The British Association's Visit To Montreal, 1884: Letters, By Clara Rayleigh



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(Reprinted from The Times, 1884)

It seems early to begin to speak of the arrangements for the next meeting of the British Association, but it is a far cry to Montreal, and a proportionately long start must be made before the final leap is taken. So heartily have the Dominion Government and the Canadian _savants_ entered into the preparations that everything is ready; all the presidents, vice-presidents and secretaries of sections have been selected; all arrangements made with steamship companies and American railways; all excursions have been planned, and all possible routes provided for; instructions of the most detailed kind have been drawn up for the guidance of members; nothing has been left, indeed, except what depends on contingencies of time and place, so that Professor Bonney and his legion of officials may at any moment take up their portmanteaus and walk on shipboard. All this forwardness and completeness are largely due to the zeal of the High Commissioner, Sir Charles Tupper, and his energetic and obliging secretary, Mr. Colmer. When the decision was come to at Southampton to hold the meeting of 1884 in Canada there was widely expressed disapproval of the step, and doubt as to its legitimacy; but the prospect of entertaining the upper thousand of English science has evidently so greatly gratified our Canadian brothers that even the most stiff-necked opponent of the migration must be compelled to give in if he has a shred of good nature and brotherly feeling left. There are doubtless a few grumblers who will maintain that the Montreal assembly will not be a meeting of the _British_ Association; but after all this Imperial Parliament of Science could not be better occupied than in doing something to promote science in one of the most important sections of the British dominions. Indeed, since some maintain that so far as this country is concerned it has almost ceased to have a _raison d'etre_, might it not extend its functions and endeavour to exercise the same effective influence on the promotion of science in other parts of the Empire as it has undoubtedly done in the past in the Mother Country? It can scarcely hope ever to hold a meeting either in Australia or India, nor even, we fear, in South Africa; but there are other means Which it might adopt more appropriately than any other body to encourage the progress of science in these parts of the Empire, and make accessible to the public interested in it the good work which is being done, at least in some of the Australian colonies. In Canada itself there are several important scientific societies; but so far as we know, they have no common bond of union. Seeing that there is already an efficient American Association, we should not advocate the formation of a separate Canadian body; but possibly the Montreal meeting might be able to do something to federalise the separate Canadian societies. We suggested some years ago that the Association might do such a service to the numerous local societies in this country, and we are glad to know that the suggestion has borne fruit, and that already a real advance has been made in this direction.

But whatever may be the results of the Montreal meeting, it is clear from the programme which has been drawn up that everything possible is being done to render the occasion one of genuine enjoyment to all who are fortunate enough to be present. The Canadian Parliament has voted so handsome a sum for the entertainment of the Association that its expenses are likely to be less than at an ordinary meeting. Provision has been made for free passages and free living for fifty of the officials, who need not spend a penny from the time they set foot upon the steamer until they step ashore again upon their native land. Not only so, but a sum of $14,000 has been allotted for the reduction of members' passages to Canada in addition to any abatement of fares allowed by the steamship companies. The most important of these companies, sailing not only to Quebec and Montreal, but to New York and Newport, offer reductions averaging about 10 per, cent, on the ordinary fares. The companies who offer these advantages are the Allan, the Dominion, the Beaver, White Star, Cunard, National, Anchor, Guion, Inman, Monarch, and Union lines; so that intending visitors have ample choice of route. On the other side, again, all the railway companies have shown the greatest liberality. The Government railways are free to all who produce members' vouchers. The Canada Pacific Line will from July 1 up to the date of the departure of the special free excursion to the Rocky Mountains, grant to visiting members free passes over its lines to the northward (Rocky Mountains, Lake Superior, &c.) and intermediate points. This company also offers to one hundred and fifty members of the Association a free special excursion to the Rocky Mountains, by way of Georgian Bay, Thursday Bay, and Winnipeg, providing that those places passed during the night on the outward journey will be repassed during the day on the return. The only thing members will have to pay for will be meals, which will be provided at a rate not exceeding 2s. Arrangements, moreover, will be made for trips and excursions from Toronto, across Lake Ontario to Niagara, under the direction of local committees to be formed in both places, giving to all members an opportunity of visiting the Falls. Various other excursions have been liberally arranged for by the company, so that visitors will have ample opportunity of seeing most that is worth seeing in Canada for practically nothing. The Canada Atlantic Railway has also arranged for several free excursions, while the Grand Trunk, the North Shore, the Central Vermont, and other railways in the States offer tickets to members at something like half the usual rates; thus those who proceed to New York may visit various parts of the States before proceeding northwards to Canada at extremely cheap rates.

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