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By the early 1860’s the United British North America (BNA) had been a common idea following the American Civil War. Following the US civil war, the belief that Britain was becoming increasingly reluctant to defend its North American colonies against possible US aggression grew among the northern colonies. Unrest among the BNA of the American appetite for expansionism affirmed with the US purchase of Alaska in 1867. Suddenly, Confederation offered the colonies a chance to establish unification against America, and to create a free-trade market that was not reliant on American trade, this was especially vital after the US abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty in 1866. Confederation would also consolidate funds to construct cross-Provincial railways, which the BNA had very few of.
Confederation was the perfect solution to offer Britain an honourable means of escaping the economic and military burden in North America, while allowing its colonies the strength to unite, and prosper.
In 1864, New Brunswick premier Samuel Leonard Tilley, Nova Scotia premier Charles Tupper, and Prince Edward Island premier John Hamilton Gray were positing the idea of a BNA Maritime Union which would unite the three colonies. These delegations were called the Charlottetown Conference. John A. Macdonald, premier of the province of Canada surprised the maritime politicians by asking if the Province of Canada could be included in the negotiations. The maritime conference allowed Macdonald to join the delegations, and the Charlottetown Conference began on September 1, 1864 and was waived on September 9, with the province of Canada, and the maritime provinces united. This was the beginning of what would unfold into the united dominion of Canada.
Shortly after returning from the Charlottetown Conference, John A. Macdonald invited the delegates from the three maritime provinces and newfoundland to hold The Quebec Conference with United Canadian delegates. The conference was held in Quebec City on October 1864. Despite the conference electing Étienne-Paschal Taché as its chairman, it was Macdonald who dominated the assembly. The conference ended with the adoption of the Seventy-Two Resolutions, which formed the basis for future conferences and laid out the groundworks for the Canadian Constitution. The major points addressed in the resolutions were: a strong united federal government, defined provincial powers, and that the province of Canada will be divided into Quebec and Ontario. The Conference was adjourned on October 27.
In December 1866, the delegates from the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick met with crown delegates in London to finalize and discuss the details of the constitutional confederation. Macdonald chairing The London Conference, was described by Sir Frederic Rogers of the British Colonial Office as “the ruling genius”. Under Macdonald’s urging, the BNA and British delegates had revised and amended the 7t resolution to the newly names London Resolutions, which were now ready to submit to Colonial Office, and then, to Parliament.
The delegates reconvened in January 1867 and began drafting the British North America Act. The delegates opted to call the new country The Dominion of Canada. The Draft for the British North America Act was completed by February 1867 and presented to Queen Victoria six days later. The bill was then passed on to the House of Lords, and then also approved by the British House of Commons. royal assent was passed on March 29, 1867, the date for union was set for July 1, 1867. And thus, Canada as known today was born. Canada’s Dominion elections were held in August and September to elect the first Parliament, which would consist of 72 people (24 from Quebec and Ontario, and 12 from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) to sit in the Senate. From those elections John A. Macdonald became the first Prime Minister of Canada, finally achieving years of work.
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