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Dangers which Existed Previous to Confederation of the Provinces

Dangers Which Existed Previous to Confederation of the Provinces--Proposals of Annexation to the United States--Lessons Learned by the Fenian Raid.


Forty-four years have elapsed since the perilous events recorded in the preceding pages occurred. A new generation has come and grown into middle life, while the second generation is now budding forth into manhood and womanhood. How many of these are conversant with the history of their own country? Beyond a very vague knowledge of what has been taught to them in a superficial manner in our schools and colleges, and the fragmentary reminiscences that may have been recounted to them by their sires and grandsires who passed through these troublous times, it is doubtful whether even one-tenth of our present population have any idea of just how near Canada came to being absorbed by the United States in that critical period.

At that time Canada was in a peculiar position, which may be described as "a house divided within itself," as there was no cohesion among the scattered Provinces, each regulating its own affairs, with the exception of Canada East and Canada West (now Quebec and Ontario) who were governed by the same Parliament. The situation was certainly a dark and serious one. We had subtle traitors at home and scheming enemies abroad who labored assiduously to bring about annexation, but the stern spirit of loyalty to the British Crown which pervaded the hearts of the people as a whole, and the wise statesmanship of that noble group of patriots whose names will go ringing down through the corridors of time in the existence of our nation as "The Fathers of Confederation," saved the situation, and made Canada what it is to-day, a heritage of which our sons and daughters may well feel proud.

It was during the year 1866 that the apostles of Confederation were busy educating the people of the different Provinces in the creed of that very desirable proposition. While they met serious opposition in some portions of what is now our grand Dominion, yet in others the proposal was received favorably, while one or two of the Provinces expressed an antipathy to the movement. But just at this time two important events occurred which had a material bearing on the question, and had an effect in bringing about the Union. The first was the sudden abrogation by the United States of the Reciprocity Treaty which for some years had existed between the Canadian Provinces and that country, and the second the Fenian Raid. Each of these events sent a thrill through the Canadian people which fired their hearts and settled the project of Confederation. The necessity of united action in defence, and co-operation in other matters for the benefit of the whole, was heartily admitted, and forthwith the Provinces joined hands and hearts in bringing about its early consummation. The full meaning of the motto, "United we Stand--Divided we Fall," was realized by the majority, and the necessary legislation was carried through the several Provincial Parliaments that year, which received Imperial sanction, and resulted in the birth of the Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867.

While the campaign for Confederation was in progress, and its stalwart advocates were using their best endeavors throughout the country to bring the project to fruition, considerable opposition was manifested by a certain section who favored annexation to the United States. These men were backed up by American influences, and went so far as to secure the assistance of several prominent United States Congressmen to draft a proposal whereby the Provinces of Canada might become annexed and made certain States of the Union. The subject was discussed seriously by a large section of the American press, while statesmen and others who were eager to acquire our territory lost no opportunity to present their views in that respect.

While the annexation pot was boiling, and the Fenians were still threatening another raid, the question was brought before the American people in a tangible form. On the 2nd of July, 1866, the following bill was reported to the United States Congress by Representative Banks, and recommitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As viewed in the light of the present day, its provisions contain very interesting reading:--

A Bill for the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and for the organization of the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia.

SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and directed, whenever notice shall be deposited in the Department of State, that the Governments of Great Britain and the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver's Island, have accepted the proposition hereinafter made by the United States, to publish by proclamation that, from the date thereof, the States of Nova-Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, with limits and rights as by this Act defined, are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States of America.

SEC. 2. Be it further enacted, etc., That the following articles are hereby proposed, and from the date of the proclamation of the President of the United States shall take effect, as irrevocable conditions of the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the future States of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia, to wit:

Article I. All public lands not sold or granted; canals, public harbours, lighthouses and piers; river and lake improvements; railways, mortgages and other debts due by railway companies to the Provinces; custom houses and post offices shall vest in the United States; but all other public works and property shall belong to the State Governments respectively, hereby constituted, together with all sums due from purchasers or lessees of lands, mines, or minerals at the time of the union.

Article II. In consideration of public lands, works, and property vested as aforesaid in the United States, the United States will assume and discharge the funded debt and contingent liabilities of the late Provinces at rates of interest not exceeding five per centum, to the amount of $85,700,000, apportioned as follows: To Canada West, $36,500,000; to Canada East, $29,000,000; to Nova Scotia, $8,000,000; to New Brunswick, $7,000,000; to Newfoundland, $3,200,000; and to Prince Edward Island, $2,000,000; and in further consideration of the transfer by said Provinces to the United States of the power to levy import and export duties, the United States will make an annual grant of $1,646,000 in aid of local expenditures, to be apportioned as follows: To Canada West, $700,000; to Canada East, $550,000; to Nova Scotia. $165,000; to Newfoundland, $65,000; to Prince Edward Island, $40,000.

Article III. For all purposes of State organization and representation in the Congress of the United States. Newfoundland shall be a part of Canada East, and Prince Edward Island shall be a part of Nova Scotia, except that each shall always be a separate representative district, and entitled to elect at least one member of the House of Representatives, and except also that the municipal authorities of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island shall receive the indemnities agreed to be paid by the United States in Article II.

Article IV. Territorial divisions are established as follows: (1) New Brunswick, with its present limits; (2) Nova Scotia, with the addition of Prince Edward Island; (3) Canada East, with the addition of Newfoundland and all territory east of longitude 80 deg, and south of Hudson Straits; (4) Canada West, with the addition of territory south of Hudson's Bay, and between longitude 80 and 90 deg.; (5) Selkirk Territory, bounded east by longitude 90 deg., south by the late boundary of the United States, west by longitude 105 deg., and north by the Arctic Circle; (6) Saskatchewan Territory, bounded east by longitude 105 deg., south by latitude 49 deg., west by the Rocky Mountains, and north by latitude 70 deg.; (7) Columbia Territory, including Vancouver's Island and Queen Charlotte's Island, and bounded east and north by the Rocky Mountains, south by latitude 40 deg., and west by the Pacific Ocean and Russian America. But Congress reserves the right of changing the limits and subdividing the areas of the western territories at discretion.

