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Canada and the United States have many major geographic features in common. They share the Rocky Mountains, the Interior Plains, four of the Great Lakes, the Appalachian Highlands, and many rivers. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the stories of the exploration and settlement of both of these nations are closely interwoven.
The complete history of neither Canada nor the United States can be studied without reference to the history of the other. Each is today an independent nation. Each, however, achieved its independence by a completely different path--Canada by gradual constitutional change spread over many years, the United States by a single great War of Independence.
Discovery of Canada
The earliest discovery of the New World was made by Norse seafarers known as Vikings. The vague accounts of their exploits are drawn from their sagas, epic stories in prose or verse handed down by word of mouth through many generations. In AD 985 Norse seamen sailing from Iceland to Greenland were blown far westward off their course and sighted the coast of what must have been Labrador. The report of forested areas on the strange new coast encouraged further explorations by Norse colonists from Greenland, whose settlements lacked lumber.
In AD 1000 Leif Ericson became the first European to land in North America (see Ericson). According to the sagas, this was the first of many Norse voyages to the eastern shores of the continent. A colony was established in what the Vikings described as Vinland, identified in 1963 as being on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. Recent investigations have cast doubt on the once-popular theory that the Vikings also penetrated Hudson Bay and reached the upper Great Lakes region by overland routes. Discoveries of "Norse" relics in that area have been exposed by scholars as hoaxes. The Greenland colony died out during the 14th and 15th centuries, and the Norse adventures in Canada must have come to an end well before that time.
Rediscovery and Exploration
In 1497 an Italian named John Cabot sailed west from Bristol, England, intent on finding a new trade route to the Orient for his patron, King Henry VII of England (see Cabot). This voyage led to the rediscovery of the eastern shores of Canada. Cabot was as confident as Columbus had been that a new seaway was now open to Asia. On a second voyage, the following year, Cabot explored the coast of North America, touching at various points--none too clearly charted--from Baffin Island to Maryland. The Cabot voyages gave England a claim by right of discovery to an indefinite area of eastern North America. Its later claims to Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, and neighboring regions were at least partly based on Cabot's exploits.
Of more immediate significance were the explorer's reports of immensely rich fishing waters. The Roman Catholic countries of Western Europe furnished a market that made the ocean voyage worthwhile, even if it were made to gather the harvest of the sea instead of the spices and jewels of the Orient. Almost every year after 1497 an international mixture of fishing vessels could be seen on the offshore fisheries southeast of Newfoundland and east of Nova Scotia. Occasionally such ships even cruised into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At times their crews encountered Indians along the shores who were willing to part with valuable furs in exchange for articles of little worth such as beads and other trinkets.
When it was realized that only the wilds of an unexplored new world had been discovered, there was a spirit of disillusionment in Europe. Gradually, however, this feeling was replaced by a fresh interest in North America, for Spanish and Portuguese adventurers were reported to be bringing home rich cargoes of gold and silver from the Caribbean. In 1524 King Francis I of France sent a Florentine navigator, Giovanni da Verrazano, on a voyage of reconnaissance overseas. Verrazano explored the eastern coastline of North America from North Carolina to Newfoundland, giving France too some claim to the continent by right of discovery. (See also America, Discovery and Colonization of.)
Ten years later Francis I followed up the work of Verrazano by dispatching an expedition under Jacques Cartier (see Cartier). On his voyage of 1534 Cartier sailed a route that was for the most part already well known. This was an official exploring expedition, however, and its immediate result was a thorough report for the French king about the lands he had seen and the people he had met. He visited and named most of the important coasts on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and observed near Anticosti Island that he might be in the mouth of a great river.
The first known penetration of the interior through the St. Lawrence River gateway took place the following year, when Cartier returned as leader of a new expedition. Pressing upstream in three small vessels, he reached the Indian village of Stadacona, near the present site of the city of Quebec. A little more than 150 miles farther upstream he reached the end of navigation at a large island in the river. Here he found another Indian village, called Hochelaga, on the site of the present city of Montreal. From the height behind it, to which he gave the name Mont Real, he could see the foaming Lachine Rapids blocking the way to the upper waters of the St. Lawrence. At Stadacona, Cartier and his followers passed a bitter winter. Many of his party died from cold and scurvy before he could set sail for France the following spring.
End of the First Colonizing Effort
In 1541 Cartier led his third, and probably his last, expedition to the St. Lawrence. A new headquarters was established at Cap-Rouge, a few miles upstream from Stadacona. This time Cartier was to be followed by Jean Francois de la Rocque, sieur de Roberval, with a party of colonists. After a wait which lasted through the following winter, Cartier set sail for home, only to meet Roberval's party "in three tall ships" in the harbor of what is now St. John's, Newf.
Disregarding the orders of Roberval, who was his senior officer, to accompany the colonizing party back to Quebec, Cartier sailed for France under cover of darkness. The Roberval expedition proceeded upstream, and a tragically unsuccessful effort was made to found a permanent colony on the site where Cartier had wintered the previous season. By the following year some 60 of the colonists had died. Roberval decided to abandon the whole colonizing project, and France itself turned its back on the Canadian experiment for almost 60 years.
The Founding of New France
Throughout the rest of the 16th century the European fishing fleets continued to make almost annual visits to the eastern shores of Canada. Chiefly as a sideline of the fishing industry, there continued an unorganized traffic in furs. At home in Europe new methods of processing furs were developed and beaver hats in particular grew very fashionable. Thus new encouragement was given to the infant fur trade in Canada. In 1598 Troilus de Mesgouez, marquis de la Roche, set out for Canada armed with a new kind of authority--a royal monopoly which gave him the exclusive right to trade in furs.
La Roche established a small colony on Sable Island, an isolated Atlantic sandbar southeast of Nova Scotia. The settlement, which proved a dismal failure, was the first of a series of efforts by France to persuade various leaders to set up colonies in Canada in return for an official monopoly of the fur trade. Pierre Chauvin in 1600 established a trading post at Tadoussac, on the St. Lawrence River. This post survived for about three years.
In 1604 the fur monopoly was granted to Pierre du Guast, sieur de Monts. He led his first colonizing expedition to an island located near the mouth of the St. Croix River. This in time was to mark the international boundary between the province of New Brunswick and the state of Maine. Among his lieutenants was a geographer named Samuel de Champlain, who promptly carried out a major exploration of the northeastern coastline of what is now the United States (see Champlain). In the spring the St. Croix settlement was moved to a new site across the Bay of Fundy, on the shore of the Annapolis Basin, an inlet in western Nova Scotia.
Here at Port Royal in 1605 a settlement Champlain described as the Habitation was established. It was France's most successful colony to date. The land came to be known as Acadia (see Acadia).
The Father of New France
The cancellation of De Monts's fur monopoly in 1607 brought the Port Royal settlement to a temporary end. Champlain persuaded his leader to allow him to take colonists and "go and settle on the great River St. Lawrence, with which I was familiar through a voyage that I had made there." In 1608 he founded France's first permanent Canadian colony. It was at Quebec, at the foot of a great rocky cape on the north shore, which formed a natural fortress barring the way upstream to the interior.
The early years of the Quebec colony were hard, and the population grew slowly. Champlain administered its affairs and took personal charge of an organized exploration of the unknown interior. Where he did not actually travel himself, he sent other men. One was Etienne Brule, the first white man to cross Pennsylvania and later the first to see Lake Superior. Champlain himself discovered Lake Champlain (1609); and in 1615 he journeyed by canoe up the Ottawa, through Lake Nipissing, and down Georgian Bay to the heart of the Huron country, near Lake Simcoe. During these journeys Champlain aided the Hurons in battles against the Iroquois Confederacy. As a result, the Iroquois became mortal enemies of the French.
In 1629 Champlain suffered the humiliation of having to surrender his almost starving garrison to an English fleet that appeared before Quebec. He was taken to England as a prisoner. Peace, however, had been declared between England and France before the surrender, and New France was accordingly restored to the French. Champlain returned from Europe to spend his few remaining years. He became governor of New France in 1633.
