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The Story of Confederation, 1918

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The story of Confederation has been told so often that it may appear superfluous once more to travel over the familiar ground; yet it seems fitting that this edition of the Canada Year Book, which chronicles the Jubilee of the founding of the Dominion, should contain a concise recital of the events culminating in that great epoch which we celebrated on July 1, 1917.

The idea of uniting the British North American colonies under one government has had many progenitors, the line extending back to the time of William Smith, a former Chief Justice of Canada, who in 1789 propounded to Lord Dorchester a project for the establishment of a central legislative body consisting of a nominated council and of an assembly, the members of which were to be chosen by the popular branches of the provincial legislatures. The time, however, was not ripe for such a system of government, and nothing came of Smith's plan. Twenty-five years later, another Chief Justice (Sewell) proposed a somewhat similar scheme, with like result. He was followed by others; but the difficulty of communication between the various colonies, apart from all other considerations, was felt to be an insuperable bar to any union other than that involved in their common allegiance to the British Crown.

The Fathers of Confederation, 1864

With the introduction of railways, the idea appeared more feasible. In 1850, the British America League, formed to counteract the annexation movement of 1849, stated in its prospectus that the true solution of the difficulties of the time lay in the confederation of all the provinces. In the following year the Hon. Henry Sherwood, who had filled the offices of Attorney General for Upper Canada and Prime Minister, published a scheme for the “Federative Union of the British North American Provinces,” which provided for two elective chambers, as well as for a system of local legislatures, somewhat as it exists to-day, save that the provincial governors were to be elective. The Fathers of Confederation seem to have had Sherwood's draft before them when framing the British North America Act of 1867. For example, it designates the representative of the Sovereign as the 'Viceroy,' and this may have suggested the name 'Viceroyalty' for the united provinces, which was under consideration at the London Conference of 1866. Again, Sherwood's draft provided for the erection of a Supreme Court of Appeal, as do the Quebec resolutions of 1864. Sherwood's scheme, however, while marking a development in the idea of union, shared the academic character of its predecessors and, like them, failed of result.

It was not until 1858 that the question may be said to have entered the domain of practical politics. In that year, Alexander Galt, then member for Sherbrooke in the provincial assembly, advocated, both in and out of Parliament, the confederation of all the British North American provinces, with such effect that the Cartier-Macdonald Government, formed a few months later, in which he was included, despatched a mission to England to sound the Imperial authorities upon the subject. They were informed that only one colony besides Canada had expressed any opinion in regard thereto, and that until the other provinces had made known their sentiments, Her Majesty's Ministers would be acting prematurely in authorizing, without any previous knowledge of their views, a meeting of delegates which might commit them to a preliminary step towards the settlement of a momentous question, to the principle of which the colonies had not signified their assent. On the return of the Canadian delegates, the governments of the Maritime Provinces were put in possession of all the proceedings which had taken place; but a change of ministry in England occurring shortly afterwards, nothing more was heard on the subject for some years.

Goldwin Smith has observed, in one of those epigrammatic sentences with which his writings abound, that the parent of Confederation was deadlock, and it is not to be doubted that to the difficulty of administration, owing in large measure to the sectional antagonism between Upper and Lower Canada, is due the impetus given to the scheme of union on the defeat of the second Taché-Macdonald Ministry in June, 1864. The coalition of 1854 between the followers of Hincks and Baldwin, the Conservative party of Upper Canada, and a large majority of the Lower Canadian members, enabled Macdonald and Cartier to carry on the government for eight years, though with ever-increasing difficulty and diminishing support. In 1862 they fell, and for a brief period John Sandfield Macdonald reigned in their stead. His tenure was still more precarious than that of his predecessors, who two years later returned to office, though not to power, only to suffer defeat within a few weeks of their accession. Thus was the impasse reached. Inasmuch as two general elections had taken place within three years, a further appeal to the people offered no prospect of relieving the deadlock which threatened to render all government in Canada impossible. It was at this crisis that George Brown, the leader of the Reform party in Upper Canada, patriotically offered his co-operation towards settling forever the constitutional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada. He was met by Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier and Galt, and their deliberations resulted in a compact to form a coalition government for the purpose of negotiating a confederation of all the British North American provinces, failing which they undertook to promote the adoption of the federal principle for Canada alone, pending the accomplishment of the larger union. On that understanding Messrs. George Brown, Oliver Mowat, and William McDougall, leading members of the Opposition, entered the Cabinet of which Sir Étienne Taché was the head, and of which John A. Macdonald and George Cartier were leading members.

