THE IDEA OF BRITISH NORTH AMERICAN UNION 1854-1864
Late in 1864, conferences at Charlottetown and Quebec designed an outline union of the British North American provinces. ‘Confederation’, as it was termed, took effect in July 1867 through Westminster legislation, the British North America Act. The original dominion comprised four provinces, of which two, Ontario and Quebec, emerged in 1867 out of the former province of Canada. Upper and Lower Canada had been united by the British in 1841, but the two sections maintained different codes of civil law and were allocated equal representation in the Assembly. As Upper Canada grew faster than Lower Canada, so it demanded representation by population. By 1861, Upper Canada contained 1.4 million people, Lower Canada 1.1 million, of whom about 900,000 were francophones. Two Maritime [sometimes ‘Lower’] provinces were also founder members: Nova Scotia, with 330,000 people, and New Brunswick, with around 250,000. The small island colonies, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland remained aloof.
It is a generalisation to talk of a single interlocking explanation among English-Canadian historians, but accounts of the coming of Confederation in older textbooks tend to emphasise the circumstances of 1864. ‘Rep. by pop.’ made it necessary to restructure the province of Canada. The American Civil War pointed to a political union for defence against the United States. A railway was required linking Quebec to Halifax, and there was pressure to take over the Hudson’s Bay Company Territories and expand westward. Closely examined, these arguments were not always persuasive. Would Maritimers wish to join those quarrelsome Canadians? Defence was a British responsibility. 1864 was hardly a good moment to risk antagonising the Americans. But the interlocking explanation that derived the idea of Confederation from the circumstances of 1864 chimed with English-Canadian nationalist assumptions. History had decreed that Canada should grow into an east-west union independent of the United States, with Quebec forming part of a pan-Canadian federation.
However, it is pleasant to cite visionary prophets, and the textbooks acknowledged some earlier proposals for the union of the provinces, tracing a prehistory back to 1784. Two stood out. In 1839, Lord Durham had recommended uniting Upper and Lower Canada, but argued that the union should eventually incorporate the whole of British North America. Ten years later, the short-lived British American League had made a similar call. Both schemes aimed to relegate French Canadians into permanent minority status. Historians also found it useful to contrast the successful movement of 1864 with a more recent but stalled initiative undertaken by a Conservative ministry in Canada in 1858. The 1858 episode formed a control experiment that highlighted the unique circumstances of six years later.
My work on Canadian Confederation approached the idea from its imperial dimension, arguing that by about 1850, the British political elite agreed that a union of the provinces was the best way forward. However, two elements in British attitudes may not have appealed across the Atlantic. First, the British saw their North American provinces as a bulwark against the military and ideological challenge of the United States. Colonials could be forgiven if they less keen on this idea. Second, knowing little about the provinces, the British elite and underestimated the problems of internal distance, whereas their inhabitants were very much aware of the difficulties of travel.
While there was undoubtedly far more discussion of the idea in the decade before 1864 than is recognised in ‘the miracle of union’ explanation, there is some danger of exaggerating its intensity. The arrival of the steam printing press in the mid-1850s caused an explosion of newspaper publishing: by 1865, the province of Canada had 28 daily papers. It was also a golden age for pamphleteering and speech-making. Nova Scotian political oratory had its roots in the declamatory tradition of eighteenth-century America. Joseph Howe’s 1854 speech contained about 16,000 words, including the claim that the Nova Scotian militia was twice the size of the English army at the battle of Crécy. Thus it is not surprising that there was discussion of British North American union, and much else. Impact is hard to trace. The handful of politicians -- Galt, Morris, McGee -- who later vaunted their roles as intellectual pioneers usually rested their claims on very few speeches. It is also difficult to trace linkages spanning provinces or the French-English divide.
Arguments about intercolonial union were not advanced in a void. In Canada, they were closely linked to ‘rep. by pop.’, and another solution to sectional conflict, the ‘double majority’, by which major legislation required majority support from both Upper and Lower Canada. Political union was usually discussed in relation to the practical question of constructing a railway from Canada to the Atlantic seaboard. Nor should we ignore the proximity of events in the United States, most notably the Civil War which undoubtedly explains the paucity of discussion between 1860 and 1864 --although not why quasi-federal union schemes erupted again in 1864. Few British Americans favoured annexation, but many recognised that the Americans might some day force the issue upon them.
Several underlying issues had the potential to divide enthusiasts. The most basic was the choice between United States-style federation and a legislative union on United Kingdom lines. It seems that the use of the term ‘Confederation’ helped smudge over the differences, with centralisers accepting that internal devolution would be necessary. Similarly, potential conflict between those who saw union as a step towards independence, and those who sought reinforcement of imperial link was blunted by relegating such developments to the longer term.
Lastly, we should note two chicken-and-egg conundrums underlying the debate. The first related to the intercolonial railway: was a railway from Halifax to Quebec the essential precondition for a political union or was its construction dependent upon the creation of a central political authority? The second poses Massimo d’Azeglio against Benedict Anderson. After the Risorgimento, d’Azeglio memorably remarked that having created Italy, they must now create Italians. The political scientist Benedict Anderson reverses the relationship: nations, he argues, are fundamentally ‘imagined communities’ that grow out of shared communal mentalities. But a major argument for union in British North America was the need to overcome the lack of contact between the various provinces. With two different language groups, it was difficult to conceptualise common identity in personal terms. Calls for ‘nationality’ represent a major theme, but it is hard to decode their meaning.
But was there a ‘debate’ at all? When the Canadian Assembly discussed the scheme in February 1865, Christopher Dunkin reviewed political controversy since 1859 and commented: ‘we quarrelled and fought about almost everything, but did not waste a thought or a word upon this gigantic question of the confederation of these provinces.’
Certainly the ‘debate’ was sufficiently disjointed to permit an apparently arbitrary decision about periodisation. I choose to start with a speech by J. W. Johnston, premier of Nova Scotia, in 1854. Although his oration had no obvious effect, it is an appropriate starting point because of its links with two previous examples from the prehistory of proposals for a union of the provinces. Johnston had been a Nova Scotia delegate to an abortive conference on the subject convened by Lord Durham at Quebec in 1839. As a Conservative, Johnston also linked his ideas directly to the British American League of ten years later. Conscious that his political career was approaching its close, he saw (in modern terminology) British American union as his ‘legacy issue’.