For the Glory of God
New France continued to grow slowly. The fur trade served both to keep alive an interest in the territory and at the same time to discourage the development of agriculture, the surest foundation of a colony in the New World. Settlers founded Trois-Rivieres, farther up the St. Lawrence, in 1634.
The most distant outpost for many years was Montreal, founded by Paul de Chomedy, sieur de Maisonneuve, on May 18, 1642. First known as Ville-Marie, this settlement, one day to become Canada's largest city, was begun as a mission post. One of the most famous of the leaders who accompanied Maisonneuve was Jeanne Mance, founder of the Hotel-Dieu, the first hospital at Ville-Marie.
The establishing of Montreal was part of a large Canadian missionary movement which was based in France. The work and self-sacrifice of the Christian missionaries in the young colony and in the wilds that lay beyond it is one of the most stirring chapters in the history of New France. During the 40 years following the founding of Quebec, a dozen mission posts were built in the Huron country south of Georgian Bay.
The Hurons lived under constant threat of attack by the other Iroquois tribes dwelling south and east of Lake Ontario. Suddenly, in 1648, the Iroquois launched their final invasion of Huronia. Several brave Jesuit priests died as martyrs, and within a year both the Hurons and the missionaries had been either wiped out or driven elsewhere.
The Iroquois menace continued as one of the great obstacles to the expansion of settlement. The history of New France contains many accounts of heroism on the part of soldiers, settlers, and missionaries during this long guerrilla warfare on the outskirts of the colony. In 1660 Adam Dollard des Ormeaux led a small band of men in a stand to the death against an Iroquois war party which was on its way to destroy the settlement at Montreal. When they had counted the losses they suffered at the hands of so few Frenchmen, the Indians abandoned their plans. As late as 1692, 14-year-old Marie-Madeleine de Vercheres with only five companions defended her father's fort for two days against marauding Iroquois until help arrived.
Seigneur and Habitant
The feudal system of landholding, which had long been established in France, was adopted in the colony. The nobles, in this case the seigneurs, were granted lands and titles by the king in return for their oath of loyalty and promise to support him in time of war. The seigneur in turn granted rights to work farm plots on his land to his vassals, or habitants. In exchange, the habitants were required to pay certain feudal dues each year, to work for the seigneur for a given number of days annually, and to have their grain ground in the seigneurial mill.
In underpopulated New France the habitants welcomed the fact that the seigneur was obligated to build a mill. They had no military duties to perform except their common defense against the Indians. There was little money and not much use for it; and so the taxes took the form of payments in chickens, geese, or other farm products. These obligations were hardly burdensome. The seigneurs were anxious that their habitants should wish to stay farmers, and there was as much land as anyone could till.
Governor, Intendant, and Bishop
As in France, there was nothing resembling a democratic system of government in the colony. The senior official was the governor, appointed by the king. In the exercise of his almost absolute power he felt more responsible to the king in France than to the people he governed.
Another post of French officialdom was established in Canada in 1665 with the appointment of an intendant, whose chief duties concerned finance and the administration of justice. However, there was sufficient overlapping of authority between governor and intendant to breed more jealousy than cooperation between the two offices.
Jean Talon, who had come to New France as intendant in 1665, brought about a rapid expansion of the colony. He encouraged agriculture, business, crafts, and exploration and stimulated immigration. Under his direction, a census of New France was taken in 1666, which showed a population of 3,215. By that time the English controlled ten colonies on the Atlantic coast to the south, and they had greatly exceeded New France in population and self-sufficiency (see America, Discovery and Colonization of).
In 1672 Count Louis de Frontenac arrived in the colony as governor (see Frontenac). He built a fort at Cataraqui, near present-day Kingston, and brought the Iroquois into an enforced peace. He directed a series of major exploratory voyages to the interior. Among the greatest explorations were those made by Louis Jolliet, Father Jacques Marquette, and Rene Cavelier, sieur de La Salle. By 1682, however, the troubles between Frontenac and the intendant, Jacques Duchesneau, had become so serious that the king recalled both governor and intendant. (See also Jolliet; La Salle; Marquette.)
Frontenac was sent out as governor again in 1689, just after a new war had broken out between France and England. He carried the fighting right into the English colonies, dispatching expeditions overland against the settlements to the south in the dead of winter. When Sir William Phips led a British fleet upstream to Quebec in 1690, the fiery old French governor haughtily refused the demand for surrender, saying to the emissary of the English commander, "I will answer your general by the mouths of my cannon!"
In 1674, with the elevation of the vicar apostolic, Francois Xavier de Laval-Montmorency, to the rank of bishop, a new and powerful office was created at the head of the clergy in New France. Laval organized the parish system in the colony, gave encouragement to the missionaries, and founded Quebec Seminary for the training of young men for the priesthood. He resigned his office in 1684 but spent the last 20 years of his life in the seminary he had established in Quebec.
French and English Rivalry
While the English colonies were growing rapidly along the Atlantic seaboard, French fur traders and explorers were extending long but thinly supported strands of ownership deep into the heart of North America. La Salle's exploration of the Mississippi to its mouth in 1682 gave France a claim to a vast area bordering the American Colonies from the Great Lakes and the Ohio River valley southward to the Gulf of Mexico. It could be only a matter of time before the rivalries between France and England elsewhere in the world would be sharply reflected in a final struggle for the ownership of the North American continent. England's concern over France's threatened control of much more than half the continent began as early as Henry Hudson's last voyage, in the time of Champlain (see Hudson, Henry), and the probings for the Northwest Passage by such explorers as Sir Martin Frobisher, John Davis, and William Baffin.
England came to realize that the easiest riches of the New World were to be found in furs rather than in gold. Thus it was quick to follow up its claim to the back-door route to the fur country by founding the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670, on the suggestion of Pierre Esprit de Radisson and Medart Chouart, sieur de Groseilliers (see Fur Trade, History of the).
For many years England's domination of Hudson Bay was threatened by the French. In 1686 Pierre Troyes led an amazing overland expedition from Montreal to the shores of the bay, where his followers succeeded in capturing a number of the company forts by surprise. In his party was one of the most daring and brilliant leaders in the history of New France, Pierre le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville. Iberville commanded a series of naval raids into the bay during the next few years and almost succeeded in driving the English from this part of the continent altogether. (See also Iberville.)
A fresh struggle between France and England, known as Queen Anne's War, broke out in 1702 and led to the capture of Port Royal by the English in 1710 (see Queen Anne's War). The Treaty of Utrecht, which reestablished peace in 1713, required France to surrender the Hudson Bay Territory, Newfoundland, and Acadia. France was permitted to keep Cape Breton Island as well as her inland colonies.
As an immediate result of this setback, France founded the powerful Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. It was to serve as a year-round military and naval base for France's remaining North American empire and also to protect the entrance to the St. Lawrence River. Louisbourg was developed into the most heavily fortified bastion in North America during the next 25 years.
In 1745 an army of New Englanders led by Sir William Pepperell mounted an expedition of 90 vessels and 4,000 men against Louisbourg. The fortress had become a hornet's nest of raiders who preyed on the merchant ships of the American Colonies. Within three months the New Englanders succeeded in forcing Louisbourg to surrender. The fortress was returned to France, however, by the Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle signed in 1748. (See also King George's War.)
To counterbalance the renewed threat from Louisbourg, England set up an Atlantic bastion of its own. In 1749 a fleet bearing more than 2,500 new settlers from the British Isles began the construction of the city of Halifax.
The Final Struggle for the Continent
Peace between the two rival powers did not last long. Fresh fighting broke out in the New World even before the beginning of the Seven Years' War in Europe (1756-63). As early as 1754 an expedition was sent against French-held Fort Duquesne, in the Ohio River valley where the city of Pittsburgh now stands. This and a second expedition the next year were both unsuccessful. In 1755 a tragic episode occurred in Acadia. The Acadian French who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the English king were herded aboard transports and shipped to the English colonies to the south (see Acadia). American histories refer to the fighting that began in 1754 as the French and Indian War. Canadian and European histories usually treat the final contest for the continent as beginning in 1756, with the opening of the Seven Years' War. (See also French and Indian War; Seven Years' War.)
