The historical Process of Canadian Confederation



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Resources-And Reason for Writing the Site

   The idea of using digital formats for historical interpretation for teaching and the general public sparked some interesting ideas about this project. The choice of a topic needed to be a subject that would be more than a linear portrayal of history.  Hence, the choice needed to be a topic that could take into consideration the uniqueness of the Internet's method of writing.  Canadian Confederation and its multi-levels of political maneuvering looks like a subject that clamors for a different method of presentation.  It is a subject that remains foreign to most US citizens and its complexity looks suited to the hyper text environment.  Consequently, the audience for this set of web-pages will be a cross section of peoples.  Its design intends to introduce audiences to the complexities of the political process that brought together a cross section of politicos who saw the need for a central government in the remaining British Colonies of North America.  Hence, the audience will comprise the introductory college history student in Canadian, Atlantic, North American, and US Diplomatic histories.  Simultaneously, students of political science will be interested in how Canada became a nation and the second largest nation in the world.  The project will reach out to an audience that has a historical interest in the country above the 49th parallel.  

    The skills for this subject will require obtaining knowledge of html, xtml, and, perhaps, flash animation.  The flash would certainly help as an opening page.  The website will begins with Canada since the Act of Union (1840) until Confederation in 1867.  It will present a map that will allow observers to click on a region and learn about the political environment lead to a consensus on Confederation.  Each region will have a sketch of the main political figures and their attitudes toward confederation [John A. MacDonald (Canada West), George-Etienne Cartier (Canada East), George Brown (Canada West), Charles Tupper (Nova Scotia), Leonard Tilly (New Brunswick)]. From the regional page observers enter, they will be able to go back to the main page or choose other hyperlinks to other pages such as the Charlottetown Conference, Quebec Conference, and finally London.  Pictures from various sites of the political figures involved and various events will be obtained from Internet sources, including many from Canadian historical archives.  

    The project's focus on the inter-political relationships remains an ideal subject for a set of web-pages that will detail a complex process of political wrangling.  Some models do exist concerning the Confederation process.  However, these sites tend to be linear in explanation and greatly influenced by Canadian politics.  Hence, the project aims to have a focus removed from the politics that has plagued that nation.  But, it will not shy away from appropriate analysis of political and historical facts.  Consequently, the materials in the attached bibliography will enable the project in obtaining a generous mixture of information about confederation.  Similarly, the project will embrace the digital writing endorsed by Cohen & Rosenzweig in their introduction to the different aspects of writing on the Internet.  It is hoped that the remainder of the ideas for the project will be obtained as the class progresses.  Like a painting, a general sketch only provides an outline of the overall portrait.  The choice and design of web-pages will attempt to stick to the general notion of minimal use of buttons and various visual affects.  However, it aims to make the most use of the digital world to bring history seekers closer to the goal of Canadian Confederation.         

Annotated Bibliography
    This annotated bibliography represents a cross section of historical information about the period between 1840-1867.  First, several works included have different points of view.  The period that details the uniting of Canada East and West through the Act of Union (1840) represents the British and Colonial points of view.  In addition, several works will enlighten readers on the different points of view the various colonies had regarding Confederation.  Their concerns about whether to agree to confederation or not  have definitive roles in the eventual final product, the British North America Act of 1867.  As in all historical writings, the authors remain the products of their times.  Usually, this does not serve as a great problem.  However, the uniqueness of Canadian history does require a knowledge of the political times.  For example, writings about Confederation will have a different tone in the late 1980s and early 1990s than those written during in the mid-1990s at the time of heightened political tribulations over Quebec sovereignty.  That does not mean that historians wrote with a conscious bias.  However, the major events of the mid-1990s cannot be overlooked and certainly would have some influence, conscious or not.  The influence could be akin to the problems facing the United States in its early days during the period 1820-60, when the issue of states' rights and secession plagued the politics of the period.  
Ajzenstat, Janet,  Paul Romney, Ian Gentles, William D Gairdner, eds.  Canada’s Founding Debates.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1999.

    Like the publications of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers in the United States, Ajzenstat et. al. have assembled various speeches, provincial debates, and writings of politicians who both favored and opposed Canadian Confederation.  For example, George Brown of The Globe, wrote extensively in favor of Confederation.  A power in Toronto, the authors illustrate the power of George Brown and his drive for Confederation.  At the same time, the work assembles the various debates of provincial legislature concerning Confederation.  These works fall into two particular areas.  First, the key debates of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that eventually led to the approval of Confederation in those provinces.  Second, the debates of the Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and their decision not to join Confederation.  

Brossard, Roger & H.F. Angus.  ”The Working of Confederation.” The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science.  Vol. 3, No. 3 (Aug., 1937)  pp 335-354.

