During the years before Confederation, there was much happening in the colonies that would eventually unite to become the Dominion of Canada in 1867. The Fathers of Confederation were the architects of the plan that resulted in the proposal that would bring the individual British American colonies together under a Federalist system. There were three main conferences which were held and to be included as a Father of Confederation. These conferences were The Charlottetown Conference – 1864, The Quebec Conference – 1864, and The London Conference – 1866.
The Fathers of Confederation for the most part were leading politicians from the British Colonies interested in forming a Federal Union or a Confederation. Although not all colonies joined Canada in 1867, they eventually did join at a later date and in the case of Newfoundland, the last to join, not until 1949. As these additional Provinces joined Canada a second tier of “Fathers of Confederation” were added to the list. Without the action of these men, the union of the British colonies in North America would not have occurred.
Governor Arthur Gordon was given the choice of a Governorship in the small colony of Nova Scotia or a Caribbean colony and chose Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia had established responsible government long before Gordon arrived. He was quite aware of events unfolding in America. He felt that he could use his royal influence to convince the governors of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to help him bring together maritime politicians at a conference to begin talking about the potential for a Maritime Union and the steps that need to be taken to achieve it.
The British Government warmed to the idea of Maritime Union and saw it as a potential precursor to a more general Union of the British North American colonies. Agreement was generally reached among Politian’s and Imperial powers and September 1, 1864 was set as the date that the maritime representatives would convene at Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island to discuss the issues and steps to be taken to achieve union. A larger vision was also emerging in London and probably in the dreams of John A Macdonald.
This was of a British North America that stretched from Atlantic to Pacific, from the U. S. boarder to the Arctic hinterland. Britain not only rules the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Vancouver Island, and British Columbia, but it also asserted it’s authority over all of the lands in the interior that were administered by the Hudson Bay Company. An evolutionary process which could bring all of these lands together under one Federal Government would create a country larger than the United States and with the best chances to stand up to U. S. , Spanish and Russian encroachment upon British North America.
Political union was viewed as a solution to many problems and ultimately a larger politic union was with the Canada’s and other colonies by Great Britain. The Governor of New Brunswick, Francis Bond, lead the charge when he campaigned for a Maritime Union between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and possibly Newfoundland. In 1863/64. The idea was pursued and the colonial legislatures agreed to gather in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island on September 1st, 1864 to discuss Maritime union.
When news of this meeting became known in the Canada’s, John A Macdonald decided to lead a contingent of coalition government and opposition members to Charlottetown to propose a larger union of the colonies. They campaigned for an invitation to the conference and many spent much of August visiting the Maritimes in order to establish and build ties with the leaders of those colonies that would be attending the conference.
The Canadian members arrived at Charlottetown after the Conference had begun but quite quickly managed to take centre stage and proposed a union with many economic, political and social advantages. The result was that the project of Maritime Union was set aside and the members of the conference all agreed to pursue the objectives of a British North American union, and meet again in Quebec City in October.
July 1st, 1867, Ottawa was the site which witnessed the birth of a new country as the ceremonies were initiated in the new capital of Canada, an old logging operation along the Ottawa River which took the name of the River as its own. The location was a compromise choice which signalled a new beginning for the four provinces which now formed Canada. The location which was in the Northwest part of the four provinces may have indicated the immense expansion which was to take place over the next 10 years to the Pacific Coast.
The new country consisted of approximately 3, 300, 00 million citizens. Mainly in Ontario, with about 42% being of the Catholic faith. (Mainly of French and Irish descent) Most of the others were of English Protestant descent. About 81% of the people lived on farms or in the countryside with industry being only a minor part of the overall economy. Montreal was the largest city with about 100,000 people and then came Toronto and Quebec City with about 60,000 each and Ottawa at about 17,000.
John A. Macdonald became the first Prime Minister of Canada due to his tireless efforts in uniting the former British Colonies and his unerring ability to glean a compromised solution from the process of creating Canada as he pushed the union along. He was also knighted by Queen Victoria and took his seat in Parliament as the leader of the party with the majority of members. This was the beginning of Canada and the jumping off point in what was to become known as the Macdonald era in Canadian politics.