Origin of name: "Kanata" is an Iroquois word meaning "a village"

© 1999-2000 and Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Pre-contact aboriginal history...

The first humans to make their homes in North America migrated from Asia. It is generally thought that this migration took place over a now-submerged land bridge from Siberia to Alaska sometime between about 20,000 and 35,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age; the argument has been made, however, that some people arrived earlier, possibly up to 60,000 years ago. Unknown numbers of people moved southward along the western edge of the North American ice cap. The presence of the ice, which for a time virtually covered Canada, makes it reasonable to assume that the southern reaches of North America were settled before Canada, and that the Inuit (Eskimo) who live in Canada's Arctic regions today were the last of the aboriginal peoples to reach Canada. There is general agreement that Native American peoples are related to Asiatic peoples, and that the closest resemblances are between North American Arctic peoples and their counterparts in Siberia.

Although there are no written records detailing the history of American Indian society prior to the first contact with Europeans, archaeological evidence and oral traditions give a reasonably complete picture of the precontact period. There were 12 major language groups among the peoples living in what is now Canada: Algonquian, Iroquoian, Siouan, Athabascan, Kootenaian, Salishan, Wakashan, Tsimshian, Haidan, Tlinglit, Inuktitut, and Beothukan. Within each language group there were usually political and cultural divisions. Among the Iroquoian people, for example, there were two major subgroups, the Iroquois and the Huron. These subgroups were also divided; at the time of contact the Iroquois had organized themselves into a confederacy, the Iroquois League, consisting of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes. A sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, joined later.

There was much variety in cultures, means of subsistence, tribal laws and customs, and philosophies of trade and intertribal relations in precontact Canada. The peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, such as the Huron, Iroquois, Petun, Neutral, Ottawa, and Algonquin, created a mixed subsistence economy of hunting and agriculture supplemented by trade. Semipermanent villages were built, trails were cleared between villages, fields were cultivated, and game was hunted. There was a high level of political organization among some of these peoples; both the Huron and the Iroquois formed political and religious confederacies and both created extensive trade systems and political alliances with other groups. Peoples living in the far north do not appear to have formed larger political communities, while those of the west coast and the Eastern Woodlands formed sophisticated political, social, and cultural institutions. Climate and geography undoubtedly were major factors affecting the nature of the societies that evolved in the various regions of North America. The one characteristic virtually all the groups in precontact Canada shared was that they were self-governing and politically independent.

European contact and early exploration...

At the beginning of the 9th century AD, seaborne Norse invaders pushed out of the Scandinavian Peninsula to Britain, Ireland, and northern Europe. In the mid-9th century a number of Norse craft reached Iceland, where a permanent settlement was established. Near the end of the 10th century the Norse reached Greenland and ventured to the coast of North America; at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland are the remains of what are believed to be as many as three Norse settlements. According to available evidence the Norse settlers and the Inuit (whom the Norse called Skraeling) initially fought each other then established a regular trade relationship. The Norse settlements were soon abandoned, probably as the Norse withdrew from Greenland.

Europeans did not return to northern North America until the Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto, known in English as John Cabot, sailed from Bristol in 1497 under a commission from the English king to search for a short route to Asia (what became known as the Northwest Passage). In that voyage and in a voyage the following year, during which he died, Cabot and his sons explored the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and possibly Nova Scotia. They discovered that the cold northwest Atlantic waters were teeming with fish; soon Portuguese, Spanish, and French fishing crews braved the Atlantic crossing to fish in the waters of the Grand Banks. Some began to land on the coast of Newfoundland to dry their catch before returning to Europe. Despite Cabot's explorations, the English paid little heed to the Atlantic fishery until the early 1580s; in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert laid claim to the lands around present-day St. John's in Newfoundland, probably as a base for an English fishery. The French also claimed parts of Newfoundland, primarily on the north and west coasts of the island, as bases for their own fishing endeavours. The fishery ushered in the initial period of contact between the Indians and the Europeans. Although each was deeply suspicious of the other, a sporadic trade was conducted in scattered locations between the fishing crews and the Indians, with the latter trading furs for iron and other manufactured goods.

"Discovering" Canada - 1534...

The settlement of New France...

The discoverer of the great entry to Canada, the St. Lawrence River, was the Frenchman Jacques Cartier. In 1534, in a voyage conducted with great competence, he explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence and claimed its shores for the French crown. In the following year, Cartier ascended the river itself and visited the sites of Stadacona (modern Quebec city) and Hochelaga (Montreal). So favourable were his reports that the French king, anxious to challenge the claims of Spain in the New World, decided to set up a fortified settlement. Internal and European politics delayed the enterprise until 1541, when, under the command of the Lord de Roberval, Cartier returned to Stadacona and founded Charlesbourg-Royal just northwest of Quebec. Cartier had hoped to discover precious gems and minerals, as the Spaniards had done in Mexico and Peru, but the mineral specimens he sent home were worthless; "false as a Canadian diamond" became a common French expression. Disappointed in his attempt to reach the mythical "Kingdom of Saguenay," the reputed source of precious metals, Cartier returned to France after a severe winter, deserting Roberval, who had arrived in Newfoundland with reinforcements. Roberval also failed, and during the century only two subsequent attempts were made at exploiting the French claim to the lands of the St. Lawrence. The French claim remained; it had only to be made good by actual occupation.

Settling Acadia - 1604...

In 1604, the French navigator Samuel de Champlain, under the Lord de Monts, who had received a grant of the monopoly, led a group of settlers from the St. Lawrence region to Acadia. He chose as a site Dochet Island in the St. Croix River, on the present boundary between the United States and Canada. But the island proved unsuitable, and in 1605 the colony was moved across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal, NS). The colony was to be a trading post and a centre of settlement, but the rugged, forested inlets of the Nova Scotian peninsula, the heavy forests of the St. John River, and the many bays and beaches of Cape Breton and Prince Edward islands made it impossible to enforce the monopoly of the fur trade against enterprising interlopers.

In 1608, therefore, de Monts and Champlain left Acadia and returned to the St. Lawrence. At "the place where the river narrowed" (Quebec), they built a "habitation" (i.e., a fur-trading fort, or factory) to control the great river and to be the entrepôt of its fur trade. Already in 1603 Champlain had noted that the Iroquois, whom Jacques Cartier had found there, had withdrawn from the St. Lawrence under pressure from the Algonquin Indians of the north country and Acadia. The French then became the allies of the Algonquin in the rivalry that began for control of the inland fur trade. In 1609, in accordance with this alliance, Champlain and three companions joined an Algonquin war party in a raid against the Mohawk, the easternmost tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy. The party ascended the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain. In an encounter with a Mohawk band, the firearms of Champlain and his men killed some Iroquois and panicked the remainder. This skirmish signaled the initial commitment of New France to the side of the Algonquin and the Huron (who were Iroquoian but hostile to the confederacy) in the century-long struggle for control of the output of furs from as far away as the western Great Lakes. That commitment deepened in succeeding years. The conflict between the Iroquois and Huron was based on trade rivalries that had existed since before European settlement. While French support went to the Huron, the Dutch, followed by the English, sided with the Iroquois.

The company of de Monts and his frequent successors, for whom Champlain remained the lieutenant in New France, had the obligation to bring out settlers, as well as the exclusive right (seldom enforced) to trade in furs. Their efforts at settlement were even less successful, partly because settlement was not easy in a country of heavy forests and severe winters and partly because the fur trade had little need of settlers beyond its own employees. The company, moreover, had scant funds to bring out and establish colonists on the land. Champlain did the best he could, and he also encouraged missionaries (first the Recollects [Franciscans], then the Jesuits) to come to Quebec to convert the Indians. His greatest interest, however, lay in exploration. Already in Acadia, in 1606 and 1607, he had surveyed the coast southward and westward to Stage Harbor, only to be rebuffed by hostile Indians.