Meanwhile, a somewhat similar movement was taking form in the Maritime Provinces which, with the exception of Newfoundland, had been originally under one government—that of Nova Scotia. In 1769 Prince Edward Island was granted a government of its own, and, fifteen years later, New Brunswick became a separate province. From time to time thoughtful men dwelling by the sea had given expression to a feeling that while this system of subdivision might tend to convenience of administration by the Imperial authorities, the petty jealousies and narrowness of view which it engendered were not favourable to the growth and development of a country whose natural position and resources were such as to qualify it to play a leading part among the nations of the world. Some of the bolder spirits among them looked forward to a union which should embrace all British North America, although latterly the interminable postponements, frequent political crises, and constant changes of policy in the Upper Provinces had caused the people of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to give up hope of coming to an arrangement with Canada. They resolved, therefore, to confine their efforts to bringing about an alliance among themselves, and to that end the legislatures of the Maritime Provinces authorized their respective governments to hold a joint conference for the purpose of discussing the expediency of a union of the three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island under one government and legislature. This happened most opportunely for the newly-formed coalition government of Canada, which was just then casting about for the best means of opening negotiations with the other British colonies looking to union. Learning of the concerted action contemplated by the governments of the Lower Provinces, they asked and obtained permission to lay their views before the Maritime Conference which assembled at Charlottetown on September 1, 1864.

Photograph of mural bronze in the old Legislative Council Chamber, provincial building, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, commemorating the meeting of September 1, 1864.Unity is strength
Source : Library and Archives Canada.

At this conference, Nova Scotia was represented by the Hon. Charles Tupper, Premier and Provincial Secretary; the Hon. W. A. Henry, Attorney General; the Hon. R. B. Dickey, M.L.C.; the Hon. Jonathan McCully, M.L.C., and Adams G. Archibald.

New Brunswick was represented by the Hon. S. L. Tilley, Premier and Provincial Secretary; the Hon. J. M. Johnson, M.P.P., and Attorney-General; the Hon. John H. Gray, M.P.P.; the Hon. E. B. Chandler, M.L.C., and the Hon. W. H. Steeves, M.L.C.

Prince Edward Island was represented by Colonel the Hon. John Hamilton Gray, M.P.P., President of Executive Council; the Hon. Edward Palmer, M.L.C, Attorney-General; the Hon. W. H. Pope, M.P.P., Colonial Secretary; the Hon. George Coles, M.P.P., and the Hon. A. A. Macdonald, M.L.C.

Canada sent a delegation of eight members of its government to Charlottetown: The Hon. John A. Macdonald, M.P.P., Attorney-General, Upper Canada; the Hon. George E. Cartier, M.P.P., Attorney-General, Lower Canada; the Hon. George Brown, M.P.P., President of the Executive Council; the Hon. Alexander T. Galt, M.P.P., Minister of Finance; the Hon. William McDougall, M.P.P., Provincial Secretary; the Hon. Thomas D'Arcy McGee, M.P.P., Minister of Agriculture; the Hon. Alexander Campbell, M.L.C., Commissioner of Crown Lands, and the Hon. Hector L. Langevin, M.P.P., Solicitor General of Lower Canada.

The proceedings of this conference were conducted behind closed doors. No report of its proceedings has ever appeared, and it may be taken for granted that none exists. The Canadian delegates, not having been empowered to discuss the question of a legislative union, which the Maritime representatives had met specially to consider, were not members of the conference. They, however, were invited by it to express their views, which they did, and unfolded the benefits which, in their judgment, were to be derived from the larger scheme with such effect that the Maritime members, attracted by a plan which promised all the advantages of union without involving the surrender of their own legislatures and executives—a prospect highly distasteful to many of them—agreed to suspend their deliberations, and adjourned to meet at Quebec in the course of the following month for the purpose of conferring with the Canadian representatives on the subject of a federal union of all the British North American provinces.