    Brossard et. al. write to explain the reasons why French Canadians joined or accepted Confederation.  The authors illustrate that the political leaders of Quebec joined a federal union that guaranteed to the provinces the most complete autonomy regarding the matters of religion, language, and education.    Thus, the French Canadian disposition was in connection with those rights which French Canadians claim to have been definitely consecrated in 1865 to 1867.  As a result, the hope of the Fathers of Confederation for a centralized of power according to Brossard did not emerge.  Indeed, Brossard provides the foundation of many of the French Canadian issues regarding possible changes to the British North American Act.  If any such renegotiantion were to occur, the French would be unwilling to give up their rights obtained.  Because of this stance, the English will not negotiate because the French will not make "concession."  This work enlightens many to the various arguments about the relationship of the provinces to the central government and what Confederation emerged to mean in the early twentieth century.  

Chennells, David.  The Politics of Nationalism In Canada:  Cultural Conflict Since 1760. Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  University of Toronto Press, 2001.

    Chennells offers a good insight into the nationalist character of Quebec and how that nationalism often arises periodically since the conquest in 1760 by Great Britain.  It details the political aspects of the rebellion in Lower Canada and why the French Canadians appear distrustful of the English citizens.  Chennells offers some insight into many problems confronting the two cultures. 

Creighton,  D. G.  “The Economic Background of the Rebellions of Eighteen Thirty-Seven.”  The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science.  Vol. 3, No. 3 (Aug., 1937), pp.  322-334. 

    Creighton writes a revealing article, good even 60 years later, about the changing economic times of Upper and Lower Canada just prior to the revolution of 1837.  These factors reveal the underlying factors that lead to the upheavals of the late 1830s that led to the Act of Union in 1840. Creighton argues that a shift from the older trades based economy to one based on agriculture formed the setting for the conflicts that would later occur.  Furthermore, economic change was accelerated by increased emigration to the Canadas.  The demand for new markets and better transportation systems combined with the intensification of agricultural interests created new requirements, new commitments, and new problems which unsettled the old commercial state (Creighton 1937, p. 323).  It is this economic convergence that Creighton argues created the background for the social conflicts of the 1830s.  The author illustrates that the divisions in Upper and Lower Canada were along economic lines with the Radicals in Upper Canada and the Patriotes emphasizing the agricultural interests over the commercial interests of the timber trade.  This along with the run on the Canadian banks created an atmosphere where political deadlock would prepare parties for the politics of force (Creighton 1937, p. 326).  At the same time, the Constitution Act that had divided the old province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada created a political division between the two provinces that made the old commercial state unworkable leading to ominous strains on relations.  It is at this time an economic crisis became ever present as imports from Britain fell, exports also fell.  Hence, the atmosphere of the 1837 rebellions was essentially an agricultural versus commercial fight precipitated by a changing economy and the inability of the two provinces to cooperate and address these concerns.

Creighton, Donald.  John A. MacDonald:  The Young Politician/The Old Chieftain.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  University of Toronto Press, 1998. (Reprint of 2 volumes into one volume from 1952/54  MacMillan Publishing versions)

    Creighton's magnum opus of the life of Canada's first Prime Minister has many illuminative facets to MacDonald.  While written in the 1950s, this work remains written in a very readable narrative style.  At the same time, Creighton launches the tradition that lays the foundation of Confederation at the feet of John A. MacDonald.  There is much to both defend and to refute in that statement.  MacDonald, indeed, remains one of the most skillful politicians of the period.  However, Creighton tends to understate the contribution of other individuals involved in the Confederation discussion. Despite this obvious leaning, the work is necessary to illustrate the great skill of politicians to obtain Confederation. 

Creighton, Donald.  The Road to Confederation:  The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867.  Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press,1976. 

    This is an excellent work on the process of Confederation.  It does tend to, perhaps, overstress the effect of the American Civil War upon Canadian politics.  Creighton argues about this but when it comes to the debates in the Canadian Assembly the subject is hardly broached.

Francis, R. Douglas, Richard Jones, Donald B. Smith.  Origins:  Canadian History to Confederation.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, limited, 1988.

    Francis, Jones and Smith provide a good general text of the period before Confederation.  This work provides the groundwork for the period before the 1860s.  It details the effect of the rebellions of the late 1830s, the Durham Report, and the establishment of responsible government through the Act of Union in 1840.  This enactment established a Canada East (Quebec) and Canada (West) with a joint legislative body.  Each section would have a decidedly set number of representatives in the joint legislature.  However, as populations grew, Canada West with its increased population began to call for a more representative body;  Canada East balked wishing to maintain their culture.  It is this political environment that set the stage for various opposing factions to move toward Confederation some 20 years later.

Finlay, J.L.,  Pre-Confederation Canada:  The Structure of Canadian History to 1867.  Scarborough, Ontario, Canada:  Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1989.