In 1613, Champlain set out from Quebec to explore the upper St. Lawrence basin. He passed Montreal Island, not settled since Cartier's time but used by traders who bypassed Quebec. In order to avoid the heavy rapids of the St. Lawrence, he ascended its great tributary, the Ottawa River, only to be turned back at Allumette Island by the Algonquin middlemen who were trading for the furs of the Huron and other people farther inland and who wished to retain that trade. At Allumette, Champlain, however, heard of the "inland sea" (Hudson Bay), the existence of which he had divined before he could have heard of Henry Hudson's discovery of it in 1610. Undaunted, he ascended the Ottawa again in 1615, traversed the Mattawa River, Lake Nipissing, and the French River to Georgian Bay, and turned south to "Huronia" (the land of the Huron). He wintered with the Indians and went with a Huron war party to raid an Onondaga village south of the St. Lawrence. He was slightly wounded and the party was repulsed, but Champlain had once more confirmed the alliance of the French with the northern tribes and the Huron against the Iroquois and, by the opening of the Ottawa route, had secured the midcontinent for the French fur trade.

The discovery of this inland, central region was perhaps Champlain's main achievement. He had no success, however, from 1616 to 1627 in maintaining the fur trade. The fault was not entirely his, for the enterprise in itself was very difficult. The coupling of trade and settlement was somewhat contradictory, and it was impossible to finance both out of annual profits, especially as the French government failed to uphold the monopoly.

The Company of New France...

The French government supplied more active support after the remarkable revival of royal power carried out by Cardinal de Richelieu in the 1620s. Richelieu sought to make French colonial policy comparable with that of England and the Netherlands, joint victors with France in the long struggle in Europe against Spain. These countries had found a means of both raising capital and enforcing trading rights through the medium of the joint stock company. Richelieu used his power to create such a company to exploit the resources and settle the lands of New France. This was the Company of New France, commonly called the "Hundred Associates" from the number of its shareholders. It was given broad powers and wide responsibility: the monopoly of trade with all New France, Acadia as well as Canada; powers of government; the obligation to take out 400 settlers a year; and the task of keeping New France in the Roman Catholic faith.

The company was chartered and its capital raised in 1627. The next year, however, war broke out with the English, who supported the French Protestants, or Huguenots, in their struggle against Richelieu. The war was mismanaged and inconclusive, but it gave a pretext for the Kirke brothers, English adventurers who had connections in France with Huguenot competitors of the Hundred Associates, to blockade the St. Lawrence in 1628 and to capture Quebec in 1629. For three years the fur trade was in the hands of the Kirkes and their French associates, the brothers de Caën. It was a stunning blow to the new company and to Champlain, who was taken prisoner to England. At the same time, Acadia, already raided from Virginia in 1613, was claimed by Scotland. An attempt at settlement there was made by Sir William Alexander, to whom Nova Scotia (New Scotland) had been granted by the Scottish king James VI (after 1603, James I of England).

It is difficult to estimate the effect of the war on the policy of the Hundred Associates. Canada and Acadia were restored by the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1632, and the company retook possession in 1633. On the surface all seemed to go smoothly. In 1633 Champlain returned as governor, the government and settlement of Acadia was farmed out to the vigorous Isaac de Razilly, and the Society of Jesus assumed sole responsibility for Roman Catholicism in Canada. The fur trade was resumed, and the Trois Rivières settlement was founded in 1634 to control the Saint-Maurice River. Settlement began, but the company seemed unable to recoup the losses caused by the capture of Quebec and by five years of trade disruption and seemed unable to make profits that would both pay dividends and provide for the costs of settlement. The company remained the proprietor of New France until 1663, providing a succession of governors and other officials, but it never succeeded in meeting its obligations to colonize. Weary of its profitless task, the company leased the fur trade to private companies and then, in 1645, to a group of Canadian residents known as the Community of Habitants.

The character of French settlement...

The fur trade was not the sole enterprise of New France. By 1645 settlers in Canada and Acadia were producing provisions for the fur traders and the annual ships. A characteristic mode of landholding, known as the seigneurial system, began to evolve. Under the system, the state granted parcels of land to seigneurs, who were responsible for securing settlers, called habitants, and for providing them with basic services such as a mill or a road to the nearest town. The habitants were granted large plots (averaging about 100 acres) and were obliged to pay dues--cens et rents--that included several days of service per year to the seigneur. On the surface the system appeared to resemble the feudallike seigneurial system in France. Three factors, however, made the system far more flexible and less feudal than its French counterpart: in New France, it was not the seigneur but the local militia captain who was district military leader; the seigneur was usually not of noble blood and enjoyed no special political distinction to set him apart from the habitants; and the abundance of land and the existence of a forest frontier undermined efforts by a seigneur to impose a true feudallike discipline on his habitants. One of the most important differences in the Canadian seigneurial system was that in New France the habitants effectively owned their plots and even had the right to will them to their children.

The great partner and sometime rival of the fur trade was the missionary endeavour of the Jesuits. They had two obligations: (1) to keep New France Catholic by ministering to its people and excluding Huguenots and (2) to convert the Indians. The missionaries made the conversion of the agrarian Huron their principal concern. Huronia was the hub of the inland fur trade. To make Huronia a Christian community would create a centre of Christianity and confirm the French commercial alliance with the Huron and their Algonquin clients. French missionaries had already visited Huronia in the mid-1620s, and in 1634 the Jesuits resumed the mission, which thrived, at least outwardly, for 10 years.

As the French-Huron alliance tightened, Iroquois hostility toward both parties increased. This was a case of traditional tribal trade rivalries being exacerbated by newer trade rivalries involving Europeans. The introduction of European weapons and the imperatives of the fur trade transformed the nature of Indian warfare, which once had been little more than blood sport. The Iroquois sought to eliminate the Huron and take complete control of the interior fur trade. Using firearms obtained from the Dutch in the Hudson River valley, they launched ever more devastating raids on Huronia. The French tightly controlled the firearms trade with their Huron allies, putting the latter at a tremendous disadvantage. In 1648 and 1649 the Iroquois inflicted major defeats on the Huron, virtually eliminating them as a significant factor in the region.

These checks to both the fur trade and the missions, at least in terms of the intentions and hopes of 1627, were the result not only of bad luck and poor management but also of the economic conditions of New France, which depended almost entirely on the fur trade for profit. Settlement was unprofitable to both the company and the colonists. The population of New France, therefore, grew quite slowly, rising from an estimated 200 residents (habitants) in 1642 to perhaps 2,500 by 1663; and by no means were all of these farmers. The fur trade, however, was booming, borne up by the fashion of the beaver felt hat in Europe. The traders brought French goods to trade with the flotillas of canoes that carried the furs of the Ottawa and Great Lakes countries, which before 1648 were usually manned by Huron middlemen. This was the sole commercial enterprise of New France.

Royal control...

New France, though a proprietary colony, was governed by the company, which appointed governors for Canada and Acadia, and a few dependent officers. The kings of France remained interested in the colony, both because of the vast potential wealth of the area and because the crown might have to resume the powers of government given to the Hundred Associates. Government was, in fact, very much what it would have been if the colony had been directly under the rule of the crown. In 1647 a council was established in New France that included the governor, the chief religious authority, the superior of the Jesuits, and the governor of Montreal. During the brief rule of the Community of Habitants, representatives (syndics) of the people of Quebec, Trois Rivières, and Montreal were consulted on local matters. This, however, was the nearest approach to anything like representative government. Government in New France, as in old, was authoritarian and paternalistic.

The assumption of power by Louis XIV, however, and the colonial ambitions of his great finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, led to a recasting of French colonial policy and of the government of New France. Colbert entrusted commercial policy to a new Company of the West Indies. Politically, he made New France a royal province, governed much like a province of France itself. It was to be governed by three persons: a governor, an intendant, and a bishop. The governor was the largely titular head of this triumvirate, although he was responsible for matters of defense and relations with the Indians. He was aided in his decision making by the Superior Council (first called the Sovereign Council), which was to advise him during the long periods when he had no communication with France. The intendant was responsible for internal matters, and the bishop administered mission work and the church. Both the intendant and the bishop were members of the council. Bitter rivalries were not unknown among these officials.