Immediately on their return to Quebec—at that time the seat of government,—the Canadian ministers applied themselves to the business of arranging for the reception of their guests. On September 23 a Minute of the Executive Council was passed inviting the Governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, respectively, to send delegates to represent their province at a conference to meet at Quebec on October 10 following. At the same time, the Hon. John A. Macdonald wrote to each of the provincial premiers stating that a suitable steamer had been placed by the Canadian Government at the disposal of the Maritime party to bring them up to Quebec, giving the movements of the vessel, and detailing the arrangements which had been made on board for their accommodation, all of which proved satisfactory. The Queen Victoria reached Quebec on the evening of Sunday, October 9, 1864, and on the following morning, at eleven o'clock, the historic gathering assembled within the walls of the Parliament House.

Those present were: From Canada: The Hon. Sir E. P. Taché, the Hon. John A. Macdonald, the Hon. G. E. Cartier, the Hon. George Brown, the Hon. Oliver Mowat, the Hon. Alexander T. Galt, the Hon. W. McDougall, the Hon. T. D'Arcy McGee, the Hon. Alex. Campbell, the Hon. J. C. Chapais, the Hon. H. L. Langevin, the Hon. J. Cockburn. From Nova Scotia: the Hon. Charles Tupper, the Hon. William A. Henry, the Hon. Jonathan McCully, the Hon. Robert B. Dickey, Adams G. Archibald, Esquire. From New Brunswick: The Hon. Samuel L. Tilley, the Hon. W. H. Steeves, the Hon. J. M. Johnson, the Hon. P. Mitchell, the Hon. E. P. Chandler, Lt.-Col. the Hon. John H. Gray, the Hon. Charles Fisher. From Newfoundland: The Hon. F. B. T. Carter, the Hon. Ambrose Shea. From Prince Edward Island: Col. the Hon. J. H. Gray; the Hon. E. Palmer, the Hon. W. H. Pope, the Hon. A. A. Macdonald, the Hon. G. Coles, the Hon. T. H. Haviland, the Hon. E. Whelan.

Sir Étienne Taché (Prime Minister of Canada) was chosen as chairman of the conference, and Major Hewitt Bernard, of the Office of the Attorney-General of Upper Canada, executive secretary. As in Charlottetown, the proceedings were held in secret, though at Quebec certain minutes and memoranda were kept by the secretary and placed with Sir John A. Macdonald's papers, where they lay forgotten for many years. On the death of Macdonald, in 1891, these papers were discovered by me and subsequently published in a volume entitled “Confederation Documents.” While incomplete, this record affords a fair insight into what took place at the conference, which continued its sittings at Quebec until October 28, and finished them at Montreal on the 29th.

At the conference questions were decided by vote, each province having one vote; Canada, for this purpose, being considered as two provinces.

One of the contemporary criticisms levelled against this gathering was that sufficient time had not been given to its labours, and there is no doubt that its proceedings were hurried towards the close. Yet in the seventeen days it sat, many important questions were fully discussed and determined. Upon one subject there was complete agreement. The delegates, one and all, affirmed their intention to maintain and perpetuate, to cement and not to weaken, the union with the mother country. The first resolution, moved by Macdonald and seconded by Tilley, unmistakably sets this forth. Macdonald, Brown, Cartier, Galt, Tupper, Tilley, and the rest, all spoke with one voice in declaring their resolve to continue unimpaired their allegiance to the British Crown. So careful were they to make this plain that when Macdonald moved the resolution enumerating the powers of the General Legislature of the United Provinces, he added the words, “saving the sovereignty of England.” He also, when discussing the name to be given to the popular assembly, said, “I prefer the term ‘House of Commons’ but they do not like it to be used elsewhere than in England as they have prescriptive rights,” and the spirit of loyalty and deference to Great Britain, which prompted this remark, pervaded every section of the conference. Upon other points there was not the same unanimity. Macdonald and some others openly avowed their theoretical preference for a legislative as opposed to a federal union; but that, for many reasons, was felt to be impracticable. In the first place, the Canadian delegates, to use a phrase much current at the present day, had no “mandate” to agree to anything but a federal union1. Then, Cartier and his followers were unalterably opposed to a legislative union, and without Cartier, Confederation could not have been carried. Brown also favoured the federal principle. The Maritime Provinces likewise were bent upon preserving their individuality, and so the idea of a legislative union never amounted to more than a pious aspiration on the part of a few.