Article V. Until the next decennial revision, representation in the House of Representatives shall be as follows: Canada West, 12 members; Canada East, including Newfoundland, 11 members; New Brunswick, 2 members; Nova Scotia, including Prince Edward Island, 4 members.

Article VI. The Congress of the United States shall enact, in favour of the proposed Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia, all the provisions of the Act organizing the Territory of Montana, so far as they can be made applicable.

Article VII. The United States, by the construction of new canals, of the enlargement of existing canals, and by the improvement of shoals, will so aid the navigation of the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes that vessels of fifteen hundred tons burden shall pass from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lakes Superior and Michigan; Provided that the expenditure under this Article shall not exceed $50,000,000.

Article VIII. The United States will appropriate and pay to "The European and North American Railway Company of Maine" the sum of $2,000,000 upon the construction of a continuous line of railroad from Bangor, in Maine, to St. John, in New Brunswick; Provided said "The European and North American Railway Company of Maine" shall release the Government of the United States from all claims held by its assignees of the States of Maine and Massachusetts.

Article IX. To aid the construction of a railway from Truro, in Nova Scotia, to Riviere du Loup, in Canada East, and a railway from the city of Ottawa, by way of Sault Ste. Marie, Bayfield and Superior, in Wisconsin. Pembina and Fort Garry, on the Red River of the North, and the Valley of North Saskatchewan River, to some point on the Pacific Ocean north of latitude 49 degrees, the United States will grant lands along the lines of said roads to the amount of twenty sections, or 12,800 acres, per mile, to be selected and sold in the manner prescribed in the Act, to aid the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, approved July 2, 1862 and Acts amendatory thereof; and, in addition to said grants of land, the United States will further guarantee dividends of five per cent, upon the stock of the company or companies which may be authorized by Congress to undertake the construction of said railways; Provided that such guarantee of stock shall not exceed the sum of $30,000 per mile, and Congress shall regulate the securities for advances on account thereof.

Article X. The public lands in the late Provinces, as far as practicable, shall be surveyed according to the rectangular system of the General Land Office of the United States; and in the territories west of longitude 90 degrees, or western boundary of Canada West, Sections sixteen and thirty-six shall be granted for the encouragement of schools, and after the organization of the territories into the States, 5 per centum of the net proceeds of sales of public lands shall be paid into their treasurers as a fund for the improvement of roads and rivers.

Article XI. The United States will pay $10,000,000 to the Hudson Bay Company in full discharge of all claims to territory or jurisdiction in North America, whether founded on the charter of the company or any treaty, law or usage.

Article XII. It shall be devolved upon the Legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada East and Canada West, to conjoin the tenure of office and the local institutions of said States to the Constitution and laws of the United States, subject to revision by Congress.

SEC. 3. Be it further enacted, etc., If Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, or either of those Provinces, shall decline union with the United States, and the remaining Provinces, with the consent of Great Britain, shall accept the proposition of the United States, the foregoing stipulations in favor of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of them, will be omitted; but in all other respects the United States will give full effect to the plan of union. If Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall decline the proposition, but Canada, British Columbia and Vancouver Island shall, with the consent of Great Britain, accept the same, the construction of a railway from Truro to Riviere du Loup, with all stipulations relating to the Maritime Provinces, will form no part of the proposed plan of union, but the same will be consummated in all other respects. If Canada shall decline the proposition, then the stipulations in regard to the St. Lawrence canals and a railway from Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie, with the Canadian clause of debt and revenue indemnity, will be relinquished. If the plan of union shall only be accepted in regard to the north-western territory and the Pacific Provinces, the United States will aid the construction, on the terms named, of a railway from the western extremity of Lake Superior, in the State of Minnesota, by way of Pembina, Fort Garry and the Valley of the Saskatchewan, to the Pacific Coast, north of latitude 49 deg., besides securing all the rights and privileges of an American territory to the proposed Territories of Selkirk. Saskatchewan and Columbia.


The "generosity" of the above proposal was very kind of our neighbors, but it had no avail. The abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty and encouragement of the Fenian Raids by the American people had put the Canadians on their mettle and stiffened their backbone, so that neither retaliatory threats or honeyed allurements had any effect in changing their minds from carving out their own destiny under the broad folds of the Union Jack. How well this has been done by the earnest efforts and honest toil of our people, guided by the wisdom and sagacity of those statesmen who laid the foundation of our Dominion as it exists at present, is for other nations and other people to judge. Canada enjoys a prominent position in the estimation of the world to-day, and under the blessings of the Most High we will continue on in the march of progress and development of our bountiful resources.

The Fenian Raid, although it cost Canada sacrifices in precious lives and the expenditure of millions of money, proved of benefit to our young country in several ways. In the first place, it demonstrated the fact that the Canadians were loyal and patriotic to their heart's last drop in preserving British connection, and were true to their Flag and the freedom it symbolized. Again, the invasion enlightened the Fenian foemen and all other schemers who cast covetous eyes in our direction, that the Canadians were capable of protecting themselves, and were ready at all times to do their duty on the field of battle in defence of their native land and its institutions. Finally, it taught our people a lasting lesson in self-reliance, which should be instilled into the hearts and minds of our future generations, so that they too may always be found prepared to accept their share of responsibility in defending their country in times of peril and danger.


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Troublous Times in Canada, A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870

Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870

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