Johnston combined a conventional ‘union is strength’ case with updated allusion to the circumstances of the 1850s. Railways and telegraphs were overcoming inherent the challenge of internal distance. Canada needed winter ports on the Atlantic seaboard, while Nova Scotia needed a hinterland. United, the provinces could look to an impressive future, to include westward expansion to the Pacific. Johnston feared ‘gradual absorption’ by the United States, arguing that it was better to unite in advance of a continental crisis. In 1854, negotiations were about to start, under British auspices, for a trade treaty with the United States. Johnston argued that a union of the provinces would enable Nova Scotia to defend its inshore fisheries, a resource to which the Americans demanded access, and a bargaining pawn that others might too easily surrender.
Johnston used two arguments not shared by other enthusiasts. First, he argued that the history of the province of Canada proved that there was no obstacle to political partnership between French- and English-speaking colonists. This ran counter to arguments advanced within Canada itself which were generally based on the need to create increased an increased measure of federal space between the two language communities. Secondly, he attributed the growth and prosperity of the United States to its federal system, a point that would be flatly denied by another Nova Scotian, P.S. Hamilton. However, as heir to the Tory tradition, Johnston favoured a legislative union, although he also saw the need for ‘a mature and perfect system of Municipal Corporations’, the germ of the compromise that would characterise the Canadian federal solution of 1867. His emphasis upon a strong central government was in line with his hope that ‘[a] wider field would give greater scope to the aspiring, and larger and perhaps more generous influences would be required for success.’ A broader and less poisonous political culture would help colonists to transcend the limitations of their status, and rise to ‘at least a quasi nationality.’
Not to be outdone, the opposition leader Joseph Howe contributed an even larger oration in support of his favourite scheme, the integration of the colonies with Britain through parliamentary representation at Westminster. Although claiming to recognise ‘great advantages arising from a union of these colonies’, he also saw difficulties, such as the choice of a capital city, the cost of Canada’s large debt, and the probable resistance of French Canada. He challenged Johnston’s argument that Nova Scotia would be able to defend its interests in continental trade negotiations. ‘It is just probable that the farmers of Western Canada [i.e. modern Ontario] in their anxiety to get their wheat into the United States might throw our fisheries overboard.’ While accepting that centralisation would create ‘a strong executive’, he saw warning in the internal strains in the United Kingdom. ‘What has been the complaint of Ireland for years? That there was no Parliament at College Green. Of Scotland at this moment? That there is no Parliament at Holyrood.’ Howe’s allusion to Scotland was perhaps a muddled recollection of the Disruption a decade earlier: his allusion to Holyrood seems eerily prophetic. Fundamentally, Howe thought the idea premature: ‘before we can have this organization or any other, we must have railroads.’ Once the provinces were criss-crossed by railways, union would quickly follow.
‘The smallest interest felt in each other by the Colonies would be almost incredible to strangers’, Johnston had said. His point was borne out by the apparent total absence of discussion of the Nova Scotian debate in other provinces, where it seems that it was not even reported.
The following year saw the first of a series of pamphlets by the Nova Scotian P.S. Hamilton. In 1864 he would look back on these early days when he was an ‘eccentric theorist’ whose advocacy of intercolonial union was ‘laughed at as the scheme of a visionary.’ Unfortunately, the jibe seems to have been well-founded. Hamilton was dogmatic, and inclined to drag irrelevant enthusiasms into his diatribes. Although tireless in circulating his publications among to leading figures in both Britain and the provinces, even travelling to Canada to lobby its politicians, he can hardly have persuaded many of them of the soundness of his judgement. He was a memorable phrase-maker, but his command of language suborned him into a hey-presto! dismissal of problems. No political movement,’ he said of legislative union, ‘…could be more simple.’
In 1855, he claimed that the idea of union had been ‘extensively discussed by the provincial press, and by the people, at their own fire-sides’, proof of a ‘craving after nationality’. ‘To be a British American, means nothing in the world’s estimation; to be a Canadian, a New Brunswicker, or a Nova Scotian, is to be just the next thing to nothing.’ Union would inspire politicians ‘with a higher and nobler aim,’ and would ensure the completion of the railway connection that Howe saw as a prerequisite.
Almost half of Hamilton’s 1855 pamphlet was taken up with arguing for legislative union against federation, often using arguments that other writers used against any form of union. He argued that a federal division of powers was impracticable, especially since the colonies did not control their own external relations. A weak federal legislature would be irrelevant. Local interests would play off the two levels of government, bringing the system into disrepute. A federation with a strong central authority would quickly reduce the local governments to ‘mere shadows’ and so prove a mere transition stage to complete fusion. John A. Macdonald entertained similar views, and even used identical terminology.
Students of the ‘Charter’ culture of post-1982 Canada may take wry note of his dismissal of a Supreme Court as the arbiter of a federation. Such a body could not ‘possess the power to enforce its own decrees’ on the governor-general, or the central or local governments. Worse still, if it could do so, ‘it would be ‘a fourth, independent ruling power over the people of British America; and … would make still more complicated the complication of difficulties already existing’.
However, Hamilton, like Johnston, saw the need for administrative devolution. ‘The principle of Municipal Corporations … furnishes ample security against any abuses of the centralization system.’ He envisaged ‘a Confederation, not of five Provinces, but of some 140 counties and cities’ in which ‘no one of these Municipalities, however perfectly organized, could ever become dangerous, or even very troublesome, as a rebel against the authority of the general Government, a statement which certainly could not be predicated of any province, under a continuance of its present, political organization.’ Dismissing the American model, Hamilton insisted that the United States was prosperous despite its federal constitution. Three-quarters of a century did not constitute a fair trial.
‘Only two objections have ever been publicly made to a Legislative Union of these Provinces,’ he pronounced, ‘and they are so nearly groundless as scarcely to require any serious answer.’ The first was the difficulty of combining English- and French-speaking people in a single polity. Like Johnston, he appealed to the ‘complete success’ of the Canadian Union, despite being a ‘political union of the two most antagonistic races in British America’. In any case, he added, in an argument that would not appeal to francophones, a major aim of political union was ‘a complete breaking down of all local prejudices, and a fusion of races, throughout the Provinces.’ As for the second argument, internal distance, the far west of Upper Canada was further from the seat of government in Quebec City than Nova Scotia. Railways would annihilate distance, and union would speed up railway construction.
