This paper was given as a keynote address at the University of Edinburgh Centre of Canadian Studies annual conference in 1999 which examined the extent to which the year 1849 could be considered as a landmark in the history of British North America. It was published in Derek Pollard and Ged Martin, eds, Canada 1849 (Edinburgh, 2001).


The year 1999 saw much quasi-intellectual speculation across the Western world about the upcoming "Millennium", coupled with some very real fears that it would spawn a bug vicious enough to wipe out our computers and destroy our way of life. If 1999 offered a vantage point for historical retrospection, it surely pointed to a review of what Churchill called "this terrible twentieth century".1 Was it, then, mere eccentricity that prompted Edinburgh University's Centre of Canadian Studies to look back 150 years, and focus upon the year 1849? If a group of scholars wished to look back a century and a half, surely there were beguiling targets for their attention? In Europe, 1848 was the Year of Revolutions. In the United States, 1850 is forever tagged a year of the Compromise on the slavery issue that at the very least delayed Civil War for a decade. By contrast, a conference on 1849 sounds remarkably like a commentary on the interval between two exciting periods of a hockey game. The simile is Canadian and so was the fundamental reason for selecting the year for examination. Is it possible to sustain the hypothesis that 1849 constituted Year One in the history of British North America - the historical moment at which we can first trace the outline of the common, transcontinental experience that would lead eighteen years later through the initial nucleus of Confederation to the creation of the Canada of today?

Before analysing the import of any particular year, it may be worth ruminating on the concept itself, and examining how it has been exploited in previous scholarship. At its most fundamental, the concept of a year operates way beyond any human intervention, being measured by the rotation of the earth in solar and sidereal time. Unfortunately, these are not precisely identical, and neither of them corresponds to multiples of the twenty-four hours that make up each day. In what we now call 45 BC, Julius Caesar promulgated a calendar that assumed the year to last 365 days and a quarter: three years out of four, there were to be 365 days but in the fourth, Leap Year, there would be 366. Although inconvenient, this was at least an improvement on the device adopted to bring the existing calendar into kilter, which involved extending the previous year, 46 BC, to 445 days. Not surprisingly, it was remembered in Roman tradition as "the year of confusions". Unfortunately, Caesar's working estimate of the length of the year was just a fraction adrift of complete accuracy. The error was minimal, but by the sixteenth century the cumulative distortion was about a week and a half. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII recalculated the Catholic year, dumping ten days of October that were conveniently dedicated only to minor saints, and decreeing that henceforth Leap Years would be only be celebrated at the start of a new century once every four hundred years. By the time Protestant Britain got around to adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1752, it was necessary to lose eleven days. The calendar change provoked widespread protest, driven not (as sneering detractors claimed) by peasant fears that their lives were being shortened, but rather by the fact that most of the necessary rituals of the agricultural year, from planting to harvesting, were measured by landmarks such as saints' days that an unfeeling government was abruptly shifting forwards.3

Thus the measurement of a year involves human adaptation to astronomical imperative. But heavenly movements are continuous, with no obvious stops or starts, whereas since 1600 the official year in Scotland has started on 1 January and whimpered to a conclusion at Hogmanay. However, until 1751 England used the "Year of Grace", which began on Lady Day, 25 March, and its traces can be seen to this day. Parliament was untroubled by the disruption to rural customs caused by the calendar change, but eleven days had to be found to preserve the sanctity of business contracts. As a result, to this day, the United Kingdom income tax year ends on 5 April. There is no necessary reason for starting the year in January, and most northern hemisphere universities obstinately conform to annual cycles dictated by harvest time. The Jewish New Year falls in September, and the Hindu and Islamic calendars begin in March and April - and none of them has a fixed New Year's Day. From 1792 until 1805, France lived under a calendar in which each year began on 22 September. Those who zoom in on 1849 may be forgiven for stealing the occasional example from a few months on either side: a year is a moveable feast.

The French revolutionaries who decided to begin the world afresh are a reminder that there is nothing sacred about the way in which we number the years on our calendar. Indeed, we do not even need to number them at all: the Chinese measure the passage of time by giving their years names. Indeed, the only sacred element in our counting by "the year of Our Lord" was unfortunately miscalculated by, Dionysius Exiguus, who bravely attempted the computation in the sixth century, misdating the probable birth of Jesus by four years. An additional complication was created by others, such as the English historian Bede, who elaborated the Anno Domini system with an inverted matching scale Before Christ without inserting a Year Zero. As a result, two thousand years (or so) after the birth of Christ, there is no agreement about the start date for the twenty-first century. Unusually for medieval Europe, it was the English who led the way in securing the acceptance of the A.D. system. Its big advantage was it provided an international standard of time measurement, whereas the alternative practice of counting the number of years a king had reigned was specific to individual countries. None the less, British parliamentary legislation has always been identified by regnal years. The official title of the Canadian constitution of 1791 was the Act of 31 George III, c.31, while the British North America Act was (and presumably still is) 30 & 31 Victoria, c. 3. Moreover, even if Anno Domini is founded upon inaccuracy, it does at least give us a mathematical rule of thumb for identifying anniversaries. It is unlikely that anyone living in the 47th of Elizabeth II would have bothered to look back at British North America in the 12th of Victoria.

Historians who have homed in upon the notion have used the year in three different ways: as a window, as a threshold and as a "slice". The locus classicus of the first is to be found in the third chapter of Macaulay's History of England, published - as it happens - in December 1848, just in time to cross the Atlantic for our focus year. Macaulay aimed "to give a description of the state in which England was in at the time when the crown passed from Charles the Second to his brother". He admitted that "scanty and dispersed materials" made for a "very imperfect" picture, which forced him to range more widely for information. "Unfortunately the population of England in 1685 cannot be ascertained with perfect accuracy", he wrote - before confidently turning to the calculations made by Gregory King eleven years later based upon tax returns from 1690.4 Indeed, Macaulay ranged widely around his chosen date. Writing in 1913, Elie Halévy was even more open-ended in calling the opening volume of his History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century, England in 1815. Perhaps deep down a French scholar found 1815 a difficult twelve-month to handle. At the very least, it can be said that Halévy placed the year of Waterloo in a broad framework of time.5 None the less, it was Halévy, so we are told, who inspired Richard Hofstadter to attempt his evocative but (alas) uncompleted sketch, America at 1750: A Social Portrait.6 In Canadian historical writing, Peter B. Waite wrote a short chapter, "Canada in 1874: An Overview" to begin his contribution to the Centennial series. He called his volume "a waterbug kind of book", and appropriately enough its opening chapter flew zestfully over the landscape, unbounded by place and only loosely constrained by time: 1874 accounts for about ten percent of the seventy dates cited.7 A later volume in the same series, R. Craig Brown and Ramsay Cook attempted a slightly more broadly shaped overview of the Canada of 1919-1921 in two final chapters, which refer back to their opening argument of a massive transformation in Canadian society since 1896.8 In an important contribution to the historical geography of the nineteenth-century Maritimes, Graeme Wynn makes a more explicit comparison, starting with "New Brunswick at the Beginning of the Century" and culminating with a chapter more closely focused upon the province in 1850.9 William the Conqueror, it will be recalled, tackled much the same challenge in compiling Domesday Book, when he sought to compare the England of 1086 with the position twenty years earlier.

