It has to be speculation today, but it could be argued that Canada would not be an independent nation today if the American Civil War had not taken place. The fight began at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.
In 1861, the Americans had a big foothold in western Canada and were looking for more. The most important trade route was via the railway that had been built to St. Paul, Minnesota. Six thousand Red River carts were employed in transporting Hudson’s Bay Company goods between Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and St. Paul. They were supplying 152 shops, 3,000 traders and 100,000 Indian trappers.
Fort Garry was growing rapidly and dividing into political factions, “The American Part” and the “Canadian Party.” Each side had newspapers to express its views, and hotels for headquarters. With Confederation looming as a possibility in the East, the States had agents working in Fort Garry to try to take over the West before Canada did. The intention was to establish the Canadian north-south boundary along longitude 90, at the western end of Lake Superior, just past Fort William and Port Arthur.
The United States was interested for several reasons. Its own good lands were being occupied rapidly, and the prairies provided room for expansion. Gold had been discovered in British Columbia, and it was thought that the area might offer a route to the gold fields. In any event, it was the United States’ policy to take over all the Pacific coast up to Alaska.
The Americans might have pursued this policy of they had not become involved in a war with Mexico. Rather than fight Britain too, they settled for a boundary along the forty-ninth parallel. The Americans might also have absorbed the Prairie Provinces, if they had not become involved in their own civil war in 1861. Four years later, Sir John A. Macdonald said about the Prairies:
“The country is of no present value to Canada.”
Sir John’s view changed when Confederation became a reality in 1867. He and his colleagues then saw the need for quick action to prevent the West from falling into American hands. The action was so quick that it caused the Riel uprising in 1870.
There are a few places to click on to find out more about this. Again I found a good site with lots of information, the Eyewitness to History. Other sites are History.com is always good, Civil War.org is another good source, as well as the National Review . And of course, there’s also Wikipedia . Another great site I’ve discovered is News in History.com ‘s Dramatic Newspaper Coverage of the Battle of Fort Sumter: The Attack That Began the Civil War.
- The Debunker: When Were the First Shots of the Civil War Fired? (woot.com)
- Revealed: The Tipperary Town Where the First Soldier to Die in the American Civil War was Born? (irishamericancivilwar.com)
- 150 Years Ago: The Ironclads Attack! The war returns to Fort Sumter (markerhunter.wordpress.com)