Confederation as a War Measure

A Story of Challenge

By J.M.S. Careless

Chairman of the Department of History
University of Toronto
© J.M.S. Careless, 1963
First published 1953
Revised and enlarged edition 1963
Reprinted 1964

Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 64-10638



Chapter 13

1. – The Movements Within
2. – The Great Coalition in Canada
3. – The Forces Without
4. – The Achievement of Confederation


1. The Movements Within

On 1 July 1867, the separate colonies of British North America united in Confederation to become the Dominion of Canada.  The seven years before were one of the most important periods in Canadian history.  During those years, powerful movements within the colonies and strong pressures from outside carried British North America onward to Confederation.  They answered the question of union.  It took a few years more before the new Dominion stretched completely from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but the final stage, that of bringing in the Great West, was already decreed by the successful uniting of the main provinces in 1867.  The advance to Confederation at that date was the all-important achievement.  It is one of the most compelling stories in Canadian history.

Picture the colonies of British America in 1860, when the story begins.  On the Pacific shores are two little outposts, Vancouver Island and British Columbia, linked only by sea with the outside world.  Between them and Canada by land lie two thousand miles of silence, of mountains, endless plains, and the bush-country of the Shield.  Only the cluster of farms at Red river breaks this empty expanse.  But south of the forty-ninth parallel the restless, ever-spreading flood of American settlement is sweeping up over the prairies.  Beyond the Great Lakes, in Canada, where some voices are raised in warning for the West, the St Lawrence province is racked with angry sectionalism, turned in upon itself.  Yet while parties wrangle and French and English accuse each other of wrecking the union, the hum of mills and factories begins to rise, railway lines creep east and west.  And the feeling grows that


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sectional troubles, trade development, railways, all point to a new and grander union.

On the Atlantic coast, meanwhile, the Maritime provinces are glorying in the height of the age of wood, wind and water.  Water-driven local industries, easy water transport, wood for their tall wind-ships:  the Maritimes are well provided with these.  They have brought golden prosperity.  But what of the future?  How will the Maritimes fare in the approaching age of iron and coal, of large steam-driven factories, railways and steel steamships?  The Atlantic provinces have far less resources for this new era.  They must plan carefully for the future.  One of their most cherished plans is for a railway to link their ocean ports with Canada and the West.  Then in an age of steam and steel the Maritime ports, closer to Europe than those of the United States, may still flourish, pouring forth the rich trade of the continental interior.  But the Martimes cannot build an Intercolonial Railway alone.  They may be led to unite with Canada in order to arrange and pay for the expensive line.

Canada is still a far-away and strange place to the Maritimers, who look with doubt on the stormy Canadian record of rebellion and racial conflict, and pride themselves on their own loyal and orderly political development.  Yet thoughts of a great British American union linking the Atlantic with the Pacific are not unknown in the eastern provinces.  And was it not Nova Scotia’s own Joseph Howe who predicted in 1851 that some of his audience would live to hear the whistle of the locomotive in the passes of the Rockies?

This, then, was British America in 1860, and some of the stirrings in its mind.  Proposals to investigate the prospects of union had already been heard in the Maritime parliaments.  But the most definite proposals had been put forward in Canada, by far the biggest province.  Here the idea of federal union had been taken up, and this was a most fruitful suggestion.  The British American colonies were actually too divided by geography and


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distance, too different in their interests, to see themselves swallowed up in a complete, or legislative, union under one government.  The smaller ones would find themselves powerless to protect their special interests because the bigger provinces, containing a majority of the population, would regularly be in control.  French Canada, on the other hand, would be fearful for its particular rights in a largely English-speaking British American state.

A looser, federal form of union, however, would meet the difficulty.  Under federalism the powers necessary to maintain a single large state would be given to a central government while those matters of regional or sectional importance would be kept for provincial governments.  The United States supplied the obvious example of how a federation could overcome the problem of North American distances and regionalism.  In the Canadian case the movement for federal union went under the name of Confederation, as if to distinguish it from the American example.  But the essential plan and purpose were the same.