With the two motherlands in conflict, the English objective in North America was to overrun New France and particularly to seize Quebec, the nerve center of the colony. Under the skillful generalship of Louis Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, marquis de St-Veran, the routes to Quebec down the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario and north down the Richelieu were successfully closed. The first was stopped at Oswego, and the second at Ticonderoga. The French won brilliant victories at both these points. The third route lay up the St. Lawrence, past the French stronghold of Louisbourg. In 1758 a powerful British force landed on Cape Breton Island. In the fighting that followed, Louisbourg fell for the second and last time in its history. The waterway to Quebec was open at last. In 1759 a fleet of 140 ships, carrying 9,000 troops commanded by Gen. James Wolfe, sailed up the St. Lawrence and laid siege to the capital of New France.
All summer long Wolfe tried in vain to find a weakness in the natural defenses of Quebec, which Montcalm was using so skillfully. Late in the season, he decided on a secret but brilliant night landing that led to victory the next morning in the celebrated battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Both Wolfe and Montcalm were mortally wounded in the fighting. Montreal, cut off from all hope of reinforcements and supplies from France, fell easily before the advancing British forces the following season. When the Treaty of Paris at last brought the Seven Years' War to a close in 1763, the British flag waved over almost the whole of eastern North America. (See also Montcalm; Wolfe, James.)
Early British Rule
The British faced two immediate problems in the vast territory that had thus been added to their other Atlantic colonies. There were more than 60,000 new French-speaking subjects in what had formerly been New France. In addition, there were large tracts of thinly settled wilderness in the Great Lakes area where their little garrisons were seriously outnumbered by the Indians.
Led by a clever and treacherous Ottawa chieftain named Pontiac, the Indians suddenly rose against their new English masters and overthrew these forts one by one, massacring the soldiers in them without mercy. By the middle of 1763 the only British soldiers left west of Lake Erie were in Fort Detroit. It alone among the western forts held out against Pontiac until fresh troops were rushed in, and the Indian uprising was subdued at last.
The Quebec Act of 1774
Administration of the conquered province by a governor and an appointed council was established by royal proclamation. In 1774 the English Parliament passed the Quebec Act. This was the first important milestone in the constitutional history of British Canada. Under its terms the boundaries of Quebec were extended as far as the Ohio River valley. The Roman Catholic church was recognized by the Quebec Act, and its right to collect tithes was confirmed. Also of enduring importance was the establishment of the French civil law to govern the relations of Canadian subjects in their business and other day-to-day relations with each other. British criminal law was imposed in all matters having to do with public law and order and offenses for which the punishment might be fine, imprisonment, or in some cases death. These imaginative gestures on the part of the English government won the admiration of the religious leaders in Quebec and to a large extent the goodwill of the people themselves. The privilege of an elected assembly continued to be withheld, however.
The loyalty of the new province was soon put to the test. Within a year of the passing of the Quebec Act, the rebelling 13 Atlantic colonies sent two armies north to capture the "fourteenth colony." Sir Guy Carleton, the British governor of Canada, narrowly escaped capture when one of these armies, under Richard Montgomery, took Montreal. Carleton reached Quebec in time to organize its small garrison against the forces of Benedict Arnold. Arnold began a siege of the fortress, in which he was soon joined by Montgomery. In the midwinter fighting that followed, Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded. When spring came, the attacking forces retreated. During the rest of the American Revolutionary War, there was no further fighting on Canadian soil.
The United Empire Loyalists
When peace was established in 1783, many thousands of Loyalists, who were referred to as Tories by their fellow countrymen, left the newly created United States. They started their lives afresh under the British flag in Nova Scotia and in the unsettled lands above the St. Lawrence rapids and north of Lake Ontario.
This huge influx of settlers, who were known in Canada and England as the United Empire Loyalists, marked the first major wave of immigration by English-speaking settlers since the days of New France. Their arrival had two immediate consequences for the British colonies. Both the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia and the inland colony of Quebec had to be reorganized.
The previously unsettled forests to the west of the Bay of Fundy, once part of French Acadia, had been included in Nova Scotia. In 1784 this area was established as a separate colony known as New Brunswick. Cape Breton Island was simultaneously separated from Nova Scotia (a division that was ended in 1820). In all, some 35,000 Loyalist immigrants are believed to have settled in the Maritimes.
The settlement of the more inaccessible lands north and west of Lake Ontario and along the north shore of the upper St. Lawrence proceeded somewhat more slowly. About 5,000 Loyalists came to this area.
Upper and Lower Canada
It was clear that these United Empire Loyalists who had come to the western wilderness of what was still part of Quebec would not long be satisfied with the limited rights and French laws established by the Quebec Act. Accordingly, in 1791 the British Parliament enacted the Constitutional Act, whereby Quebec was split into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Each of these was to be governed by a legislative council appointed for life and a legislative assembly elected by the people.
The right to be represented in a lawmaking assembly was something new for the French-speaking inhabitants of the lower province. Legislative assemblies had been in existence in Nova Scotia since 1758, in Prince Edward Island since 1773, and in New Brunswick since 1786. Representative government, however, was not responsible government, as was to be demonstrated before another 50 years had passed.
Settlement and Exploration in the West
The Canadian prairies were not entirely unknown even in the days of New France. As early as the 1730s a family of explorers headed by Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Verendrye, began a series of overland explorations far to the west of Lake Superior. Their travels carried them into what is now the western United States, perhaps as far as the foothills of the Rockies. They visited Lake Winnipeg, the Red River, the Assiniboine River, and the Saskatchewan River as far upstream as the fork formed by the North and the South Saskatchewan.
The posts of the Hudson's Bay Company had given England a preferred jumping-off point for exploration of the Canadian west. An expedition under Henry Kelsey explored the territory between York Factory and northern Saskatchewan in 1690, long before the journeys of the La Verendryes. In 1754 Anthony Henday traveled from Hudson Bay as far as the foothills of the Rockies, reaching a point near the site of present-day Red Deer, Alta. Another Hudson's Bay Company trader, Samuel Hearne, discovered Great Slave Lake in 1771, and by descending the Coppermine River to its mouth, he became the first white man to reach the Arctic Ocean by land. Although the Rockies still barred the overland route to the western ocean, the Pacific coast of Canada was visited by sea in 1778, when Capt. James Cook explored the northwest coastline from Vancouver Island to Alaska.
In 1783 a group of Montreal merchants founded the powerful North West Company. Not only did the new fur-trading company provide sharp competition, but its trappers explored large parts of the previously unknown expanses of the Canadian west. In 1789 Alexander Mackenzie (one of the Nor'westers) followed the river which now bears his name from its source to the Arctic Ocean. Disappointed because he had not discovered a route to the Pacific, he set out on another expedition in 1792. After a strenuous journey over the most rugged country on the continent, Mackenzie and his companions at last crossed the Rocky Mountains to reach the Fraser River in 1793. From the Fraser they portaged to the Bella Coola, which they descended until they sighted the long-sought western sea. Only a few weeks earlier Capt. George Vancouver had explored the same part of the Pacific coast by sea.
Mackenzie's journey was the first made across the continent in either Canada or the United States. In 1808 the Fraser River was thoroughly explored by Simon Fraser, after whom it is named. In 1811 David Thompson completed his exploration of the Columbia from its source, in southeastern British Columbia, to its mouth, in present-day Oregon.
The Selkirk Settlement
Although fur trading and settlement did not go well together, Thomas Douglas, earl of Selkirk, became interested in the possibilities of settling Scottish farmers who had lost their farms at home in the fertile valley of the Red River near present-day Winnipeg. From the Hudson's Bay Company he purchased a huge tract of 100,000 acres in this area. In 1812 the first group of Selkirk's settlers from Scotland and Ireland began to arrive from Hudson Bay, where they had spent the previous winter.