The general effect of Colbert's reorganization, however, was to give New France firm and rational government thereafter, strongly centralized and efficient for the times. The exception was Acadia. Torn by feuds among French rivals, claimed by England, and occupied by New Englanders eager to exploit its fishery, Acadia did not again become an effective part of New France until 1667-70.

The strength of the royal government was in inverse proportion to the weakness of a small and scattered population. Great efforts made by the first intendant, Jean Talon, did indeed bring some thousands of settlers, hundreds of them women, to New France in the 1660s and early '70s. The population in 1666 reached 3,215; in 1676, about 8,500; thereafter, however, the population grew largely by natural increase, fortunately at a prodigious rate. Most of the population lived in the three towns (Montreal, Quebec, and Trois Rivières) and in seigneuries along the banks of the St. Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal. Scores of the men, however, went inland with the trading canoes, and some of these voyageurs remained inland permanently, marrying Indian women and fathering the Métis, or people of mixed French and Indian ancestry.

The frontier of New France was not a broad front of advance but, rather, a penetration of the wilderness via the rivers in search of furs and strategic position. Alliances with Indians continued to be necessary, and those alliances were constantly challenged by the Iroquois, who controlled the region south of Lakes Ontario and Erie in the 1650s. Thus war with the Iroquois continued, as did the push into the interior, the explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette penetrating via the Mississippi River as far as the confluence with the Arkansas River.

The growth of Anglo-French rivalry...

In the 1660s two voyageurs, Médard Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson, exasperated by the high cost of the long haul back to Quebec and by the heavy tax on fur pelts, fled to New England. From there they were escorted to England, where in 1668 they persuaded a group of London merchants to attempt to gain the fur trade of the mid-continent by way of Hudson Bay. This led to the formation in 1670 of the Hudson's Bay Company, a late proprietary company that was given exclusive trading rights in all the territory draining into Hudson Bay. New France now found itself caught between the Iroquois, supported by the Dutch and English, to the south and the Hudson's Bay Company to the north. The Count de Frontenac, the governor of New France, after his arrival in 1672 made a vigorous push into the continental interior. Frontenac had been directed to concentrate settlement in areas with easy sea access to France, but he defied those instructions in search of profits from furs. For this and other transgressions he was recalled in 1682.

Over the next three decades the French struggled--sometimes with success--to improve their strategic position in America. The British were almost completely expelled from Hudson Bay by 1700, while in the late 1690s Frontenac (who returned as governor in 1689) finally defeated the Iroquois, who sued for peace. Much of this success was lost, however, by the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended Queen Anne's War (1702-13) between the British and French in North America, as well as the War of the Spanish Succession. By that treaty France lost its claim to Hudson Bay, its hold on Acadia, and its position in Newfoundland. After Queen Anne's War there followed a generation of peace during which the governors of New France built a line of fortified posts: Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Chambly on the Richelieu River, Carillon (Ticonderoga) on the portage from Lake George to Lake Champlain; the trading posts of Niagara, Toronto, Detroit, and Michilimackinac extended the line to the west. At the same time, French priests and military emissaries kept the Acadians and the Indian allies of New France aware of their former ties with New France. The Acadians, claiming to be neutral, obstinately refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown.

For New France, the early 18th century was a period of steady growth. French défrichements ("clearings") spread along the St. Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal; the iron forges at Saint-Maurice produced iron for Quebec stoves and even cannons; shipbuilding flourished. The colony nevertheless remained largely dependent on the fur trade, which, in turn, depended on keeping the west open. Access to the far west was frustrated, however, by the three Fox wars (1714-42), in which that tribe strove to close the Wisconsin portages to French traders. Then Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Lord de La Vérendrye, turned the flanks of the Fox and Sioux by proceeding by way of Lake Superior and the Rainy River to the Lake of the Woods and the Red and Saskatchewan River country. There he found a new region for the French fur trade and also cut into the English trade in the area of Hudson Bay and the Hayes River.

The expansion of New France in these years was challenged, however, by the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in Europe in 1740. In America the war became known as King George's War (1744-48). Fighting broke out again in Acadia, on Lake Champlain, and among the English and French Indian allies in the country of the Great Lakes and the Ohio River valley. It was a confused conflict of raids and reprisals marked by only one action of major significance--the capture of Louisbourg by an expedition from New England. Holding the St. Lawrence River valley, the Great Lakes, and the mouth of the Mississippi River, the French commanded the better strategic position in America. However, the English colonies, if having a less advantageous location, were far wealthier and more populous.

All this was perceived by Roland-Michel Barrin, Marquis de La Galissonière, the exceptionally able governor of New France (1747-49). He declared in a memorandum to the French court that New France must restore its position by a bold advance into the Ohio River valley, which theretofore had not been claimed by New France or its Indian allies. His policy was adopted by his successors, and in 1749 Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville led an expedition down the Ohio to claim the valley for France and to confine English colonists and their fur trade to the east of the Alleghenies. The British colonists, from New York to Virginia, immediately felt the threat to their trade, to their expansion, and to their settlement. In 1749 the Ohio Company was formed in London with English and American support, and the fortress of Halifax in Nova Scotia was built to counter the French fort at Louisbourg, which had been restored to New France by the peace of 1748 ending King George's War. In 1753 an American expedition under George Washington was sent to the Forks of the Ohio to make good the English claim.

The French and Indian War...

The French had also been active on the Ohio and had opened a line of communication from Lake Erie to the Forks. The rivals clashed on the Monongahela, and Washington was forced to surrender and retreat. This clash marked the beginning of the Anglo-French war known in America as the French and Indian War (1754-63) and in Europe as the Seven Years' War (1756-63).

At the start of the war, the two sides seemed grossly mismatched. The English colonies contained more than 1,000,000 people, compared to the 70,000 of New France, and were prospering, with strong agricultural economies and growing trade ties with the West Indies and Britain. Their location along the Atlantic coast, the size of their population, and the large area they encompassed meant that the best France could hope for in the war was the maintenance of the status quo. New France, on the other hand, was economically weak, dependent on France for trade and defense, and strategically vulnerable with but two seaward outlets to its continental empire, New Orleans and Quebec. Nonetheless, the French and the local militia were excellent soldiers, experienced in forest warfare and supported by several thousand Indian allies. They also received military help from France in 1756 in the form of twelve battalions of regular troops (about 7,000 soldiers), a contingent of artillery, and the command of the Marquis de Montcalme, an excellent field general.

The conflict was pursued around the globe, with fighting in India, North America, Europe, and elsewhere as well as on the high seas. Since Britain was primarily a sea power it did not at first have the land army resources to overwhelm the French in America and it relied heavily on the colonial militia. The colonies, however, were politically disunited, and their militia forces were neither as well organized nor as well trained as those of New France. Thus, early victories went to the French, who captured Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry in 1757 and sternly repulsed the British at Fort Carillon (Fort Ticonderoga) in 1758. Then numbers and more skillful British generalship began to turn the tide. In 1758 the British captured and razed Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. In 1759 Sir Jeffrey Amherst began a cautious but irresistible advance from Fort William Henry by way of Fort Ticonderoga to Lake Champlain. In the same year an expedition under General James Wolfe sailed up the St. Lawrence and besieged Quebec, which fell to the British after the celebrated Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Sir William Johnson took Niagara, and John Forbes took the Forks of the Ohio. New France was caught in cruelly closing pincers. In 1760 Amherst closed in on Montreal, and New France capitulated. By the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, all French North America east of the Mississippi was ceded to Britain.

The British victory produced three major results: (1) The danger from New France to the American colonies was ended, thus weakening their dependence on Britain. (2) The British (largely Scots with some Americans) took over and expanded the Canadian fur trade. (3) Britain now possessed a colony populated almost wholly by persons of alien descent.

Canada from 1763 to 1867...

At first New France was to be governed by the Royal Proclamation (Oct. 7, 1763); it declared the territory between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi to be Indian territory and closed to settlement until the Indians there could be subdued. New France was to become the colony of Quebec, with a royal governor who had the authority to call an assembly. However, the 70,000 French inhabitants of Quebec could neither vote nor sit in the assembly by virtue of their Roman Catholicism.

