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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 335 pages of information about Canada under British Rule 1760-1900.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE EVOLUTION OF CONFEDERATION (1789—­1864).

SECTION 1—­The beginnings of confederation.

The idea of a union of the provinces of British North America had been under discussion for half a century before it reached the domain of practical statesmanship.  The eminent Loyalist, Chief Justice Smith of Quebec, so early as 1789, in a letter to Lord Dorchester, gave an outline of a scheme for uniting all the provinces of British North America “under one general direction.”  A quarter of a century later Chief Justice Sewell of Quebec, also a Loyalist, addressed a letter to the father of the present Queen, the Duke of Kent, in which he urged a federal union of the isolated provinces.  Lord Durham was also of opinion in 1839 that a legislative union of all the provinces “would at once decisively settle the question of races,” but he did not find it possible to carry it out at that critical time in the history of the Canadas.

Some ten years later, at a meeting of prominent public men in Toronto, known as the British American League, the project of a federal union was submitted to the favourable consideration of the provinces.  In 1854 the subject was formally brought before the legislature of Nova Scotia by the Honourable James William Johnston, the able leader of the Conservative party, and found its most eloquent exposition in the speech of the Honourable Joseph Howe, one of the fathers of responsible government.  The result of the discussion was the unanimous adoption of a resolution—­the first formally adopted by any provincial legislature—­setting forth that “the union or confederation of the British provinces, while calculated to perpetuate their connection with the parent state, will promote their advancement and prosperity, increase their strength, and influence and elevate their position.”  Mr. Howe, on that occasion, expressed himself in favour of a federation of the empire, of which he was always an earnest advocate until his death.

In the legislature of Canada Mr., afterwards Sir, Alexander Tilloch Galt was an able exponent of union, and when he became a member of the Cartier-Macdonald government in 1858 the question was made a part of the ministerial policy, and received special mention in the speech of Sir Edmund Head, the governor-general, at the end of the session.  The matter was brought to the attention of the imperial government on more than one occasion during these years by delegates from Canada and Nova Scotia, but no definite conclusion could be reached in view of the fact that the question had not been taken up generally in the provinces.

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