There was, at the same time, a general desire to create a strong central government, and to assign to the provincial legislatures a distinctly minor role. In Brown's opinion the local governments “should not be expensive, and should not take up political matters.” One legislative chamber, elected for three years with no power of dissolution, was his idea, vigorously opposed by Cartier.2 This preference for simplicity of local administration is further indicated by the fact that, in the first draft of the British North America Bill, the heads of the provincial governments, who in the Quebec resolutions were called lieutenant-governors, are styled “superintendents.”

Questions relative to the nature and composition of the Upper Chamber provoked much discussion. Macdonald and Brown, though differing on many points, agreed in preferring a nominative to an elective Senate, and their views prevailed.

The financial questions proved most difficult of adjustment. Sharp differences of opinion existed which appeared irreconcilable, and very nearly resulted in breaking up the conference. But wiser counsels ultimately prevailed, and at length an agreement was arrived at. The result of the deliberations was embodied in seventy-two resolutions, which were laid before the Parliament of Canada at the following session, and approved by a vote of 91 to 33 on March 11, 1865, the minority being chiefly composed of the Lower Canadian Rouges under Mr. (afterwards Sir) A. A. Dorion, in conjunction with Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald and his Upper Canadian friends.

The Canadian Government shortly afterwards despatched a mission, consisting of Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier, Brown and Galt, to England with the object of conferring with Her Majesty's Government upon certain subjects of public concern, at the head of which stood “The proposed Confederation of the British North American provinces, and the means whereby it can be most speedily effected.” They found, or at any rate they left, the Imperial authorities most sympathetic to the idea, and ready to promote it in every way in their power.

Meanwhile, things did not go so well in the Maritime Provinces, where unexpected opposition to Confederation developed. In New Brunswick, the premier, Mr. Tilley, had judged it expedient to dissolve his Assembly with the object of securing approval of the Confederation scheme from a newly-elected legislature. In this he failed, his policy suffering a pronounced defeat which entailed his resignation. This so disheartened the advocates of Confederation in Nova Scotia, that Dr. Tupper, the leader of the government in that province, fell back for the time on the original proposal of a Maritime Union of the Lower Provinces.

In Prince Edward Island the situation was even more hopeless, for the legislature, in 1865, and again in 1866, emphatically declined even to consider a union “which it believes would prove politically, commercially, and financially disastrous to the rights and interests of its people.” So general was the opposition to union, it is said, that only ninety-three persons could be found in the whole island to declare themselves favourable thereto.

Gradually the Maritime position began to improve. The lieutenant-governors of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, who at first did not relish the prospect of exchanging their positions as direct representatives of the Sovereign to become deputies of the Governor General of Canada, and who in consequence were originally unfriendly to the scheme, saw new light, and became its zealous supporters.

On April 17, 1866, the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, under the leadership of Dr. Tupper, the great protagonist of the cause of union in his province, passed, by a vote of 31 to 19, a short resolution, ignoring the Quebec Conference and all that had gone before, but authorizing the appointment of delegates to arrange with the Imperial Government a scheme of union “which will eventually insure just provision for the rights and interests of this province.”

In New Brunswick the newly-appointed ministry quarrelled with the lieutenant-governor, and resigned within a year. At the ensuing general election, Mr. Tilley and his friends were returned to power, and on June 30, 1866, passed, by a vote of 31 to 8, a resolution similar to that adopted in Nova Scotia, accompanied by a provision for the immediate construction of the Intercolonial railway.

Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island remained obdurate.

While the difficulties in the Maritime Provinces were thus yielding to bold and vigorous statesmanship, fresh obstacles were arising in Canada. Reciprocity negotiations with the United States Government; the withdrawal of George Brown from the Coalition; the Fenian raids; financial exigencies, and other matters of pressing concern, engaged almost exclusively the attention of the ministry during the latter part of 1865 and the opening months of 1866. At length, in June of that year, Parliament met and passed the necessary resolutions providing for the local constitutions of Upper and Lower Canada, subsequently to be known as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

While New Brunswick had two general elections over Confederation, there was no reference of the question to the people of the other provinces. In Canada, both Macdonald and Brown judged a general election at the time to be unnecessary and inexpedient, and none took place, the Parliament elected in 1863 continuing until the consummation of the union.

