Index

CANADIAN CONFEDERATION

A.D. 1867

J. EDMUND COLLINS

The demand in Upper Canada for representation in Parliament in proportion to population. early in the 'sixties, met with bitter opposition in Lower Canada, and along with other causes threatened the permanence of the existing union between the two Provinces. Party strife increased these discords; and the far-seeing began to look in other directions for a solution of the difficulties that now pressed heavily on both sections of the community. Then was revived the suggestion, made at an earlier period in the country's history, of a more extended union among the British Provinces of North America. At this period there were seven distinct colonies in North America owning allegiance to Britain, each - if we except the two Canadas - having its own political system and separate government. These were the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the two Canadas, and the Crown colonies of Newfoundland and British Columbia.

In 1860 two resolutions were moved in Parliament, which met that year in Quebec, affirming, "that the existing legislative union of the Provinces (Upper and Lower Canada) had failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters," and recommending "the formation of two or more local governments, to which should be committed all matters of a sectional character, and the erection of some joint authority to dispose of the affairs common to all." These resolutions were at the time defeated; but two years later the "joint authority" scheme was acted upon, and a coalition government was formed, which warmly advocated a confederation of all the British American Provinces, and held a series of conferences with the view to bringing about the desired measure. As the project continued to engage the attention of Canadian statesmen, a convention of representatives from the various Provinces met in 1864, first in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and then in Quebec, to discuss the feasibility of the scheme and finally to arrange the terms of the contemplated union. Next year, the Canadian Legislature adopted the union resolutions, which by this time had received the hearty support of the Imperial authorities; but in the Maritime Provinces the confederation scheme as yet failed to meet the approval of the people. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland withdrew from the negotiations; and the latter colony still maintains its separate political existence. In spite of dissensions and opposition, the project gained way, and delegates from the various Provinces finally met in London to arrange with the Horne Government a formal basis of union. The result was the passing in the Imperial Parliament of the British North America Act, and the ratifying of the Confederation of the British American Provinces. Effect was duly given in Canada to the measure, as will be seen from the following article, which narrates the details of the confederation movement that created the Dominion of Canada.

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