HIST 261 Jan 8 2014
The Road to Confederation
Confederation From Without
Recap: By the 1860’s Britain wanted to downsize its empire as the administrative and defensive
upkeep was becoming more expensive and feeling of Britain and its resources being spread to
Confederation of British North America (hereafter BNA) would be a cheaper alternative for
Britain while still sort of retaining a foothold in North America(hereafter NA) especially in terms
of defense. Confederation also offered the opportunity for the British Parliament to rid itself of
any BNA issues.
The American Civil War however while it did keep the Americans busy resulted in a highly
armed southern neighbour for the BNA and the British were fearful of loosing their foothold in
NA if the just ‘turned the Canadas and Maritimes loose.’
It was also noted that a united Canada would require an intercontinental railway in order to
effectively trade across the continent but also to defend it as a railway would allow for they
speedy movement of troops.
The North West Region/Territory had from the 17 century been effectively controlled and
governed by the Hudson’s Bay Company (hereafter HBC), however the region that would
become Ontario was seeking to acquire for further colonization as land was running out in
Ontario for new settlers.
The Story of the British North America Act
In September of 1864 the Charlottetown Conference (hereafter CC) was held, where New
Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia (hereafter respectively known as NB, PEI,
and NS) met to consider joining together to for what could be called a Mini-Canada. This
Conference was crashed by representative members of the government of the United
Canada(s), where they proposed to have all of the BNA join together and eventually form a
The original members of the CC agreed that a BNA union should be considered and scheduled
for another meeting in the October of 1864 to be held in Québec.
The Québec Conference attendees included George-Étienne Cartier, John A. MacDonald and
Mr. Brown who favored a strong central government, using the American Civil War as an
example as to what happens without one. It was therefore proposed that provincial powers
would be limited to local matters.
The Atlantic colonies and Canada East (of United Canada) were wary and suspicious of having
a strong central government governed by a House of Commons based upon representation by population for various reasons. Therefore they proposed the idea of the 3 Sectors (what would
become the Senate), one sector for the Atlantic colonies, one for the area that would become
Québec and one for the area to become Ontario. To pass any legislation sent to it from the
House of Commons the Sectors (Senate) would need a 2/3 vote in favour. This would limit the
power of the highly developed area that would become Ontario. The people of Québec’s
concerns were to defend their distinct culture (French Catholic vs the Rest of the BNA which
was mostly English Protestants) against extinction.
NB and NS’s delegate to the Québec Conference insists that the new government of Canada
would construct an inter-colonial railway in order to connect the Maritimes to the rest of the
country, which would also as some form of insurance against marginalization. In addition to this
the new government would also have to take over the existing railroad debts. This conference
concluded with the scheduling of the London (UK) Conference to be held in 1866 where the final
details would be worked out.
At the London Conference 1866 it was decided that the federal government would have specific