Few British Americans moved to Quebec (there were perhaps 500 migrants in all), and those who did were attracted primarily by the prospect of taking control of the fur trade. Their bourgeois mentality and their repeated demands for the "rights of Englishmen" tended to alienate the landed-gentry-based British officers who administered the colony. Among the latter was General James Murray, who was appointed the colony's first governor in 1763. Murray sympathized with the condition and difficulties of the French and ignored the demands of the recently arrived Protestants for an assembly, with the result that an agitation by the Protestants led to his recall. He was replaced in 1766 by General Guy Carleton, who was expected in Quebec to carry out the policy of the proclamation. Carleton, however, soon came to see that the colony was certain to be permanently French. He decided that Britain's best course was to forge an alliance with the elites of the former French colony: the seigneurs and the Roman Catholic church.

Carleton returned to England in 1770 to press his new policy for Quebec on the government of Lord North. The trouble the imperial government continued to have with the colonies to the south secured official acceptance of Carleton's policy. The result was the Quebec Act of 1774.

The Quebec Act marked a radical departure in the manner by which British colonies in America were governed. It granted permission for Catholics in Quebec to hold public office; stipulated that an appointed council would advise the governor, rather than an elected assembly; and legitimized French civil law, though English criminal law was to continue in force. The Quebec Act also recognized the legitimacy of the French language and the Roman Catholic faith, gave the church power to enforce the collection of tithes, and formalized the authority of the seigneurs to collect cens et rents. Finally, Quebec's territory was greatly expanded; its western border would henceforth stretch to the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Carleton had sought to cement French loyalty to Britain. As the American Revolution would demonstrate, the Quebec Act did not do that. Instead, it brought about a virtual revolution in Quebec society. The Quebec Act gave the seigneurs, the church, and the clergy a degree of authority and influence they had never enjoyed under the French regime. Prior to 1763 many of the clergy's edicts had been ignored by the larger society, while the political power of the bishop had been inconsequential compared to that of the governor and intendant; the latter two officials often circumscribed church authority in matters such as relations with the Indians. After 1774, however, the bishop and the church reigned supreme in their own sphere, especially since British governing authorities were loath to interfere in religious matters. The Quebec Act also enhanced the status of the seigneurs by giving them unchallenged legal authority to set the terms and conditions of settlement on their lands. Magnifying this important change, some seigneurs sold their holdings to members of the newly arrived English-speaking merchant class. These new seigneurs, with no understanding of the informal habitant-seigneur relationship under French rule, thought of themselves--and acted--as landed gentry in their dealings with the habitants.

Carleton had erred badly. He had either misunderstood or ignored the underlying realities of the social structure and class relations he found when he arrived in Quebec, instead imposing his own vision of what he thought Quebec ought to be. This action earned the British the support of the church and the seigneurs but the enmity of the habitants, who soon realized just how much their position in society had been eroded. As the years went by, that erosion would have a dramatic impact on their living standards.

The influence of the American Revolution...

To the American colonies, the Quebec Act was menacing, and it reestablished to the north and west an area despotically ruled, predominantly French and Roman Catholic, with an alien form of land tenure. Instead of intimidating the American colonies, the act helped push the Americans to open revolt. Indeed, the first act of the American Continental Congress in 1775 was not to declare independence but to invade Canada. The failure of that invasion ensured that the continent north of the Rio Grande would, on the recognition of American independence, be divided between the Americans and the British.

Not all American colonists had supported the cause of independence, and many had resisted it in arms. At the conclusion of hostilities, these loyalists had to make their peace with the new republic, as by far the greater part did, or go into exile. The refugees, known as United Empire Loyalists, were the object of considerable concern to the British government, which sought to compensate them for their losses and to assist them in establishing new homes. Some went to the United Kingdom, others to the British West Indies, but the majority emigrated to Nova Scotia or Canada. Nova Scotia, which to a great extent had been recently settled by American colonists, had not, except for an ineffectual rising or two, joined the revolting colonies. Overawed by British sea power and by the fortress of Halifax, Nova Scotians at first kept quiet, and later many of them even made fortunes privateering against American commerce. Easily reached by sea from New York, Nova Scotia became the chief refuge of the loyalists. Some settled in the peninsula itself, some in Cape Breton and in the separate colony of Prince Edward Island. A large number, however, settled along the St. John River, north of the Bay of Fundy. Dissatisfied with tardy government from Halifax, they promptly agitated for a government of their own, and equally promptly the new province of New Brunswick was created for them in 1784, with its own governor and assembly.

In Quebec the loyalists simply crossed the new frontier and settled along the St. Lawrence River. Their impact in Quebec was even greater than in Nova Scotia, resulting in a new province and, perhaps more importantly, the Constitutional Act of 1791. The loyalists who settled in Canada were for the most part quite different from those who went to what were soon to be called the Maritime Colonies. The latter had possessed an elite of government officials and professional men, often loyalist regiments with their officers and men, from the long-settled seaboard areas. The Canadian loyalists, however, were largely from upper New York, especially the Mohawk valley country, and were almost wholly simple frontier folk and recent immigrants, driven from their homes by neighbours who often used the Revolution to dispossess them of their lands; hence, the bitter fighting along the frontier and the long loyalist hatred in the new province for all things American.

Their coming transformed the character of the population of Quebec. That province had been given a government much like that of New France, except for the important office of intendant, and the province was in population almost wholly French, as it was in civil law. Most loyalists had one desire, to hold the land granted them in simple ownership, something the civil law of Quebec did not allow. Some of them--how many is uncertain--also wanted representative government, denied by the Quebec Act. Their representations reached London and were listened to with respect, as they were, after all, from people who had lost everything fighting for the crown.

The Constitutional Act of 1791...

Their appeals caused a great problem for the British government. The measures taken in the Quebec Act to conciliate the French could not in honour or policy be withdrawn. Yet the loyalists could not be required to live under French civil and land law and without the representative assembly to which they were accustomed. One obvious answer was to divide Quebec into separate French and English provinces. The English province would have, of course, English common law and an assembly. The French province might have been left with the forms of government provided by the Quebec Act. But there had already been one revolution in America, and, by 1789, another had broken out in France. British statesmen felt that the former had occurred partly because Americans had not been granted the British constitution in its proper forms. The thing to do, therefore, was to give not only the new province but Quebec as well the British constitution in its entirety as far as circumstances might permit. The result would be, it was hoped, to assimilate the French population.

After a fiery debate in the British House of Commons, the Constitutional Act of 1791 gave the same constitution to the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada. Nothing that had been given the French in 1774 was revoked, but the form of government was changed to the familiar one of governor with his executive council, a legislative council, and an assembly elected on what was for the time a wide franchise. The result of this last provision was that the first assembly in 1792 had a majority of French members.

National growth in the early 19th century...

The coming of the loyalists changed the composition of the population of the British North American colonies by adding elements at once American yet profoundly attached to British institutions; it also increased the population by some 6,000 in the old province of Quebec. To these were to be added the unknown numbers of "late loyalists"--settlers, primarily land seekers, who arrived from the northern states as late as 1812. Some 80,000 came to Nova Scotia, although not all remained; of these, some 20,000 settled in what became New Brunswick, and a few hundred on Prince Edward Island.

They added also to the growing diversity of the population of the colonies. In Newfoundland there were already the west country English and a growing number of Irish--a total of 26,505 in 1806. In Nova Scotia there were, in addition to New Englanders, loyalists, and Yorkshiremen, the Germans of Lunenburg and the Highland Scots of Pictou county and of Cape Breton Island--in all, an estimated 65,000 in 1806, with 2,513 on Cape Breton Island. New Brunswick had a population of about 35,000 in 1806, mostly loyalists or of loyalist descent, but already the southern Irish, drawn by the timber trade, were beginning to appear on the rivers of the north shore. Prince Edward Island, with a population of 9,676 in 1806, had some Acadians, some loyalists, some English, Scots, and Irish. In Upper Canada in 1806 the population numbered 70,718; in Lower it was estimated at 250,000.