It had been arranged that the further Confederation negotiations should take place in London under the Imperial aegis, and the united delegations had arranged to sail in July, but the defeat of Lord Russell's ministry, and an impression that it was desirable not to complete the Confederation measure until just before the meeting of the Imperial Parliament, some months ahead, formed new reasons for delay, and it was not until November that the Canadian delegates left for England, where they were met by their Maritime colleagues, who sailed at the date originally agreed upon, and had been impatiently awaiting their arrival in London for many weeks.

The delegates were received by a sub-committee of the Cabinet, headed by Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, while Sir Frederick Rogers (afterwards Lord Blachford) his permanent Under-Secretary, acted as intermediary between the Imperial and Colonial statesmen. The meetings of this body were for the most part confined to formal occasions, the real business being transacted by the delegates, who met apart in the Westminster Palace Hotel, London, in a room where now a tablet marks the historic event.

At the first meeting, held on December 4, 1866, there were assembled:

From Canada
The Hon. John A. MacDonald,
The Hon G. E. Cartier,
The Hon A. T. Galt,
The Hon W. McDougall,
The Hon W. P. Howland,
The Hon H. L. Langevin,

From Nova Scotia
The Hon. Charles Tupper,
The Hon William A. Henry,
The Hon J. W. Ritchie,
The Hon Jonathan McCully,
The Hon A. G. Archibald,

From New Brunswick
The Hon. S. L. Tilley,
The Hon J. M. Johnson,
The Hon P. Mitchell,
The Hon Charles Fisher,
The Hon R. D. Wilmot,

in all, sixteen members, or fewer than one-half the number which met at Quebec in 1864. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland were not represented.3

The first business of the Conference was to elect the Hon. John A. Macdonald, chairman, and Lieut.-Col. Hewitt Bernard, secretary.

The resolutions of the Quebec Conference were then taken up, considered seriatim, amended in certain particulars and adopted anew. From these amended resolutions was prepared a rough draft of the Bill that was necessary to give them effect. This rough draft was then submitted to the law officers of the Crown, who framed successive drafts expressive of the wishes of the Conference, until the measure reached its final form, and became law as the British North America Act.

Following the precedents of Charlottetown and Quebec, the discussions of the London Conference were held in secret, and no official record of the proceedings exists. As at Quebec, the secretary began by recording the minutes of each meeting; this record gradually became more and more intermittent, and finally ceased. These incomplete draft minutes, certain notes and memoranda preserved by Colonel Bernard, together with various drafts of the Bill, constitute all the records of this important body. They were published by me in 1895 in the volume to which I have already referred.

The question has more than once been asked, To what extent were the colonial delegates given a free hand in the formation of their constitution? My impression is that, with the exception of the incident connected with the proposal to style the new Confederation “the Kingdom of Canada,” which will be related farther on, there was no disposition on the part of the Imperial authorities to interfere with the conclusions reached by the conference.

The 'Letters of Lord Blachford' in which (p. 301) Sir Frederick Rogers speaks of Macdonald as being the “ruling genius” of the occasion, and also his private notes, which have been preserved and will be published some day, tend to support this view. If there is any criticism of the Imperial Ministers and officials associated with the conference to be offered, it is that they failed to grasp the full significance of the occasion. They were ready enough to promote Confederation, as a domestic arrangement, agreeably to the wishes of the colonies, but showed no adequate appreciation of the far-reaching and momentous character of the business engaging the attention of the colonial statesmen assembled under the shadow of the Palace of Westminster.

