The cradle of Confederation, which “rocked” to circus music at its opening, September 1, 1864, closed with graceful waltz music on September 7. There was a ball in the Legislative Assembly Hall, which was decorated with flags, flowers, evergreen boughs, mirrors and special lighting effects designed by the superintendent of the Charlottetown Gas Works. The spirit of the conference was reflected in the light-hearted message of the party that continued until five in the morning. John A. Macdonald predicted that Confederation would make Canada, “at least the fourth nation on the face of the globe.”
An agreement was made to meet at Halifax, where the Maritime delegates wanted to have a meeting of their own. This took place on Monday, September 12, and the Canadians were told later that the representatives of the Maritimes would meet them at Quebec on October 10. this was the turning point in the negotiations. The Maritimers had rejected the original plan of forming a union of their own and were ready to advocate Confederation with Canada.
The official Canadian party then retraced some of the steps taken by D’Arcy McGee‘s goodwill mission in August. They went to Saint John and Fredericton for three days. One of the highlights of the Saint John visit was a dinner at Stubb’s Hotel at which George Etienne Cartier stood up alone and sang God Save the Queen in both French and English.
Confederation had been well launched, although details still remained to be worked out at Quebec. It was the culmination of a number of coincidences. The end of the American Civil War posed a threat to British North America: unite or be absorbed by the U.S.A. The Maritimes’ need for a railway to Canada was almost as important from their point of view. Construction began in 1868 and was completed in 1876. It is now the Canadian National route between Montreal and Halifax.
There was opposition to Confederation, and some of the merchants in Halifax and Saint John draped their stores with crêpe on July 1, 1867. However, the opposition was disorganized and never became strong enough to prevent the movement that gathered momentum from the time of the Charlottetown conference.
“This question has now assumed a position that demands and commands the attention of all the colonies of British America. There may be obstructions, local prejudices may arise, disputes may occur, local jealousies may intervene, but it matters not – the wheel is now revolving and we are only the fly on the wheel; we cannot delay it – the union of the colonies of British America under the Sovereign is a fixed fact.” – Sir John A. Macdonald, 1864
“We don’t know each other. We have no trade with each other. We have no facilities, or resources, or incentives, to mingle with each other. We are shut off from each other by a wilderness, geographically, commercially, politically and socially. We always cross the United States to shake hands. Our interests are not identical, but the very opposite – they are antagonistic and clashing.” – Halifax Acadian Recorder, 1866
There are a few places to visit on the Internet to learn more. For instance, a good place to start would be at the Newfoundland Heritage, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Canada History Website.
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