The first Canadian mosaic had taken shape as it was to remain for a century, a population of British, French, and German. The British element was to be steadily reinforced by northern English, coming by way of Liverpool, Highland and Lowland Scots, and southern and northern Irish. The result was the creation of a society in which religious liberty and a great measure of social equality were necessary for social cohesion and common effort.

Until 1815, however, the number of immigrants was small: Highlanders for Glengarry county in Upper Canada, disbanded soldiers in Lanark county south of the Ottawa River, and a straggle of Irish after the crushing of the rebellion of 1798. Nor did the numbers greatly increase after 1815; not until 1830 did the English, Scottish, and Irish begin to come to the British North American colonies in great volume. After 1830, thousands came each year. The British North American colonies became predominantly British in population, except in Lower Canada, a fact that was to determine the course of Canadian history for the next 100 years.

The Montreal fur traders...

The redivision of the continent begun by the American Revolution had been intensified by rivalry in the fur trade. The French fur trade of Montreal had been taken over by British fur traders who conducted the trade with the aid of French experience and skill. The British supplied the capital, and the French voyageurs supplied the skillof canoeists and the knowledge of the country and the Indian. These "Montrealers" pushed the trade with great boldness southwest from Montreal, where they had persuaded the British government not to surrender the fur posts after 1783 on the ground that debts owing loyalists had not been paid by the United States. Thus, the trade of the lands lost by France in 1763 and by Britain in 1783 was kept tributary to Montreal rather than to New York and Philadelphia.

In 1783, the Montreal fur traders established the North West Company to challenge the Hudson's Bay Company for dominance in the northwest. They organized a regular system of canoe convoys from Montreal to the western plains and what is now Canada's North West Territories, building a chain of fur-trade posts across the west and sending explorers as far as the Pacific coast. The rivalry with the Hudson's Bay Company sometimes degenerated into violence and murder. The fur trade was lucrative for both companies and had a profound impact on the Indians of the area. As the Hudson's Bay Company pushed inland to meet the challenge of its new rival, contacts between whites and Indians expanded, and the Métis population grew and began to develop a distinct culture and national ambition of its own.

In 1812 Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, who then headed the Hudson's Bay Company, established the Red River Settlement in southern Manitoba along the main canoe routes of the North West Company. Acting primarily out of charitable motives, Selkirk recruited poor and indigent settlers from Scotland to farm the land. The Métis, many of whom were North West Company employees, saw the Red River settlers as rivals and the settlement as a threat to their livelihood. Tensions between the two groups reached a climax when the Métis attacked the settlers at Seven Oaks in 1816. That clash and a number of other incidents led to a truce between the two companies and subsequently to a merger in 1821. As a result of the merger, the canoe expeditions from Montreal to the west were closed down and Montreal's nearly two centuries as an entrepôt of the fur trade ended.

The War of 1812...

The War of 1812 was to a large degree caused by the Anglo-U.S. rivalry in the fur trade. British traders and soldiers had supplied Indian tribes and afforded them moral support in their contest with the advancing U.S. frontier. Britain had surrendered the western posts by the Jay Treaty of 1794, but the cause of the Canadian fur trade and of the Indians remained the same--the preservation of the wilderness. Certainly, apart from single ship actions and privateering, the war was fought for the conquest of Canada and its elimination as an ally of the Indians. In the end, the war was a stalemate and closed with no concession by either side. It did, however, push back the Indian frontier, increase the breach between the United States and the British North American colonies, and confirm the U.S.-Canadian boundary.

That boundary had been fixed in 1783, by a line running generally westward from the mouth of the St. Croix River to the "high lands" dividing Quebec from Maine; then by the mountains between the St. Lawrence and Connecticut River valleys to 45 N latitude; by that line to the St. Lawrence; then by centre line of the river and the Great Lakes and the Pigeon and Rainy rivers to the northwest angle of the Lake of the Woods. The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 confirmed this, although the location of the Maine-New Brunswick boundary remained in dispute until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. A convention in 1818 reduced the rights of U.S. fishermen along the shores of the Atlantic colonies and made 49 N latitude (the 49th parallel) the boundary from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. Beyond, the Oregon Territory was to be jointly occupied for a period of 10 years, an occupation ended by the division of the territory, after some threat of war over the U.S. claim to the whole, by extending the 49th parallel to the Strait of Georgia in the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

The Rebellions of 1837-38...

Following the War of 1812, political unrest developed in both Upper and Lower Canada. Some of the causes were similar, rooted in the governing structure imposed by the 1791 constitution. Others developed from the particular character of each colony. In both colonies, effective government was in the hands of the governor and an oligarchy that dominated the legislative and executive councils. In Upper Canada this ruling elite was known as the Family Compact; in Lower Canada it was called the Château Clique. A similarly tightly knit group also dominated Nova Scotia politics. Forming the inner circle of the governor's advisors, these cliques usually included all the important wealthy men and women of the colony. In Upper Canada the members of the Family Compact tended to emulate the British landed gentry. In Lower Canada the members of the Château Clique were mostly merchants, bankers, or those engaged in the shipping trade. The members of these colonial oligarchies shared religious and cultural affinities, married among themselves, supported each other politically, and had similar social, economic, and political aims. In Upper Canada the Family Compact used its political power to attempt to create a class-ordered society on the British model. In Lower Canada, the Château Clique wanted to use the tax monies raised by the French-Canadian-dominated legislature to improve the colony's communications infrastructure, thereby improving the Clique's commercial opportunities. In both colonies, only the elected legislative assembly could raise taxes, while the appointed councils advised the governor on how to spend those revenues.

In Upper Canada the basic constitutional problem was exacerbated by a number of local issues. The "alien" question arose after the War of 1812, when Compact members questioned whether former U.S. citizens should be permitted to own property or hold office. The "reserves" question concerned the existence of large tracts of unimproved lands. Some of these tracts had been set aside to support the Anglican church, angering Methodists and other sects. Other large tracts were being held by land speculators. Still others were to be sold or rented to pay the salaries of officeholders. The tracts blocked development, made communication difficult, and drove up the cost of land. There was also profound disagreement in Upper Canada as to which Protestant denominations should run the colony's schools. The main grievance against the Family Compact was that it was using the tax revenues of the colony to strengthen its position and enrich the pocketbooks of its members.

In Lower Canada the tensions created by the constitutional problem were exacerbated by the linguistic and religious divisions in the colony. The French-speaking and Roman Catholic majority, represented in the assembly by the Parti Canadien (later called the Parti Patriote), grew convinced that the English-speaking, Protestant Château Clique aimed to destroy their way of life. They strongly resented the increase in non-French immigrants and rioted when some of those immigrants brought cholera and typhoid to Montreal. In rural areas, the habitant standard of living had fallen precipitously since the turn of the century. This was partly caused by a general downward trend in grain prices and by the continuous subdivision of the habitant farms as each new generation inherited the land; habitant farms had become long, narrow lots, each fronting a river or a road. There also had been heavy increases in seigniorial dues, which were, not unreasonably, blamed on the British colonial regime.

In both colonies reform-minded political leaders fought to break the power of the oligarchy. The rise of a middle class of professional men, especially lawyers and journalists, underlay this development. The oligarchies, however, supported by the governor and the colonial office, held their places. In 1837 armed revolts finally broke out in both Upper and Lower Canada. In Upper Canada the rebels were led by William Lyon Mackenzie, a newspaper publisher and political radical who admired American Jacksonian democracy. In Lower Canada the rebellion was headed by Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the Parti Patriote. In both Upper and Lower Canada farmers made up the majority of those who took up arms; in the former they came primarily from the counties to the west of Toronto, in the latter from the parishes to the west and south of Montreal. In both colonies, however, the vast majority of farmers joined neither rebellion.