The jealousy of the Nor'westers, as well as of the half-breeds, known as metis, was aroused immediately. Fighting broke out between the new settlers and the established traders. The colony was permanently established in 1817, when Selkirk himself arrived with a force of military veterans to put an end to the troubles and to punish the traders, whom he held responsible for the bloodshed that had occurred. The North West Company, a rival fur trading company, brought a lawsuit against Selkirk for the action he had taken, and he was forced to pay damages. Although Selkirk returned to Great Britain in poor health in November 1818 and died a disappointed man a few years later, he had begun the first permanent settlement on the Canadian prairies. (See also Fur Trade, History of the; Manitoba.)
The War of 1812
Meanwhile the British colonies far to the east found themselves involved with the United States in a new war that threatened to end their existence under the English flag. The declaration of war announced by the United States had several causes. Chief among these was Britain's insistence on its right to search American vessels for deserters from its own navy during the war against Napoleon. In addition, England had interfered with American trade with Europe. It was claimed too that the British in Canada had been inciting the Indians against the American settlements along the northwestern frontier.
The early hopes of the United States to drive the British entirely from North America were dashed by a series of defeats at the hands of British regulars and Canadian militia forces. Fort Michilimackinac, at the entrance to Lake Michigan, was captured by the British soon after the outbreak of fighting and was not recaptured during the remainder of the war. An American attack across the Detroit border was not only forced back but, under the brilliant generalship of Gen. Isaac Brock, ably assisted by the Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh and his warriors, was turned into a disastrous defeat. The army defending Detroit was forced to surrender, and the fort itself fell into British hands. Later the same year, the United States launched an attack on the Niagara frontier. Brock was killed early during the fighting at Queenston Heights, but the invasion was repulsed.
Although there were times when the United States occupation of the whole of Upper Canada seemed almost certain, brilliant defensive battles turned the tide on every such occasion. Among the most important engagements were those at Chateauguay and Crysler's Farm in the autumn of 1813 at a time when United States forces were threatening to capture Montreal and cut off the only supply line to Upper Canada. At Chateauguay Col. Charles de Salaberry cleverly posted buglers in the woods about the invading soldiers and convinced the United States troops that they were surrounded by superior forces. This battle also provided another opportunity for French Canadians to fight side by side with their English-speaking countrymen. The victorious outcome contributed a great deal to the growing national pride of Canadians in both Upper and Lower Canada.
Peace was finally signed between Great Britain and the United States on Christmas Eve in 1814. The terms of the treaty called for the restoration of forts and territories that had been captured by both countries. The future sentiments of the British colonies, however, had been made a little more certain. Strong feelings of national pride had been aroused among the people. All likelihood of a union between the United States and Canada had disappeared. (See also War of 1812.)
Struggle for Self-Government
The successful defense of their homeland had not left the Canadians incapable of seeing faults in their own form of government. There were those--especially among the successful businessmen and wealthier landowners--who believed that the colonists had sufficient powers of self-government through their elected assemblies. There were others, however, who saw little advantage in an assembly whose bills could be defeated by the legislative council, or could go unsigned by the governor on the advice of the executive council. The real power did not lie in the hands of the people through their elected representatives, but with appointed officials who were responsible only to the government in Britain. In practice the power lay in the hands of the governor and of his executive advisers.
The citizens could use their assembly as little more than a forum in which to criticize the manner in which the government was operated. Worse still, local matters that today are dealt with by elected municipal bodies were all handled by the central government of each colony.
Mackenzie and Papineau Rebel
The period following the War of 1812 was one of expansion of population, business, and settlement. This was especially true in Upper Canada, where large numbers of newcomers were attracted by low-cost land grants. The very growth of the colony offered many opportunities for profit by those who could control the land grants.
One of the loudest accusers of the government's administration of the land grants was William Lyon Mackenzie (see Mackenzie, William Lyon). His criticisms centered on a group that was known as the Family Compact. This was a loose and somewhat misleading name for the members of the governing class and their friends, among whom were actually many leaders of great honesty and competence. Mackenzie, however, never clearly understood the principles of responsible government by which the executive would carry out the wishes of the government and the government would hold office only so long as it had the support of the people's elected representatives. Thus when the government failed to redress the long series of grievances that he listed, Mackenzie began to call for the independence of Upper Canada.
As affairs in Upper Canada moved toward a climax, an equally serious crisis was building in Lower Canada. The grievances were different, but the causes were similar. Here the real power was in the hands of a British governor and his councilors, referred to critically as the Chateau Clique, who constantly rebuffed the elected representatives of the French-Canadian majority. The leader of the radical reforms in Lower Canada was Louis Joseph Papineau (see Papineau). Papineau, like Mackenzie, had been several times elected to the provincial assembly. Like Mackenzie, he had finally come to the conclusion that no lasting reform could be achieved unless the bonds with Britain were severed.
Rioting occurred in Montreal in 1837. When the government decided to arrest Papineau, he immediately fled across the border to the United States. Largely because the radicals interpreted this as persecution of their leader, open rebellion followed in several centers. All revolts were quickly put down.
Similar troubles broke out in Upper Canada almost immediately. Mackenzie prematurely called for an advance toward Toronto from his headquarters just north of the city before his ill-equipped followers were sufficiently well organized. The attack was driven back; and the city, rapidly filling with Loyalist supporters, was fully alerted. A few days later these forces marched northward against Mackenzie and, after a short skirmish, dispersed his troops.
Like Papineau, Mackenzie fled across the United States border, but he had not abandoned the struggle. Early in 1838 he took possession of Navy Island in the Niagara River and, with a small number of followers, tried to organize his planned republic under what he spoke of as a "provisional government of Upper Canada." The army and militia were now in full control of the situation, and they forced Mackenzie to return to the United States once again. Other disturbances followed along the border during 1838. After a few unsuccessful raids, the United States took steps to prevent its territory from being used for further attacks against the Canadas.
The struggle for reform was more peaceful in the Maritimes. Here the leading reformers included Joseph Howe, in Nova Scotia, and Lemuel Allan Wilmot, in New Brunswick. Howe had a much clearer understanding of the principles and advantages of responsible government than had either Mackenzie or Papineau. Although he was persecuted for some of the criticisms he voiced in his newspaper, the Novascotian, he rallied widespread support. When sued for libel, he won his case.
The Durham Report
The seriousness of the troubles in British North America caused deep concern in Great Britain, where memories of the American Revolution could be recalled. At the request of Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1837, John George Lambton, earl of Durham, accepted appointment as governor in chief of British North America with special powers as lord high commissioner. He arrived in Quebec in the spring of 1838; though he ended his stay before the year was out, his Report on the Affairs of British North America is one of the most important documents in the history of the British Empire.
Durham recommended that Upper and Lower Canada be united under a single parliament. He said that if the colonies were given as much freedom to govern themselves as the people of Great Britain, they would become more loyal instead of less so. He even forecast the possibility of a union some day of all the British colonies in North America. His only serious error of judgment occurred when he said that the French-speaking Canadians might be expected to be absorbed by a growing English-speaking majority. Durham drove himself and others tirelessly to gather the information he required for his report during the few months he was in the country. His political opponents at home, however, continued to attack him, and, stung by their criticisms, he returned to England to submit his findings. He did not live to witness the action that was taken on his report, for within a year he became ill and died.
Canada West and Canada East
In 1840 the Act of Union was passed. It became effective the next year and joined Upper and Lower Canada under a central government. Henceforth the two colonies were to be known simply as Canada West and Canada East, respectively. There was to be an appointed upper chamber, or legislative council, in the new government as well as an assembly composed of the same number of elected members from each of the two old colonies. The seat of government was established at Kingston; but after 1844 it was moved to Montreal, then back and forth between Toronto and Quebec, and finally to Ottawa in 1865.
In the first several years of this period, the principle of complete self-government and the subordination of the governor's authority to that of Parliament was developed and finally accepted. It was a critical time in the constitutional history of Canada, and the ability of the two chief Canadian nationality groups to get along with each other was tested for many years.
Each side produced great public men. Prominent were Robert Baldwin from Canada West and Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine from Canada East (see Baldwin, Robert). Both men had taken part in the agitation preceding the rebellions of 1837, but they had stood apart from the extreme measures that led to armed insurrection. Both had grasped the meaning of responsible government. By joining forces they formed a strong coalition during the early years of the new government, and the result was that much legislation was carried through. Included were laws for establishing municipal governments, for founding the University of Toronto as a nonsectarian institution, and for changing the system of law courts.