Sir John Macdonald, than whom no one could be more competent to speak, in a letter written towards the close of his life, clearly indicated this. Writing to a friend on July 18, 1889, he says:—

“The declaration of all the B.N.A. provinces, that they desired as one Dominion to remain a portion of the Empire, showed what wise government and generous treatment would do, and should have been marked as an epoch in the history of England. This would probably have been the case had Lord Carnarvon, who as Colonial Minister had 'sat at the cradle' of the new Dominion, remained in office. His ill-omened resignation was followed by the appointment of the late Duke of Buckingham, who had as his adviser the then Governor General, Lord Monck—both good men, certainly, but quite unable, from the constitution of their minds, to rise to the occasion. The union was treated by them much as if the B.N.A. Act were a private Bill uniting two or three English parishes. Had a different course been pursued—for instance, had united Canada been declared to be an auxiliary Kingdom, as it was in the Canadian draft of the Bill—I feel sure (almost) that the Australian colonies would, ere this, have been applying to be placed in the same rank as 'The Kingdom of Canada.'”

These words received, only the other day, confirmation from the present Prime Minister of England, who, speaking at the Guildhall on April 27, 1917, made this admission:—

“If, fifty years ago, we had directed our minds, our power, and our influence to that end (development of the Empire) you would now have had double the populations which the Dominions at present possess, and would have diverted emigration to the Dominions instead of to other lands. And you would also have attracted a virile population from Europe.”

There is this to be said, however, for Her Majesty's Ministers of 1867, that, fifty years ago, the future greatness of the overseas possessions of Great Britain was not so clearly discernible as it is to Mr. Lloyd George to-day, or even as it was to Sir John Macdonald in 1889. At the date of the meeting of the London Conference, the opinion was too commonly entertained by public men of both parties in England that the ultimate destiny of the colonies was independence, and that the colonists would be prepared to cut the painter as soon as they developed sufficient confidence to steer their own course. Thus, many looked upon them as a burden rather than an advantage to the mother country, and it required clear vision to foresee, as did our Canadian statesmen in 1867, the future greatness of this Dominion.

It is to be inferred from the scanty records which have come down to us that the proceedings at the London gathering were not characterized by that heat which marked some of the deliberations of the Quebec Conference. The members convened at London evidently realized that the main principles of union had been settled before they came together there, and they resolved to adhere as closely as possible to the Quebec resolutions. One of the most notable additions made thereto is to be found in Galt's amendment to the education clause, which provides for an appeal to the Governor General in Council from any act or decision of the local authorities in any province which might affect the rights or privileges of the Protestant or Catholic minority in the matter of education.

There is an incident touching the selection of the name of the Confederation which deserves to be recorded. A clause in the Quebec resolutions provides that Her Majesty the Queen should be solicited to determine the rank and name of the united colony. This provision appears in the resolutions as revised by the London Conference, and also in the first draft of the Bill. Apparently there was a change of policy in regard to this subject, for in the place for the name in the fourth clause of the third draft, which had been left vacant in the earlier drafts, appears, for the first time, the “Kingdom of Canada.” Sir John Macdonald has left on record that the conference desired this designation for the new Confederation, and made every effort to retain it, but that Lord Stanley (afterwards 15th Earl of Derby), then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, objected on the ground that the name 'Kingdom' might wound the susceptibilities of the Americans. For this rather inadequate reason, “Kingdom” was disallowed and “Dominion” substituted therefore. There is no record of a discussion in the conference on the subject, though one in all probability took place, for in the margin of one of Macdonald's drafts there appear, written in his own hand, one under the other, probably in inverse order of his preference, the words:—

Province, Dependency, Colony, Dominion, Vice Royalty, Kingdom.

If “Kingdom” was not to be employed, I think it will be generally admitted that the conference made the best selection possible in the circumstances.

The Bill, as finally agreed upon in the London Conference, passed through Parliament without much criticism, and received the Royal Assent on March 29, 1867. On May 22 following, a Royal Proclamation issued, uniting the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into one Dominion under the name of Canada. Two days later, Lord Monck, who had been appointed Governor General of the new Dominion, entrusted Sir John Macdonald with the formation of his first ministry, a task of no small difficulty, which, however, Macdonald successfully accomplished, and on July 1, 1867, the Dominion started on its career.