The revolt in Lower Canada was the first to break out. It was precipitated by a government move to arrest leading members of the Parti Patriote, including Papineau. When Papineau and others fled to the countryside, the governor sent troops to arrest them. The first battle was fought in November at St. Denis, near Montreal; the government forces were repelled. But the rebels were defeated in subsequent battles at St. Charles and St. Eustache, and Papineau was forced to flee to the United States to escape arrest and a charge of treason.

In Upper Canada, a brief clash occurred in December on Yonge Street north of Toronto, when about 800 of Mackenzie's followers, marching south to the colonial capital, were dispersed at a roadblock occupied by militia and other volunteers loyal to the government. A second skirmish took place a few days later in Brantford. The rebels were routed, and Mackenzie also fled to the United States. In both Upper and Lower Canada the rebels tried unsuccessfully to renew the fighting in the months that followed. Mackenzie and Papineau eventually returned to Canada and were pardoned; a number of their followers were jailed, executed, or deported to Australia.

The Union of Canada...

The abortive rebellions, however, did dramatize the need to reform Canada's outmoded and constrictive constitution. The "Canadian question" became a leading issue in British politics. Lord Durham was sent out as governor-general with a royal commission to enquire into the causes of the troubles. Durham's stay in Canada was brief, but his enquiry was sweeping and his recommendations trenchant. Durham perceived that the colonies had stagnated and that, if they were to live side by side with the dynamic United States, they must be brought into the full stream of material progress. One political means to this end was union. Durham decided the time for the union of all the North American colonies had not yet come, but he did recommend the reunion of at least the two Canadas in order to realize the economic possibilities of the St. Lawrence River valley. In Durham's view, union would also hasten the assimilation of the French, whom he saw as a backward people. Second, he adopted a proposal of certain Upper Canadian and Nova Scotian reformers for "responsible government." This would make the colonial executive responsible to the assembly and assure colonial self-government.

The British government refused an explicit grant of responsible government but did accept the proposal to unite the Canadas. In 1841 the United Province of Canada came into being under a new and dynamic governor, Charles Poulett Thomson (later Lord Sydenham). Although the French of Canada East (Lower Canada) outnumbered the English of Canada West (Upper Canada), both sections received an equal number of seats in the new legislature. This was done to facilitate assimilation of the French, but the French, led by such astute reform leaders as Louis Hippolyte LaFontaine, took advantage of divisions among the English-speaking legislators. They allied themselves with the reformers from Canada West to push for responsible government and to make themselves indispensable for governmental stability. In Britain the success of the Industrial Revolution led to the growth of free-trade liberalism and a desire to dismantle the colonial empire. The last British tariffs (the Corn Laws) were repealed in 1846, and colonial governors were instructed to implement a policy of responsible government. The policy received its first real test the following year, when the reform ministry headed by LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin of Canada West passed a law to compensate victims of the 1837 rebellions. Governor Elgin signed the law despite strong opposition from conservatives. In reaction a mob burned the parliament buildings in Montreal.

The British North American colonies, then, had achieved self-government by 1848; during the next decade their laws and institutions were remodeled to fit the individual needs of each colony. But, for Canada at least, the time was at hand for expansion. The British repeal of the Corn Laws had deprived the colonies of imperial protective tariffs. The Grand Trunk Railway, begun in 1853, was an attempt to draw the trade of the American Midwest down the St. Lawrence River valley. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 in part replaced imperial with continental trade, and the colonies boomed. Economic growth was especially stimulated after 1862 by the American Civil War. When the U.S. government gave notice in 1864 that it wished to abrogate the treaty by 1865, it stimulated colonial politicians to seek unification of the British North American colonies to provide a substitute market. This move was also made necessary by a continuing political deadlock between conservatives and reformers in Canada, by growing fears of U.S. military power, and by a desire to annex the northwest. After the merger of the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821, direct links between Canada and the west had been cut. In Canada West, however, a shortage of good agricultural land was forcing young men to leave for the United States to homestead, and demands grew to annex the northwest to provide room for expansion.

The first significant step toward union, later called confederation, was taken in Canada with the formation of the Great Coalition, a government that united George Brown of Canada West--leader of the so-called Clear Grit reform movement--with the Conservatives' John A. Macdonald of Canada West and George Étienne Cartier of Canada East. In September 1864 they attended a conference at Charlottetown, P.E.I., in which Maritime political leaders discussed Maritime union. They persuaded the Maritimes to postpone Maritime union and discuss confederation. At a conference called at Quebec (Oct. 10, 1864), an agreement was quickly reached on a general federal union; this agreement was immediately approved by the British government, which was eager to set the colonies up on their own and to be rid of its obligation to defend them inland from Quebec. There were hitches and failures: New Brunswick voted against union in 1865, then reversed itself in 1866; Prince Edward Island refused to enter until 1873; Newfoundland (including Labrador) also refused and did not join Canada until 1949. But the Canadas and the British government applied quiet but strong pressure on the reluctant colonies. In 1867 the three colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canadas (now the provinces of Quebec and Ontario) were united under the British North America Act as the Dominion of Canada.

That act, with certain amendments, was the "constitution" of Canada until 1982. It was, in fact, retitled the Constitution Act of 1867 (pairing it in name with the Constitution Act of 1982). The 1867 act provided constitutions, based on the British model, for the new provinces of Quebec and Ontario; confirmed the language and legal rights of the French; and, above all, provided for the division of power between the federal government and the provinces. The union was not, at its beginning, a truly federal one because the central government was given broad powers, not unlike those the British government had possessed over the colonies. In time, judicial interpretation and the growth of provincial rights made the union more truly federal. For the moment, however, a strong central government was needed in order to develop the northwest and the colony of British Columbia beyond and to build a railway to the Pacific that would bind the vast new territories to the original dominion.

Canada from 1867 to 1920...

The Dominion of Canada, 1867-1914...

Section 146 of the British North America Act provided for the admission of Rupert's Land (the territory around Hudson Bay) to the new dominion. The first action taken by the federal government was to buy out the title of the Hudson's Bay Company. The negotiations for this purpose, assisted by the British government, were completed in the winter of 1868-69. Canada was to pay the company £300,000 for its title, and the company was to retain 5 percent of the Fertile Belt (land fit for agricultural settlement) and designated areas around its various posts. The Canadian government passed a provisional act for the government of the Northwest Territories, sent out a survey party to begin a land survey before settlement began, and appointed as governor William McDougall of Ontario.

The first Riel rebellion...

The government unwisely regarded the acquisition of the northwest as a transaction in real estate with the Hudson's Bay Company. But the company was not the only power in the territory. There were the white settlers at the colony of Red River and also the Métis, who made up more than half the colony. Behind the Métis were the powerful Plains tribes--Plains Cree and the Blackfoot confederacy, buffalo hunters not under the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company. Canada had taken no account of the Métis or Indians in effecting the transfer. It assumed it could take over from the company and then consider what should be done.

This policy was rendered impossible by Louis Riel, a Métis educated in Montreal, who organized resistance in Red River to a transfer to Canada without the people of the northwest having a voice in the transaction. Riel, with the support of armed Métis, seized control of Red River and forced Canada to postpone the transfer and to negotiate. The result was the creation in 1870 of the small province of Manitoba, with equal status given to the English and French languages and the establishment of an educational system like Quebec's two systems of public confessional schools, Roman Catholic and Protestant. The implication was that the northwest was to be open to French institutions and language, as well as English.

That assumption was to be thwarted, however, by the extreme smallness of the new province, which amounted to little more than the Red River Settlement, and by the dominion's control of natural resources and of the still vast North West Territory. Riel's obstructionism did not block Canada's march to the west, and the dominion at once opened negotiations with delegates from British Columbia. That colony consisted of Vancouver Island (organized as a colony in 1849) and the mainland to the western watershed of the Rockies. The mainland first had been made a separate colony in 1858, when the gold rush along the Fraser River began, and had been united with Vancouver Island in 1866. The chief needs of the new colony were responsible government and connection with the east. Union with Canada might afford both, and in the negotiations the chief Canadian representative, George Étienne Cartier, promised both and more--in fact, a railway was to be begun in 2 years and finished in 10 (1881). Faced with such generosity, the Legislative Council of British Columbia could only accept. British Columbia became a Canadian province in 1871.

