Tag Archives: Province of Canada

Building Canada, Why Confederation?

In the 1860s, the British colonies were facing various issues. One resolution for each one of these was that the colonies come together to form one country. These are the problems that brought about Confederation:

The Province of Canada was made of a lot of people and was later made into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The government of the Province of Canada did not run smoothly because the English-speaking and French-speaking halves each had different ideas about how things should be run. Leaders from both areas of the province decided that joining other colonies might help solve their own political problems.

In order for their economies to do well, the colonies needed to be able to sell their goods to other markets. One solution was to bring all the colonies together.

Since America had fought Britain to gain its independence, the relationship between British North America and the United States had never been stable. Many Americans wanted to take over all of what is now Canada.

Britain didn’t want to have to pay for the cost of defending its colonies. Hence, it decided to encourage the colonies to amalgamate, because the United States would be less likely to attack Canada if it were a self-governing country in lieu of separate colonies of Britain. This fear of the U.S. helped to strengthen the decision for Confederation.

Leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had actually already begun discussing the idea of signing up for a Marine union and had also planned for a meeting.  The political leaders from the Province of Canada asked if they could come to their conference to recommend a bigger union of all the British North American colonies.  The Maritime colonies were given invitations and so started the quest of Confederation.


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This Week in Canadian History – November Week 3

English: View of the Battle of Windmill Point,...

English: View of the Battle of Windmill Point, below Prescott, Upper Canada, (from the Ogdensburg side of the St. Lawrence). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir John A. Macdonald‘s place in Canadian history is that of architect of Confederation and the first prime minister.  It is easy to forget that he was also a practicing lawyer from Kingston, Ontario.

Macdonald lost one of his most important law cases as the result of an incident that took place on November 13, 1838, during the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada.  An American leader of the Brotherhood of Hunters, John Birge, raised a force of 400 men to attack Prescott, Ontario, and thus drive a wedge between Upper and Lower Canada.  In recruiting speeches throughout New York, Birge claimed that nine-tenths of the population of Upper Canada and four-fifths of the militia were “oppressed” and ready to join his invasion force.

The invasion force sailed from Sackets Harbor on November 11, 1838, but as it came closer to Prescott, Birge developed a convenient stomach ache, and asked to be put on shore at Ogdensburg.  About half the force deserted with him.

Command then fell on a former Polish officer, Nils Von Schultz  (He was born Nils Gustaf Ulric in October 1807; in 1836, he changed his name to “Von Schoultz” and had been drawn into a secret society known as the Hunters’ Lodges.)  He was a brave, competent soldier, and under his direction, the invaders managed to capture a windmill on the river bank below Prescott and some stone houses, which they made into forts.  They unfurled a Patriot flag, made by the women of Onondaga County, New York, on which they embroidered a star, an eagle, and the words, “Liberated by the Onondaga Hunters.”

Von Schultz expected help from the Canadians, whom Birge had claimed would join them.  Instead, a British naval detachment from Kingston arrived on the scene on November 13.  It was followed by Canadian militia which, far from being disloyal, attacked the windmill.  Von Schultz and his deluded men fought bravely, but had to surrender after three days.  British and Canadian troops had seventy-six men killed or wounded, while the Hunters lost thirty-seven.

The invaders were taken to Kingston where the leaders were defended by the young lawyer, John A. Macdonald.  Von Schultz was the only one who pleaded guilty.  He said he had thought that Canadians wanted to be liberated, but he had been misled by the Hunters.  Eight of them, including Von Schultz, were hanged at Fort Henry on December 8, 1838. although Macdonald did his best for them.

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… There Was a Great Deal of Eating and Drinking

Timbre-poste du Canada 3 cents 1917

Timbre-poste du Canada 3 cents 1917 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By October 28, 1864, the Quebec Conference had drawn up a blueprint for Confederation.  Seventy-two resolutions had been discussed.  When the delegates and their wives left for Montreal by special train, all but three resolutions had been approved, and these were dealt with at Montreal.

There was great jubilation because the delegates did not realize how difficult the days ahead would be – Confederation still had to be approved by the five provinces, then submitted to the British Parliament, and this was to take another two and a half years.

After their meeting at Montreal the delegates toured the chief cities of Upper and Lower Canada.  They went first to Ottawa, the new capital chosen by Queen Victoria, and had lunch in the new Parliament Buildings, although they were only half-finished.  Then they went on to Toronto, making stops at Kingston, Belleville, and Cobourg, where they were greeted by cheering crowds and brass bands.  There was a torchlight procession in Toronto as they went from the station to the Queen’s Hotel and four brass bands played along the route.  Then the tour went on to Hamilton and St. Catharines.  Everywhere, there was sight-seeing, speech-making, and a great deal of eating and drinking.  The men did the eating and drinking, while their women, in true Victorian style, sat in the galleries and watched!