The purpose of a window is to illuminate. When a year is used in this way, whether by Macaulay and Halévy or by Waite and Wynn, there is no reason at all why the analysis should be restricted to the confines of January and December. But years are sometimes used more specifically as historical punctuation marks. One example is to be found in an important book of essays on the world of the Victorians, published - apparently coincidentally - in 1959, and called 1859: Entering an Age of Crisis. The nature of the analysis of course depends upon the definition and duration of the concept of crisis. Howard Mumford Jones regarded both the date and the concept as required to supply "needful unity". In many respects, 1859 in England represents a landmark for the same combination of positive and negative reasons that characterise 1849 in British North America: the Indian Mutiny was over, "there was a small war in China" and a not much larger one in Italy. Arguably, however, the incident that would have the most dramatic knock-on effects upon the period immediately following was the raid on Harper's Ferry, brief and unsuccessful though it appeared at the time. Similarly, Lord Palmerston became prime minister in 1859, but the significance of the change of ministry would only become apparent in years to come when his coalition had settled down as the Liberal Party. Intellectually, 1859 was a landmark primarily because it was the year that saw the publication of the Origin of Species. But Darwin and the descent from apes can hardly be separated from the shocking arrival of the new Biblical criticism in Essays and Reviews a year later. Thus Basil Willey refers to "1859, or should we rather say the period 1859 to 1862", for the theological controversy touched off a further explosion when Bishop Colenso virtually jettisoned the first five books of the Old Testament.10

The fact that 1859: Entering an Age of Crisis was a joint American-British project throws into relief the fact that, for the northern half of the continent, it was a relatively quiet year, a reflection that seems to throw some doubt on the argument of this essay. If 1849 was Year One for a shared common history of British North America, why was it that the attempt by the Canadian government to launch a political movement for the federation of the provinces in 1858, Year Ten, should have run so totally into the sand in Year Eleven, 1859, when the rest of the English-speaking world was entering an age of crisis, a crisis which Mumford Jones was prepared to regard as stretching for the whole of the century that followed? One obvious answer would be to point out that remoteness and small population placed British North America on the margins. The Origin of Species did not come out in Britain until November, which hardly gave much time for the book to impact upon Canada. In a community with few opinion-formers, new ideas were mediated to a much greater extent than was the case in England through a small number of intellectual leaders, and J.W. Dawson thought Darwin was wrong.11 In any case, we may doubt the compelling rigidity of intellectual integration, even in an Age of Crisis. If every single inhabitant of the province of Canada became persuaded overnight of their descent from monkeys, that would still not be sufficient to sweep them into a political union with the people of Nova Scotia. The reflection upon 1859 as a landmark year is useful if only because it may make us doubtful of a slightly later "turning point". 1867, the year of Canadian Confederation, was also the year in which Britain took a crucial step along the road to democracy through its Second Reform Act. Both may be seen as in some senses responses to the strategic and political crises caused by the American Civil War - but their close relation in time may also be mere coincidence.12

The selection of a single year as means of writing history through a "slice" was the particular hallmark of Australia's bicentennial history. K.S. Inglis, its particular advocate, argued against the structure adopted by other commemorative histories, such as the Oxford History of England or the Confederation centennial series in Canada, which he termed "the relay race approach". He argued that where a single contributor was invited to write about a set period, the end product would inevitably be coloured by the specialisation of the writer: an economic historian would concentrate upon the economy, giving an entirely different perspective from a social or political historian. "Instead of meeting only to pass the baton", all such scholars might be brought together in the fruitful dialogue of a "continuous seminar" around a single, "sliced" year. The book-ends were to some extent dictated: Australia when settlers arrived in 1788 and the country that celebrated its two-hundredth birthday in 1988. Fifty-year intervals in between were attractive precisely because they were arbitrary, almost a life-time apart and had the built-in advantage that the calculations of Dionysius encouraged arithmetical stock-taking, reference back to the founding of the colonies and visionary speculation towards the future.

This involved a conscious repudiation of the models of Macaulay and Halévy, precisely because the landscape of Australian historical writing was already dotted with years that towered like 1685 and 1815 in Britain. To choose any of them would be to reinforce the assumptions behind their significance: 1851 would dictate the centrality of the gold-rush; 1914 would have to be organised around the War. "The right years would seem right because they fitted our received notions of the contours and rhythms of Australian history." The artificiality of the fifty-year slices was not without its problems. 1888, for instance, came just after the Colonial conference in London, which Australians had treated much more seriously than did Canadians. Alfred Deakin had been goaded by Australasian disarray in the face of the British government to commit himself to working for a federation of the colonies, but the movement for Australian unity was as weak in 1888 as the push for Confederation had proved back in 1859. The objection could be countered in two ways. One was to stress "the texture of every day life" and so emancipate the slice from the narrow confines and dramatic episodes of the January-December twelvemonth. The other was to accept the challenge and ask why trends set to dominate in the following decade were apparently so invisible when the slice was scanned under the historians' microscope.13

Thus a year may stand out variously as window, landmark, turning point or "slice". It may attract our attention because of the events that take place; it may intrigue us because of the total invisibility of episodes that in retrospect we know are coming around the corner. Sometimes its significance may only be discerned long afterwards thanks to the hindsight that can identify the small cloud as the coming storm, or the cautious experiment as the new norm. With these fluid criteria in mind, we should approach British North America in 1849.