In 1858 Alexander Galt had proposed a British American confederation in the Canadian assembly.  He suggested that the federal principle could be applied to a general union of Canada East, Canada West, and the Maritime provinces.  Galt, a leader of the Montreal business world, shortly afterwards joined the Cartier-Macdonald government as Minister of Finance.  Here he was responsible for the ‘protective’ tariff of 1859, which by raising the duties against British manufactured goods had protected Canadian manufacturers and caused an outcry in freer trade Britain.  Galt had entered the Conservative government of Macdonald and Cartier on their promise to take up his project for general federation at the Colonial Office.  Such a change in the constitutions of British America would, of course, still require action by the imperial parliament.  But Britain showed that she was not yet interested in a general union, particularly because the other colonies had so far not pressed for it.  Therefore the Cartier-Macdonald government let the matter drop, having fulfilled their promise; for


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aside from Galt they were not yet convinced of the need for such a federation.

Nevertheless the Liberal-Conservative side in politics had thus proposed federation.  Next the Reformers, or Liberals, under George Brown, took it up, although they sought only a federal union of the two Canadas.  In 1859 a crowded Clear Grit convention in Toronto endorsed a plan, backed by Brown, that would remove the sources of sectional conflict yet preserve the merits of the existing union.  It aimed at setting up a general authority for both Canadas and two provincial governments to handle subjects of sectional or racial concern.  And Brown in a mighty speech full of vision and persuasion made clear that this plan was to be the first step in building a great British American nation.

For several years after the Convention, however, the Clear Grits still hoped to gain representation by population, and concentrated on that rather than federation.  But French Canada would not yield ‘rep by pop’ and be swamped by the English in parliament.  Hence the sectional struggle dragged on.  No government could last long.  Neither Conservative or Liberal cabinets could find a secure province-wide majority when the West was falling ever more completely into the hands of the Grit Liberals, and the East to the French Conservatives.  Macdonald, his own Conservative support sinking in Canada West, strove gamely and skilfully to build cabinets and to make the union work.  But government was slowing to a halt.  By June of 1864 there had been two elections and four governments in the previous three years.  None had succeeded; little work could be done.  Clearly the union could not continue on this basis.

2. The Great Coalition in Canada

As hopeless deadlock settled down on the province of Canada in 1864, George Brown carefully but firmly stepped forward.  He proposed a parliamentary committee to discuss the problem on a non-party basis and suggest the best solution.  Here was a states-


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man-like act, seemingly unlike Brown.  It had often been charged, with some justice, that Brown’s violent outbursts against French-Catholic power and Conservative corruption had done much to embitter provincial politics; though it might also be claimed that the roots of bitterness were there without George Brown.  At any rate, the impatient and hot-tempered Scot, warm friend and grim enemy, had of late been showing surprising restraint.  He had decided that the dangerous question of the union must now be settled, and could only be settled by moderation and a turning-away from sectional and party strife.

He soon made clear this decision of immense consequence.  In June of 1864 Brown’s committee reported to the assembly, recommending a federal union of all the colonies or at least of the two Canadas.  On that very day yet one more cabinet fell, and Brown announced that he was willing to form any government with the Conservatives that would be devoted to solving the problem of union.  Willing to join with his worst enemies — it was a brave and dramatic move.  At once the political picture changed.  Deadlock vanished.  A strong government of both Liberals and Conservatives could readily be formed to end the sectional evils.  No wonder the assembly burst into cheers when they heard the news.  No wonder an excitable little French Canadian member dashed across the floor and flung his arms happily about the towering, and startled, Liberal leader.