The most difficult problems solved by the seventy-two resolutions included that of striking a balance between federal and provincial powers — the American Civil War had shown how important it was to have a strong federal government.  It was agreed that all powers not expressly assigned to the provinces should be reserved for the Federal Government, which could also disallow provincial legislation.

The provinces would lose a great deal of revenue by not being able to impose customs duties; so it was decided that the Federal Government would pay each province 80 cents for every member of its population.  It was agreed to build the Inter-colonial Railway between Canada and the Maritimes.  The seventy-two resolutions also made provision for the Northwest, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island, should they decide to join the Confederation later.


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♨ Happy Birthday, Canada!

More important events have taken place in Canada on July 1 than on any other day of the year, but first place will always be retained by Confederation Day, 1867.  This was Canada’s birthday, although Canada then included only Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

A very Canadian vision by Nancy Rose

© Nancy Rose.
Give someone special a squirrel calendar (I guarantee you won’t regret it!!)

Most nations were born of adversity, unhappy occasions, often due to war.  Canada was born of diversity, a curious blending of races, geography and economics.

For the most part, her birthday was a happy occasion.  In Ottawa, church bells began ringing after midnight, June 30.  There was also a 101-gun salute, while 21-gun salutes were fired in other centres.  In Saint John and Halifax, however, a number of merchants were so opposed to Confederation that they draped their stores in crêpe!

There was a drab ceremony in the Privy Council chamber, where Lord Monck was sworn in as governor-general by Chief Justice Draper.  After the cabinet ministers had taken their oaths of office, Lord Monck, who hated pomp as much as Macdonald loved it, announced that Queen Victoria had made John A. Macdonald a Knight Commander of the Bath, which meant they would have no titles.  This was a mistake.  Cartier and Galt were so angry that they refused the decorations.  Later, however, they were made baronets.

The rest of the day has been summed up beautifully by W. G. Hardy in From Sea Unto Sea.  He wrote:

The official part of the ceremonies was completed by midday.  Then, across the Dominion, but more particularly in what had been the province of Canada, the people went on holiday.  In Canada East, renamed Quebec, it was flags and bunting and family parties, and a cricket game at Trois Rivières.  Canada West, which had now become Ontario, favoured brass bands, regattas, races, and the like.  In the more remote centres the farmers gathered in the local fairgrounds or picnic places for a  program of sports and a country supper of salads, cold meats, pies and cakes, at tables set up on trestles under the trees.  As the soft July night floated down, the villages, towns and cities were bright with Chinese lanterns on the porches and with fireworks and illuminations.  The people, the inchoate mass without articulate voice, sensed that something of significance had occurred!

Do you like the photo included in today’s post?  Yes, I thought so.  Nancy Rose not only provided us with beautiful photos of “The secret life of squirrels“, which will definitely give you a smile but you can also order a calendar from her (a steal at $22 + shipping) !  I ordered one from her, and I proudly have it next to me, and I confess that I go through it often, just to smile!  Be sure to visit her site at!!


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If You Had a Circus …

Political Cartoon attacking the Anti-Confedera...

Political Cartoon attacking the Anti-Confederation Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 8, 1866, Parliament began its last session as the Province of Canada. The next Parliament would be that of the new Dominion, but this was by no means certain on June 8, 1866.

In Nova Scotia, Premier Charles Tupper carried a motion through the legislature authorizing his government to continue negotiations for a federal union. In New Brunswick, the anti-Confederation Smith government had resigned, and an election was in the offing. Actually, Smith was weakening in his opposition to Confederation, angry because the United States had refused to continue the reciprocity agreement made in 1854.

Clear Grit (Liberal) leader George Brown had left the coalition government he had formed with Taché-Macdonald, the deal that had won Macdonald’s support for Confederation.  Brown was something like Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia.  Neither one could play the earliest supporters of Confederation, but was one of its strongest opponents when Tupper became premier.  Tupper had campaigned effectively against Howe when the latter was in the States, trying to recruit Americans to fight for Britain in the Crimean War.  A friend asked Howe why he had turned against Confederation and he replied, “If you had a circus and had got together a good show, how would you like it if that fellow Tupper came and stood by the door and collected the shillings?”

Once Brown felt that Macdonald was fully committed to Confederation, he left the coalition as quickly as possible.  From that time on he never spoke a civil word to the Conservative leader.  Macdonald was puzzled and perhaps hurt.  He said that during their brief association, which included a trip to Britain, they had dined and gone to public places together.  They had even played euchre a good deal while crossing the Atlantic.

Brown did not weaken his support for Confederation.  He contributed $500 to a $50,000 campaign fund contribution which Canada sent to the Confederation party fighting the election in New Brunswick.  It won and Premier Tilley of New Brunswick and Tupper of Nova Scotia were able to go to London later in the year, to join Macdonald, Cartier and Galt in negotiations with the British Government.

I’m only going to suggest one website today, because it is worth visiting and digging once you get there. It’s the Dictionary of Canadian Biographies. I’ve already searched for two pages here: Sir Charles Tupper and Sir George-Étienne Cartier.


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