One of the first History courses I took in High School was Canada in the 20th Century. Most Canadian history texts that are used in schools start at this point. And there’s no surprise. As a nation, Canada came into its own in the 20th Century. Many point the crucible of World War One as the focal point. Others state the post World War Two era leading up to the 100th Anniversary of Confederation. But everything that happened in the 20th Century built on what happened before and the sins of the past were going to come back to haunt. As Canada emerged from theRead More →

The term Dominion within the British Empire was not new. England first used the term to describe its relationship with Wales, much to the chagrin of the Welsh. But in the new Canadian context, Dominion would be a new concept. Canada was not a Province of the greater Empire, nor was she fully independent. A Dominion was a grey area, autonomous in all domestic concerns, but in the greater world, she remained sub-servant to England. In a nutshell, this meant that the Governor-General represented not only the interests of the Crown and the British Parliament, and Canada could neither send or receive ambassadors from foreignRead More →

If you’re wondering what everything has been leading up to this is it, we’re in the end game now. The road to Canadian Confederation is a long and rough one, with many false starts, failures to push through and roadblocks along the way. From the cause for political reform in the 1820s the rebellions of the 1830s. In through the victory of reform in the 1840s and the rocky roads in the 1850s. The threats to Canadian territory through invasion or annexation, it all leads to this, confederation. Despite the momentum in the aftermath of the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences in 1864, the passage ofRead More →

In the grander scheme, the Battle of Ridgeway gets all the glory when it comes to the limited history of the Fenian Raids of 1866. And yet a second skirmish took place almost instantly after the one at Ridgeway. The sad fact is that both battles could have been avoided and maybe the whole matter could have been better remembered. But to understand where the Battle of Fort Erie came from, we must first go back to Port Colborne, where we split off last week on the 1st of June 1866. Lieutenant-Colonel John Stoughton Dennis felt left out, a blow to his fragile ego. DespiteRead More →

The year was 1865, the American Civil War had ended, and four British Provinces in British North America decided to unite under what is called Canadian Confederation. And a large group of Irish Americans were wondering what their next step would be, and John O’Mahoney found himself at a crossroads. The Fenian Brotherhood hit its stride during the Civil War and now had money and manpower to spare. Plus all their members who served in both armies during the war had either kept or purchased their own equipment, the Fenians had an army that could easily stand up to the American Army of the day.Read More →

Of the four fathers of confederation, I’ve explored in these blog posts the one with the strangest story, and the youngest in both age and political experience is Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Born the 13th of April 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland. Raised by Irish Roman Catholic Patriots, much of his early education came from his mother, who as a Dublin Bookseller filled McGee with the stories of the Irish heroes of old. His knowledge continued in the illegal Hedge Schools where he learned of the past and ongoing struggles for Irish independence from British Occupation. His experience continued when his family moved to WexfordRead More →

When it comes to political change in Canadian history, there has always been two behind any major change. Robert Baldwin and Louis La Fontaine for example, and while George Brown would play a major role it would be George-√Čtienne Cartier who would provide political support to John A MacDonald but ensure that French-Canadien culture would not be lost. Born the 6th of September 1814 in Sainte-Antonie-sur-Richelieu in Lower Canada. Baptised with the name George in honour of King George III. But George’s family already had a long history in the new world, even claiming relation to Jacques Cartier (although there is no evidence to supportRead More →

It should come as no surprise that at the mention of Sir John A MacDonald, you get a lot of negative feedback. He managed to in his time attract a lot of controversies. Like his law career, he drew as much positive attention as he does negative today. Born the 11th of January 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a somewhat successful business owner by age five he and his family had immigrated to Canada settling in Kingston, Upper Canada. While his father continued to see moderate success in running various mills and businesses, most of the family income would go towards John’s education.Read More →

One of the greatest misconceptions about confederation is that Canada sprung forth fully formed from the passage of the British North America Act in 1867, in reality, the modern Canada we know today was a long way off in 1867. It wasn’t until 1999 that the last territory, Nunavut would be carved out of the Northwest Territory. In 1864 a majority of the British holdings in North America remained in the hands of the Hudson Bay Company as Rupert’s Land, the colonies were each a separate entity, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Red River, Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. Most hadRead More →

Across the British Commonwealth and in Canada specifically, no other British monarch is as widely celebrated at Queen Victoria. Secondly only to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II for the length of her reign. The two queens share a lot in common beyond familial relations. Both never expected to take the throne, born Alexandria Victoria on the 24th of May 1819, daughter of Prince Edward Augustus and grand-daughter to King George III. At birth, Victoria sat fifth in the line of succession to the British throne. At only a year old, both her father and grandfather passed, leaving Victoria in the care of her over-protective mother.Read More →