Fathers of Confederation

Robert Harris’s painting of the Fathers of Confederation. The scene is an amalgamation of the Charlottetown and Quebec City conference sites and attendees.

Colonial organization

All the colonies which would become involved in Canadian Confederation in 1867 were initially part of New France and were ruled by France. The British Empire’s first acquisition in what would become Canada was Acadia, acquired by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht (though the Acadian population retained loyalty to New France, and was eventually expelled by the British in the 1755 Great Upheaval). The British renamed Acadia Nova Scotia. The rest of New France was acquired by the British Empire by the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the Seven Years’ War. Most of New France became the Province of Quebec, while present-day New Brunswick was annexed to Nova Scotia. In 1769, present-day Prince Edward Island, which had been a part of Acadia, was renamed “St John’s Island” and organized as a separate colony (it was renamed PEI in 1798 in honour of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn).

In the wake of the American Revolution, approximately 50,000 United Empire Loyalists fled to British North America. The Loyalists were unwelcome in Nova Scotia, so the British created the separate colony of New Brunswick for them in 1784. Most of the Loyalists settled in the Province of Quebec, which in 1791 was separated into a predominantly-English Upper Canada and a predominantly-French Lower Canada by the Constitutional Act of 1791.
Canadian Territory at Confederation.

Following the Rebellions of 1837, Lord Durham in his famous Report on the Affairs of British North America, recommended that Upper Canada and Lower Canada should be joined to form the Province of Canada and that the new province should have responsible government. As a result of Durham’s report, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union 1840, and the Province of Canada was formed in 1841. The new province was divided into two parts: Canada West (the former Upper Canada) and Canada East (the former Lower Canada). Ministerial responsibility was finally granted by Governor General Lord Elgin in 1848, first to Nova Scotia and then to Canada. In the following years, the British would extend responsible government to Prince Edward Island (1851), New Brunswick (1854), and Newfoundland (1855).

The remainder of modern-day Canada was made up of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory (both of which were controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company and ceded to Canada in 1870) and the Arctic Islands, which were under direct British control and became part of Canada in 1880. The area which constitutes modern-day British Columbia was the separate Colony of British Columbia (formed in 1858, in an area where the Crown had previously granted a monopoly to the Hudson’s Bay Company), with the Colony of Vancouver Island (formed 1849) constituting a separate crown colony until its absorption by the Colony of British Columbia in 1866.

John A. Macdonald became the first prime minister of Canada.

The shear number of people in the United States at approx. 200 million,can be an reminder of what “we”, in the approx. same land mass of Canada can be compared to the United States. Our paltry 36 million “being overshadowed” might be better understood from that perspective.

Happy Canada Day

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