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Previous July 1st 1867 Continued..

Previous.... The Canadians and the Maritime representatives were all due to depart for London during the summer  of 1866 where they would gather for the final time to confirm the terms of to the Bill for the creation of Canada and then present the request to the Imperial British Parliament for debate and approval. The House of Lords was to introduce and debate the Bill and the House of Commons was then to be presented with the British North American Bill where it was to be then enacted.

As the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick delegates prepared for departure, Macdonald was confronted with the dire warnings of impending Fenian raids and worked hard at mobilizing forces to meet this threat. He and the other major players in Upper and Lower Canada dare not depart while armed invasion was expected and during the summer it came. The violent clashes resulted in a temporary panic in the Canada’s but the Fenian forces subsequently were repulsed and fell apart, fleeing back to the United States.

By November, Macdonald was able to depart for London with the real work of reviewing the legislation began and by Christmas was finalized for presentation to Parliament.

 Canada on July 1st, 1867 was still largely a rural country with dirt roads, few medium or large cities and an economy reliant upon fishing, forestry and farming. The people gathered at church or the local tavern for social entertainment and interaction and the proclamation of their new country promised to be the social highlight of the year as well as the birth of their new country. Larger celebrations in the cities, picnics in the country, fairs in the towns, were all to serve as the gathering place to hear the local ministers, politicians or other government officials deliver the newly born infant of Canada to life.

Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, St John’s, Kingston,  Toronto and of course the new Capital of Ottawa wereKingston to be the main centres of celebrations, with activities, entertainment , refreshments and of course fireworks in the evening. It was to be a day that all would remember.  Originally the date for the Royal Proclamation was to be a fortnight later but on May 22nd the date was chosen by the British Government. Preparations were rushed forward and arrangements were made. July 1st was declared to be a general holiday, military detachments were ordered to prepare to display the proper pomp and circumstance for the occasion. The weather was the only variable that could not be planned for or controlled but luckily for the new country the sun rose to brilliant blue skies across the new nation.

In Ottawa, just after midnight, a 101 gun salute was fired. As the sun rose later that morning, first on the Atlantic coast, the guns blasted a salute in the various communities. Halifax heard the thunder from the Citadel, Dartmouth responded with naval guns, St Johns fired its round, Quebec City pierced the quite morning with explosions, Montreal, Fort Henry, Toronto and the Niagara Peninsula all announced their participation in the celebration. The people, dressed in their best Sunday cloths moved towards the designed areas of celebration in the cities and gathered at the churches or community areas in the towns and villages.  With only a few anti-Confederation exceptions, the streets and buildings were hung with flags and decorations, the stores and business were shut and everyone prepared for the announcement of Queen Victoria’s Royal Proclamation.  By 11:00 am the crowds had gathered, the officials assembled, the soldiers were marching and the procession was in full swing.

 VictoriaJohn A Macdonald was designated by London to be the First Minister and was charged with the responsibility of forming a cabinet and government from the political players across the new country. He had been the driving force in Canadian politics for more than a decade and as he came around to George Brown’s vision of a united British North American, he had become the central figure in bringing it about. Macdonald had been chosen by the other delegates at the London conference and Lord Carnarvon and Governor Monck felt that he had the best chance to form and lead a coalition in the Ministry of the new government when elections would not be held because of the complicate process of building the Federal administration and structures of the new Canadian Government. Macdonald was also the obvious candidate because of his extensive experience in forming and maintaining cabinets and governments during his years as one of the duel Premiers of the Union of the Canada’s.

 Macdonald wrote to the Lord Monck’s, the Governor General, secretary, “On the 1st, July, as you know, Confederation will be a fixed fact and we think it well that some ceremony should be used in inaugurating the new system.”(The Young Politian – Donald Creighton) Macdonald had campaigned to have the new nation named “The Kingdom of Canada” but in deference to American feelings and potential threats, “The Dominion of Canada” was settled upon. Macdonald would have to choose carefully from all regions, ethnic groups and religious affiliations, in building his cabinet in order to assure the country would get off to a stable beginning. Macdonald managed to build his coalition with a balance of Reformers, Liberal Conservatives, region interests, racial groups, allies and opposition. When he was done, the overall unity of the Confederation Cabinet and government held.

OttawaThe swearing in ceremony was to begin at 11:00 am in the East Block of the new Parliament buildings. Monck, who was to be the 1st Governor General of the new country and had only reached Quebec on June 25th, had brought with him the new Great Seal for Canada and the Queen’s Proclamation. He arrived on Parliament Hill in his coach with his Private Secretary Godley as his lone companion and entered the building making his way to the Privy Council Chamber where the swearing in ceremony was to be held. The Queen’s proclamation was read, the Justices from the Union of the Canada administered the oaths to the new Cabinet and Governor General and the Dominion of Canada came into being.The New Prime Minister, Governor General and their Government then exited the building the revelry, troops matching and general celebrations already in motion on Parliament Hill. This is a tradition that continues to this day and 2013 will be not be an exception. The festivities of the afternoon ended and the crowds returned home in preparation for the evening fireworks, another central feature of Canada day which has lasted.

The Dominion of Canada took its place as a new country and was to expand dramatically over the next 5 years to encompass the largest proportion of the North American continent with a great, diverse and inspiring history to be built over the next 145 years. Happy Canada Day.


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