The coalition government that was now formed, the ‘Great Coalition’ of 1864, agreed that it would first seek a general British American federation and, if that failed, would then bring in a federal union for the two Canadas with provisions for including the West.  The first and larger scheme thus represented the original Conservative proposal made by Galt, the second, the plan of the Clear Grit Convention of 1859.  Brown, who now entered the government with Macdonald, Galt, and Cartier, was quite satisfied if the first could be won, since in any case it included the smaller Liberal scheme of federating the union between the two


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Canadas.  And federation would mean that in the central government Canada West would receive the proper number of members that its population deserved; there would be representation by population.  Canada West would also obtain its own provincial government, to look after the sectional interests that had been interfered with under the ‘French domination’ of the old union.  In addition, Brown, as a British American nationalist (though none the less devoted to the imperial bond), could enter eagerly into the project for building a continent-wide union.

On the Conservative side there were also grounds for satisfaction.  For Macdonald and his English-speaking followers, it meant a continued share of power when they had felt themselves slipping.  The unity of the St Lawrence they had fought to save would not be lost.  It would be built into a larger whole.  Furthermore, Conservatives had been more interested than Liberals in the suggestion of union with the Maritimes and in building the necessary Intercolonial Railway to give that union meaning.  Now the railway-building party could plan the eastward expansion, while the ‘land-hungry’ Clear Grits could look to bringing in the West.  French Canada, too, could find its rights safeguarded under federalism, which would leave its language, laws and religion safe under a French-Canadian provincial government.  Hence Cartier joined with Macdonald in accepting the offer of alliance that Brown had made.  Cartier’s acceptance was no less brave and statesmanlike than Brown’s offer.  It was brave to join with the man his French supporters hated most; and it was statesmanlike, despite their suspicions, to see that, while French Canada could not hold out for ever in the old union against the demands of the English majority, federation offered it every necessary protection.

Brown and Cartier were perhaps the vital figures at this critical stage in the movement for confederation since they controlled the largest blocks of votes in the Canadian parliament.  Yet also important in the province of Canada were Galt, the far-seeing financier, who had first put forward the confederation plan, and


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Thomas D’Arcy McGee, the brilliant Irish orator, whose national vision of a dominion from sea to sea put fire into the movement and aroused wide popular support. Above them all in the long run, however, rose the ambling, friendly figure of John A. Macdonald.

He had been lukewarm towards federation almost to the last. He had fought always to make the existing union work. But when the sweeping scheme of general confederation was adopted as the first aim of the Coalition of 1864, Macdonald came into his own. It caught his imagination. This was union in a larger realm, and it was the idea of a firm and powerful union that Macdonald stressed above all. His tactful diplomacy and ready good humour did much to carry it through in the discussions that followed with the other colonies. He left his mark on the strong structure of federal union that was finally adopted for the Dominion. And his long career of nation-building—that really began with the Coalition of 1864—deservedly makes John A. Macdonald appear as the greatest Father of a Confederation which other men set under way.

Yet the work of Confederation had only begun with the formation of the Great Coalition in Canada, While the largest province had definitely set the movement going, the other provinces, and Britain, had not yet spoken. It was largely Canada’s own internal difficulties which had led it to act first. Perhaps the other provinces, not facing these problems, would not feel the same urge towards federation. Fortunately, however, there were other forces, from outside British America, which affected all the colonies and pressed them on towards union. These outside influences came from both Britain and the United States. But in particular, they stemmed from the American Civil War, and the grave problems it raised for British North America.

3. The Forces Without

In 1861 the great and terrible Civil War broke out in the United States.  From the start the British American colonies were affected.


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It was not merely that an earnest dislike of slavery bound their attention to the war so close at hand, and even led some Canadians to fight in the Northern armies against the slave-holding South.  It was rather that bad feelings between Britain and the American North threatened to involve the British provinces in war themselves.  For in the event of war between Britain and the United States the Americans would strike at the closest British territory.  The colonies would be invaded, as in the war of 1812; but this time they would face a far stronger foe, who had one of the largest armies in the world.

