This Week in History


Until we meet again

For the week of Monday September 8, 2014

On September 8, 1864, delegates from the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) danced and toasted until early in the morning. After a week in Charlottetown, P.E.I., discussing British North American Union, they celebrated their progress towards Confederation.

A few of the delegates from the Charlottetown Conference
© Library and Archives Canada / PA-091061
Discussions were originally intended to focus on the potential unification of the Maritime colonies (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.) and each sent five delegates. The Province of Canada’s coalition government was trying to work through a government deadlock which they believed Confederation would solve. Seeing an opportunity, they sent eight delegates to Charlottetown to promote their position.

The meetings were held in Charlottetown’s Colonial Building (now Province House). On the first day, the maritime delegates met alone and officially deferred discussions on Maritime Union to explore the exciting new prospect of Confederation. From September 2-6, John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt and George Brown of the Province of Canada presented their plan for union, including financial and constitutional details. After listening to all the presentations, the Maritime representatives gathered separately and agreed to the union of all of the colonies. Delegates promised to meet again in Québec, a few weeks later, in order to transform the principles they agreed upon into a written, constitutional form.

Reenactors in costume outside of Province House National Historic Site
© Parks Canada

Outside of the debates, Conference attendees socialized and toured the island, some developing lifelong friendships. On the last night their hosts threw a grand ball, in the name of camaraderie. Although no written agreements came from this conference, it established the framework for the decisions made during subsequent discussions in Québec and in London, England.

The Canadian situation was unique in many ways. Through dancing and debate the Charlottetown Conference was a foundational point in the creation of Canada, or as Charlottetown historian Catherine Hennessy said: "what other country can say they partied themselves into existence?"

The Fathers of Confederation are national historic persons and Province House where they met is a national historic site.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown and Québec Conferences of 1864. To learn more about the Conferences and the Fathers of Confederation, please read Dream of a Nation, Sir Charles Tupper Fights for Confederation, A Patriote and Father of Confederation is Born, Prince Edward Island’s Confederation Campaigner Defeated and Birthday of Canada’s First Prime Minister. Also visit Parks Canada's Charlottetown and Québec Conferences of 1864 webpage.

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