By 1856, there are faint indications that the subject was implanted deep in Canadian political consciousness. In March, the subject was raised in the Legislative Council. James Crooks had lived in Canada since 1794 ‘and had observed great changes’ which led him to conclude that the union of the provinces ‘could not be long delayed.’ For a man approaching his 78th birthday, it was perhaps hazardous to argue that it was ‘necessary to infuse new blood into the province.’ A veteran of the battle of Queenston Heights in 1812, he stressed the need for defence. This drew an irritable reply from the premier, Sir Etienne Taché, who called the proposal ‘ill-timed, and uncalled for’. Apparently speaking in franglais, Taché said: ‘Constitutions political were not things to be put on and put off like a suit of clothes.’ None of the provinces was agitating for a union, while Canada was flourishing. As for improving defence, ‘a union with the other Provinces would give us no help even if we were in danger. Before we could reach them or they us, we must have a railway, and until then to talk of a political alliance was, to say the least, to lose time.’ Crooks failed to find a seconder. An attempt by the eccentric politician Arthur Rankin to raise the issue in the Assembly was discouraged by John A. Macdonald as ‘premature.’ Eight years later, Etienne Taché would preside over the coalition ministry that launched the Confederation project.
A revealing indication of the Canadian political sub-conscious surfaced in a leading article in the Toronto Globe, in April 1856, rejecting call for annexation made by a New York newspaper:
Should the time come when the present relation of England and her American Provinces would cease to exist, it is not only probable, but morally certain, that instead of seeking annexation to the States and becoming entangled in the distractions and endless controversies which the American constitution has engendered, a confederacy of all the Provinces would be cemented, and then a great northern power would be formed, while the anarchical principles that are everywhere rending the state of society in the Union, would be excluded.
But the subject was not mentioned in other leaders that year in which the Globe campaigned to open up the Hudson’s Bay territories west of the Great Lakes. In August a Toronto debating society discussed British North American union. Sometime that year, the Rouge (Liberal) politician, A-A. Dorion, suggested a federation of Upper and Lower Canada as a way out of the ‘rep. by pop.’ controversy. Rankin had seen the federalising of the province of Canada as a step towards a wider union, a course that Dorion consistently rejected. From 1856 onwards, the two solutions -- Canadian federation and British North American union -- sometimes competed and occasionally overlapped.
There are similar traces in 1857 suggesting that British North American union was lurking at the back of the political mind. Canada’s cities were bidding to Queen Victoria to become the province’s permanent capital, a process that encouraged a kitchen-sink approach. Quebec City dragged in the union of the provinces, ‘a measure which will ultimately become necessary’, and would make Quebec ‘the most central city of British America.’ Ottawa made a similar claim.
A new arrival in Canada that year was quickly converted to the idea of intercolonial union. D’Arcy McGee was a former Irish rebel who had found the United States uncongenial. He aimed to build a political career by linking Irish-Catholic votes to Montreal business interests. McGee transmuted his Young Irelander faith in Catholic-Protestant partnership into a vision of British North American nationality, contributing an inspirational aspect to Montreal’s ambitions for railways. P.S. Hamilton claimed McGee as a convert.
Another Nova Scotian influence upon Canadian political debate from 1857 is important but hard to document. That summer, the provinces sent delegations to England to lobby for British-guaranteed loan funding for the Halifax to Quebec railway project. The Nova Scotian premier, J.W. Johnston, tacked the union of the provinces on to the negotiating agenda. The talks were fruitless, but they provided a rare opportunity for contact between politicians from the different provinces. It was probably at this time that the Canadians, led by John A. Macdonald, became aware of Nova Scotian interest in a possible union.
The intellectual event of 1857, although hardly noticed at the time, was the series of newspaper articles in support of a British North American federation by Joseph-Charles Taché, which appeared in book form early in 1858. Taché was a former Bleu (conservative) politician and a nephew of Etienne Taché. His articles were important in arguing a specifically French-Canadian case. An Ultramontane Catholic who stressed the twin principles of authority and obedience, he rejected both the society and the expansionist threat of the United States. Naturally, he opposed outright legislative union, the project so often designed to suppress francophone identity, and dismissed any thought of closer integration with Great Britain. But while he believed British North American independence to be inevitable, he was happy to postpone the break with Britain for as long as possible. Federation would ease the eventual transition to complete independence. The Maritime provinces were too small to stand alone, while Canada needed a winter outlet on the Atlantic. Although Taché resented the forced union of Upper and Lower Canada, he acknowledged that it had contributed to the prosperity of the province, for instance by creating the investment base capable of completing the St Lawrence canal system. A wider union would bring railways to the sluggish Maritimes. Taché argued for as loose a federation as would be compatible with creating a barrier against the United States. Material interests -- such as trade, customs, major public works, post office, militia and criminal justice -- would be handled centrally. The moral sphere (such as family and property issues) would be provincial responsibilities.
Although Taché noted Rankin’s abortive resolutions, his own influence is harder to assess: in July 1858, his newspaper commented that it was discouraging to talk to the deaf. However, Cartier and other Bleu politicians embraced British American union as a policy option the following month. Both Alexander Morris and A.T. Galt, who publicly argued for the union of the provinces in 1858, were Lower Canada Britishers, and Morris at least was fluent in French.
The province of Canada passed through hotly contested elections in midwinter 1857-58. Seven years later, Dunkin recalled that ‘no one at that time spoke of or cared for this magnificent idea of the union of the provinces’. The elections had resulted in a sectional confrontation between Upper and Lower Canadian, and some politicians sought a way out. Luther Holton, a Montreal politician and businessman, urged George Brown, the Upper Canada Reform leader, that the province could be reshaped into quasi-federal union. Brown was initially sceptical. ‘A federal union, it seems to me, cannot be entertained for Canada alone but when agitated must include all British America. We will be past caring for politics when that venture is finally achieved.’ Brown was certainly reluctant to do anything to advance the prospect. In February, his newspaper, the Toronto Globe, was outraged when the publication of the report of the Nova Scotian delegation to Britain revealed that its mandate had included a reference to ‘a Union of the British North American Provinces! Who authorized Mr Macdonald in the name of, and on behalf of, the people of Canada to proceed on such an embassy?’
In March 1858, Alexander Morris delivered what became celebrated as his Nova Britannia lecture in Montreal. The text was published, and reportedly 3,000 copies were sold in ten days. Morris was a bookish child from an elite Scots family. ‘At an age when most boys are to be found at the skating rink or in the cricket field, he loved to bury himself in the pages of “Lord Durham’s Report”’ and to read about the Hudson’s Bay Territories. In 1849, aged 23, he had attended the British American League Convention in Kingston. His friends joked ‘that he had Confederation and the Hudson’s Bay Territories on the brain.’
