Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

parliament each province was equally represented. By this time there was more than a million people in Canada, and the country was becoming important. Lord Sydenham died in 1841 before his work was completed, and he left Canada still in a troubled condition. The French were suspicious of the Union, aimed avowedly at checking their influence, and the complete self-government for which the “Reformers” in English-speaking Canada had clamoured was not yet conceded by the colonial office. But rapidly it became obvious that the provinces united had become too important to be held in leading strings. The issue was finally settled in 1849 when the earl of Elgin was governor and the Canadian legislature, sitting at Montreal, passed by a large majority the Rebellion Losses Bill, compensating citizens, some of them French, in Lower Canada, for losses incurred at the hands of the loyal party during the rebellion a decade earlier. The cry was easily raised by the Conservative minority that this was to vote reward for rebellion. They appealed to London for intervention. The mob in Montreal burned the parliament buildings and stoned Lord Elgin himself because he gave the royal assent to the bill. He did so in the face of this fierce opposition, on the ground that, in Canadian domestic affairs, the Canadian parliament must be supreme.

The union of the two provinces did not work well. Each was jealous of the other and deadlocks frequently occurred. Commercially, after 1849, Canada was prosperous. In 1854 Lord Elgin negotiated a reciprocity treaty with the United States which gave Canadian natural products free entrance to the American market. The outbreak of the Civil War in the United States in 1861 increased the demand for such products, and Canada enjoyed an extensive trade with her neighbour. But, owing largely to the unfriendly attitude of Great Britain to the northern side during the war, the United States cancelled the treaty, when its first term of ten years ended in 1865, and it has never been renewed.

Under the party system in Canada cabinets changed as often as, until recently, they did in France, and the union of the two provinces did not give political stability. The French and English were sufficiently equal in strength to make the task of government well nigh impossible. In 1864 came the opportunity for change, when New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were considering a federal union. Canada suggested a wider plan to include herself and, in October 1864, a conference was held at Quebec. The conference outlined a plan of federation which subsequently, with slight modifications, passed the imperial parliament as “The British North America Act,” and on the 1st of July 1867, the Dominion of Canada came into existence. It was born during the era of the American Civil War, and was planned to correct defects which time had revealed in the American federation. The provinces in Canada were conceded less power than have the states in the American union; the federal government retaining the residuum of power not conceded.  (G. M. W.) 

When federation was accomplished in 1867 the Dominion of Canada comprised only the four provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Lord Monck was appointed the first governor-general, and at his Canada since federation. request the Hon. John Alexander Macdonald undertook the formation of an administration. A coalition cabinet was formed, including the foremost Liberals and Conservatives drawn from the different provinces. Under a proclamation issued from Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria on the 22nd of May the new constitution came into effect on the 1st of July. This birthday of the Dominion has been fixed by statute as a public holiday, and is annually observed under the name of “Dominion Day.” Seventy-two senators—half Conservatives and half Liberals—were appointed, and lieutenant-governors were named for the four provinces. The prime minister was created a K.C.B., and minor honours were conferred on other ministers in recognition of their services in bringing about the union.

The first general election for the Dominion House of Commons was held during the month of August, and except in the province of Nova Scotia was favourable to the administration, which entered upon its parliamentary work with a Nova Scotia question. majority of thirty-two. The first session of parliament was opened on the 8th of November, but adjourned on the 21st of December till the 12th of March 1868, chiefly on account of the fact that members of the Dominion parliament were allowed, in Ontario and Quebec, to hold seats in the local legislatures, so that it was difficult for the different bodies to be in session simultaneously. It was not till 1873 that an act was passed making members of the local legislatures ineligible for seats in the House of Commons. Immediately after the completion of federation a serious agitation for repeal of the union arose in Nova Scotia, which had been brought into the federal system by a vote of the existing legislature, without any direct preliminary appeal to the people. Headed by Joseph Howe (q.v.), the advocates of repeal swept the province at the Dominion election. Out of 19 members then elected 18 were pledged to repeal, Dr Tupper, the minister responsible for carrying the Act of Union, alone among the supporters of federation securing a seat. The local assembly, in which 36 out of 38 members were committed to repeal, passed an address to Her Majesty praying her not to “reduce this free, happy and hitherto self-governed province to the degraded condition of a servile dependency of Canada,” and sent Howe with a delegation to London to lay the petition at the foot of the throne. Howe enlisted the support of John Bright and other members of parliament, but the imperial government was firm, and the duke of Buckingham, as colonial secretary, soon informed the governor-general in a despatch that consent could not be given for the withdrawal of Nova Scotia from the Dominion. Meanwhile Howe, convinced of the impossibility of effecting separation, and fearing disloyal tendencies which had manifested themselves in some of its advocates, entered into negotiations with Dr Tupper in London, and later with the Dominion government, for better financial terms than those originally arranged for Nova Scotia in the federal system. The estimated amount of provincial debt assumed by the general government was increased by $1,186,756, and a special annual subsidy of $82,698 was granted for a period of ten years. These terms having been agreed to, Howe, as a pledge of his approval and support, accepted a seat as secretary of state in the Dominion cabinet. By taking this course he sacrificed much of his remarkable popularity in his native province, but confirmed the work of consolidating the Dominion. It was many years before the bitterness of feeling aroused by the repeal agitation entirely subsided in Nova Scotia.

A gloom was cast over the first parliament of the Dominion by the assassination in 1868 of one of the most brilliant figures in the politics of the time, D’Arcy McGee (q.v.) His murderer, a Fenian acting under the instructions of the secret society to which he belonged, was discovered, and executed in 1869.

The reorganization of the various departments of state, in view of the wider interests with which they had to deal, occupied much of the attention of the first parliament of the Dominion. In 1867 the postal rates were reduced and unified. In 1868 a militia system for the whole Dominion was organized, the tariff altered and systematized, and a Civil Service Act passed. The banking system of the country was put on a sound footing by a series of acts culminating in 1871, and in the same year a uniform system of decimal currency was established for the whole Dominion. While the new machinery of state was thus being put in operation other large questions presented themselves.

The construction of the Inter-Colonial railway as a connecting link between the provinces on the seaboard and those along the St Lawrence and the Great Lakes was a part of the federation compact, a clause of the British Inter-Colonial railway.

North America Act providing that it should be begun within six months after the date of union. The guarantee of the imperial government made easy the provision