The hard feelings between Britain and the United States were the results of faults on both sides.  In Britain, old anti-American prejudices were expressed in a belief, or perhaps a hope, that the United States had finally failed.  There was a tendency in some quarters to look on the South as a new and separate nation and to decry the Northern efforts to restore the American union.  On the American side there was fire-eating talk of ‘punishing’ Britain for being too friendly to Southern rebels, and there were suggestions that the American armies could find better employment in the conquest of Canada.  Nor was the feeling entirely absent that a war against the old British enemy of American Revolutionary days would close the breach in the republic and turn its warlike passions outward.  However, despite the fire-eaters, cooler counsels in government circles on both sides of the Atlantic prevented such a tragic conflict.  But the people of the time could hardly be sure that a war would not break out.

For British America, in particular, the first battlefield of such a war, there was a new period of strain in relations with the United States.  Looking back on history, one can see that the general peace between Canada and the United States dates from 1815; but in the mid-nineteenth century there was no sense at all that permanent peace had yet been secured.  There had long been boundary problems and mutual suspicion.  There had been border fighting in 1838 and a war-scare over Oregon in 1846.  Why should the Civil


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War of the 1860’s not release a new and desperate struggle?  Through most of that decade the strain continued.  It did not end when peace had been restored in the United States in 1865, for now there was a fear that the victorious Northern forces, freed from their tasks in the south, might be turned against Canada.

It was during these years of strain, of repeated crises, that Confederation was achieved.  In part, Confederation was an attempt to band together the strength of British North America to resist any American threat.  The United States, therefore, not only supplied an example for a new northern federation:  it supplied an urgent reason for it.  A union would at least be better equipped to meet the general problem of British American defence.  As the Civil War progressed, and quarrels flared between the United States and Britain, the question of defence loomed ever greater in the northern provinces.  A sense of urgency began to invade the discussions of union.  As D’Arcy McGee put it, the opening guns of the Civil War had warned Canada that she might sleep no more, except in arms, in constant readiness to defend herself.

Now this awareness of a defence problem varied considerably throughout British North America.  The colonies of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, for instance, felt secure enough under the protection of the Royal Navy.  But New Brunswick, and Canada especially, had long land frontiers to guard.  Canada West was the most exposed, the furthest from British aid.  Even here, however, there were many, George Brown among them, who felt that certain angry-voiced American newspapers did not represent the good sense of the American people or government:  that there was no reason to fear war.  Still, there was always the possibility to be guarded against, and several alarming incidents sharply brought home the unprepared state of the British colonies.

The first of these incidents was the Trent affair of November, 1861.  Two Southern envoys to Britain were seized in high-handed fashion from the British steamer Trent by a United States warship


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at sea.  Restraint by both British and American governments avoided war, and the envoys were set free.  But the problem of defending British territory in America became suddenly plain.  Over ten thousand British reinforcements were hastily shipped to Canada while the danger of war was at its height.  To reach the St Lawrence colony in winter they had to go overland in sleighs from New Brunswick by the Madawaska ‘snow road’.  If there had been war, much of Canada might already have been lost before their arrival.  Accordingly the British government began an inquiry into the reorganization of Canadian defences, while the provincial government had to make plans for raising a larger and more effective militia force to aid the regular troops.

There were other incidents.  In 1864, for example, a band of Southerners (many of whom had sought refuge in Canada) slipped over the provincial border to raid the town of St. Albans in Vermont.  The provincial government acted to seize the raiders on their return to Canada, but not firmly enough to suit Americans, who felt that, at the least, the Canadians were not patrolling their borders properly, and, at the most, were aiding the Southern rebels.  The United States government put strong controls on border crossings to Canada and announced that it might have to rearm on the Great Lakes, left free of warships since 1817, in order to protect its boundary.  American warships on the Lakes would require British warships there too:  the thunder of naval guns, silent since 1815, might be heard again on these freshwater seas.