Two years later, the census would count 952,000 people in Upper Canada and 890,000 in the lower province. We may therefore take 1849 as the year in which the two sections of the province of Canada were approximately in balance, the last point before the cry of "rep. by pop." would disrupt their fragile harmony. The combined population, of about 1.8 million, was exceeded by the two million people of the English county of Lancashire. The three Maritime provinces added over half a million people, Newfoundland perhaps 100,000 more. Thus the combined populations of the settled areas of eastern British North America equalled the two and half million people of London. To the west, population was very sparse: the casual racism of the past may have spoken of "empty" prairies, but native peoples were numbered only in a few thousands, while we cannot enter into the conflicts of the Red River community unless we grasp just how small it was.14

By contrast, in 1850 the United States census reported 23 million people, almost ten times the population of the British provinces to the north. The state of New York alone accounted for three million Americans. Across the Atlantic, the United Kingdom population has been estimated at 27.5 million in 1849. Even in Ireland, where the Famine had scythed a million people in four years, there remained seven and a quarter millions. Even though only a small part of the outflow washed up in British North America, their numerical impact on relatively small host communities was disproportionately large. For francophones, small populations were compounded by the fact that they were already in a minority within Canada. A community of 650,000 could not even dream of independence.15 Culturally, French Canada remained in awe of an aloof motherland. At 30 million people, France had fifty times its population. Francophones elsewhere in British North America added little numerical strength. The small Métis community at the Red River asserted itself in 1849, but in the Atlantic region, Acadians remained quiescent. The founding of a college at Memramcook lay five years in the future. In 1849, their most notable cultural symbol was probably a poem written in English two years earlier by an American who had never visited Acadie, Longfellow's Evangeline.

In the Western demographic league, in 1849 British North Americans were spectators as larger and more assertive societies forged ahead, their populations reinforcing the self-confidence of economic and cultural leadership. Nowhere was this more evident than in comparative urbanisation. There were over half a million people within the municipal boundaries of New York City by 1850, and its effective metropolitan area contained many more. The conurbation of London counted more people than the whole of British North America. There were four hundred thousand people in the cotton metropolis of Manchester-Salford, two hundred thousand in the traditional port city of Edinburgh-Leith. Canada's largest city, Montreal, counted 57,000 people: when riots broke out there in the spring of 1849, a London newspaper haughtily compared the Canadian metropolis to the English provincial town of Nottingham.16 Joint second in the British North American urban league came Toronto and the New Brunswick port city of Saint John-Portland. At 30,000 apiece, they ranked about equal Huddersfield and Swansea in the British census. Of course, this humble station in the world city stakes need not prevent any colonial town from making an impact upon its own locality. But size did matter. It has been argued that across eastern Europe, a rough rule of thumb shows that there was a revolutionary outbreak in 1848 in every country endowed with an urban centre of 100,000 people.17 Somehow the far larger cities of the English-speaking world came unscathed through that desperate year. Despite the turbulence of their street politics, the cities of British North America, they were hardly large enough to pose a revolutionary threat.

It followed that the major events of the world of the late eighteen forties were also taking place somewhere else, often with massive implications for the British provinces. For the United States, the second half of the decade was a time of massive historical significance. Not only did the country grow in area, both in terms of jurisdiction and settlement, but under the pressure of the slavery question, it was simultaneously moving towards a more centralised structure of government. The annexation of Texas in 1845, the Oregon Treaty the following year and the annexations dictated in the peace of Guadeloup Hidalgo in 1848 combined to peg out the future boundaries of the continental United States, although this was by no means clear at the time. Wisconsin became a state in 1848, California was engulfed by a gold rush in 1849. Territorial enlargement reopened the controversy over the extension of slavery from the Wilmot Proviso of 1846 through to the Compromise of 1850. In December 1849, the House of Representatives required 63 ballots to choose a Speaker. It was by no means the most attractive moment for Canadians to be discussing whether to join the great republic, but it was certainly no moment to pretend that it did not exist.

For Britain, too, the late eighteen-forties was an important stepping stone to modernity, especially in the acceleration of moves towards Free Trade. The repeal of the Corn Laws had been carried in 1846 but phased over a three-year period. The Navigation Acts followed in 1849. In the short term, both changes removed the protection enjoyed by the colonial economies especially against United States competition, and the impact was especially traumatic for shipowners and merchants who had traditionally proclaimed their loyalty to Britain. It was particularly unfortunate that Britain's longer-term shift towards Free Trade had included the brief detour of the 1843 Canada Corn Act. By briefly classifying Canadian producers within the domestic sphere, British policy stimulated investment that compounded the subsequent losses suffered by the empire of the St Lawrence. From the standpoint of a later age of aggressive deregulation, we can perhaps see the economic and political crisis that pervaded the provinces in 1849 as a step towards allowing them to develop along more natural lines. There were some incidental benefits in the new intellectual challenge to monopoly. The attack on the General Mining Association in Nova Scotia was one aspect of this, and the cry for "Free Trade" gave ambiguous cover to Métis resistance to the Hudson's Bay Company. Still, it was hard to deny the widespread British North American complaint of 1849 that the provinces were suffering the downside of the new economic order with little chance of getting any of the benefits. For Canada and New Brunswick in particular, the pressing need was to secure Free Trade not with Britain but with the United States.

For Britain, the shift to Free Trade marked the decisive recognition of the centrality of the country's industrial base. Across the Irish Sea, the subsistence level of the agrarian economy was caught in the disaster of the Famine. Ireland had come through 1848 largely unscathed: deprivation and injustice may provoke revolution, but not starvation. The sole attempt to spark an uprising, which fizzled out in the depths of Tipperary, was largely the work of middle-class intellectuals from Dublin: the leading spirit was arrested at a local railway station as he tried to catch a train back. It was quiescence rather than militancy that constituted the chief Irish contribution to British North America: attempts to build a combined French-Irish revolutionary front were failures. Quasi-refugee immigration brought cholera, and in Canada cholera was a major force behind state-building. However, the Famine was not responsible for creating wholly new Irish exile communities, as was largely the case in so many American cities. Enough Irish Catholics arrived to ensure that within a decade, every British North America province skated on the abyss of sectarian confrontation; enough Irish Protestants came too to keep Orange memories alive. It was probably fortunate that Irish immigration to British North America virtually ceased for several decades after 1855. Visible, or at least audible, minorities are more easily absorbed if host communities can feel reassured that the floodgates have been closed. More to the point, the relative social peace that descended upon Saint John a decade after 1849 has been attributed not simply to the decline in Irish Catholic immigration but to the more basic fact that the Orangemen were the victors.18 It is symbolic that it should have been two individual Irishmen who proved to be perhaps the most notable acquisitions that British North America received from the Famine crisis. Timothy Anglin arrived in Saint John from County Cork in 1849; D'Arcy McGee had fled Ireland a year earlier but did not settle in Montreal until 1857, after an exile in the United States that had dented his enthusiasm for republics. Both were to be casually denounced as rebels, in their lifetimes and by some historians since.19 This was almost certainly unfair to Anglin, although less so to McGee, who did his best to find a revolution to join in 1848. In fact, both bought more subtle baggage with them. Anglin equated New Brunswick with the autonomous Ireland that O'Connell sought to achieve in his Repeal movement; McGee transferred to his adopted country the 1848 vision of a nationality that would transcend faction and creed. Hence the first opposed Confederation, while the second was its oratorical prophet.