The real test of the principle of responsible government took place in 1849. Parliament passed the Rebellion Losses Bill, which had to go before the governor-general, James Bruce, earl of Elgin, for his signature to become law. The bill provided for compensation to those who had suffered during the rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada. It was violently opposed by many of the Tories, who felt that tax money was being turned over to former rebels.
There was some question as to whether or not Elgin would sign the bill as his ministers advised him to do. When Elgin decided that he must sign into law whatever bill was recommended to him by his Cabinet, he was made the object of a torrent of abuse from the Tories. Elgin's carriage was attacked, and his house was stoned. Furthermore, rioting broke out, and the Parliament Buildings in Montreal were razed by fire. Out of the ashes of the government buildings, however, was born true colonial self-government that embodied the principle of responsible cabinet rule.
The Colonies Grow Up
In the meantime Canada was swelling with settlers, and the foundations of a British province on the west coast were being laid. A flood of newcomers began to arrive after the War of 1812, mostly from the British Isles. About 800,000 immigrants came to Canada between 1815 and 1850, sometimes spoken of as the period of the Great Migration. The hardships faced by the new settlers were many. The trials often began in the crowded, cholera-ridden, and poorly provisioned sailing ships that brought the newcomers in vast numbers across the Atlantic. The building of new settlements went on in the Maritime Provinces and in the Canadas, and early in the century Cape Breton Island was settled by Gaelic-speaking farmers from the Scottish Highlands.
The largest tracts of land available for settlement were in Upper Canada, where the opening of new subdivisions in the dense forests was an almost continuous process during this whole period. One of the largest and most famous of these was the huge tract of land on the north shore of Lake Erie acquired by Thomas Talbot in about 1802. Established in 1803, the Talbot Settlement was governed by him during the whole period of its development, which covered almost 50 years. In 1824 a large private enterprise known as the Canada Company, promoted by John Galt, was launched with government backing. Settlements began after the company obtained about 2.5 million acres. Between 1824 and 1843 the company was responsible for opening up most of the western part of the province lying north of the Talbot country.
Until the coming of the railway, the principal method of moving heavy freight over long distances was by water. Canals in the colonies were therefore improved, and new ones were dug. Roads were cut through the bush to connect the far-flung centers of settlement with lake and river ports. On the backwoods farms great branding fires burned steadily for weeks at a time as the pioneers slowly cleared their lands. As a rule, the stumps were left in the ground to rot, which required from five to six years for most woods. Cedar and pine roots might hamper the use of horse-drawn plows for as long as 15 to 20 years. In most respects pioneer life was very similar in Canada and the United States.
Settlement on the Pacific Coast
The isolation of the Pacific coast from the rest of Canada was almost complete during this period. The only practical route from the Pacific coast to England was by sea around Cape Horn. When the North West Company was absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, Dr. John McLoughlin was sent to superintend the affairs of the latter organization in the huge area lying between the Rockies and the Pacific and reaching as far south as California.
The boundary line between United States and British territory on the west coast was far from clear at this time. The Hudson's Bay Company possessed a flourishing trading post at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River more than 200 miles south of the present city of Vancouver. For a number of years this Oregon country (which included the later state of Washington) was the scene of fur trading and settlement by the British and Americans alike by common agreement. (See also Oregon; Washington, State of.)
In 1846 the Oregon Boundary Treaty determined that the international boundary should follow the 49th parallel, but that Vancouver Island should remain British. James Douglas, director of Fort Vancouver, had begun the building of Fort Victoria, on Vancouver Island, just three years earlier. Under his supervision it now became the company's western headquarters.
The dominating importance of the fur trade was challenged in 1858 by the electrifying news that gold had been discovered on the Fraser River. Douglas promptly extended his authority to the mainland, and in this action he was supported by the British government. There was a great need to bring law and order to the mining camps arising everywhere in the new territory. This need was met by Matthew Begbie, a firm and courageous judge whom Douglas called to his assistance. Many of the miners departed when the gold rush subsided. The people who stayed formed the nucleus of the later province of British Columbia.
One of the great engineering accomplishments of Canadian history up to this time was the building of the Cariboo Road between 1862 and 1865. It ran from the Fraser River port of Yale to the heart of the Cariboo gold-mining country, about 400 miles upstream. The territory it ran through was almost impassable.
The Confederation Idea
Sentiment bound the Canadas, the Maritimes, and British Columbia more closely to England than to each other. There were different standards of currency in use in the several colonies, and trade between them was complicated by customs barriers. Their everyday business brought them into close touch with the United States. When the St. Lawrence ports of Quebec and Montreal were frozen in, news and even passengers traveled on the new United States railways across the eastern states from New York to the Canadian border. The newly invented magnetic telegraph, which was installed in Toronto in 1846, soon connected that city not only with Quebec but also with New York City and New Orleans in the United States.
From 1861 to 1865 people in the British colonies watched with interest and uneasiness the course of the American Civil War (see Civil War, American). From this great conflict they saw arise a freshly united nation, powerfully equipped with what were now surplus tools of war and, in the opinion of many, only too willing to use them against the neighboring colonies of Great Britain. Britain had almost gone to war against the North because the North's blockade of Southern shipping interfered with Britain's cotton trade. The absorption of the British colonies into the United States was again being called for by United States extremists who revived the old cry of "manifest destiny" of their republic.
Lord Elgin had negotiated a ten-year trade treaty with the United States whereby tariffs were reduced on a reciprocal basis on many items. The resulting stimulation of trade was scheduled to cease in 1864, when United States renewal of the treaty was withheld. The desirability of substituting increased intercolonial trade was recognized by everyone in Canada and the Maritimes.
The government of the Canadas under the Act of Union was running into difficulties because Canada West by this time had increased in population faster than Canada East. The act had provided for equal representation of both parts of the colony at a time when French-speaking Canada East was numerically much larger than Canada West. A state of almost continuous deadlock ensued in Parliament, with no government able to secure a clear majority.
Between 1861 and 1864 four separate ministries and two general elections failed to end the impasse. In 1864 a coalition headed by the leader of the Conservatives, John A. Macdonald, and Liberal leader George Brown, who was founder of the Toronto Globe, gave promise of a more stable government (see Macdonald). Macdonald, with his trusted ally Georges-Etienne Cartier from Canada East, then obtained Brown's assurance of cooperation in the best interests of the country, even though Brown had long considered Macdonald and Cartier his deadly political enemies.
The coalition government wanted to work out some form of federal union to include the Maritime Provinces if they were willing. Provincial matters would be left to the individual provinces. Only subjects of concern to all the provinces would be dealt with by the federal government.
Dominion from Sea to Sea
By fortunate coincidence, the possibility of a local union of colonies was under discussion at this very time in the Maritimes. A conference was convened in Charlottetown, P.E.I., in 1864 to discuss the question. Macdonald, accompanied by Brown and Cartier, headed a delegation from Canada to this meeting of their Maritime cousins. They set forth the possible advantages of a union wide enough to include the Canadas as well. It was quickly agreed that another meeting should be held to consider the plan further. The result was the Quebec Conference, which was held later the same year. Agreements in principle on the conditions that might permit so ambitious a union were finally reached. These agreements were summed up in the Seventy-two Resolutions.
As if to lend emphasis to the importance of such a union, the anti-British Fenians in the United States were voicing plans to strike a blow for Irish independence at home by invading the British colonies in North America. In 1866 this threat culminated in a series of raids across the border into Canada, which were successfully repulsed. The United States took steps to preserve its neutrality by suppressing further Fenian attacks from its side of the border. Some of the national spirit of 1812 to 1814 was rekindled in the British colonies and served to strengthen the movement toward confederation.
In 1866 representatives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Canadas came together in London for final discussions with the Colonial Office. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island for the moment had withdrawn from the confederation talks. The London Conference led directly to the most important statute in Canadian constitutional history, the British North America Act of 1867. This act, with its subsequent amendments, embodied the written constitution of Canada for more than a century. It was proclaimed on July 1, now celebrated as Canada Day.