Fortunately, the Civil War in the republic came to an end in the spring of 1865, and the United States did not move to rearm on the Lakes.  Yet a spirit of resentment was left on the American side of the line.  When the following year saw raiding in the opposite direction the American authorities did little to check it.  These new raids were the work of the Fenians, an Irish revolutionary group dedicated to ending British rule over Ireland.  If they could not reach Ireland, at least their powerful Irish-American sup-


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porters — often discharged soldiers from the Northern armies — could do the next best thing and attack British lands in North America.  Fenians massed at points along the border in 1866.  They made only one actual invasion of Canada, near the village of Fort Erie in the Niagara peninsula, where local militia threw them back after three days of alarms and excitement.  Yet the threat of Fenian raids was widespread.  An attempt on New Brunswick helped to convince that province that strength lay in unity, and so inclined it more towards the plan of British American federation.

Militia marched and counter-marched in the colonies, and the same kind of enthusiasm and feelings of common loyalty were roused as in the days of 1812 or the American raids of 1838.  It was clear to the colonists that Fenian attacks were an annoyance rather than a real menace to their safety.  The Fenians were no the United States army.  The American government made no move towards war, and finally checked Fenianism when that movement was dying of its own failure.  Yet the raids did reveal American unfriendliness, and underlined the need to show that the colonies would stand together to ensure their own future in North America.  Some Americans were talking again of annexing Canada.  A proposal for its peaceful annexation was even briefly made in Congress.  Perhaps more significant, however, was the ending of the Reciprocity Treaty by the United States, another sign of American unfriendliness, and a hard blow at all the northern colonies.

The United States announced early in 1865 that it meant to end, or abrogate, the Reciprocity Treaty.  This was in accordance with the Treaty term that it was to run for ten years and then be renewed or cancelled by either party, with an extra year of grace if it should be cancelled.  The Treaty would end, then, in 1866.  A flourishing system of commerce would be cut off.  Maritime fish, Canadian lumber, and many other colonial goods would no longer have free entry into the United States.  The American abrogation of reciprocity was undoubtedly influenced by the thought that these losses would lead to the annexation of British


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America, that the colonies could not survive without the American trade.  While reciprocity was the happiest state for the provinces, however, they were not so utterly dependent on it as Americans believed; and in reaction to that belief British America only became more determined to shape a future of its own.

Thus was encouraged that general feeling of British American nationalism which had almost been forced upon the provinces by the strained relations with the United States during the Civil War and by the Fenian outrages afterwards.  As a result the movement for union was strengthened, particularly in the Maritimes, where it had been weaker.  A British American nation should be the answer to talks of annexation.  A union would remove trade barriers between the colonies, encourage an interprovincial commerce to replace what had been lost.  It would even build the railway over which the new trade would flow between the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic centres.  An Intercolonial Railway and general federation seemed even more tied together — and even more necessary.

Railway problems, as well as matters of trade and defence, were also influencing the colonies.  The world-wide money power of the Barings’ bank, which was behind the Grand Trunk of Canada, brought pressure to bear on the cause of union in an effort to save British investments in the railway.  In 1861 Edward Watkin, a Baring financial expert, was sent to Canada to investigate the ‘organized mess’ of the Grand Trunk.  He reported that the railway lacked traffic and could only be made to pay by extending eastward and westward, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, until it became a transcontinental line carrying a great trade from ocean to ocean.  Thanks to this dazzling suggestion, British banking interests became concerned both with the projected Intercolonial Railway, the link with the Atlantic, and with opening the West, so that a line could be constructed to the Pacific.  In 1863, indeed, Watkin and a financial group in London even bought a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company, intending to open its western lands to Canada in order that a Pacific railway might be begun.


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Old enemies, the Clear Grits and the Grand Trunk banking interests, were coming to share a common desire to unlock the West.