The last but in some respects most towering contextual element for 1849 in British North America was a Europe moving to the exhausted conclusion of eighteen months of revolutions. The Second French Republic had been proclaimed in February 1848, but by the end of the year the election of Louis Napoleon as its President suggested some likelihood of a reaction. The Frankfort Assembly of May 1848 had triggered instability across Germany, and revolts had broken out among Hungarians and Slavs in July. The year of revolutions was no respecter of the calendar. February 1849 saw the proclamation of the Roman Republic, but this proved to be the high tide. By August the Italian revolution was collapsing, and by September Austrian and Prussian troops were suppressing its German counterpart. Overall, perhaps the most striking impact of 1848 in Europe upon 1849 across the Atlantic was its calming effect. In context, LaFontaine and Baldwin seemed positively conventional when compared with Lamartine and Mazzini. Street disturbances in Montreal and Saint John were a poor copy of insurrectionary Paris. Few Canadians shared Papineau's enthusiasm for continental revolution. Indeed, Ignace Bourget was confirmed into a pattern of thirty years of stark conservatism through his sympathy for the ousted Pope Pius IX.20

As already noted, a year can be regarded as historically important through two very different perspectives, one which views it on a "newsreel" basis, the other that seeks to identify "turning points". Neither is fully satisfactory: the first may include many events that transpired more or less accidentally from which it would be unwise to construct an overarching pattern, while the second may only become apparent in long retrospect. Some events may elude both approaches. Thus in January 1849, the Canadian parliament became officially bilingual, in the sense of abandoning the restrictions that the Union Act had placed upon the use of French. In terms of pious symbolism, Lord Elgin's decision to repeat his speech from the throne in the purest of Parisian accents was a great Canadian landmark, one that left the veteran Denis-Benjamin Viger in tears.21 Yet this is not to say that Canada, and still less Canadians, became entirely bilingual, either then or subsequently. Lower Canadian representatives had ignored the prohibition when they wished to champion French rights, while Quebec politicians for long after opted to speak in English if they had something of national importance to say.

To some extent, the 1849 newsreel is packed with events simply because Canada had recently acquired a strong reform-minded cabinet after several years of administrations rendered insecure by constitutional squabbling. 1849 stands out in retrospect as the year of the legislation that created the Upper Canada municipal system and set the foundation for the University of Toronto. The establishment of the local government structure of modern Ontario can certainly be viewed as an important step in the creation of state structures, although it was not to be rapidly replicated in other parts of British North America. However, surely somebody, some time, was going to place Upper Canada's system of local government on a serious footing. We should not make too much of the fact that legislation happened to come in the first enthusiasm of a reforming ministry, not least because crucial issues of municipal finance, especially the power to borrow money, remained to bedevil the next generation. Much the same reservations can be made with regard to Baldwin's University Act. It aimed to solve not so much a question of educational policy as a larger issue of State neutrality towards rival denominations. Even so, the victory of the secularisers was to some extent rolled back by amending legislation in 1853.22 Reforming the infant University did little to change the prevalent frontier culture: just six years earlier, George Brown had decided to settle in Canada because "there is no position that a man of energy and character may not reasonably hope to attain" in a province containing "few persons of ability and education".23 A quarter of a century, one of Canada's first home-grown graduates, Edward Blake, had to wrestle with the inexplicable truth that even with a Master's degree, he had to play second fiddle in politics to a self-educated immigrant stonemason.

Yet even on a mere newsreel basis, a number of noteworthy episodes occurred in 1849. In Canada, spectacular riots against the Rebellion Losses Bill cost Montreal its status as the seat of government. There were also violent episodes in Ottawa, Toronto, Trois Rivières, on the Welland Canal and at Saint John.24 On the north shore of Lake Superior, native people were strong enough to block a mining venture at Michipicoton, although the Robinson Treaty, concluded in 1850 with 3,400 people across northern Ontario, showed just how fragile was the thin crust of aboriginal resistance.25 Further west, however, the almost equally small Métis community intimidated the courts in the Sayer case and effectively ended Hudson's Bay Company's control over the settlement.26 In two respects, 1849 was the first year in which it is possible to speak of British North America as a whole. On the west coast, settlement began at the southern tip Vancouver Island. Thousands of miles to the east, representatives of the newly installed self-governing local ministries met for the first official intercolonial meeting to discuss postal services.27

The Vancouver Island colony remained a fingerprint for at least a decade, so insecure that its governor actually entered into treaty agreements with local native people.28 The Halifax meeting was inconclusive, with local politicians showing little inclination to enlarge the sphere of their autonomy. Yet if the newsreel may exaggerate, the turning points are none the less discernible. The campaign against the Lower Canada Rebellion Losses Bill was extended to Britain, and taken up by no less a politician than Gladstone. Gladstone's motives were probably complex - they usually were - and almost certainly included a desire to attack Whiggish exclusivity, but the key point is that he failed. The House of Commons refused to demand imperial interference to ban a measure that was certainly open to the charge of compensating rebels for the consequences of their own treasonable activities. The forbearance of British legislators may have stemmed as much from cynicism as from a desire to uphold the principle of responsible government, but the fact was that abstention from meddling in Rebellion Losses more or less implied a permanent self-denying ordinance in the internal affairs of British North America. Of course there was an element of the accidental about all of this. Gladstone's cause was not helped by his poor handling of parliamentary tactics, and it certainly did not benefit from the even worse handling of Westminster's Montreal offshoot, burnt to the ground by the very people whose law-abiding loyalty Gladstone chose to vaunt.29 Moreover, in the House of Lords, which bizarrely permitted voting by proxy, the government escaped censure by just three votes thanks to a stroke of good fortune. Several peers had entrusted their proxies to the reactionary Earl of Lucan, who decided on the spur of the moment that a summer day was better passed by the sea at Brighton.30 Some might feel that Lucan's service to his country that day more than outweighed the subsequent disaster of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, for which he was personally blamed.

