150 years ago
One hundred and fifty years ago, three meetings leading to the union of provinces to form the country of Canada were held. Two significant conferences in Charlottetown (September 1 – 9, 1864) and Quebec (October 10 – 27, 1864) led to a third, and final, London conference. The declaration of the British North American Act, Confederation, and partial autonomy from Britain for the united provinces followed these meetings.
During this time, the American Civil War was raging, Britain was trying to relieve itself of colonial responsibilities, and Upper and Lower Canadas were often in deadlock. It was in this atmosphere the conferences were held.
In September 1864, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island were meeting to discuss a maritime union when the delegates from Canada arrived in Charlottetown. Half of the cabinet from Upper and Lower Canada arrived by steamer to discuss a union of all of British North America. While John A. MacDonald outlined a plan for a strong central government and preservation of provincial identities, Alexander Tilloch Galt outlined the financial arrangements.
Alexander Tilloch Galt was an influential politician of his time. In 1858, he had presented to the indifferent British parliament on a federation scheme. Galt went on to participate in all three conferences leading to the confederation. He assisted in organizing the new country’s administration, and became the first finance minister in the first Cabinet.
The second conference, the Quebec conference, started at 11:00 am on October 10, 1864 in the St. Louise Hotel (where the Chateau Frontenac stands now) in Quebec City. Seventeen days later, a total of 72 resolutions were completed and ready to be sent to the provincial legislatures and to the London conference. One conference representative, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, described the agreements as not imposed from others but the work of ourselves.
Local festivities are being planned for 2017 – see facebook.com/celebrate2017 for more information. For more information about the Galt Museum & Archives – named for Sir Alexander Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.