As yet, however, Canada was unwilling to pay the price asked for the West.  Indeed, it looked as if a British American union would be needed to take over all the lands from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Only such a big union would have sufficient credit to undertake to acquire the West and construct the railways to the two sea-coasts.  Accordingly, British bankers and the Grand Trunk joined in working for the Confederation movement, and they had much influence in official circles.  They looked with approval on Maritime desires for an Intercolonial Railway.  Renewed conferences to discuss the Intercolonial were held between Canadian and Maritime representatives even before the Canadian Coalition of 1864 took up the question of a general federation.

Watkin, moreover, had the ear of the Colonial Office.  The British government was becoming increasingly interested in the ideas of opening the West and building new railways in British America — the ideas that led logically to union.  Yet more important in the mind of the British government were considerations of defence.  Opening the West to Canada was the only means of saving it, in the long run, from advancing American settlement; and a Pacific railway could carry British colonists there.  An Intercolonial Railway would end the dangerous weakness displayed during the Trent Affair of 1861, the fact that British troops could not be rushed to the defence of Canada when the St Lawrence was frozen over in winter.

Indeed, the stress and dangers of the American Civil War aroused the British government on the question of defence even more than it did the colonists of British America.  Britain faced the main task of defending the empire and bore most of its costs.  And at this very time when North American defence seemed to raise so grave a problem, a large element of opinion in free-trade Britain was proclaiming that colonies were only a burden and


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expense.  Some free traders, like Cobden and Bright, even demanded that the British American provinces be let go — be ‘allowed’ to join the United States.

While this view was not general in Britain there was at any rate a widespread desire that the costs of colonial defence be reduced, and that the North American colonies assume more of the burden of defending themselves against the United States.  Here again a union of the provinces promised to allow them to shoulder that burden more cheaply and effectively.  In time Britain began to exert strong pressure to bring about Confederation, and chiefly because of the defence question.  In this case, too, the emergency raised by the Civil War had made its influence felt.  It had fused together the movements within and the forces without, into a great drive that achieved Confederation.

4. The Achievement of Confederation

In June of 1864 the Great Coalition had been formed in Canada to seek general federation.  In September of that year the Maritimes were to hold a conference of their own to discuss a smaller project:  a union of the Atlantic colonies.  This plan was a result of the growing concern of the Maritimes for their future.  ‘Maritime union’ would strengthen them both politically and economically.  It was fairly popular in the coastal provinces and it had the blessing of the British government.  But Maritime union was destined never to be achieved.  It was swallowed up in the plan for a greater union.  Representatives of the Canadian Coalition, seizing the moment when Maritime delegates were meeting to consider new ties, swept down on their conference at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and captured it for the Canadian project of general federation.

The Canadians succeeded at Charlottetown because they came at a critical time.  The Civil War was crashing to a bloody victory of North over South, and no one knew what might happen when the Northern armies were free to turn to other quarrels.  The outside


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pressures of defence, of trade questions, were rising.  So was British American nationalism.  The Canadians drew splendid pictures at Charlottetown of a strong and secure new northern nation, linked by railways, in which Canadian wheat and industry would complement Maritime mines, fisheries, and ocean commerce.  It was a noble prospect, and in it the Maritimes saw the question of their future answered.  They agreed to send delegates to a further conference at Quebec to work out a scheme of British American union.

In the next few months the movement for Confederation was at its peak all over British North America.  Party differences and party feelings were forgotten in the general enthusiasm.  A Conservative government in Nova Scotia, for instance, under Charles Tupper, and a Liberal government in New Brunswick, under Leonard Tilley, worked with the Coalition in Canada.  The great figure of Howe, then out of power in Nova Scotia, gave at least a first approval to the idea of general union.  And the Grand Trunk railway, labouring hard in the cause, carried Canadians to the Maritimes and Maritime delegates on tours across the province of Canada.  Furthermore, late in 1864 and early in 1865, the St. Albans raid and the American announcement of the abrogation of reciprocity increased the sense of the urgent need for union.