His lecture was less a specific proposal than a ‘fanciful dream’ of a future transcontinental British North America. He began with extensive facts and figures about the provinces, leading to the rhetorical question: ‘Is there not here the germ of a mighty people?’ Although he talked of ‘a great Britannic Confederation’, he seemed to doubt that it was ‘immediately impending’, although public opinion was ‘rapidly maturing’ in its favour. ‘A few years ago, the man who ventured to declare himself in favour of such a combination was deemed a visionary, and was in fact in advance of his times. Now, however, politicians and … the press, are ready to adopt the proposal.’
Morris’s assessment seemed borne out in July 1858 when the Independent Reformer Alexander Galt submitted a series of resolutions for debate in the Assembly. Galt’s proposal was a package spanning three contemporary constitutional themes. First, ‘the union of Upper and Lower Canada should be changed from a Legislative to a Federative Union by the subdivision of the province into two or more sections, each governing itself in local and sectional matters, with a general legislative government for subjects of national and common interest’. Second, provision should be made for Canada to take control of the Hudson’s Bay Territories ‘until population and settlement may … enable them to be admitted into the Canadian Confederation.’ Third, there should be ‘a general Confederation of the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island with Canada and the Western territories’. This would ‘greatly add to their national power and consideration’ while ‘preserving to each province the uncontrolled management of those internal affairs respecting which differences of opinion might arise with other members of the Confederation’.
Moving his resolutions, Galt criticised politicians for failing to debate the opportunities open to ‘the foremost colony of the foremost empire of the world’. The 700,000 square miles of the Hudson’s Bay Territories could support thirty million people, but under its existing constitution, the province could not assume the government of those western lands, whereas ‘if a federal government were set up a local government might be given to the people of the Red River or any other locality’, prior to eventual incorporation as a full member. ‘Half a continent is ours if we do not keep on quarrelling about petty matters and lose sight of what interests us most.’
Although the Globe called the ensuing discussion ‘a most interesting debate’, it was also an anti-climax. No minister spoke. L.T. Drummond, another prominent Lower Canada anglophone, claimed to have advocated a federal union of the provinces ‘for the last twenty years’ (i.e. since the Durham Report) but ‘we must have some political and social intercourse with the Lower Provinces before we could unite with them.’ Dorion sweepingly asserted that the federation of all the provinces would be madness for a century to come. The debate lapsed without a vote. In 1865, Dunkin claimed that ‘with all his ability … he could scarcely obtain a hearing.’
Rather, the significance of Galt’s initiative was magnified by a parochial ministerial crisis immediately afterwards, when Queen Victoria’s choice of Ottawa as the compromise capital triggered the defeat of the Macdonald-Cartier administration. Brown attempted to form an alternative government, accepting the Dorion-Holton formula for federalising the province of Canada, but was ousted after just two days. Reinforced by Galt, the old guard returned as the Cartier-Macdonald cabinet, tentatively adopting his policy of British North American federation. They planned to communicate with the other provinces ‘inviting them to discuss with us the principles on which a bond of a federal character, uniting the Provinces of British North America, may perhaps hereafter be practicable.’ The government leader in the upper house, Philip Vankoughnet, was distinctly non-committal about the new policy while, in the lower house, the independent-minded Christopher Dunkin made it clear that he would withdraw his support if the ministry introduced a ‘practical measure’.
The Globe was predictably dismissive, arguing that the union of the provinces was ‘a thing too far distant’, but its criticisms were cogent. The reconstituted ministry’s federation initiative was ‘designed to tickle the ear, and to please the eye, while it appeals not to the sense’, not a policy but a ‘deception’. A ministerial delegation was despatched to England where they had the bad luck to encounter a minority Conservative administration at Westminster which recoiled from this potentially controversial issue. Lord Derby’s government remitted the question to confidential consultation through the governors of the various provinces, who reported cautiously and, above all, slowly. There was probably an element of cynicism behind the Cartier-Macdonald ministry’s sudden endorsement of intercolonial union. It gained them the adhesion of Galt, and enabled them to appear to trump the Brown-Dorion bid to create a bi-valved federation confined to the province of Canada. Talking favourably of a union of the provinces, a target widely supported among the British political elite, might unlock imperial funding for the Halifax to Quebec railway. French-Canadian politicians remained determined to make Quebec City the capital and, as the 1857 petitions had shown, a move towards the union of the provinces might make it possible to dump the Queen’s inconvenient choice of backwoods Ottawa. But by January 1859, ministers had to admit that no progress had been made, and the Globe dismissed the whole episode as ‘half smoke, half air’. ‘Can they tell us even now a single feature of their scheme?’, Brown demanded. ‘They have been months in office -- and yet not one line of explanation can we extract from them!’
George Brown’s ambiguity surfaced again during the Great Reform Convention held in November 1859. The first major political gathering in Canada since the British American League ten years earlier, the convention was called to suppress demands for the dissolution of the Canadian union, and to project a show of unity behind a platform vaguely calling for a two-unit federation instead. This specifically rejected a British North American federation because of ‘the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces.’ But one supporter of outright dissolution declared that ‘if the question is placed on the ground of nationality he must go for federation, but a federation of all the British North American colonies.’
Brown cleverly inverted the argument. ‘I do place the question on ground of nationality. I do hope there is not one Canadian in this assembly who does not look forward with high hopes to the day when these northern countries shall stand out among the nations of the world as one great confederation!’ But, said Brown, it was ‘true wisdom to commence the federated system with our own country, and leave it open to extension hereafter’. A federated province of Canada ‘may at some future day furnish the machinery of a great confederation.’ There are complex levels of meaning in this vocabulary. Since the Maritimes were tacitly excluded from ‘our own country’, what drove the demand for ‘nationality’? The key to understanding this labyrinth of identities is probably to be found in the fact that George Brown was the identikit ‘Unionist Nationalist’, who saw no contradiction in accepting distinct manifestations of British and Scottish identity, and hence could accommodate a third, British-American level.
Throughout the five years after 1859, projects for the union of British North America were quiescent. The failure of the Canadian initiative discouraged any practical project. Some enthusiasts hoped that the first royal tour, by the future Edward VII in the summer of 1860, would strengthen a sense of common identity. Rather, a vicious row over the status of the Orange Order drew attention to internal divisions. Later that year, the United States moved towards civil war, further discrediting the political frameworks necessary for wider union. The cause, it seemed, needed an inspiring orator.