Having acquired title to the west, the Canadian government began to prepare it for settlement. The first step was to extinguish the Indian title to the lands. A series of treaties were negotiated from 1871 to 1877 with Indians living from northwestern Ontario to the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In return for moving to reserves, the Indians were to receive various subsidies and bonuses, educational facilities, rations, and a modicum of health care. Knowing well the disasters that had befallen the Indians in the United States who had resisted white expansion, the Indians in Canada acquiesced in the process. In the years that followed, however, the government frequently failed to live up to its treaty obligations. As the bison on which the Plains Indians depended disappeared, poverty, starvation, disease, and disaffection spread among the western tribes.

The transcontinental railroad...

With the addition of British Columbia, Canada now extended from Atlantic to Pacific. To maintain that area, however, and to ensure its independence from the United States, it was necessary to build a railway to the west coast. The effort to organize a company to undertake this enterprise, much greater than any railway yet built, was made in 1872. But Sir John Macdonald's government, charged with corruption in its dealing with the head of the new company, fell on the eve of the Panic of 1873. The railway thereafter could only be built piecemeal until Macdonald returned to power in 1878. An economically revived Canada, fortified with a new National Policy of tariff protection, incorporated the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, and the line was pushed ahead rapidly with government grants of land and money.

Even so, the railroad came to need new loans from Parliament, and its funds ran out as depression returned. Had it not been for the Riel Rebellion of 1885, which showed the need for the railway in moving troops, the last loan needed might have been refused. Despite the victory in the creation of Manitoba, many of the Métis--finding life impossible with the influx of new settlers--sold their lands and trekked westward to the Saskatchewan River. Even there, they were followed by the government land survey. The bison herds were vanishing, and the railway would supersede transport by boat and cart, from which many of them earned their living. The Plains Indians, alarmed by the depletion of the buffalo and unhappy with the government's treaties, were also restless. The Métis again organized to claim their rights as they saw them and sent for Riel, living in exile in Montana Territory in the United States. Riel returned and a new armed resistance was formed. Canada had to rush militia to the northwest. There the new railway, though not quite completed, proved its worth. The troops were rushed out, the rebellion was suppressed, and the railway obtained the grant that enabled it to complete its track across the Canadian Shield and the Rockies. Riel, with several associates, was tried and, despite evidence that he was of unsound mind, convicted of treason, though with a recommendation for mercy. Macdonald, as minister of justice and prime minister, refused clemency. The last spike of the Pacific railway was driven on Nov. 7, 1885, nine days before Riel was hanged at Regina.

Canada had united its new territories with its old, but there was a fierce reaction in the French province of Quebec. Riel, who had not gained much French sympathy in 1870, was now viewed by nationalist French Canadians as a martyr to the cause of French Canadian rights. ("French Canadians" denotes all French speakers, including those living outside Quebec.) The result was the election by a narrow majority of a clerical-nationalist government in Quebec. This produced a reaction in Protestant Ontario, which, in turn, led in 1890 to the abolition of the confessional schools in Manitoba, where the Roman Catholic schools were almost wholly French-speaking. French Canadians thereafter fell back on the provincial rights of Quebec to maintain the rights of French Canadians--a reaction with serious consequences for the Canadian federation. The Conservative Party, which had lost Macdonald by death in 1891, fell from power in 1896 largely because of what became known as the Manitoba Schools Question. The Liberal Party, under the French Canadian Wilfrid Laurier, came to power by virtue of a large majority in Quebec. Canada, it seemed, was not to be governed without the support of Quebec, even though the west retained only traces (in the Northwest Territories) of French population and French rights.

The Klondike gold rush...

In 1896 gold nuggets were found in a small tributary of the Klondike River, itself a tributary of the Yukon River. A gold rush began in 1897 and swelled in 1898, as miners and adventurers poured in, mainly from the United States. The Klondike was, in fact, the most publicized of all the great rushes. It was the last of the great placer rushes and excited a world weary of economic hard times with stories of the long climb up the Chilkoot Pass and of red-coated Northwest Mounted Police keeping law and order on the gold-rush frontier. Klondike gold, however, was probably the least important mineral discovery of this period. Far more significant for Canada's economy were the copper, lead, zinc, and silver deposits in the Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia; the coal deposits of the Crowsnest Pass (bordering British Columbia and Alberta); and the gold, nickel, and silver beds of northern and northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec. These discoveries stimulated railway and town construction and brought thousands of permanent residents. In the decades that followed, prospectors traced the rich mineral deposits of the Canadian Shield westward from Ontario and Quebec, making major discoveries of base metals (as well as of gold and silver) at Flin Flon, Man., in 1915 and finding rich deposits of radium at Great Bear Lake in 1930. By the 1930s, Canada had become a major mining country.

The land rush in the west...

At the same time, the land rush to the prairies widened the country's agricultural base by the settlement of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Their population rose from 419,512 in 1901 to 1,322,709 in 1911. Manitoba had already been enlarged westward and northward in 1881. The territories, governed by a governor and appointed council since 1876, had had elected members added to the council and began the traditional Canadian struggle, first for representative and then for responsible government. The latter, however, could only come with provincehood, and the demand arose for the creation of a province between Manitoba and the Rockies. The federal government responded after the election of 1904, and in 1905 not one but two provinces were created: Alberta and Saskatchewan. The provinces, roughly equal in area, extended north to the 60th parallel.

A fierce political struggle arose over the question of Catholic schools in the new provinces. Laurier tried to extend Catholic rights but met strong resistance. The result was a compromise: there were to be separate schools in the Canadian sense of denominational schools supported by the taxes of members of a denomination--Roman Catholics in this case--but nothing like the dual confessional school system of Manitoba before 1890, or of Quebec. Once again the development of the west had disturbed the relations of English and French in Canada.

The Laurier era...

For 15 years, Laurier's Liberal government reflected the acquiescent politics of prosperity and progress, but it also fostered a degree of social activism inspired by the growing progressive movement in the United States. Many Canadian religious leaders, intellectuals, journalists, educators, politicians, and business leaders came to the conclusion that government action was necessary to alleviate poverty, establish safe and sanitary working conditions, improve urban life, and moderate some of the worst excesses of what was then a virtually unbridled capitalism. Progressive policies enacted by the Laurier government and its successors included woman suffrage, prohibition of alcohol, regulation or outright nationalization of utilities (including railways), public health programs, improved and universal education, and government action against the growing number of monopolies and trusts. Although Laurier himself showed little understanding of progressivism, several of his ministers became convinced progressives. Canada's first minister of Labour, W.L. Mackenzie King, drew up Canada's first labour-relations legislation, adopted in 1907, and its first antimonopoly legislation, passed in 1910.

Canada seemed at last to be entering on its own century, as the United States had done in the one just past. Nothing better exemplified the confident, easy mood of the Laurier years in Canada than the vast and extravagant railway expansion in response to the settlement of the west and the initial development of the mineral and forest wealth of the nearer, or middle, north. The Laurier government built one transcontinental railway from Quebec to a point east of Winnipeg; from there to Prince Rupert a well-subsidized Grand Trunk Railway of eastern Canada built a subsidiary line, the Grand Trunk Pacific. Not to be deterred by two transcontinental railways in a country that was yet little more than a narrow corridor from east to west, two Canadian private entrepreneurs, William Mackenzie and D.D. Mann, built or bought the Canadian Northern bit by bit with lavish subsidies from provincial governments. By 1914 Canada had one long, established, coast-to-coast railway (the Canadian Pacific) and two railway lines from Montreal to the Pacific toiling to complete their tracks in the Rocky Mountains. In such a wealth of easy capital and easy prosperity, governments were not likely to be defeated.