As might be expected in the light of a new constitutional system, 1849 saw the outlines of political groupings that would be influential in the years ahead. In Upper Canada, radicals disappointed by Baldwin's moderation were nicknamed "clear grits" by December.31 In the internal discourse of French Canada, LaFontaine is regarded as having marginalised Papineau, but the outlines of the Rouge faction are clearly discernible.32 The Rouges did not help their cause at the time by embracing the idea of annexation to the United States. But it was for the Annexation Movement, primarily among Montreal Tories, that perhaps above all 1849 stands out in the historical record. Never before and never again was the aim of continental union, not to mention the means of achieving it, to be discussed so widely among Canadians.33

Can we identify common elements in the 1849 story that may reassure us that its various newsreel clips and retrospective turning points represent something more than elaborate coincidence? One common apparent thread is violence. 1849 was notable for outbreaks of both interpersonal and communal violence. In the Canadian legislature, there were threats to duel between William Hume Blake and Allan MacNab. John A. Macdonald had to be bound over to keep the peace. Hector Langevin and Eric Dorion threw punches at one another on the streets of Montreal.34 Herbert Huntingdon struck Joseph Howe in the face on the floor of the Nova Scotian Assembly.35 Fashions changed and this type of physical violence between individuals became less prevalent in the years that followed.

Closely examined, the violent episodes do not conform to a single pattern. The Montreal riots and at the Sayer case at the Red River both involved the defiance of established authority. Yet these two examples differed: Montreal saw violent outbursts, while the Red River incident bore the character of a mass demonstration by a people in arms. In the Twelfth of July riots in Saint John, on the other hand, violence formed part of a manipulation of authority to enable one section of the community to ram home its superior status through the subordination of its foes. Although twelve people were killed when fighting broke out between Orange and Green, only two alleged combatants were convicted, both of them Catholics. Juries barely bothered to consider charges against Protestants, and one witness against an Orangemen was promptly charged with perjury.36

However, two elements seem to underlie the various outbreaks, social exclusivity and the fragility of state structures. Violent behaviour was fanned by intemperate language that reflected assumptions of superiority, in effect claims that one section of the population, usually (except at Red River) English-speaking and Protestant, represented the true community which retained the right to assert its supremacy through extra-legal forms. It was William Hume Blake's sneer in the Assembly that the Tories were the true rebels that goaded MacNab to fury, and sparked a brawl in the gallery. The governor-general could assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill if he pleased, observed the Montreal Courier, "but while there is an axe and a rifle on the frontier and Saxon hands to wield them to wield them there claims will not be paid".37 When rioters invaded the Assembly, one of them seized the Speaker's chair and announced that the "French parliament" was dissolved.38 In Saint John, Orange pretensions to legitimacy, expressed in a determination to march where they pleased, provoked counter-claims to at least symbolic local sovereignty. "Stay off our ground", protested the Irish Catholics of York Point.39

Such extra-legal assertions of exclusive social legitimacy were possible because of the inadequacy of state structures. "I confess I did not before know how thin is the crust of order which covers the anarchical elements that boil and toss beneath our feet", wrote Lord Elgin.40 Perhaps the most striking feature of the disturbances in Montreal was the fact that they continued intermittently for several months. Riots extended over about a week in April: Elgin was attacked for a second time and LaFontaine's house was gutted. There were renewed outbreaks in August when attempts were made to arrest some of those responsible for burning the parliament buildings. The accused were promptly bailed, and the mob reasserted its right to attack those whose pretensions to political equality it found objectionable, generally concluding their depredations by singing "God Save the Queen". This time LaFontaine's property was defended by force of arms. One rioter was shot dead, provoking an outcry that "this is Anglosaxon Blood shed by a French man". The near-anarchy of Montreal was essentially a problem of policing, although it did not help that the head of the city's fire brigade led the arsonists who sacked the parliament buildings. Elgin reported that this city of over 50,000 people was served by a constabulary numbering 72 men. He was able to collect another fifty mounted police, but regarded them as useless for street patrols unless supplemented by more foot police. The "real difficulty" was attitude of the "so called respectable classes", who preferred riot and ruin, "anything rather than the continuance of French domination".41 In Saint John, too, a problem of social violence was not simply one of the inadequacy of local policing, for that issue was in the process of being tackled. Rather the crucial question was who controlled such police as existed.42 If localities could not police themselves in a manner that was just to each community, the choice was between anarchy and military force. Troops were called out to patrol the streets of Montreal in 1849 as they had been invoked during the Metcalfe election five years earlier. In 1853, during the sectarian Gavazzi riots in Montreal, troops restored order with a volley of shots that left nine people dead. As late as 1861, they had to be called in to deal with election riots at Harbour Grace in Newfoundland as late as 1861. The precondition for the effective threat of civil uprising at the Red River in 1849 was the withdrawal of a regular British detachment and its replacement by a detachment of army pensioners who had no intention of getting involved. The undesirability of the Domesday option of military force, alternately useless and bloodthirsty, only underlines the slow development of effective civil policing.

It is probable that good fortune and the pressure of private business temporarily removed John A. Macdonald from Montreal at the time of the riots of April 1849, for he had proved just as outspoken in his assaults upon the Rebellion Losses Bill as his fellow Tories. However, one tradition has him "a silent spectator of a rueful scene", grimly pondering the consequences of intemperate political agitation.43 The chronology may be questioned, but there is a poetic truth about the larger political lesson. It would not be many years before Macdonald was urging a Montreal newspaper editor to "make friends with the French". Montreal anglophones might grumble that they "suffer occasionally from a Gavazzi riot or so", but the driving force behind such disturbances came not from French-Canadians but from the Irish, whom Macdonald regarded as an external nuisance. In any case, "you Anglo-Saxons are not bad hands at a riot yourselves".44 After 1849, inclusivity began to replace supremacism.

There would be a sectarian killing on the streets of Montreal as late as 1878, but organised political violence, designed to keep a subordinate community in its place, may have been exorcised by the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill. "Canada of 1867 is no more like Canada of 1837," remarked New Brunswick's Charles Fisher in 1867, "than the sun is like the moon in brightness."45 1849 was the Janus-year that looked in both directions, one of those rare moments that can be genuinely labelled as transitional. Symbolically, it was the year that Cartier and Galt, two of the great communal compromisers of the decades ahead, entered the legislature. To some extent, Canada may have been forced by the constraints of bicultural partnership to adopt policies of mutual toleration. The crusade for prohibition in New Brunswick and the Bible-in-Schools campaign in Prince Edward Island were both essentially Protestant attempts to enforce the primacy of their values upon Irish Papists. In the late eighteen-fifties, George Brown and Joseph Howe poured abuse upon their Catholic fellow-subjects, and each seemed surprise when the targets of their scorn showed themselves lacking in gratitude for the lessons so administered. But at least the assaults were verbal and not physical.

