"Paddle Your Own Canoe"

Context: Having resigned from the British navy in 1829, Captain Marryat had to write voluminously to try to keep out of debt. Poe charged that the popularity of his sea stories proved him a mediocre writer, but while his conversations sound stilted, his humor and pathos still make him readable, and his pages are filled with an abundance of adventure. In Settlers in Canada, his second children's novel, an English doctor with four sons and his sister's two orphan daughters runs into financial difficulty at home chiefly because of his own noble nature. Thinking his small remaining capital will last longer in Canada, he takes the whole family overseas in 1794. In Quebec he gets a deed to land along Lake Ontario for which he sets out, with trapper Martin Super as guide. From him and from an officer, Captain Sinclair, the doctor's family learns about local conditions and about the treachery of Chief Pontiac. In Chapter VIII, they discuss traits of the Indians and their refusal to become Christianized. "Canoe" is a New World (Haitian) word. The local expression about each paddling his own canoe here has a figurative meaning of each person going his own way, a meaning different from that now given to the phrase.

"When the form of worship and creed is simple, it is difficult to make converts, and the Indian is a clear reasoner. I once had a conversation with one of the chiefs on the subject. After we had conversed some time, he said, 'You believe in one God–so do we; you call him one name–we call him another; we don't speak the same language, that is the reason. You say, suppose you do good, you go to land of Good Spirits–we say so too. Then Indians and Yangees (that is, English) both try to gain same object, only try in not the same way. Now I think that it much better that, as we all go along together, that every man paddle his own canoe. That my thought.'"