The British North America Act provided that there should be four provinces in the new Dominion at the outset--Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia--and that others could join later. Each province was to have its own seat of government, its own lawmaking body, and its own lieutenant governor to represent the Crown. In addition, the act established a federal government at Ottawa, composed of a House of Commons (elected), a Senate (appointed for life), and a governor-general as the Crown's representative. It set forth the matters on which the provinces could make laws and listed those that were the special concern of the government at Ottawa. Any powers not listed were to belong to the federal government. (The act remained in force until the Constitution Act of 1982.)
New Dominion Is Launched
The first Parliament of the new Dominion met on Nov. 6, 1867, with Macdonald as prime minister. By the Deed of Surrender of 1869, Canada purchased the vast Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company. The company was permitted to retain trading rights in the area and a small percentage of the prairie lands. (See also Hudson's Bay Company.)
The only western settlement of importance east of the Rockies was the Red River colony in Manitoba, which had attained a population of some 12,000 since Selkirk's time. The metis were the most numerous of these settlers. Their leader, Louis Riel, defied the new governor sent out to take over possession of the territory from the Hudson's Bay Company. Riel seized Fort Garry, set up his own provisional government, and forwarded demands to Ottawa that the civil rights and the land rights of the people be protected. At this point Riel might easily have won a place in Canadian history as the father of Manitoba, but he committed the grave error of imprisoning some of the Ontario settlers who opposed him and of having one of them, Thomas Scott, executed.
Calmer judgments prevailed when Donald Smith (later Lord Strathcona) and Bishop Alexandre Tache, the religious leader of the Red River Settlement, went to Ottawa and obtained passage of the Manitoba Act of 1870. By this act Manitoba was constituted a province, with its seat of government at Fort Garry (later Winnipeg). But it was a much smaller province, amounting to little more than the Red River Settlement. The right of the French-speaking inhabitants to their own religion and schools was recognized. Soldiers under Col. (later Sir) Garnet Wolseley were sent to Fort Garry to bring law and order on authority from Ottawa. Riel allowed his provisional government to collapse and fled from the new province. The Red River Rebellion was ended but not the career of Riel.
The first Dominion census, which was taken in 1871 in accordance with the British North America Act, showed a population of 3,689,257. In the same year the Treaty of Washington was signed between Great Britain and the United States, which settled United States and Canadian use of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system and the Yukon River in Alaska. The United States was accorded fishing rights in Canadian Atlantic waters for a limited period in return for 5 1/2 million dollars in compensation. Among the five commissioners who represented Great Britain in these negotiations was Macdonald. His presence was a recognition of Canada's new status in the British Empire.
During the same summer of 1871, British Columbia joined the new Canada Confederation. Improvement in overland communications was a primary condition imposed by the new province. Macdonald pledged that the Dominion government would begin construction of a transcontinental railway within two years and complete it within ten years.
Progress on the Intercolonial Railway, which was to link the Maritimes with Quebec, encouraged Prince Edward Island in 1873 to become the seventh province in the Dominion. The transcontinental railway project already was requiring heavy financial commitments by the government, and Macdonald was under considerable pressure in the House of Commons as well as in the press. He won the election of 1872, only to face charges by his political enemies that railway contractors had contributed heavily to his party's election funds. The Pacific Scandal, as this incident was named, defeated the Conservatives in 1873. Alexander Mackenzie headed the Liberal government that then took office.
Mackenzie's contribution to the infant Dominion was real though unspectacular. During his term in office from 1873 to 1878, voting by ballot was introduced in 1874; the Supreme Court of Canada held its first sitting in 1876; and the Intercolonial Railway ran its first train from Halifax to Quebec, also in 1876. A tireless worker and a man of high personal integrity, Mackenzie nevertheless did not have great popular appeal. When Macdonald fought the 1878 election on a platform of protectionist tariffs, which he called his National Policy, the voters favored their "old chieftain." The Conservatives thus were returned to office.
Macdonald's National Policy
Macdonald sought to strengthen the new Dominion both at home and abroad. He could foresee the ultimate evolution of something akin to the modern British Commonwealth, in which Canada would be an equal partner with the mother country. During the seven years following his return to office, his government adopted its previously announced protective tariff (1879), appointed Canada's first high commissioner to London (1880), annexed the Arctic Archipelago (1880), and completed the overdue transcontinental railway (1885).
In 1885 word of a new crisis was flashed from the Northwest Territories. Louis Riel was leading the metis of the valley of the South Saskatchewan in a new uprising against the federal government, and this time he had aroused numbers of the Indians to fight beside him. A militia force was hastily dispatched under Gen. Frederick Middleton over the completed portion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Within a few weeks the Northwest Rebellion was put down and Riel was arrested. His trial for treason and his execution aroused wide controversy across Canada and to a considerable extent cost the Conservative party the support of French-speaking Canadians for many decades.
Macdonald's National Policy was by now the chief target of the Liberals, who were calling for "unrestricted reciprocity" in trade with the United States. Macdonald won the 1891 election. His health was failing, however, and later that year he died.
Because of their government majority, the Conservatives were not required to call a new election for five years. During this time, however, they had to select four prime ministers in succession--Sir John J.C. Abbott (1891-92), Sir John S.D. Thompson (1892-94), Sir Mackenzie Bowell (1894-96), and Sir Charles Tupper (1896). Finally the Conservative party foundered, under Tupper's leadership, on the thorny Manitoba School Question. Manitoba had abolished its separate Roman Catholic schools a few years earlier. This was allegedly in violation of provisions in the Manitoba Act and the British North America Act. The provincial government's action was upheld, however, by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. (See also Abbott; Thompson, John Sparrow David; Tupper.)
The new Liberal leader, Wilfrid Laurier, a French-speaking Canadian, favored conciliation rather than coercion. The Conservatives were defeated on the issue in the election; and the responsibility of government passed to the Liberals, under Laurier.
The Age of Laurier
Wilfrid Laurier's regime lasted 15 years. It was one of renewed growth and prosperity. The Manitoba School Question was promptly hushed up by new legislation enacted by the province in accordance with a compromise worked out with Ottawa. To his Cabinet Laurier drew some of the most capable leaders from every part of Canada.
Business throughout the world was on an upswing, and the Laurier government rode the crest. The demand for Canadian wheat abroad encouraged immigration, and immigration in turn increased farm production and the value of national exports. "The 20th century belongs to Canada," cried Laurier; and the whole nation took confidence from his assurance. Two new transcontinental railways were begun. By 1905 the west had expanded in both population and economic strength to such an extent that two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, were carved out of the Northwest Territories.
These encouraging developments were inadvertently assisted by an occurrence in the far northwest. Since the Fraser River gold strike of 1858, prospectors had been consistently combing the mountainous areas of British Columbia and to the north. In 1896 their persistence paid off with the discovery of gold nuggets on the Klondike River in the far western Yukon Territory. When the news spread, the gold rush of 1897 began; it was to become the most publicized gold rush in history, eventually to be celebrated in the works of such writers as Jack London and Robert Service.
The gold strike had some beneficial side effects. As miners poured into western Canada from the United States and other parts of the world, the extent of the unpopulated prairie lands became known. By this time, of course, the supply of free land in the United States had become exhausted, and the frontier was closed. Very soon after the gold rush, settlers began pouring into the western prairies of Canada by the thousands, from Europe as well as the United States. They came from as far away as Russia to establish farms on the open wheatlands. It was not long before demands arose for the creation of at least one province between Manitoba and British Columbia. Thus, in 1905, the government in Ottawa formed two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Another benefit resulting, at least in part, from the gold rush was the discovery of other minerals in the Canadian wilds. As early as 1883, nickel had been found at Sudbury, Ont. In the early 1890s large deposits of base-metal ores were found in southern British Columbia. After 1900 a rich deposit of silver was discovered north of Lake Nipissing in Ontario. Canada soon became perceived around the world as a mineral-rich nation with great untapped potential.