That role is sometimes assigned to D’Arcy McGee, an impression McGee was keen to foster. The collection of his speeches published in 1865, projecting him as a prophet of Confederation, in fact reveal that his support was patchy. Although sympathetic to British North American union in 1857, he did not mention it when speaking in the Assembly in March 1859 on the ‘double majority’. He was then in opposition to Macdonald and Cartier, but he seems inconsistent in speaking of his hopes for ‘the speedy growth of this great Province into an incipient nationality’. Soon after he visited New Brunswick (a journey few Canadian politicians undertook) and reached the double-negative conclusion that Maritimers were ‘not actively adverse’ to Confederation. In May 1860 he still favoured ‘a bold application of the federal principle’ to the province of Canada, adding that ‘the best and most desirable thing … is the Federal Union of all the North American Colonies’. This suggested a more integrated two-stage approach than Brown had envisaged, but even so, McGee thought ‘it would probably be 1864 or 1865 before all the obstacles could be removed, and all the arrangements agreed upon.’
As a spokesman for Montreal business, McGee argued that a political union of the provinces was desirable for economic reasons: ‘a mere Commercial Union’ would not work ‘without the superintendence of some central political power’. He appealed both to the latent notion that colonial status was incomplete (union was ‘a necessary complement of our present colonial system -- unless we are to look forward to our annexation to the United States’) and also to ‘the tendencies of our times’, claiming that ‘the obstacles in our way are not greater than those which have been repeatedly overcome by other disunited States and Provinces.’ This seems to have been a rare allusion to the Risorgimento, an episode that is sometimes thrown into contextual explanations of the coming of Canadian confederation.
McGee’s peroration would tag this oration his ‘Shield of Achilles’ speech. It is the classic example of a national community that was fantasised in terms of landscape and only secondarily imagined as comprising real people. ‘I see in the not remote distance, one great nationality bound, like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean -- I see it quartered into many communities -- each disposing of its internal affairs -- but all bound together by free institutions, free intercourse, and free commerce’. The shield was surrounded by ‘the peaks of the Western mountains and the crests of the Eastern waves’, and McGee sonorously invoked the names of lakes and rivers. Only then did he make the oratorical transition to living communities, ‘a generation of industrious, contented, moral men, free in name and in fact’, a formulation which glossed over the complication that these worthy inhabitants spoke two different languages and adhered to rival sects. And, having invoked his grand vision, McGee himself had very little to say about it for the next two years.
Although the idea was faltering in Canada, it was clinging to life in the Maritimes. In September 1860, the Halifax British Colonist declared that British North American was a project ‘ripening for practical discussion.’ The BritishColonist was the mouthpiece of Charles Tupper, effectively Johnston’s deputy as leader of the Conservatives, who were now in opposition. In November, Tupper delivered a formal address on the subject in Saint John, the chief city of nearby New Brunswick. One motive was a desire to combat ‘the endeavour of little minds to excite a mutual jealousy’ between Saint John and the Nova Scotian capital, Halifax, since both cities hoped to become the seaboard terminal for railways to Canada. Tupper argued that rival tariffs, currencies and postal systems hampered trade within the Maritimes. (Indeed, he delivered a companion lecture focusing on the possibility of uniting the Maritimes into a single province.) It was a sign of a changing international climate that he also emphasised the challenge of defence. He also echoed Johnston and Hamilton in stressing ‘nationality’. Nova Scotians, he complained, were ‘often confounded abroad with the inhabitants of Nova Zembla and similar favoured regions’. Union would make Maritimers and Canadians into ‘British Americans’, recognised by the world as inhabitants of a vast and prosperous country.
Tupper did not mobilise a political crusade. In Halifax, the Novascotian, mouthpiece of the new Liberal premier, Joseph Howe, repeated his 1854 question: who would pay for go-ahead Canada’s vast public debt? In Saint John, the Morning Freeman published an instant rebuttal. ‘There are only two grounds on which a Union of the Colonies can be successfully advocated,’ it pronounced. The first was that long-term preparations should be commenced in order to bear ‘the burden of independence’. The other was that the economic development of the provinces was hampered by their political fragmentation. The Freeman ignored the first argument, and dismissed the second: there was no barrier to trade between Canada and the Maritimes. (Nor, indeed, was there much trade.) Tupper had failed ‘to explain how, as a mere appanage of the Crown of England, we could attain a name and nationality and influence abroad peculiarly our own’. Only ‘urgent necessity or the hope of great pecuniary advantage’ would mobilise public opinion for such a major change. ‘The people have no particular anxiety to provide a larger field for aspiring politicians.’ Another Liberal newspaper, the Saint John Morning Chronicle, dismissed the union of the provinces as ‘one of the Tory whims of the day’, an ‘extravagant notion’ that appealed to few Liberals. ‘In a dozen years, after the upper and lower provinces are connected by railroads, after we have formed some acquaintanceship with each other, it will be time enough to begin to think of a federation.’ In August 1861, it declared that a union of the Maritime provinces was ‘of infinitely more importance than a Union with Canada.’
Meanwhile, in April 1861, Premier Howe attempted to out-manoeuvre Tupper, by proposing to contact the other provinces ‘with a view to the enlightened consideration of a question involving the highest interests on which the public mind in all the Provinces ought to be set at rest.’ The wording indicates that this was a wrecking move, but it was far more than a put-up-or-shut-up ultimatum. Since there was no forum for intercolonial consultations, the Nova Scotian government needed to refer the proposal to London for guidance. Conveniently, they waited for almost a year to do this.
John A. Macdonald was also proclaiming the union of the provinces as an ideal but unattainable solution to Canada’s conflicts over representation by population and the double majority. Speaking in the Assembly in April 1861, he identified ‘a confederation of all the provinces’ as the ‘only feasible … remedy’ for Canada’s sectional difficulties. He hastily added that he rejected the American federal model, with its ‘fatal error’ of state sovereignty. ‘The true principle of confederation lies in giving to the general Government all the principles and powers of sovereignty, and in the provision that the subordinate or individual States should have no powers but those expressly bestowed upon them. We should thus have a powerful Central Government, a powerful Central Legislature, and a powerful decentralised system of minor Legislatures for local purposes.’ Unfortunately, there was little prospect that Maritimers, or indeed French Canadians, would accept a union such a centralised structure. However, on a theoretical plane, Macdonald was evidently moving towards accepting the practical devolution that emerged in 1864. Macdonald made brief allusions to the subject during the 1861 election campaign (but not when Canadians next went to the polls in 1863). The most that can be said is that the idea of a united British North America did not vanish entirely in the smoke of Virginia battlefields. In July 1861, a correspondent of the Quebec Chronicle did ‘not expect a very speedy accomplishment of a consolidation’, adding that ‘until there is a more important trade between Canada and her sister settlements, it would be of little use to consummate a political Union. … For the country we desire to see grow must not be one merely in the books and on the maps of the geographers, nor be viewed as a mere Inter-State partnership by the minds of the people. It must be a Nationality.’
