The Role of the British in the Achievement of Confederation 1864–1867

  • Ged Martin
Part of the Cambridge Commonwealth Series book series


Historians have generally regarded the role of the British in the achievement of Confederation between 1864 and 1867 as important, although precisely how the imperial deus ex machina managed to overcome opposition in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1865–6 is not fully explained. A collage of phrases captures the prevailing impression created by most studies of the subject: ‘Britain overrides resistance’ was Brebner’s sub-heading, followed by the statement that it took ‘two years and the full weight of Britain’s resources to get a federation established’. ‘The time had now come to invoke the overriding authority of the British government,’ wrote McInnis. According to Francis, Jones and Smith, ‘Britain now intervened directly to bring about a colonial federation’, while McNaught concluded that ‘London … acted decisively’. Finlay and Sprague referred to ‘British intervention to break the resistance of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’. Morton narrowed the allusion to the cabinet, which ‘it was clear beyond doubt… had decided to use all necessary means to carry out the confederation of Canada’. Eldridge concentrated the focus still more, specifying that the colonial secretary, Edward Cardwell, ‘was quite prepared to push the Maritime Provinces into joining the confederation’.


North America Nova Scotia British Government Loan Guarantee Maritime Province 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Brebner, p. 288; McInnis, p. 353; Francis, Jones and Smith, Origins, p. 390; Structure of Canadian History, p. 180; Critical Years, p. 182; C.C. Eldridge, Victorian Imperialism (London, 1978), p. 88;Google Scholar
  2. P.B. Waite, ‘Edward Cardwell and Confederation’, CHR, xliii (1962) pp. 17–41, esp. p. 41;Google Scholar
  3. D. Judd, The Victorian Empire (London, 1970), p. 29. Ronald Hyam also refers to Cardwell’s ‘fairly ruthless pressure’ in R. Hyam, Britain’s Imperial Century 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion (London, 1976), p. 194.Google Scholar
  4. 112.
    W. Bagehot, The English Constitution (ed. R.H.S. Crossman, London, 1963), p. 112.Google Scholar
  5. 175.
    G. Patterson, ‘An Unexplained Incident in Confederation in Nova Scotia’, Dalhonsie Review, vii (1927), pp. 442–6. I am grateful to John Stanton for his help with this point.Google Scholar
  6. 188.
    Pope (ed.), Confederation, pp. 107, 150; Arthur Hardinge, The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon 1831–1890 (3 vols, Oxford, 1925) i, pp. 303–4.Google Scholar
  7. Compare E. Forsey, ‘Alexander Mackenzie’s Memoranda on the Appointment of Extra Senators, 1873–1874’, CHR, xxvii (1946) pp. 189–94.Google Scholar
  8. 192.
    A.B. Keith, Responsible Government in the Dominions (3 vols, Oxford, 1912 ed.) ii, pp. 599–604.Google Scholar
  9. 195.
    B.K. de Garis, ‘The Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Constitution Bill’, in A.W. Martin (ed.), Essays in Australian Federation (Melbourne, 1969), pp. 98–100.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ged Martin 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ged Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre of Canadian StudiesUniversity of EdinburghUK

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