If 1849 is indeed Year One in a British North American history, it may be fitting that it should have been at its outer fringes, on the Red River, that the last vestiges of the conflictual mentality flared up twenty years later. In taking formal control of the Settlement, the Métis were drawing upon the legacy of the Sayer trial and asserting their exclusive right to control over their own space. In noisily repudiating their legitimacy, the Orangeman Thomas Scott was expressing an anglophone Protestant pretension that had been largely abandoned elsewhere in British North America. However violent the protests of 1849, we should not overlook the fact that legitimacy triumphed. Notwithstanding the riots in Montreal, the Rebellion Losses Bill passed into law and claims for wanton damage done in 1837 were indeed paid. Even on the Red River, the Company managed to secure a formal conviction against Sayer. Two decades later, legitimacy would eventually triumph again, Red River fashion, with the Settlement becoming the province of Manitoba, even if it had to enter Confederation over Scott's dead body.

In 1849, British North American state structures were still embryonic. Hodgetts, for instance, in a notable tabulation of the growth of the Canadian civil service, identifies 437 employees in 1842, 880 a decade later but no fewer than 2660 by the time of Confederation.46 One straw in the mind was the relative ease with which the seat of government, and its attendant bureaucracy, could be uprooted to punish turbulent Montreal: the Colonial Leviathan was to become amphibious as it moved between Toronto and Quebec in five-year migrations. Within a decade, this arrangement was becoming impossibly burdensome. None the less, 1849 provides some landmarks on the road to road to a modern philosophy of government involvement in people's welfare backed by bureaucracy enforcement. It was the year of the enquiry into the Kingston Penitentiary, an episode that triggered the feud between George Brown and John A. Macdonald.47 Egerton Ryerson failed to win his battle for centralised (that is to say, Ryersonian) control over the school system in 1849, although he achieved many of his aims through legislation a year later. But as Bruce Curtis has shown, the seeping flood of bureaucratisation is not necessarily to be measured by such landmarks. By 1849, district school inspectors were required to complete an annual report form that covered eighteen square feet of paper. Some found the task beyond them, and several qualified their returns with language such as "approximated" and "imagined". But five years earlier, some of the local officials whom they had replaced were said to have found difficulty trying to spell the word "school".48

If 1849 is Year One of British North American history in something more than exotic retrospect, it is not surprising that we can discern at least some contemporaries speculating about the future. That agenda was threefold: political, economic and technological.

In retrospect, the political discourse of 1849 appears to have been dominated by the issue of annexation to the United States. To some extent, the drama has obscured the contents of the discussion, which has resulted in some distortion of its historical significance. As a formal option, annexation did not surface until mid-September, when the New Brunswick ministry warned that "a stern necessity will ere long impel the Public mind to seek for relief by an incorporation with the neighbouring Republic". A month later, the Montreal Annexation Manifesto offered an unemotional analysis of Canada's woes that pointed in the same direction. The case for annexation, so Sir Edmund Head concluded, represented "nothing but the desire of access to the markets of the United States". The term "movement" exaggerates the coherence of a narrowly based lobby of Tory merchants and French radicals. Its rapid collapse obscured fundamental obstacles, such as the absence of any enabling mechanism in the American constitution and the reluctance of Washington politicians to complicate an already explosive sectional crisis. Indeed, by insisting that any transfer of sovereignty must require the agreement of the British government, the annexationists were virtually accepting the impossibility of their own proposal. Annnexationist speculation simply came at the wrong moment in history. Twenty years later, with the slavery issue resolved, Canada might well have benefited from directing its westward desires towards the success of Chicago rather than the gamble of Winnipeg. In practice, the collapse of annexation in 1849, not to mention the apparent absurdity of the sudden conversion of so many ultra-loyalists, ensured that it never again became a serious option on the political agenda north of the border. Forty years later, one embarrassed signatory of the Montreal manifesto explained away his youthful folly by likening the annexationists to an angry child that had lashed out at its nurse.49

The desperate flailing of Canada's Tories added another issue to the political agenda of 1849, the union of the provinces. There is something to be said for Elgin's jaundiced analysis of its adoption by the Kingston Convention in July as "a sort of compromise", floated with the insincere purpose of easing the path of reluctant loyalists from their British allegiance to their American destiny. It did not remain at the forefront of Tory thinking for long. Ore to the point, it reflected the last gasp of supremacist exclusionism, a device that draft in the Maritimers so that the French would be condemned to permanent minority status. From Halifax Joseph Howe blasted the chairman of the British American League. "We have no desire to form part of a nation, with a helot and inferior race within its bosom." Hector Langevin, who two years earlier had assured French Canadians they had nothing to fear from a union of the provinces, now fell silent on the issue. Attitudes towards Confederation would change in the years ahead - Howe's among them - but for John A. Macdonald at least, 1849 was the moment at which he first committed himself to the positive aim of "making this great country a great nation upon a solid and enduring basis".50 When the question of union reappeared after 1858, its emphasis was upon nation-building, not on the triumph of one group over another. The inconclusive intercolonial meeting on post office matters held at Halifax showed that Canadians and Maritimers needed a decade of local self-government to persuade them to start thinking about political integration. However, across the Atlantic, 1849 marked the moment at which the British embraced Confederation as their preferred long-term aim for the provinces. Their consensus represented not their superior wisdom but the entire superficiality of their thinking about British North America, but its very simplicity helped frame subsequent debates about Canada's destiny. It was a London cartographer who in 1850 produced a mirror image map of the newly transcontinental United States under the proud but largely novel title, "British North America".51

For most British North Americans in 1849, constitutional futures were subordinate to the economic present. The overwhelming demand, at least in Canada and New Brunswick, was for access to markets in the United States. Here, the demands of 1849 carried forward to complicate the colonial agenda for a quarter of a century. Pressure for a continental trade deal culminated in the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, by which time the need for economic integration was considerably reduced. It is virtually impossible to assess how far Reciprocity benefited the provinces, since the Treaty's twelve-year lifespan coincided with an economic roller-coaster: severe recession in 1857, wartime boom after 1861.52 The provinces survived the collapse of Reciprocity in 1866 but hopes of its renewal lingered for about a decade, until the transcontinental political axis of the new Dominion was translated into the National Policy. If we abandon the traditional 1867 vantage point of Colony-to-Nation history, and take out stand in 1849 instead, we begin to discern the curious dichotomy that dreamed of east-west political union and simultaneously hankered after a north-south trading zone.