Yet two factors--one as old as Canada, one relatively new--were to disturb the smooth current of prosperity. The former was the never-quite-settled place of the French in a predominantly English-speaking Canada. The question had flared up in the creation of the new provinces in the west; it now arose over participation in Britain's wars, first the South African War in 1899, then World War I. The result was the growth of a new nationalist movement among French Canadian clerics and intellectuals, who made their voices heard in a new paper, Le Devoir. Their spokesman, insofar as a man so independent could speak for anyone but himself, was Henri Bourassa. The second factor was the impingement of the world on a Canada intensely absorbed in its own development and its own troubles. The two were to combine to end the Laurier regime and bring Canada, still troubled, into the world at large.

Foreign relations...

Canada's contacts with the world in 1900 were almost wholly through Great Britain and the United States. Indeed, Canada's formal relations with other countries were conducted only through the British Foreign Office because Canada, as a colony, had no diplomatic status.

The dependence on Great Britain raised, after 1895, the question of whether Canada might be expected, on its own decision, to take some part in Britain's imperial wars. The British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain was anxious that the dominion should at least be committed in principle to supporting the mother country. Laurier, at the colonial conference of 1897, remained silent on the issue; thereafter his stand was that the Canadian Parliament must decide whether or not Canada would take any action. When the South African War broke out in 1899, many English Canadians actively urged participation; but some French Canadians, led by Bourassa, were actively opposed. A compromise was reached, by which Canada sent volunteers to serve under British command and with British pay, but the rift between French and English Canadians had been further exacerbated. Also, Britain's naval competition with Germany made Britain eager to have colonial help, preferably by contributions in money or by the colonies' assuming their own naval defense. Again, Laurier sought a compromise. In 1910 he established a Canadian navy, though in time of war the navy was to be placed under British command. The measure was bitterly opposed by the nationalists in Quebec, who argued that conscription in Britain's army would follow. Their clamorous opposition led to the defeat of the government candidate in a Quebec by-election, foreshadowing Laurier's fall from power in 1911.

Canada's relations with the United States were close, but in the final analysis they were relations between states foreign to one another. There had been a long record of border disputes, the settlements of which were resented, rightly or wrongly, by Canadians. There were the perennial difficulties over fishing rights in the North Atlantic and the dispute in the 1890s over the sealing industry in the Pacific. The Fenian raids at the time of confederation symbolized another cause of strain, the Irish-American hatred of England and suspicion of Canada as a British colony. Matters were brought to a head in the dispute over the Alaskan panhandle boundary. The line laid down by treaty between Great Britain and Russia had not since 1867 been marked on the ground by the United States and Canada. It became an urgent issue in 1897 with the Klondike gold rush, as the principal access to the gold fields was through the panhandle, and the disputed territory might contain gold. Canada claimed a line that would have put the heads of major inlets in Canadian territory and so have given Canada free access to the Yukon Territory. The United States claimed a boundary that would have excluded Canada from the sea. A joint commission of Americans, British, and Canadians found in favour of almost the whole of the American claim, the one British jurist voting with the three Americans. The decision was bitterly resented in Canada, though Canada's case had in fact been weak. The episode forced Canada to recognize that it must be prepared to look out for itself, and Canadian nationalism in a new sense came into being.

Two results followed. One, neither quick nor dramatic but significant, was the creation of the Department of External Affairs in 1909, in preparation for Canadian handling of its own foreign affairs. The other was the cultivation of direct relations with the United States. From this followed the creation of the Permanent Joint Commission on Boundary Waters in 1909 and the final settlement in 1910 of the long-vexed Atlantic fisheries issues.

Relations between Canada and the United States were assuming a new guise, and with reason. The United States was beginning to turn to Canada as an outlet for investment and as a source of raw materials, particularly minerals and newsprint. An exchange of ideas began on a new scale, particularly in the ideas of the Progressive movement, which advocated a wide range of reforms to combat the growing social evils caused by industrialism. These ideas were influential on both sides of the border, in Canada sometimes more than in the United States, as in the creation of the publicly owned and operated Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission in 1906. To some degree these developments were upset by the Canadian election of 1911, when the Conservative Party under Sir Robert Laird Borden defeated the Laurier Liberals. Two issues dominated that campaign: Laurier's naval policy, which was stimulated by Britain's defense needs in Europe, and a reciprocal trade agreement with the United States. In Quebec the naval policy was denounced as imperialistic. Borden, backed by the business community and renegade Liberals, attacked the reciprocal trade agreement as a sellout of Canada's British birthright and won a convincing victory. Borden's victory, however, by no means interrupted the growth of the Canadian-American relationship.

Although burdened by demands for the distribution of patronage, Borden tried to institute more progressive policies after taking office. But foreign policy issues and defense questions dominated the first years of his government. He struggled to establish a policy of direct cash aid for Britain's naval building program, in return for a voice in imperial policies that affected Canada. He was defeated by the Liberal-dominated Senate and rebuffed by the British. When World War I broke out in August 1914, Canada was almost totally unprepared.

Canada in World War I...

At the outbreak of World War I, Minister of Militia and Defence Sir Samuel Hughes scrapped the carefully laid plans for a mobilization of the existing militia and, instead, launched a direct appeal to the men of Canada. Canada was just emerging from a deep recession, and tens of thousands of British-born young men with no work and with patriotism in their hearts rushed to the colours. An initial contingent of 33,000 men sailed for England in October 1914 to lay the foundation for the creation of the First Canadian Division. In April 1915 the Canadians saw their first major action in

the Second Battle of Ypres, where they were among the first Allied troops to be gassed. As more volunteers came forward, Borden increased the authorized force levels. By the spring of 1917, four Canadian divisions, constituting the Canadian Corps, were in the field, with a fifth division in England. The entire corps fought together for the first time in April 1917, when it distinguished itself in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France. This force earned an enviable record as a fighting force and represented the first authentic expression of Canada in the world. Its strength and reputation meant that Canada could not be treated as a mere colony. The cost to Canada was high. Out of approximately 625,000 who served, about 60,000 were killed in action or died in active service, and another 173,000 were wounded.

At home, the war effort was scarcely less impressive. Canadian foodstuffs and raw materials were of first importance in maintaining the western Allies. No less important were the millions of shells turned out by Canadian factories. In fact, the war was a significant step forward for Canadian industry, which had to learn complicated mass production techniques and apply them to the manufacture of everything from wooden shell crates to training aircraft. The rapid growth of the munitions industry created an acute labour shortage that brought the increased participation of women in the industrial workforce. It also promoted the growth of labour unions. At the same time, the accelerated demands of the war economy brought high inflation, which the government was unable to control despite increasingly interventionist policies. Strikes and lockouts grew to crisis proportions by the last year of the war.

At the start of the war, Borden had envisaged an essentially voluntary war effort: employers were urged to treat their workers fairly, workers were urged to curb wage demands, producers were urged to keep price increases down, and men were urged to enlist. As the war dragged on, more and more English Canadians began to view the war as a Canadian national war effort, not simply as another British war in which Canadians were taking part. By 1917 the government was trying to regulate many facets of Canadian economic life. It nationalized bankrupt railways, introduced income taxes, and controlled some commodity prices. And in the spring of 1917 it introduced compulsory military service--conscription--in response to a growing manpower crisis in the Canadian army. Conscription tore Canada apart. French Canada had never been enthusiastic about the war, and many fewer French Canadians volunteered for military service than did English Canadians. To make matters worse, French nationalist feeling had been reawakened by new troubles with respect to the use of the French language in schools in French districts in Ontario and Manitoba. French Canada, led by Laurier, opposed conscription but was overridden by the formation of a Union government--almost wholly English in personnel--and in the wartime election of 1917. But Canada was divided as it had not been since 1837.

Despite this rift at home, the entry of Canada into the world of nations went ahead. In 1917 the British government under Prime Minister Lloyd George formed an Imperial War Cabinet, of which the prime ministers of the dominions were members, to conduct the war and to plan the peace. In reality, if not yet in name, the British Commonwealth of Nations had come into being. This was recognized by Article IX of the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917, which stated that the British Empire was made up of self-governing nations as well as colonies, with India in a special position. Henceforth, it was hoped, a common policy would be worked out by government conferences in peace as well as war.

This file last modified 9/29/2012...

: Home :