Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837–67 by Ged Martin

By Ged Martin

In Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867, Ged Martin bargains a sceptical evaluation of claims that Confederation replied all of the difficulties dealing with the provinces, and examines intimately British perceptions of Canada and concepts approximately its destiny. the main British contribution to the arrival of Confederation is to be chanced on now not within the aftermath of the Quebec convention, the place the imperial position used to be in general one in every of bluff and exhortation, yet ahead of 1864, in a imprecise consensus between opinion-formers that the provinces may someday unite. confronted with an inescapable have to safe laws at Westminster for a brand new political constitution, British North American politicians discovered they can paintings in the context of a metropolitan choice for intercolonial union.

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In British politics, this lesson was leamt by Gladstone early in his career. As a young minister, he was charged with the responsibility of replying to a debate. ' he asked his chief, Sir Robert Peel. 'No,' replied Peel, 'be long and diffuse. It is all important in the House of Commons to state your case in many different ways, so as to produce an effect on men of many ways of thinking. '14 The demon of brevity rarely tempted the politicians of British North America. To put it simply, politicians and journalists were not engaged in providing source materials for future generations of scholars, but in winning support and discrediting opposition.

It was now the turn of the Maritimes to discuss the issue in a framework of fear. Demobilised Irish-Americans had proved a fertile recruiting ground for the Fenians, Irish nationalists who aimed to free Ireland by attacking British North America. They were no mean military force, as they proved when they invaded the Niagara peninsula in June 1866, but they were unable to maintain a long-term threat simply because there was a limit to the number of blind eyes the United States government could turn to their activities.

66 This is not to claim that Sandfield Macdonald was a great statesman, but rather to suggest that he seems to have been judged against an unstated law about political leadership which emphatically is not applied in later phases of Canadian history. '67 The description might be applied word-for-word to Mackenzie King, 'the consummate master of opportunity' as Morton called him, with evident approval. ' 68 The implied law of politicalleadership used to condemn Sandfield is one deduced from the need to explain Confederation as the sweeping away of a political system sunk in its own irrelevance.

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