In this time of strong feeling for Confederation the Quebec Conference of October, 1864, was able to draft plans for an enduring British North American federation.  The conference, indeed, went through its business speedily and quietly, although in time to come it would be charged with showing too much haste.  But in those burning, eager weeks there seemed no reason for delay.  There was, besides, general agreement that the new federal union had to be a strong one.  It was to provide wide powers for the central government in order to avoid those weaknesses of the American system, where the states had the wider powers, which had apparently produced the Civil War.

The Conference that met in a hall overlooking the broad sweep


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of the St. Lawrence, as it curved beneath the heights of Quebec, was composed of some of the ablest men in British North America.  Among them were Macdonald, Galt, Tilley and Tupper, Cartier, Brown and McGee.  They were there from French and English Canada, from the three coastal provinces and Newfoundland too; for the great island was meant to become a partner in the general union.  These Fathers of Confederation, in their dark Victorian clothes and stiff collars, might seem a less colourful assembly than the eighteenth-century group in wigs and bright waistcoats that met in Philadelphia in 1787 to frame the American constitution.  But the Quebec Fathers also held in their hands the future of half a continent.  And it was fitting that they should meet in the old capital of New France, beside Carder’s great river of Canada.  For here in the seventy-two resolutions that the conference drew up a new Canadian nation was born.

The Quebec Resolutions, the plan of union, now had to be accepted by the provinces themselves, or rather by their parliaments, before Confederation could go forward.  In the spring of 1865 they were adopted in the Canadian provincial assembly, after some of the finest debates in the political history of Canada.  The French and English Conservatives and the Canada West Liberals under Brown gave them a resounding majority.  The only considerable group opposing were the Canada East Liberals or Rouges led by Dorion, who charged that Confederation was merely ‘a Grand Trunk job’, designed to get the railway out of bankruptcy.  As usual with half-truths, this was a dangerous statement, because there was an element of fact in Dorion’s charge which obscured the many other forces behind Confederation.  But the weak Rouge opposition was not sufficient to turn the tide.

In the Maritimes, however, the Resolutions ran into difficulty.  By now a natural reaction against the excitement of Confederation was under way in these provinces, which had not inspired the project of federation, as Canada had, but had rather been led into it.  Once the federal terms were on the table all the forces of Mari-


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time criticism could be turned upon them.  The financial terms of the Quebec Resolution were attacked:  it was said that the eastern provinces had not been provided with sufficient income under the new arrangements.  The old suspicion of the unknown Canadians was revived:  the Maritimes would be swamped in the federation, which was only a trick to get Canada out of her own problem of deadlock.  These were negative influences; but on the positive side, the easterners’ love for their own little self-governing provinces made them reluctant to see their identities lost in a large new state.

Accordingly, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland rejected the Quebec resolutions outright.  The former, a farming and fishing island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, shared little of the interest in a railway to Canada that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick felt; and, of course, the Royal Navy had sheltered the island colony from the alarms of the Civil War.  Newfoundland had only been an observer at the Quebec Conference, and had even fewer ties with the continent of America than Prince Edward Island.  Much of its trade was with Europe.  In addition, having so recentiy achieved self-government, Newfoundland did not want to lose some of it in a union with far-off Canada.  Government from Ottawa seemed as distant and uncontrollable as that from London.  And Newfoundland in the 1850’s had just won a fight to keep London from ignoring its interests by granting France too many fishing rights on that annoying ‘French shore’, which dated from the Treaty of 1713.  Looking outward to sea, the island would have nothing to do with the ‘desert sands’ of Canada, as the Newfoundland foes of Confederation described them.