One contributory reason for this confused legacy of 1849 may be found in the last main area of its collective agenda, that of technology.53 The most dramatic aspect of technological innovation was the railway, and in 1849 British North America consciously stood at the threshold of a new era of communications. Sir Allan MacNab started the process of shaking off his dinosaur tribalism by proclaiming that railroads were his politics; T.C. Keefer went a step further and elevated railways into a philosophy.54 Yet railways were only one manifestation of the steam engine that was about to make its impact upon British North American life on a large scale. In Saint John, sawyers encountered "the baneful antagonism of steam power" as in vain they denounced the "pernicious practice" of cutting planks by machine.55 The steam-powered press was another novelty whose impact would be far-reaching, but it was already evident that it could spit out printed sheets far faster than the old hand-turned machines. The Globe had invested in one as far back as 1844 and by 1849 it was appearing three times each week. By 1853, Toronto had two daily newspapers. Not merely did technology make possible more frequent editions of leading newspapers, but it also enhanced their authority.56 The rapid spread of the telegraph system added to the immediacy of news coverage. 1849 was a landmark in this, too, since it was the year in which Halifax was connected to the continental system. In the eighteen-fifties, railways would help the aggressively entrepreneurial Globe to consolidate its dominance - and, by extension, the ascendancy of Toronto - over much of Upper Canada. Of course that was one of the foreseeable by-products of the railway revolution that explained why Toronto business interests were so keen on the new means of transportation. Yet, despite confident expectations, railways in Canada did not simply replicate the impact of railways in Britain that they were intended to emulate. In Britain, with its compact geography and crowded population, railways brushed aside the limited capacity of the canal system to compete. On the wide open waters of thinly populated British North America, the steamboat fought back against the steam train. The empire of the St Lawrence could recover from the crisis of 1849 by building successful railways but it would never find a way of making them profitable.57

The suggestion that 1849 might be regarded as Year One in the modern history of Canada is perhaps best regarded as an analytical tool rather than the tenet of a new religion. Pattern-making is an engaging historical diversion, but it does not follow that it is right to integrate events merely because they were contemporaneous, to take for granted that there is a common thread linking rioting Orangemen in New Brunswick with protesting Métis at the Red River. Some of the events that fell within the confines of 1849 were at best coincidences triggered by the obstacles of distance and time: the settlement of Vancouver Island is one such example. Highlighting 1849 dramatises the tactical clash between Papineau and LaFontaine, but it may not say much else about French Canada. Out in the Atlantic, Newfoundland seems to stand aloof from the analysis altogether. Perhaps we forty-niners are falling into the Laurentian trap and thinking of Canadian history as a Tale of Two Cities,58 embracing a pattern that essentially fits Montreal and Toronto, with the usual noises-off as a token representation of the rest of British North America.

For one of those cities that so often sit in the wings of central-Canadian history, 1849 was something much more than Year One. On the eighth of June, Halifax celebrated the centenary of its founding in 1749, and it took much less than a one-hundredth birthday or Joseph Howe to break into verse:59

Then hail to the day! 'tis with memories crowded,

Delightful to trace through the mists of the past;

Like the features of beauty, bewitchingly shrouded,

They shine through the shadows time o'er them has cast.

A century and a half later, perhaps Joe Howe's doggerel can guide us back through the mists of the past to slice through time, peer through a shrouded window and assess the turning points of a crowded year.


1. Martin Gilbert, 'Never Despair': Winston S. Churchill 1945-1965 (London, 1988), p. 1137.

2. G.J. Whitrow, Time In History (Oxford, 1989 ed.), pp. 65-67, 116-120.

3. Robert Poole, "'Give Us Back Our Eleven days!': Calendar Reform in Eighteenth Century England", Past and Present, 149, 1995, pp. 95-139.

4. Chapter 3 of the History of England is reprinted in J. Clive and T. Pinney, eds, Thomas Babington Macaulay: Selected Writings (Chicago, 1972), pp. 257-339.

5. Elie Halévy, England in 1815 (trs. E.I. Watkin and D.A. Barker, London, 1924).

6. Beatrice Kevitt Hoftsadter, "Preface" in Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait (New York, 1973 ed.), p. ix.

7. Peter B. Waite, Canada 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny (Toronto, 1971), pp. xi, 1-12.

8. R.Craig Brown and Ramsay Cook, Canada 1891-1921: A Nation Transformed (Toronto, 1974), pp. 294-338.

9. Graeme Wynn, Timber Colony: A Historical Geography of Early Nineteenth Century New Brunswick (Toronto, 1981), pp. 11-25, 150-168.

10. P. Appleman, W.A. Madden and M. Wolff, eds, 1859: Entering an Age of Crisis (Bloomington, Ind., 1959), pp. 13, 60.

11. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xii, p. 234.

12. Ged Martin, Canadian History: A Play in Two Acts? (Edinburgh, 1997).

13. K.S. Inglis, "Australia 1788-1988: A Note on Proposed Approaches", The Push from the Bush; A Bulletin of Social History Devoted to the Year of Grace 1838 (Nedlands, WA), i, 1978, pp. 4-9.

14. J.M.S. Careless, The Union of the Canadas: The Growth of Canadian Institutions 1841-1857 (Toronto, 1968), p. 150; W.S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society 1712-1857 (Toronto, 1965), p. 214. Native populations across the future four western provinces of Canada are estimated to have been approximately 130,000 in 1800. J.S. Milloy, The Plains Cree: Trade, Diplomacy and War, 1790 to 1870 (Winnipeg, 1988), pp. 70-75; J. Berman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia (Toronto, 1991), p. 14.

15. F. Ouellet, Economic and Social History of Quebec 1760-1850 (Ottawa, 1980 ed.), p. 659.

16. The Globe (London), 16 May 1849, pointing to "the excessive smallness of the scale of the theatre".

17. David Thomson, Europe Since Napoleon (2nd ed., London, 1962), p. 206.

18. Scott W. See, Riots in New Brunswick: Orange Nativism and Social Violence in the 1840s (Toronto, 1993), pp. 162-182.

19. W.S. MacNutt, New Brunswick A History: 1784-1867 (Toronto, 1984 ed.), p. 378 (for Anglin); Donald Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867 (Toronto, 1964), p. 59 (for McGee).

