“I Am Canadian!”

Sandford Fleming supervised construction of th...
Sandford Fleming supervised construction of the Eastern Line of the NSR in 1867. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my post of August 2: (Even on a Sunday!), the story was told about the Canadian goodwill tour of the Maritimes organized by D’Arcy McGee and Sandford Fleming in 1864.  Several days were spent in Saint John, banqueting and speech-making.  Then the delegates set out for Halifax.

Halifax was greatly different from Saint John; it had been a British military and naval base for more than 100 years.  Here, there was great formality, and class distinction: the larger homes had servants’ quarters at the rear, with separate entrances; smart landaus and four-wheel coaches were driven along the streets by liveried coachmen.  Scarlet-coated British soldiers and blue-jacketed sailors of the Royal Navy lent colour to the scene.  When night came, the lamp-lighters turned up the gas jets in their square glass cages along the streets.  All night long, the watch patrolled the street calling out the hour:  “Three o’clock and all’s well!”

The Canadians stayed in Halifax for six days.  One of the happiest times was a “hodgepodge and chowder party” at the Royal Halifax Yacht Club on August 13.  There were kilted pipers and Highland dancers.  The afternoon was hot, so the delegates took off their black broadcloth coats and stove-pipe hats.  Bearded senators and members of the legislature played leap-frog on the lawn!

Before the visit ended and the delegates returned to Canada, many warm friendships had been made.  Joseph Howe, soon to oppose Confederation strongly, made a speech in which he said:  “I am not one of those who thank God I am a Nova Scotian merely, for I am a Canadian as well .. I have looked across the broad continent and studied the mode by which it could be consolidated … and why should union not be brought about?  Is it because we wish to live and die in our insignificance?”

In one of his speeches, Howe also made a prediction:  “I believe that many in this room will live to hear the whistle of the steam-engine in the passes of the Rocky Mountains and to make the journey to the Pacific in five or six days.”  It seemed incredible, but it came true.  Howe did not live to make that trip, but many of his peers did.

To learn more about these events, I suggest going to the Library and Archives Canada, and then the University of Manitoba‘s “Thomas D’Arcy McGee and Confederation in the Maritimes by RICHMOND L. GRANNAN.


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