Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site
Did You Know That...
Thanks to George-Étienne Cartier, the Quebec Stalwart of the Grand Coalition, the Confederation Was Brought Into Existence
Sir John A. Macdonald, 1868
© National Archives of Canada / C-6513, 1868
Surely the greatest contribution of Cartier to his country was the
entry of Canada East (Quebec) into the Confederation. Following the rebellions
in 1837/1838 and the Durham Report, Upper and Lower Canada were merged into
a single colony. However, by the end of the 1850s, the Act of Union was no
longer attuned to the new realities of the colony. Great Britain had gradually
begun to loosen its ties to the North American colonies. The United States
was becoming more and more powerful, and represented a threat to Canada.
In addition, the Union of the Canadas experienced a series of serious economic
and political hardships. Ten different governments came and went in as many
years. The stablest of these governments was formed by John A. Macdonald
and George-Étienne Cartier.
In 1864, George Brown, leader of the Clear Grits in Canada West (Ontario),
proposed an alliance with the Conservatives of Macdonald and Cartier for
the purpose of advancing the project of a Canadian confederation. In 1867,
following a series of discussions and conferences (at Charlottetown and Quebec),
the alliance known as the Grand Coalition succeeded in forging the agreement
which gave birth to the Confederation. Macdonald became the first Prime Minister
of Canada, and Cartier the Minister of Militia and Defence, a position he
would hold until his death in 1873. From this time onwards, the new federal
government convened in Ottawa.