The new prime minister thus basked in an environment of progress and prosperity after a depression that had lasted more than 20 years. Laurier's only serious political difficulties stemmed from his inability to satisfy fully the imperialists among his followers. Great Britain received support in the Boer War of 1899-1902 from the other self-governing colonies, and Laurier reluctantly committed Canada as well (see Boer War). His decision, however, sharpened the controversy between the two nationality groups regarding Canada's proper responsibilities to Britain in the future. On the other hand, he continued to resist pressures to tie the bonds of empire still more tightly during the years after the victory in South Africa. Seeds of distrust concerning his policies were thus sown on both sides of the wall that was rising between Canadians of French and of English descent.
Another foreign policy issue arose as naval competition increased between Germany and Britain in the years before World War I. Great Britain naturally desired to receive military help from the colonies, and again Laurier found a compromise that satisfied neither the pro-British faction nor the French partisans. He founded the Canadian Navy in 1910 with the provision that in time of war it be placed under British command. This quickly led to accusations that Canadian soldiers would be drafted into the British Army if war came.
In 1911, when his opponents denounced his government's decision to implement a limited reciprocity pact with the United States, Laurier felt he was on firmer ground and called a general election. His defeat, which occurred largely on this issue, showed that the prospering nation's reservations regarding his policies were exceeded only by its lingering distrust of the United States. (See also Laurier.)
Canada and World War I
The new Conservative government, headed by Robert Laird Borden, had the responsibility of rallying the nation to Britain's side in World War I (see Borden). Had Canadians remained as divided as they were at the end of Laurier's term, this might have been a difficult thing to do. But Germany's invasion of neutral Belgium in 1914 forged a unity of Canadian sentiment and a demand for participation in the conflict.
The first Canadian contingent, numbering 33,000, reached England soon after the outbreak of war in 1914, and it was in the thick of the fighting on the continent a few months later in the second battle of Ypres. By 1916 the Canadians had formed four divisions, with a fifth to provide reinforcements. The four divisions of the Canada Corps earned an outstanding reputation as a fighting force. More significant, however, was the fact that Canada was playing a respectable role on the world stage, a role that would soon help undo its colonial status.
Before the war ended in 1918, more than 619,000 officers and men had enlisted, including some 22,000 who had served in the British Royal Air Force. More than 60,000 Canadians were killed in action or died of wounds, a terribly heavy toll in relation to the country's population. Over 66 million shells were produced in Canadian factories. The gross national debt soared from 544 million dollars in 1914 to almost 2 1/2 billion dollars in 1919, most of the money being raised in Canada itself through public war loans.
The Canadian forces at the outset were made up wholly of volunteers. Casualties and the rapidly accelerating pace of the war made the bitter question of conscription a major issue by 1917. Borden met it by forming a coalition government of Conservatives and Liberals, though Laurier refused to join the coalition. In the election of that year, Quebec was almost unanimous in its opposition to the conscription policy that was supported elsewhere across the country. The political solidarity of the province during the next 25 years was largely derived from its memory of that episode.
On the battlefronts in France and Belgium, Canadians of both nationality backgrounds made magnificent contributions to the final victory. They faced with heroism the first poison-gas attack in the history of warfare during the second battle of Ypres in 1915. Other engagements in which Canadian forces earned the admiration of all the Allies included the battles of Mount Sorrel (1916), the Somme (1916), and Vimy Ridge (1917). The victory of Passchendaele Ridge in the autumn of 1917 alone cost 16,000 Canadian casualties. In 1918 during the closing months of the war, Canadians again saw heavy action at Amiens, Cambrai, and Mons.
Canada Between the Wars
At the end of 1919 the Canadian government acquired the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian Northern Grand Trunk and merged them to create the publicly owned Canadian National Railways. Upon Borden's retirement in 1920, Arthur Meighen succeeded as prime minister. The election of 1921 brought the Liberals back into office under a new leader, William Lyon Mackenzie King (see King, Mackenzie). Because the government had a bare majority, it depended upon the support of the Progressive (Farmer) party members.
After four years of timid Liberal leadership, a new election strengthened the Conservative representation but not quite to the point of giving the party control of Parliament. This was accomplished in 1926, when a scandal in the Department of Customs and Excise cost the Liberals their majority in the House. By political shrewdness, however, King forced Meighen's second government to go to the people for an election within a matter of days; and the Liberals were once more returned to power.
The 1920s were marked everywhere by a spiraling expansion of business. Technical and industrial advances paced the rising standard of living. In the summer of 1929 industrial production began to slow significantly. In October of that year the stock market crash heralded unemployment and financial ruin across Canada, as it did elsewhere in the world. Defeated in the 1930 elections, King made way for the Conservatives under Richard Bedford Bennett (later Viscount Bennett). Bennett thus had the unenviable responsibility of dealing with the Great Depression. His inability to deal with the crisis, coupled with the severe drought in the prairies, led Canadians to desert the Conservatives. The election of 1935 brought the Liberals back into office, a position they were to continue to hold without interruption for 22 years.
The British Commonwealth of Nations
The period between the wars brought the culmination of Canada's growth to independent nationhood within the British Commonwealth. Prime Minister Borden had been included in the Imperial War Cabinet in London. He piloted through the Imperial Conference of 1917 a resolution that the dominions "should be recognized as autonomous nations of an imperial commonwealth." To both the 1919 Peace Conference and the League of Nations Canada sent its own delegates. The Imperial Conference of 1926 confirmed in its Declaration of Equality that the United Kingdom as well as the dominions had become "autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another." They were, however, "united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations." These resolutions were confirmed by the British Parliament in 1931 in the Statute of Westminster.
The statute provided that no law passed in the future by the United Kingdom should extend to any dominion "except at the request and with the consent of that Dominion." Canadian sovereignty thus had been achieved by a long process of peaceful constitutional evolution. This was vividly demonstrated by the independent decision of its Parliament that Canada enter World War II at the side of Britain, which it did within a week of the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939.
Canada and World War II
Within three months an entire division of the new Canadian Active Service Force had been transported to the United Kingdom, and an agreement had been announced for a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to be centered in Canada. This project alone trained more than 131,000 aircrew personnel for the Commonwealth. Canada contributed 72,800 pilots, navigators, aerial gunners and bombardiers, and flight engineers. These Canadians saw service in almost every theater of war. The Royal Canadian Navy was increased from fewer than a dozen vessels to more than 400. It served primarily as an antisubmarine and convoy force in the North Atlantic. Some of its units were deployed from time to time as far away as the Mediterranean and the Pacific.
The forces under the command of Gen. A.G.L. McNaughton were required to spend a long and frustrating period on vital guard duty in Britain throughout the period of greatest threat of German invasion. Elsewhere abroad, two Canadian battalions sent to Hong Kong in 1941 were overrun when the colony was captured by the Japanese at the end of that year. The first engagement of the enemy by Canadian forces based in England occurred in 1942 in a courageous, but terribly costly, commando-type raid against Dieppe. In the summer of 1943 Canadian troops were sent into action with the British in the successful assault against Sicily, whence they carried the campaign to the Italian mainland.
Early in 1945 the Canadians were withdrawn from Italy to permit reunification of the Canadian Army in northwestern Europe. The climax of the war had already come, however, with the Normandy landings in June 1944, in which the Canadian Army played an important part. Instrumental in the capture of Caen, which followed, the Canadians won another major victory in the closing of the Falaise gap later the same summer. In the costly and difficult battle of the Scheldt estuary that autumn, the Canadians cleared the sea passage to Antwerp, already in Allied hands. In the bitter battle along the Hochwald Ridge in February 1945, Canadian losses were extremely heavy. This battle opened the final attack across the Rhine, which was a prelude to the unconditional surrender by Germany on May 7, 1945.
All persons over 16 years of age were required to take part in a national registration for war service, and compulsory military service for home defense only was introduced. Prime Minister King had assured the nation that there would be no conscription for overseas duty. As the war wore on, however, it became increasingly clear that the government needed to be released from the commitment. King accomplished this by a national plebiscite. All the provinces except Quebec voted in favor of conscription for overseas service if necessary. In 1944, after the Normandy invasion, the drain on manpower became so severe that draftees were sent overseas for the first time as reinforcements for the troops in Europe.
