colonial com munities; but the effort of constant move ment was too much. A permanent abode had to be selected. In London the young Queen Victoria, shocked by the discontent of her colonial sub jects, looked at the map of a country which she had never seen. To her it was obvious that the Canadian capital must be as distant as possible from the American border in case of future war. After considering the claims of other places, she finally selected "a modest village town perched meekly on high bluffs and intervening valley between the spray and roar of two headlong river falls." And the prosaic name of Bytown was changed to Ottawa, a distor tion of adawe, "to trade," a term applied to the Ottawa Indians. In 1859 the first sod was turned on Parlia ment Hill, and the following year the corner stone was laid by the Prince of Wales, who was to become King Edward VII. Young Edward had a lively time running the river rapids on a raft. The new capital was the government seat of Upper and Lower Canada, then joined in a flimsy and unworkable union. The men who attended the first session of the joint Parlia ment in the new building had dreamed of a larger nation, a union of all the British colonies in North America. In 1867 the Confederation of Canada was born, and Ottawa became the capital of a nation which soon stretched from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. A Mighty "Finger of Stone" The work of the original builders on Parlia ment Hill remains largely as they left it. In a hollow square facing a broad sweep of lawn, they reared three structures of native stone, the plain House of Parliament flanked by a many-towered office building on either side. The office buildings remain, but the House was destroyed by the 1916 fire. It has been replaced by a larger pile of almost identical lines but entirely modern in all its appoint ments.