Many obstacles had been overcome, but many remained to be dealt with, and it required the exercise of the highest statesmanship to avoid the rocks ahead. The difficulties attendant upon the carrying on of a coalition government, intensified by the bitter opposition of George Brown, greatly added to the ordinary burden of administration. The anti-union agitation in Nova Scotia, led by Joseph Howe, was full of disastrous possibilities. Scarcely had it been allayed when the first rising in the Northwest under Louis Riel seemed for the moment to threaten the stability of the arrangements under which Rupert's Land and the territories beyond had just been acquired by Canada. Fenian troubles; serious differences with the United States over fishery and commercial questions; these and other perplexing problems pressed heavily upon those charged with the administration of the affairs of the new Dominion. But all were successfully surmounted. Howe gave up the contest, accepted the inevitable, and entered the Cabinet of Sir John Macdonald. Riel was speedily suppressed and compelled to flee the country. The Fenian attacks proved abortive, and the Treaty of Washington of 1871 restored harmony between Canada and the United States. In the same year, British Columbia cast in its lot with the Dominion, followed in 1873 by Prince Edward Island. Only Newfoundland stood, and still stands, aloof.

The experiment of fifty years ago has proved an undoubted success. A number of sparsely settled provinces, with scarcely any knowledge of or communication with each other, divided by petty jealousies, hostile tariffs, different currencies, dissimilar postal systems, and the like, has become one vast community, stretching from sea to sea, united by a common purpose, and destined, in all human probability, to attain to unexampled heights of prosperity and greatness. For Canada is only at the beginning of her career, but yet in the morning of youth. No man can foresee the greatness in store for this Dominion, or set bounds to its future. Prosperity and progress will, no doubt, bring with them new responsibilities to be faced, new problems to be solved, new difficulties to be overcome. The great war for the freedom and liberties of the world, in which Canada is taking so glorious a part, will doubtless effect many things with us. Experience gained by association in a common cause, by participation in common suffering, and, let us add, by sharing in a common triumph, cannot but conduce to increased breadth of view, to a wider knowledge of the outside world and especially to more extensive and intimate relations with the sister Dominions within our own Empire. We do not doubt that the future destinies of this country will continue to be safely guided by the wise counsels of its public men; but while recognizing the ability and patriotism of succeeding statesmen, let us ever continue to hold in honour and remembrance the “Fathers of Confederation,” who, amid difficulties and discouragements innumerable, by the exercise of courage, patience, constancy and perseverance, achieved results which we to-day only in part realize, and of which future generations will reap the full fruition.

1. The Confederation compact, though loosely styled a 'federal' union, even in the British North America Act itself, is not really a federal union, which is the result of an arrangement by which a group of sovereign, or self-governing communities, retain certain existing powers, and relinquish others towards the formation of a central authority, as in the case of the United States and also of Australia. Nothing of this kind happened in Canada where the colonies, in effect, surrendered all the powers which they had hitherto enjoyed, to the Sovereign, who redistributed them anew between the Dominion and the newly-formed Province.
Lord Chancellor Haldane, in an Australian appeal before the Privy Council, (Law Reports, Appeal Cases, 1914, Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Australia V. Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Limited, page A.C. 253,) lays this down. See also report of this case in the Montreal Star of December 3, 1913. That it was also Sir John Macdonald's view may be inferred from the fact that he would never use the word 'federal' in relation to the Government of Canada if he could help it. He preferred to say 'Canadian Government.' If he wanted an alternative phrase, he would use 'Dominion Government,' but 'Federal Government' he avoided as far as possible.

2. “Consider how insignificant are the matters agreed at Charlottetown, to be left to the Local Governments.” (From remarks of Hon. George Brown, delivered at the session of the Quebec Conference, 20th October, 1864- Pope's 'Confederation Documents,' page 77.)

3. Of the London Conference, three members, Messrs. Howland of Canada, Ritchie of Nova Scotia, and Wilmot of New Brunswick, had not been members of the Quebec Conference, and in consequence are not commonly included among the “Fathers of Confederation.” In 1866, speaking broadly, the battle was looked upon as won. The London Conference took for its basis the Quebec resolutions, in which the governing principle of Confederation had been established, and its work, though highly important, was largely in the nature of giving form and expression to propositions already determined on. It seems fitting, therefore, that the honourable distinction “Fathers of Confederation” should be reserved to those who composed the Quebec Conference, and who afterwards advocated Confederation in their respective provinces, at the sacrifice, in more than one instance, of their political futures.