20. Dictionary of Canadian Biography, xi, p. 98.

21. Jacques Monet, The Last Cannon Shot: A Study of French Canadian Nationalism 1837-1850 (Toronto, 1969), p. 328.

22. A.B. McKillop, Matters of the Mind: The University in Ontario 1791-1851 (Toronto, 1994), pp. 20-28.

23. J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe: i, The Voice of Upper Canada 1818-1859 (Toronto, 1959), p. 22.

24. M.S. Cross, "Stony Monday, 1849: The Rebellion Losses Riots in Bytown", Ontario History, 63, 1971, pp. 177-190.

25. Olive P. Dickason, Canada's First Nations: A History of the First Peoples from Earliest Times (Toronto, 1992), pp. 253-255; J.R. Miller, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada (Toronto, 1989), pp. 108-109.

26. Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto, 1984), pp. 100-101.

27. Ged Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation (Vancouver, 1995), p. 211.

28. J.I. Little, "The Foundations of Government" in Hugh J.M. Johnston, ed., The Pacific Province: A History of British Columbia (Vancouver, 1996), p. 79. Sir George Simpson was "surprised" that James Douglas planned so large "an annual emigration as about 100 souls": J.S. Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor 1821-1869 (New York, 1977 ed.,), p. 295. It was not until the goldrush of 1858 that the settler population of modern British Columbia passed the thousand mark. Sharon Meen, "Colonial Society and Economy", in Johnston, ed, The Pacific Province, pp. 97-99.

29. Ged Martin, "The Canadian Rebellion Losses Bill of 1849 in British Politics", Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 6, 1977, pp. 3-22.

30. E.C. Collieu, "Lord Brougham and the Conservatives" in H.R. Trevor-Roper, ed., Essays in British History (London, 1965), pp. 212-213.

31. Careless, Brown of the Globe, i, p. 337.

32. Monet, Last Cannon Shot, pp. 311-313.

33. For the Montreal Annexation Manifesto, H.E. Egerton and W.L. Grant, eds, Canadian Constitutional Development (London, 1907), pp. 335-343; S.F. Wise, "The Annexation Movement and its Effects on Canadian Opinion" in S.F. Wise and R.C. Brown, Canada Views the United States: Nineteenth-Century Political Attitudes (Toronto, 1972 ed.), pp. 44-97. In his Reminiscences (Toronto, 1912), p. 26, Sir Richard Cartwright claimed that annexationist sentiment was widespread in Upper Canada during the 1850s.

34. Donald Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician (Toronto, 1952), pp. 137-138; Donald R. Beer, Sir Allan Napier MacNab (Hamilton, 1984), pp. 251-252; Monet, Last Cannon Shot, p. 357.

35. J.M. Beck, Joseph Howe: ii, The Briton Becomes Canadian 1848-1873 (Kingston, 1983), pp. 20-21. Huntington was persuaded to join the ministry and serve alongside Howe soon afterwards.

36. See, Riots in New Brunswick, pp. 172-174.

37. Careless, Union of the Canadas, p. 125.

38. J.E. Collins, Life and Times of the Right Honourable Sir John A Macdonald, Premier of the Dominion of Canada (Toronto, 1883), p. 128.

39. See, Riots in New Brunswick, p. 166.

40. Elgin to Grey, private. 30 April 1849, in A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers 1846-1852 (4 vols, Ottawa, 1937), i, p. 350.

41. Elgin to Grey, 30 April 1849; Elgin to Grey, private, 20 August 1849, in Doughty, ed., Elgin-Grey Papers, iv, p. 1462, ii, pp. 449-450.

42. T.W. Acheson, Saint John: The Making of a Colonial Urban Community (Toronto, 1985), p. 227.

43. E.B. Biggar, An Anecdotal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald (Montreal, 1891), pp. 67-68.

44. J.K. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald 1836-1857 (Ottawa, 1968), p. 338.

45. Canadian News (London), 10 January 1867, p. 27.

46. J.E. Hodgetts, Pioneer Public Service: The Administrative History of the United Canadas, 1841-1867 (Toronto, 1955), p. 36. See also Alan Greer and Ian Radforth, eds, Colonial Leviathan: State Formation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Canada (Toronto, 1992).

47. Careless, Brown of the Globe, i, pp. 78-87.

48. Bruce Curtis, True Government by Choice Men? Inspection, Education, and State Formation in Canada West (Toronto, 1992), esp. pp. 127, 190. For Ryerson's case, A.L. Prentice and S.E. Houston, eds, Family School & Society in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto, 1975), pp. 78-83.

49. D.G.G. Kerr, Sir Edmund Head: The Scholarly Governor (Toronto, 1954), pp. 2-53.

50. Elgin-Grey Papers, i, pp. 440-444. Howe's letter to George Moffat (8 May 1849), is in J.A. Chisholm, ed., The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe (2 vols, Halifax, 19090), ii, p. 26.

51. For the origins of the term British North America, Ged Martin "British North America from 1815" in Andrew Porter, ed., The Oxford History of the British Empire, iii: The Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1999), pp. 523-525.

52. D.C. Masters, The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Toronto, 1963 ed.), pp. 103-129; S.A. Saunders, "The Maritime Provinces and the Reciprocity Treaty" in G.A. Rawlyk, ed., Historical Essays on the Atlantic Provinces (Toronto, 1967), pp. 161-178. A more recent authoritative study barely mentions the Reciprocity Treaty as a factor in the growth of Upper Canada: Douglas McCalla, Planting the Province: The Economic History of Upper Canada 1784-1870 (Toronto, 1993).

53. But 1849 was not an especially notable year for Canadian science. Suzanne Zeller, Inventing Canada: Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a Transcontinental Nation (Toronto, 1987).

54. Beer, MacNab, pp. 275-276 (speech of 24 June 1851, but Beer makes clear that the attitude was implicit in MacNab's politics as early as 1849). There was a reprint of Keefer's Philosophy of Railways and Other Essays (ed. H.V. Nelles, Toronto, 1972). For a recent discussion, A.A. den Otter, "The Philosophy of Railroads": The Transcontinental Ideal in British North America (Toronto, 1997), pp. 33-38.

55. Quoted, Wynn, Timber Colony, p. 154.

56. Paul Rutherford, A Victorian Authority: The Daily Press in Late Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto, 1982), pp. 40-41; Careless, Brown of the Globe, i, pp. 176-177.

57. A.W. Currie, The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada (Toronto, 1957).

58. Inconveniently, Dickens did not get around to writing The Tale of Two Cities for another decade. But 1849 did see the birth of Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, complete with his philosophy that "something would turn up".

59. Quoted Chisholm, ed., Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, ii, p. 30.

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