As the American Civil War exploded, references to the union of the British provinces became increasingly rare and pro forma. Alexander Morris was now a member of the Assembly. His maiden speech in March 1862 on representation by population, making only a tentative allusion to the solution he had trumpeted four years earlier. McGee delivered three major speeches that spring without mentioning it at all. Three years later, he jocularly invoked a Scots phrase: it would have been ‘half-daft’ to propose intercolonial union in 1862 or 1863.
However, in London, the Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, had turned Howe’s 1861 manoeuvre inside out. A supporter of British North American union, Newcastle encouraged a projected intercolonial conference on the Halifax-Quebec railway project to discuss political union as well. A landmark despatch in July 1862 described the idea as ‘a very proper subject for calm discussion’ and authorised ‘leading members of the Governments concerned’ to consult informally. Howe then asked each colonial government ‘whether its members are prepared to discuss the question of Union’. The Nova Scotian view was ‘the question should be set at rest by such a formal discussion as would promote such a union, if there be any general desire to effect it, and save much time if there were not.’ Since Cartier and John A. Macdonald had been replaced in office by an insecure Reform ministry, Canada could be relied upon to support the time-saving veto.
The intercolonial conference at Quebec in September 1862 considered ‘political union’ among ‘collateral questions’ but it was regarded, one delegate later recalled, ‘as a matter in the distance’. Howe tactfully explained to Newcastle that the issue was postponed to ‘a more convenient season’, so that public opinion might accept closer relations after the railway had been constructed. But when Leonard Tilley, the premier of New Brunswick, visited Canada in January 1863 to press for action on the Halifax-Quebec line, he found that ‘a portion of the population, of French origin, think the Railway will lead to the Union of the Provinces, and the destruction of their power and political influence’.
Signs of support for the idea in the Maritimes continued. In March, T.W. Anglin told the New Brunswick Assembly ‘that the British North American Colonies should be joined in one great nation’ and that the union was ‘likely to occur some time’. Anglin had probably written the Morning Freeman editorial attacking Tupper’s lecture in 1860. Even more remarkable was a resolution passed in April by the Assembly of Prince Edward Island, where politics were not simply insular but narcissistically parochial. The Island, it pledged, was ‘prepared attentively to consider any proposition emanating from the neighboring [sic] Colonies … which may have for its object a Union of the British North American Colonies.’ The promise did not amount to much, but the fact that it was made at all indicates that the project was being taken seriously in the Atlantic region.
In July, D’Arcy McGee descended on Halifax to call for ‘the Union of all the Colonies’, headed by a royal viceroy. McGee advanced five arguments, although their relevance was not always obvious. The first was a general proposition that union equalled strength. Second, he favoured intercolonial free trade, although he did not explain why this entailed a common political structure. His third argument was an opaque call to increase levels of immigration. McGee called his fourth plank ‘the patriotic argument … the absolute necessity of cultivating a high-hearted patriotism amongst us provincialists,’ which he linked directly the challenge of defence. This led to his final argument, ‘political necessity, arising from the state of our neighbours.’ McGee was no doubt sincere in supporting a union of the provinces, but he was also using the idea as an oratorical cover for the intercolonial railway. Into this mixture he threw ‘a future, possible, probable, and I hope to live to be able to say positive, British-American Nationality.’ The elements of nationality were present -- territory, population, civilisation -- and, after summoning King Alfred, Shakespeare, Burke and Thomas More, he invoked ‘the fortunate genius of an united British America … so that, hand in hand, we and our descendants may advance steadily to the accomplishment of a common destiny.’
McGee was no mean orator, but what was the effect of his speeches? A year later, after the Confederation project had been launched, McGee made another barn-storming tour of the Maritimes. In Fredericton, a local newspaper noted, he was ‘vociferously cheered’. But the reporter insisted that ‘the cheering, however vociferous does not prove that in the minds of the meeting Mr M’Gee had annihilated all objections, and made the way smooth to a Confederation; it was a good natured appreciation of a very eloquent speech.’ Some Halifax newspapers supported McGee, but in Saint John, Anglin’s Morning Freeman was equivocal. ‘The time will come, perhaps soon, when a union will be practicable and advisable’ but only when the ‘vast wilderness’ separating New Brunswick from Canada had been settled. Although, like McGee, Anglin was an Irish Catholic, he felt no enthusiasm for a ‘new nationality’. Surely it was enough for British Americans to be ‘subjects of the British Empire’? Unlike the Johnston-Howe exchange nine years earlier, McGee’s speech was reported in the Upper Canadian press -- although not until McGee himself had returned home, suggesting that he supplied the copy -- but there was no widespread discussion of his ideas in Canada. He delivered two further set speeches on the Canadian political situation in October and November 1863, omitting any allusion to the union of the provinces.
Meanwhile, a wave of anger swept the Maritimes after Canada’s Reform ministry dumped its commitment to the railway project. Resentment at Canadian ‘perfidy’ produced a remarkable leading article in the Halifax Morning Chronicle in late October. Two months earlier, inspired by McGee, it had urged ‘the formation of the several Provinces into a Confederation’. Now it claimed that ‘the union of the British North American Colonies, as a group, is no longer a project that men of the present generation can hope to see accomplished’. The ‘next best thing for the Maritime Provinces’ was to unite among themselves.
For the first time, this expression of Nova Scotian pique aroused comment in the Toronto press. The Conservative Leader argued a lengthy and conventional case for a union of the provinces. The outspoken Toronto Globe was revealing in its comments. ‘It is not Canada which has demanded an union of the provinces,’ it flatly told disgruntled fellow colonials. ‘If the maritime provinces desire to hear no more about union with Canada, as they cannot have it just at the moment, and in the exact way they have selected, they will not be bored about it by Canadians. We can live very well without them.’ For Canada, British North American union was not a question of gain, but of ‘political prestige and of nationality.’ Canadians liked the idea. ‘We look forward to it as our destiny; but it is not a scheme which we feel ourselves compelled to undertake at once by any pressing necessity.’ Indeed, a premature initiative ‘would have the effect of retarding the fulfilment of the scheme indefinitely,’ especially if it involved ‘an enormous expenditure on an unproductive railway’. The Nova Scotians ‘must learn to wait. The union of the British American provinces is a great question, not hastily to be settled. Time is needed to bring about a well considered confederation which shall stand the shock of ages.’ It was hardly a clarion call, but the editorial did suggest cautious endorsement of Confederation.