The fate of Confederation did not turn on these two relatively small eastern provinces but on Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Anti-federation forces were strong there too.  In Nova Scotia, Howe organized a powerful opposition to the Tupper government that supported the Resolutions.  Howe had turned from his early approval of union; in part, perhaps, because he had not been able


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to attend the Quebec Conference and appreciate the problems of arranging the Resolutions; in part because he believed his beloved province was being sacrificed to Canada.  At any rate, Tupper had to hold back and did not even dare to bring the Resolutions to a vote in the Nova Scotia assembly.

Nor would such a vote have mattered for the time being, since New Brunswick had meanwhile rejected the Quebec scheme.  Confederation was impossible unless the middle province, New Brunswick, agreed.  Its whole future hung here.  In March, 1865, when Tilley decided to hold an election over the Quebec scheme, he and his government were thoroughly defeated.  All the anti-federation forces in New Brunswick had come together, including powerful business interests that did not want the province’s money spent on its share of a railway to Canada, but rather on a line to the American border to link up with the railways of Maine.

Gradually the balance began to turn, as the anti-federation reaction played itself out.  The new government in New Brunswick proved unable to settle the railway issue or offer any alternative to federation.  The abrogation of reciprocity, which came finally in March, 1866, made Nova Scotia and New Brunswick see more value in a union with Canada, and the Intercolonial supporters urgently demanded it.  The Fenian attempt on New Brunswick further influenced public opinion.  On one thing the Maritimes were determined:  they would remain British in America, and if this required union, union there would be.

Yet the deciding factor was the influence of the British government.  From an early indifference to general union and an approval of the limited Maritime union, Britain late in 1864 had come swiftly to favour the plan of Confederation.  Defence was the great reason.  After the Trent affair, she had been alarmed by Canada’s apparent failure to raise sufficient militia to share effectively in her own defence, and there was always the demand at home to lower the cost of imperial burdens.  If, as Canadian delegates to England now assured her, a general union would be able


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to deal fully with defence, as well as take over the exposed West, then Britain would support such a union.

Therefore in 1865 the British government closed its ears to anti-federation protests from the Maritimes and instructed the British governors in the two main eastern provinces to use their influence on behalf of Confederation.  Their influence still was wide, even under responsible government.  It came into play the next year, when the weak anti-federation government began to collapse in New Brunswick.  At a new election in that province the governor’s power and Grand Trunk money was thrown in on the side of Confederation, although the latter perhaps only cancelled out other money spent by those desiring the railway to Maine.

The result was a sweeping victory for Tilley and Confederation; and, in Nova Scotia, Tupper was now able to get support for sending delegates to a new conference on British American union.  It met in London, late in 1866, under the encouraging eye of the British government, and included representatives from New Brunswick and Canada as well as from Nova Scotia.  At last Confederation was on the high road to success.

The London, or Westminster Conference accepted the Quebec Resolutions as the basic plan of union and made only minor changes, including larger money grants to the Maritimes and a definite statement that the Intercolonial railway would be built.  There would be four provinces in the new federation:  Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario and Quebec (the former Canada West and Canada East).  Meanwhile talks were proceeding on the method of handing over the vast North West to the new federation.  One notable result of the Conference was that the name Dominion of Canada was adopted for the British American union.  Tilley, it is said, found the key word, ‘Dominion’ in Psalm lxxii. 8:  ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth …’

‘From sea to sea’ would be the well-chosen motto of the new Dominion.  Soon it would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific,


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and from the St Lawrence to the end of land on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.  But first the imperial act creating the new state in accordance with the resolutions of the Westminster Conference had to be put through the British parliament.  Early in 1867 this measure, the British North America Act, embodying the new federal constitution of British America and the terms of its union, was passed by both houses of parliament.  On 1 July the Act came into force.  The Dominion of Canada began its career.  By 1873 it had brought in the North West, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island.  Newfoundland remained outside until 1949.  But the vital step had been taken in 1867, when the plan of Confederation triumphed, when the age of the British American colonies passed away, and that of the Dominion of Canada began.


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