    Findlay assembles a very good narrative about the important political, social, and economic developments in the history of Canada before 1867.  This work provides considerable updates to the diverse and divergent debates about Confederation.  The various perspectives attempt to provide readers an insight into the current historical debates surrounding the Act of union in 1840 and the political forces that lead to Confederation.  This work provides a more extensive interpretation of the reasons why many of the Maritimes were apprehensive about uniting with larger provinces.  The concern about being politically quashed by Quebec or Ontario was a major element in the arguments of anti-Confederation politicians. 

Mann, Susan.  The Dream of Nation:  A Social and Intellectual History of Quebec.  Montreal, Quebec, Canada:  McGill Queen’s University Press, 2nd ed., 2001.

    Originally published in the early 1980s, Susan Mann updated her work in 2001 a few years after Quebec narrowly stayed within the Canadian Confederation.  This is an essential work to understand the point of view of the French.  Beginning in the aftermath of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War in Europe), Mann describes the various interpretations of what is called the Conquest, that being the ceding of all French colonial holdings to Britain after the war.  Mann argues that there are two interpretations of the Conquest of French Canada, "one recognizes the minority position of French Canadians, but makes it a problem, the other a challenge." (p. 19)  In addition, Mann details the birth of nationalism in the early 19th century.  French Canadians gave birth to a Quebec version of the most powerful ideas of the western world.  It was a dream different from the French regime or that  of their early British overlords.  For Mann, Nationalism had its grounding in the social economic, and political realities of Lower Canada (p. 48)  This work remains important in explaining the cooperative actions of Quebec politicians' acceptance of Confederation.

Martin, Ged.  Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:  UBC Press, 1995.
Moore, Christopher.  1867:  How the Fathers Made a Deal.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  McClelland & Stewart, Inc., 1997.

    Christopher Moore's work presents a very balanced picture of the political forces that combined together to create the momentum for Confederation.  Moore describes how opposing political parties saw the necessity of a greater union.  For Canada West, John A. McDonald and George Brown, the progressive owner of the Globe, joined forces with one of the major political leaders of Canada East, George-Etienne Cartier.  These political opponents who together realized that Confederation was more important than their political lives.  In addition, Moore illustrates the political issues underlying the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  The author describes the political environment of these colonies and the key political figures who answered the call to meet at Charlottetown and later the Quebec conferences.  Historically he shows the complexity of the various political forces that converged to create the nation of Canada. 

Morton, Desmond.  A Short History of Canada.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2001.
Noel, S.J.R.  Patrons, Clients, Brokers:  Ontario Society and Politics 1791-1896.  Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  University of Toronto Press, 1990. 

    Noel's work illustrates the distinct division of Canada West (Upper) and its society from Canada East (Lower, Quebec).  As the population of what would become Ontario (Canada West, Upper) became greater in population, Noel illustrates the drive politicians had concerning the argument for increased representation based on population rather than a strictly fixed numerical number representing Canada West and Canada East.  George Brown in the 1850s increasingly called for representation by population.  It also illustrates how the division of the two colonies remained more than a boundary.  It became clear that the only thing each shared was a  parliament that slowly began to fizzle when it became more difficult to form workable governments between the two.  Each division had further political sub-divisions that hampered cooperative coalitions.  Thus, the major politicians could see that it was in their best interest to have a Confederation that would have certain powers delegated to the provinces.  

Romney, Paul.  Getting It Wrong:  How Canadians Forgot Their Past and Imperiled Confederation. Toronto, Ontario, Canada:  University of Toronto Press, 1999.

    Romney provides a needed update to the issue of Quebec's status within the Canadian Confederation after the very close vote on sovereignty.  Romney states what many of the Quebecois believe that the idea of Confederation was and is a solemn pact between two nations that bears on Quebec's status within Confederation as well as that of individual francophones within Canada (Romney, p. 4).  This is often called the "compact theory" of Confederation.  Romney illustrates that since the 1930s English Canada has been unwilling to accept this.  Romney discovers in his research that the compact theory has English as well as French-Canadian antecedents and that Confederation accommodated both these ideas without contradiction.  This idea had origins in the campaign for provincial rights led by Ontario Premier, Oliver Mowat.  The English version of this theory, according to Romney, has faded from historical memory to be replaced by the centralist idea of Confederation that prevails in the present. The author looks at many materials of evidence laying the structure of Confederation with strong provincial rights at the feet of Oliver Mowat, a father of Confederation and later Premier of Ontario.  Romney seeks to re-introduce historians and Canadians that the centralist myth, that the Fathers of Confederation, including those from Quebec, had wanted a strong central government, stands on a shaky foundation.  This is the part of history that Canadians have forgotten.  That the notion of provincial rights remained a shared idea of both English and French Canadians.  

Vipond, Robert C.  “1787 and 1867:  The Federal Principle and Canadian Confederation Reconsidered.”  Canadian Journal of Political Science/ Revue Canadienne de science politique.  Vol. 22, No. 1, (Mar., 1989) pp 3-25.