In March 1864, George Brown, now semi-detached from the faltering Reform ministry, proposed a parliamentary committee to investigate options for constitutional change. Leading politicians sparred over their various nostrums. John A. Macdonald insisted that ‘the only remedy’ was ‘a Federation of the Provinces’. ‘Nobody supposed that this union could be carried for ten or fifteen years,’ riposted Oliver Mowat. Soon afterwards, the Reform ministry resigned and Cartier, McGee and John A. Macdonald joined to form an equally insecure Conservative cabinet under the leadership of Sir Etienne Taché. If the union of the provinces was Destiny’s answer to the problems confronting British North America, this government formed in March 1864 was unaware of the fact. Its programme talked vaguely of ‘a closer connection with the sister colonies’, which could mean anything.
Newly appointed ministers had to fight by-elections. Returned by acclamation in Montreal, McGee delivered an open-air, open-ended political review. ‘I have at all times, in or out of office, zealously advocated the union of the Provinces,’ he proclaimed, with some exaggeration. What kind of union -- commercial or political, federal or legislative -- he was prepared to leave to the collective wisdom. ‘The first step then to any union, league or confederacy, would be the conference of the colonies themselves, subject to the approval of the Imperial Government. For such a conference the times seem favourable, the necessity urgent, and the several governments well disposed.’
The plain fact was that the new ministry lacked a Big Idea to break out of the malaise. Once again, Brown sought to fill the vacuum, in mid-May reviving his proposal for a committee to examine constitutional reform. Again, the prominent players advocated their various solutions. Alexander Morris cherished the hope ‘that the day might come when they should see it to be in the interest of the various provinces of British North America to form such a union as would consolidate the British provinces and British power on this continent.’ The American Civil War provided ‘additional reasons … to look our actual position in the face’ and adopt a structure ‘which … would take us above the petty parish politics in which we were fain to indulge’. McGee argued that it would be easier ‘to form a new act of union that would embrace all British America’ than to re-model the existing province of Canada. John A. Macdonald reiterated his view that the Civil War proved the need for ‘a stronger form of union and government’ than mere federation.
A journalist friendly to Macdonald felt that the proposed committee might be worthwhile. If it conducted its discussions ‘in anything like a moderate and patriotic spirit’, it must agree ‘that the only worthy issue out of the present troubles is to bring together all British North America, and making of it a country with powers better adjusted and balanced than is unfortunately now possible in Canada.’ Rejecting the idea ‘that any decided movement in favor [sic] of a union of the Provinces would be premature now’, it argued that ‘an expression of opinion by such a committee would be … just what the good cause needs right now. George Brown was duly granted his committee, which reported in mid-June. Its report was cautious enough, recommending ‘changes in the direction of a federative system, applied either to Canada alone, to the whole of British North America’ -- a step forward, no doubt, but a formula that represented neither consensus nor novelty. Evidently, too, Brown did expected no sudden revolution, since he suggested that another committee should meet in 1865. But at that moment, the minority Taché administration fell. Seeing no point in another confrontational general election, Canada’s politicians formed the ‘Great Coalition’ to work for constitutional change. And the rest, to coin a phrase, is Canadian history.
Christopher Dunkin was exaggerating when he claimed that Canada’s politicians had not wasted time on Confederation before 1864 -- but he did not exaggerate by much. However, enough discussion of the idea of British North American union in the preceding decade can be identified to suggest that Confederation was not simply deduced from the circumstances of 1864. Rather the circumstances of 1864 seemed to provide a favourable, perhaps a unique, moment when the idea made sense as a practical option. Unfortunately, preliminary controversy located several leading figures -- Dorion, Anglin, Howe and Dunkin himself -- in the opposition camp. This helps to explain why the debates of 1864-67 were often between proponents who talked in visionary generalisations and critics who stressed practical objections.
Insofar as there had been a “debate” throughout the preceding decade, it was sparse on details and lacking consensus about structures. Indeed, had the Confederation initiative failed in the mid-sixties, subsequent historians would probably have cited the fundamental divide between legislative and federal union schemes as a crucially insecure foundation. However, in one important respect, the preliminary pamphleteering and speechmaking indicated that the two opposed forms of union might be conflated, as supporters of complete integration recognised the need for subordinate local governments. Use of the umbrella term ‘Confederation’ may have helped blur the difference. On the other hand, attempts to portray smaller unions, the federation of the two Canadas or the union of the Maritime provinces, as steps towards the wider Confederation proved illusory, and both became rival projects.
There are few indications of any committed inner circle driving the campaign of the kind that worked for Australian federation or the European Union. The quirky P. S. Hamilton was no Jean Monnet. However, Hamilton’s pamphleteering underlines one unhelpful aspect of the pre-1864 story, the apparent prominence of Nova Scotia. When they launched Confederation project in 1864, Canadian politicians probably took Nova Scotian support for granted. In the event, the province proved hard to win, and remained discontented even after 1867. While much of this may be attributed to the opposition of Joseph Howe, Nova Scotian political oratory provides another explanation -- matter-of-fact Canadians were misled by its high degree of meaningless froth.
Above all, we should stress that even the small band of enthusiasts saw Confederation as a long-term development. This helped to elide the clashing ambitions of those who saw it as a step towards independence, and those who dreamed of closer integration of the Empire. Time was speeding up by 1864, and it was almost certainly in the sense of impending crisis that we can identify the key role played the American Civil War. Mowat, who had thought Confederation impossible for a decade, backed the scheme. Dorion, who ruled it out for a century, continued to oppose.
And so we return to the central conundrum: did the idea shape the events or vice-versa? ‘If we have dreamed a dream of union,’ said McGee in 1865, ‘… it is at least worth remarking that dream which has been dreamed by such wise and good men, may… have been a sort of vision, a vision foreshadowing forthcoming natural events’. Canadian Confederation provides a case study of the relationship between ideas and events. McGee said ‘dream’ not ‘scheme’: maybe both elements are needed to create a successful movement for union.
 The few studies of this subject include L.F.S. Upton, ‘The Idea of Confederation 1754-1858’ in W.L. Morton, ed., The Shield of Achilles: Aspects of Canada in the Victorian Age (Toronto, 1968), pp. 184-207, R.G. Trotter, Canadian Federation: Its Origins and Achievements (Toronto, 1924), pp. 3-50 and W.M. Whitelaw, The Maritimes and Canada before Confederation (Toronto, 1966 ed.).
 Ged Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-1867 (Basingstoke and Vancouver, 1995), pp. 27-80.