The losses in the war overseas were complemented by economic gains on the homefront. War productivity effectively ended the Great Depression and greatly increased the labor force. Canadian workers produced raw materials, farm products, and manufactured goods needed to fight the war; and this was all done in a volume unprecedented in Canadian history. Industrialization was thus rapidly advanced, through both investment of capital and striking advances in technology. (See also World War II.)
Canada played an active role in the United Nations from the time of the organization's inception after the war (see United Nations). King retired in favor of Louis St. Laurent in 1948, after having held office for a longer period than any other prime minister in Canada's history (see Saint Laurent). In 1949 Newfoundland joined the Confederation as the tenth province. In the same year Canada became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. When the United Nations took action to defend South Korea from invasion by North Korea, Canada contributed units from all three branches of its armed forces. During the hostilities (1950-53) approximately 27,000 Canadians saw service in the Far East.
The appointment of the first native-born Canadian as governor-general occurred when the Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey was sworn into office in 1952. Massey had been chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences.
The St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959. It was formally dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States. (See also Saint Lawrence River.)
On Feb. 15, 1965, Canada raised a red and white maple-leaf flag. It was adopted by Parliament in December 1964 and was Canada's first official national flag.
Centennial of Canadian Confederation
The year 1967 marked the 100th anniversary of the British North America Act, which had been proclaimed on July 1, 1867, and established the basis for the modern state of Canada. A giant birthday party on Parliament Hill in Ottawa was attended by Queen Elizabeth II. A highlight of the year was the Universal and International Exhibition, known as Expo '67, held in Montreal. Also to mark the centennial, Winnipeg, Man., was host to the fifth Pan-American Games, and the Order of Canada was instituted to reward Canadians for outstanding merit and service.
In 1982 the British North America Act was replaced by a new constitution for the government of Canada. Queen Elizabeth visited Parliament Hill to proclaim the document. This completed the transfer of constitutional powers from Great Britain to Canada. (See also Canada Confederation, Fathers of.)
Beginning in the 1960s Quebec was the center of militant agitation to separate it from Canada and establish a French-speaking nation. In 1969 French and English were both declared the official languages of Canada. In 1970 terrorist acts by alleged separatists were climaxed by the kidnapping and murder of Quebec's minister of labor and immigration, Pierre Laporte. The federal government sent in troops and temporarily suspended civil liberties. In 1974 French became the official language of the province.
A party pledged to Quebec separatism won the 1976 provincial election and passed several measures to strengthen the movement. Under a controversial law adopted in 1977, education in English-language schools was greatly restricted. The charter also changed English place-names and imposed French as the language of business, court judgments, laws, government regulations, and public institutions.
Although the separatist party retained power, a referendum to make the province an independent country was rejected by the Quebec voters in 1980. The Quebec government opposed the 1982 constitution, which included a provision for freedom of language in education, and unsuccessfully sought a veto over constitutional change. In 1984 the Supreme Court ruled against Quebec's schooling restrictions.
In 1987 the Meech Lake constitutional accord recognized Quebec as a "distinct society" and transferred extensive new powers to all the provinces. Quebec promised that it would accept the 1982 constitution if the accord was approved by all the rest of the provinces. The House of Commons ratified the Meech Lake accord on June 22, 1988, but the accord died on June 23, 1990, after Newfoundland and Manitoba withheld their support. A new set of constitutional proposals hammered out by a parliamentary committee was agreed upon in 1992. They called for decentralization of federal powers, an elected Senate, and special recognition of Quebec as a distinct society. In a referendum held in October 1992, Canadians decisively turned down the constitutional changes. Quebec voters narrowly rejected secession from Canada in a 1995 referendum. (See also Quebec.)
Modern Canadian Leadership
The long period of Liberal domination in Parliament ended in 1957. The St. Laurent government was replaced when the Progressive Conservatives (called Conservatives before 1942) took office under the prime ministership of John G. Diefenbaker (see Diefenbaker, John).
In the 1962 elections the Progressive Conservatives lost their control of Parliament, but no other party was able to win a majority. Diefenbaker, as leader of the largest minority party, formed a weak coalition government. In February 1963 his government fell on the issue of Canada's failure to execute its 1958 commitments to accept nuclear weapons from the United States for the joint defense of North America.
In general elections on April 8 the Liberals won more seats than any other party, and Liberal leader Lester B. Pearson was named prime minister of Canada in 1963 at the head of another minority government (see Pearson, Lester B.). In 1968 the Liberals chose Pierre Elliott Trudeau to succeed him (see Trudeau, Pierre Elliott). In the general elections in June, Trudeau won, with the Liberals taking a majority. This was the first election to use the electoral constituency boundaries of 1965.
In the October 1972 elections Trudeau's Liberals won but failed to gain a majority. They were able to stay in power with New Democratic support, but in May 1974 Trudeau's government fell. The Liberals won a new majority in the July parliamentary elections.
Economic issues brought about the Liberals' defeat five years later. The Progressive Conservatives, led by Joe Clark, formed a minority government that fell after only six months (see Clark, Joe). Although Trudeau resigned his party leadership in November 1979, he was again named prime minister in 1980.
Trudeau resigned once again in 1984 and was succeeded by John Turner on June 30. On July 9, Turner called for dissolving Parliament and holding a new election. He retained ministers from the Trudeau Cabinet and appointed Trudeau supporters to the Senate, courts, and diplomatic posts.
Dissatisfaction with this continuation of Trudeau's influence led to victory in the September election for the Progressive Conservatives, under the leadership of Brian Mulroney (see Mulroney, Brian). Mulroney sought to improve relations with the United States.
In October 1987 Canada and the United States reached agreement on a trade pact to eliminate all bilateral tariffs over a ten-year period beginning Jan. 1, 1989. The two countries signed a Great Lakes water-quality agreement in November. Both countries agreed to track and clean up sources of pollution.
In January 1988 abortion was legalized in Canada. Victories by Mulroney and his Conservative party in the November 1988 elections guaranteed passage of the free-trade agreement.
The socialist New Democratic party chose Audrey McLaughlin, the member of Parliament from the Yukon, as its leader in 1989--the first woman to head a major Canadian political party. While the international political climate became more conservative, the party began to dominate Canadian leadership in the early 1990s. New Democrats were elected premiers of the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
With his popularity slumping, Mulroney resigned in February 1993. He was succeeded by Kim Campbell, who became the first female prime minister in Canadian history. Campbell and the Conservatives were annihilated in the October 1993 elections, retaining only two seats in the House of Commons. The Liberal party won 177 seats to take control of the government, and Jean Chretien became prime minister.
Native Peoples Issues
A series of protests by native peoples swept across Canada in 1990. On March 11 a Mohawk group set up a blockade to stop the town of Oka, Que., from expanding a golf course on 55 acres (22 hectares) they claimed as ancestral territory. On July 11 a force of 100 Quebec police officers attacked the blockade, setting off a gun battle in which one police officer was killed. The Mohawks held the blockade for 11 weeks, finally surrendering to the Army in September. Another group of Indians blockaded the Mercier Bridge, one of the four main bridges into Montreal.
In other disputes over land claims, different Indian groups set up several blockades of the rail lines in Ontario and in British Columbia, disrupting freight and passenger service. In southwestern Ontario five hydro transmission towers were toppled in September. A Canadian National Railway bridge was destroyed by fire. Other native peoples blocked roads and highways to draw attention to their concerns. A group of Peigan Indians defended a diversion of the Oldman River which they had built to protest the construction of a dam that they said would destroy their lands.
On May 4, 1992, voters in the Northwest Territories authorized the partition of their huge area into two separate territories, one to become a self-governing homeland for Inuit, or Eskimos. The eastern portion, covering 772,260 square miles (2,000,144 square kilometers), was inhabited by about 17,500 Inuit. The new territory was to be called Nunavut, meaning Our Land. Although the plebiscite was not binding on the Canadian government, the agreement was expected to be ratified and to go into effect by 1999. Later in the year the government agreed that Indians and Inuit have the right of self-government.