 C.P. Lucas, ed., Lord Durham’s Report on the Affairs of British North America (3 vols, 1912 ed.), II, pp. 309-23; Address of the British American League in A.G. Doughty, ed., The Elgin-Grey Papers 1846-1852 (4 vols, Ottawa, 1937), I, pp. 441-43.
 Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, pp. 157-202.
 Phrase used by Arthur Lower as title of chapter 23 in his textbook, Colony to Nation (e.g. 3rd ed., Toronto, 1964, p. 313).
 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (rev. ed., London, 1991).
 Dunkin in Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada, 1865 (Quebec, 1865), p. 485.
 Johnston’s speech is in E.M. Saunders, Three Premiers of Nova Scotia (Toronto, 1909), pp. 243-59.
 J.A. Chisholm, ed., The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe (Halifax, 1909), II, pp. 268-96, especially pp. 284-85.
 Saunders, Three Premiers, p. 251.
 Hamilton’s pamphlets are Observations upon a Union of the Colonies of British North America (Halifax, 1855), A Union of the Colonies of British North America Considered Nationally (Halifax, 1856), Letter to His Grace the Duke of Newcastle upon a Union of the Colonies of British North America (Halifax, 1860) and Union of the Colonies of British North America (Montreal, 1864)
Montreal Gazette, 14 March 1856.
 As recalled by Rankin in Confederation Debates, pp. 914-15.
Globe (Toronto), 3 April 1856.
 P. Oliver, ed., The Conventional Man: The Diaries of Ontario Chief Justice Robert A. Harrison, 1856-1878 (Toronto, 2005), p. 130.
 In 1865, Dorion claimed to have originated this proposal, Confederation Debates, p. 246, and cf. p. 111. It was not much noticed in 1856.
 D.B. Knight, Choosing Canada’s Capita: Conflict Resolution in a Parliamentary System (Ottawa, 1991), pp. 206, 208, 235.
 T.P. Slattery, The Assassination of D’Arcy McGee (Toronto, 1968), pp. 78-80.
 Whitelaw, Maritimes and Canada, p. 117.
 J-C. Taché, Des Provinces de l’Amérique du Nord et d’une Union Fédérale (Quebec, 1858).
Le Courrier du Canada, 21 July 1858.
Confederation Debates, p. 484.
 J.M.S. Careless, Brown of the Globe: The Voice of Upper Canada, 1818-1859 (Toronto, 1959), p. 253.
Globe, 25 February 1858.
 A. Morris, Nova Britannia; or, Our New Canadian Dominion Foreshadowed (Toronto, 1884 ed.).
 O.D. Skelton, Life and Times of Alexander Tilloch Galt (Toronto, 1966, ed. G. MacLean), pp. 79-82, 283-84.
Globe, 7 July 1858; Careless, Brown of the Globe: The Voice of Upper Canada, p. 257.
Confederation Debates, p. 485.
 For Canadian politics in 1858, Ged Martin, ‘John A. Macdonald: Provincial Premier’, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 20 (2007), pp. 99-124.
 Whitelaw, Maritimes and Canada, p. 128.
Globe, 10 August 1858; Confederation Debates, p. 485.
Globe, 10 August 1858.
 Careless, Brown of the Globe: The Voice of Upper Canada, pp. 285, 293.
 Careless, Brown of the Globe: The Voice of Upper Canada, p. 321.
 Cf. Graeme Morton, Unionist Nationalism: Governing Urban Scotland, 1839-1860 (East Linton, 199). Brown’s father, Peter Brown, had been involved in Edinburgh local politics, and had emigrated after defaulting on civic funds. His 1842 defence of British institutions, The Fame and Glory of England Vindicated, reflects the Browns’ levels of identity.
 Ian Radforth, Royal Spectacle: The 1860 Visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States (Toronto, 2004), esp. pp. 164-205. Radforth notes that loyal addresses did not mention Confederation, and that only journalists from New York speculated about it. pp. 252, 378-79.
 T. D’Arcy McGee, Speeches and Addresses Chiefly on the Subject of British-American Union (London, 1865).
 McGee, Speeches, pp. 149-53.
 McGee, Speeches, pp. 154-76.
 J. Heilsler, ‘The Halifax Press and B.N.A. [sic] Union 1856-1864’, Dalhousie Review, 30 (1951), p. 193.
 C. Tupper, Recollections of Sixty Years in Canada (London, 1914), pp. 14-38.
 Heisler, ‘Halifax Press’, p. 191.
 Saint John Morning Freeman, 22 November 1860.
 Whitelaw, Maritimes and Canada, pp. 177-78.
 Saunders, Three Premiers, p. 346; Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, pp. 229-30.
 Joseph Pope, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald (2 vols, Ottawa, 1894) I, pp. 228-29.
 J.K. Johnson and C.B. Stelmack, eds, The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald 1858-1861 (Ottawa, 1969), p. 347; D. Creighton, John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician (Toronto, 1952), p. 313.
 Whitelaw, Maritimes and Canada, pp. 177, Maritimes and Canada, p. 177.
 Morris, Nova Britannia (1884 ed.), p. 96; Confederation Debates, p. 126.
 Martin, Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, pp. 229-30; Saunders. Three Premiers, p. 346.
 J.M. Beck, Joseph Howe: II, The Briton Becomes Canadian 1848-1873 (Kingston and Montreal, 1983), p. 162; P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation 1864-1867 (Toronto, 1962), p. 50; P.B. Waite, ‘A Letter from Leonard Tilley on the Intercolonial Railway, 1863’, Canadian Historical Review, 45 (1964), p. 128.
 W.M. Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin 1822-1896: Irish Catholic Canadian (Toronto, 1977), p. 58; F.W.P. Bolger, Prince Edward Island and Confederation 1863-1873 (Charlottetown, 1964), p. 25.
 McGee, Speeches, pp. 60-67.
 Fredericton Head Quarters, 24 August 1864.
 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, p. 59.
 E.g. Globe, 1 August; Kingston Daily News, 3 August 1863.
 Halifax Morning Chronicle, 27 October 1863.
Globe, 25 November 1863. The editorial from the Toronto Leader was quoted in Canadian News (London), 17 December 1863, p. 390.
Montreal Gazette, 17, 31 March 1864.
Montreal Gazette, 12 April 1864.
Montreal Gazette, 21, 24 May 1864.
Montreal Gazette, 24 May 1864 (Quebec Correspondent, 19 May).
 Donald Creighton, The Road to Confederation: The Emergence of Canada 1863-1867 (Toronto, 1964), esp. pp. 39-69.
Confederation Debates, p. 126.